• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

Beedall- Royal Navy 'Desperately Struggling" - War and RAF orders to blame

Cloud Cover

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
As many of you know, Richard Beedall runs a very comprehensive web site on the RN at :  http://navy-matters.beedall.com/. A few months ago he posted his 2005 year in review summary, and it paints a very grim picture indeed for the RN. In fact, if you read between the lines there are indications that without a 180 degree turnabout, there is every indication the RN is about to be relegated to a Tier 2 Navy, or even less. This is in spite of all the blustery UK government rhetoric about new carriers operating fixed wing aircraft etc. The simple fact is- there is no money, no political will and no manpower to make those projects happen and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is sucking the MoD budget dry. 

Article reproduced under the Fair Dealings provisions of the Copyright Act. All right, title and interest in the article and the contents of the navy-matters website remains with the owner of navy-matters website (Richard Beedall). Do not copy any part of this article or the navymatters website for commercial exploitation without the owners express written permission.   

2005 in Review ... and Looking Forward

A sight never to be seen again - Royal Navy Sea Harrier's flying over HMS Invincible.

26 February 2006

Ever since I began this webpage, my annual reviews have been depressing reading. Sadly 2005 is no exception, with example low lights including:

The failure by the government to order new aircraft carriers, or indeed any ships or submarines of any description during the year.
More cost overruns and delays in relation to the Bay Class LSD(A)’s.
The reduction in the escort force to just 25, including the loss of three modern Type 23 frigates.
The paying-off of the recently and expensively modernized nuclear submarine HMS Superb.
The premature decommissioning of the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible.
The revelation that a large proportion of the fleet is being deliberately starved of maintenance and spares and kept at reduced readiness - the MoD transferred to the Army and RAF about £310 million of resources previously allocated to the RN for the years 2004-5 and 2005-6.
The continuing run down of the Sea Harrier force.
No orders for the badly needed Lynx helicopter replacement.
Continuing gapping and recruitment shortfalls – despite reduced targets.
The highlight of 2005 should have been celebrations surrounding the Battle of Trafalgar bicentenary – but even here the events sometimes seemed rather muted and overly politically correct, apparently to avoid offending France and Spain.  The Naval Review held on 28 June was not really public friendly, but the subsequent excellent International Festival of the Sea evoked memories of my own visits to Portsmouth Navy Day in the 1970's.

The year ended with the publication of a new Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS).  A surprisingly blunt and pragmatic document when compared with the waffling and informative defence white papers and policy documents of recent years - the bad news (e.g. permitting ships to be built overseas - MARS tankers being an obvious first candidate) can be taken as given, the good news (e.g. a core workload for the UK naval industry) remains to be detailed - and this governments track record since 1997 can only lead to some scepticism.

The reality is that in recent years an effectively fixed UK Defence budget has resulted in the Royal Navy being brutally squeezed between the demands of immediate operational commitments by the British Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the need to pay the bills for often vastly expensive but apparently uncancellable or unavoidable RAF equipment projects (Eurofighter, A400M, Astor, Meteor, Nimrod, Brimstone, FSTA, JSF …).  Current events and perceived priorities have left the Royal Navy desperately struggling to justify its share of the defence budget.  Unfortunately for the last five or so years, deferring or cancelling planned warship & auxiliary projects and orders seems to have become accepted within the MOD as being the least worst option to cope with inadequate funding.  It’s now become impossible to hide the capability gaps and shortfalls that are emerging in the shrunken and resource starved Navy and which will inevitably worsen considerably over the next 5-10 years as inadequately maintained/upgraded ships and systems age; or are disposed-of without replacement.

Looking forward, 2006 started well enough with the launch of the first Type 45 Air Defence Destroyer, HMS Daring, on 31 January.  But it now looks likely that the RN will get only 6 of these fine looking ships, compared to the 12 that were originally promised.  With HMS Daring not due to enter service until 2009, and the last Sea Harriers leaving service in March 2006, only a few optimists still dare pretend that the Royal Navy is still capable of the modern equivalent of a Falklands ’82 operation.

For the Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF) project, 2006 will be a crunch year - as usual!  It had once been hoped that these vital new aircraft carriers would be ordered in late 2003, but the order has been deferred constantly with almost no public explanation.  December 2005 finally saw a development when the MOD took the unusual step of splitting the Demonstration and Manufacturing phases for the CVF project, approving £300 million for the current design concept to be developed in to a detailed design.  While this represents some progress, the split has also allowed the government to defer, probably until early 2007, a final decision on whether to actually build (manufacture) the two carriers – at a cost expected to exceed £3.2 billion.  The worry remains that the necessary money is simply not available in the MOD’s equipment budget – and past experience would indicate that any RN offer to sacrifice other programmes in favour of CVF would be very readily accepted, but in practice the freed funding would then disappear on something else!  Rumours that the MOD is now investigating “innovative” funding ideas for building CVF are far from reassuring – hinting of a degree of desperation - we are after all talking about major warships rather than toll roads, rented office blocks, or out sourced transport services.  One gleam of light is that France is keen to use the CVF design for its new carrier, it has already agreed to pay up to £100m for access to the Assessment Phase studies, with perhaps another £100m to follow for the detailed design.  Every bit helps!

Meanwhile, the national press is full of speculation about the future UK participation in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project to meet the RN/RAF Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA) requirement. The issues being raised are not new, and there must be some suspicion about whom or what has really brought things to the current state of crisis.   A UK withdraw from JSF would leave the RN’s planned new carriers without a suitable high performance carrier aircraft (despite implausible hints of a “Plan B” based on a navalised Eurofighters), and realistically no longer a worthwhile project.  Cancellation of JCA, CVF and MASC would save about £10 billion over the next decade - relieving the MOD of much of its budgetary over-stretch, allow the RAF to buy all the 232 Typhoons that it wants (and maybe even a few extra in lieu of the currently planned “up to 150” JSF’s), and still leave some money for favoured new projects such as unmanned combat air vehicles and network enablement.  Some people would be very happy with such an outcome.

Aircraft carriers (and to a degree SSN’s) have become the cornerstone of the Royal Navy’s maritime contribution to joint operations. Without CVF the Royal Navy would be faced with a crisis as deep, if not deeper, than it faced when CVA-01 was cancelled in 1966.  Back then it was easy to justify replacing the previous East of Suez role with a NATO orientated North Atlantic role – this time its hard to see where the rot would stop.  The Economist magazine suggested a decade ago that in order to cut the defence budget the RN could be reduced to just a coastal force for economic zone duties without any risk to national security, although it generously conceded that perhaps 8 frigates might be retained to give the admirals something to play with.  At the time the article seemed fantasy - but it's  starting to become uncomfortably close to reality.   

© 2004-6 Richard Beedall unless otherwise indicated.
All rights reserved.   

Cdn Blackshirt

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
It looks as though this is another country that needs to separate its defence budget into (2) pieces.

  • The "Defence Budget" which covers all aspects of salaries, procurement, maintenance & operations of a standing "at peace" force that has territorial surveillance and self-defence as its only missions.
  • An "Operational Appropriation" which is completely separate and covers any additional costs associated with performing any specific mission the government of the day decides is in the interest of the nation.  This would cover called-up Reserves Salaries, Transportation Costs, Additional Ammunition and Foodstuffs, etc.

Matthew.  :salute: