A brief news post to recommend the coverage given to the CDS’s Xmas speech by The Thin Pin Striped Line & UK Armed Forces Commentary defence blogs. The full text of the speech can be found on Thinkdefence here.
Some highlights follow.
From The Thin Pinstriped Line:
The news that the RN may move back into acquiring larger numbers of vessels is interesting, and would no doubt be welcomed by the entire Royal Navy, but it is important to avoid getting carried away with internet ‘fantasy fleet’ debates. The first thing to remember is that any decision on the size of the RN would not be taken until 2015 at the very earliest – this is the time of the next defence review, and its findings would ultimately depend on the UK strategic interests at the time, the amount of funding available and also what other equipment funding is needed. It is not a guarantee that this decision will be made, and it is also very likely that neither the current CDS, nor CNS will be in post come 2015 – CDS can make this sort of pledge, partially because he will not be required to try and see whether it can be implemented.If a decision to enlarge the RN is taken, the question then becomes what form do these ships take? The mention of the word ‘corvette’ is interesting – the recent debate about the Black Swan sloop, modern class of corvette for the 21st century seems to have been quite high profile. Perhaps CDS was tacitly acknowledging that there is a case to be made for a sloop style procurement. It is clear that the use of very expensive warships such as T45 on deployments to interdict pirates, and ‘fly the flag’ is not necessarily the best use of a billion pound platform.Acquiring a sloop class would perhaps ensure that the RN could continue to fly the white ensign in areas of lower threat, say for instance the West Indies or West Africa, providing a more relevant training capability for lower end navies, while retaining sufficient high end escorts for global deployments. The concept of a second rate frigate is not entirely new to the RN – look at the Type 14 class and how they were employed initially as low tech ASW escorts, but in reality spent much of their career doing more generic ‘fly the flag’ duties during the early Cold War.
I have highlighted the passages that i deem more impressive and interesting. They go in the direction i’ve always suggested to follow: a UK with capable armed forces capable to act indipendently and, perhaps even more crucially, provide a framework in which less well-equipped countries can provide numerical strenght, helped by the crucial enablers fielded by the UK, including the aircraft carriers, the Sentinel R1, the Rivet Joint platforms, the RFA, the strong amphibious fleet and brigade and other elements.
There is also a return to Nelson’s “want of frigates”, for which i’ve also been arguing: Nelson wanted cheap frigates in great numbers to serve as eyes for the fleet, and to cover the immense number of jobs that a navy has to cover every day, leaving the big, powerful and expensive ships of the line free to focus on delivering the thick of the military effect.
The Navy needs that kind of approach today more than back then. With the important difference, not always appreciated, that today’s frigates and destroyers are the ships of the line, while OPVs and corvettes are the “frigates”. The Royal Navy needs a fleet of simpler, smaller but capable, long range “presence” ships to cover the wide variety of not-warlike standing tasks, so that the “ships of the line” can focus on warfighting, reaction and task group roles.I can’t help but wonder if we can read in this speech a ray of hope for Portsmouth’s shipyard, among other things: the CDS essentially agrees with me on the strategic concepts, and i think he would agree on the opportunity to begin the rebalancing of the fleet with an order for a couple of OPVs…