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Thread: UK Drawdown?

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    UK Drawdown?

    Nothing really new here as its been speculated on before but it will be interesting to see the fall-out from this most recent of news stories.:


    £3.8bn carriers contract on hold until after pollsIAN BRUCE, Defence Correspondent April 17 2007
    Comment | Read Comments (5)The Ministry of Defence will confirm the £3.8bn contract for two new aircraft carriers after the Scottish elections, according to Whitehall sources.

    An announcement has been delayed by hard bargaining between the UK yards sharing the work and Lord Drayson, Procurement Minister, and the need to avoid accusations of using the promise of jobs to influence voters ahead of the May 3 polls.

    But the Royal Navy will then face the mothballing of two Type 42 destroyers and four Type 22 frigates to help save a £250m overrun in fuel, maintenance and other costs.

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    The cutback, which includes HMS Cornwall, the warship whose crew members were taken hostage by Iran's Revolutionary Guard forces, could also mean scrapping one or even two major global naval commitments.

    Insiders say the tasks under threat are the Falklands guard ship, whose removal would leave the islands vulnerable for the first time since the 1982 war with Argentina, and possibly the Indian Ocean anti-drugs patrol.

    Axing or reducing the South Atlantic cover would be particularly embarrassing at a time when the UK is preparing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the recapture of the islands and Argentina has lodged new claims over their sovereignty.

    The reductions would leave the Navy with just 19 destroyers and frigates until the six Type 45 air defence destroyers on order from BAe's Clyde yards enter service between 2009 and 2013.

    The current 25-strong surface escort fleet has already reduced patrols in the Caribbean and North Atlantic because of shortage of numbers and cut its two-ship presence in the Indian Ocean by half.

    The First Sea Lord, Admiral Jonathon Band, warned in February that he needed a further £1bn a year simply to keep the existing warships operational and to improve pay and living conditions for sailors under his command.

    A senior naval source said yesterday: "The RN had 98 ships in service in 1997. A decade on,we have 75. Only 25 of those are escort vessels and many of the others are supply and support ships, inshore and offshore patrol craft and survey vessels.

    "The carrier Invincible is effectively out of the picture at low readiness', although she remains on strength. It would take a minimum 18 months to make her seaworthy. Five other ships are at extended readiness'. It would take more than 180 days to make them operational."

    A review is also under way to slash costs at the UK's three naval bases. It cost £183m to operate the Clyde submarine base at Faslane last year, £185m for Devonport and £151m for Portsmouth, which is seen as the most vulnerable.

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    this is getting silly now.

    really wish we could have a general election now and get the conservatives in and get the navy sorted

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    You guys need to straighten these people out. Is Britain supposed to suffer some kind of attack over the Faulklands before these people understand that the RN is in dire need of a revamping? Sheesh your forefathers rulled the oceans and gained countless territory in the name of the King/Queen. They are surely rolling over in their graves at the thought of desk bound land lubbers making a complete shambles of the RN and reducing them to a mere pitance of what they once were.
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    The British Government has decided that France is going to be the dominate EU Naval power in the new Socialist Europe. This makes the Royal Navy redundant and unnecessary. Also, eliminating the Royal Navy would go a long way in eliminating National Pride and Nationalism in the UK, which is the precusar to forming a single Socialist European Nation. First break down national currency, national identity, national pride and nationalism and than no one will care about national sovereignty anymore. Since the days of defeat of the Spanish Armada in the English Channel, England, Great Britain than the UK has always been identified as a Naval Power, which is precisely why the UK Labour (Socialist) Government wants to eliminate the Royal Navy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMH View Post
    The British Government has decided that France is going to be the dominate EU Naval power in the new Socialist Europe. This makes the Royal Navy redundant and unnecessary. Also, eliminating the Royal Navy would go a long way in eliminating National Pride and Nationalism in the UK, which is the precusar to forming a single Socialist European Nation. First break down national currency, national identity, national pride and nationalism and than no one will care about national sovereignty anymore. Since the days of defeat of the Spanish Armada in the English Channel, England, Great Britain than the UK has always been identified as a Naval Power, which is precisely why the UK Labour (Socialist) Government wants to eliminate the Royal Navy.
    lordy, you do keep beating this drum, but you have absolutely no real insight into the reasons for the drawdown. Probably said all this before, but here goes...

    1) Procurement pileups By sheer incompetence (rather than malice) and happenstance, the MoD managed to have a number of massive procurement projects all due at mature roughly the same time. For eg, Typhoon, T45, Astute, Meteor, CVF. FRES, Bowman, FSTA etc. This was hugely unaffordably expensive.
    2) Cold War The Cold War ended just as the production of the T23 ASW frigates was about to commence. These cheap, effective, single-purpose vessels continued to be built. The Tory govt (in Options for Change) kept producing the T23's, when there was no real need for them. Quite simply, as good as they are, they are too small to be truly multi-role combatants. T22B3 (Cornwall et al) are better in that role but not truly suited to the jobs that they do.
    3) Afghanistan/Iraq Due to GB's penny-pinching, much of the cost of the war in Iraq has been sourced of O&M budgets. The service least involved in these conflicts (and therefore most vulnerable) - the RN.
    4) Procurement Cost Overruns Typhoon. And T45. Bad decision making that crosses both Labour and Tory governments.
    5) Apathy Britain could spend billions on defence with ease. The general public do not want to (much as I might disagree). Rightly or wrongly, they want the money spent on Health, Education etc. No political party is advocating massive rises in the defense budget.

    While I hate seeing the drawdown of the RN - in a twisted way it makes sense in the short-term, especially if it allows CVF to be built.

    In the longer-term, we need smaller OPV vessels capable of littoral ops to make up the numbers in the fleet - T42's (or T45's) conducting WHIGs ops is a nonsense. There is simply no need for bleeding-edge, state of the art in many of the RN's most common roles. The RN needs to be designed around 2 CSGs and 1 ESG (to use US parlance). It needs to have sufficient, high-level escorts for that role (T45 and Sonar 2087 equiped T23's for the forseeable future) plus SSNs. The RN needs the MARS program (replenishment ships) to be completed.

    It doesnt really need as opposed to would like 25 top-line escort vessels - the threats do not exist currently at that level. The "cheaper" OPVs need to be modular, and large enough to be upgraded should threat levels change.

    If we can see a realistic RN restructuring on these lines, then perhaps the pain will be worth it.

    Of course, I would like to see 3 CATOBAR CVFs, 12 Darings, 20 FSC, 30 Global Corvettes, 12 Astutes etc... and if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. We must be realistic in our expectations - while not excusing Labour incompetence and indifference to the RN.
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    i cant put anything down that would match pubfather so i will just shut up and let him take you out jmh

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    I wrote a small piece dealing with RN commiitments, operational considerations and assets almost two years ago now. It is somehat dated now of course and Im sure some will find flaws in it. Nonetheless it may be useful as a starting point for discussion.

    Navy Matters | RN Commitments and Operations

    In particular the recent news that two Leaf class oilers that were to remain in service until 2009 and 2010 will go away this year and one AOR placed in extended readiness.

    I find this more troubling than surface combatant draw-downs.

    Its interesting to note that a drop to to as few as 16 ships was considered. The thought being that the RN would then not be able to carry out a medium or large intervention scenario.

    However there are ways around this.

    Lets also remember taht while Invincible is essentially decommissioned the RNs official site is admant that she is still part of the fleet and will remain so until at leats 2010.

    Pubfather as always made excellent points and I will attempt to expand on one.

    But first as for OPVs the RN has one deployed to the Falklands this is deemed insufficient and part of the reasoning for the APT-S patrol medium endurance operation. Im sceptical on more OPVs(such as the Clyde or River class) being helpful to the RN as I am to such a ship being a replacement for the USNs OHPs as some have suggested.

    USN CSG & ESG parlance plus its FRP initiative to see how it can be fitted with existing RN assets, enduring operations and committments.

    The scenarios discussed in the white papers linked and discussed in the short article I wrote preclude the ships earmarked for the "enduring operations/standing commitment" being available for the "intervention scenarios".

    But where in fact are those scenarios to be played out?

    IMHO most likely where a ship is already on patrol.

    Also with an FRP initiative such as the USN(my apologies if the RN already had or has implemented such a plan) could quite easily surge a # of assets. Although this would require that the "extended readiness" status for surface combatants be eliminated.

    Plus the UK patrol/defence(FRE)(Fleet Ready Escort) could easilly allow that ship to be replaced by a unit in surge and staus and actually fulfill the implied connotations of its designation.

    Back to the ESG/CSG concept.

    With Ocean/Ark Royal as LPHs and Illustrious/Invincible as Harrier carriers the RN has potentially the ability to deploy two CSGs and two ESGs.

    The USN now has three escorts assigned to each CSG/ESG. Although some USN CSGs have recently deployed with four.

    This for the RN would mean 4x3=12 escorts should be available but this should not preclude ships on patrol being seen as a part of a task group as seems to be the outlook now. In particular as two of the High-Value-Units will at least for the short trem be in a nominal "exteneded readiness" state or refit.

    Even a draw-down to even 18 ships will still provide six other ships for other taskings. Allowing two "enduring operation" patrols each with a deployment cycle of one of three escorts. Which I would earmark as APT-S and the Persian Gulf.

    APT-S is important not only for the Falklands but consistent and persistent engagement with the continent of Africa.

    All other commitments such the APT-N(Atlantic/Carribean, FRE,SNMG-1(Atlantic/NATO)(withdrawn), SNMG-2(MED/NATO), JRRF(European Union), IO(Indian Ocean), FE(Far East) should and could be filled by the assets of the CSGs and ESGs.

    Therfore while not optimum 18 escorts is certainly doable. Although sustaining combat operations for any length of time could become problematic.

    But then the USN has been battling such a predicament since the early 1990's. Leading increasingly to the use of task group assets for independent taskings away from the group. Although sixteen of 30 OHPs have proven to be a useful insurance and have been utilzed for other than war ops and Homeland water patrol its not likely that the LCS program will provide such a luxury.

    But those 16 ships have been increasingly marginalized even the 14 still used in CSG/ESG/SSG taskings because they basically now are nothing but glorified OPVs.

    Their main utility being able to house and suport two helicopters to complement the helo-less DDG 51 I/IIs.

    I know my extended mentioning of the USN will ruffle some feathers as this is an RN thread but Im really only trying to compare/contrast different possibiliies that did, are or may occur.
    Last edited by rickusn; 20 Apr 07, at 17:08.

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    Heres an intersting development I hadnt been aware of. Its great to see the officioal RN site greatly updated since my last visit.:

    Royal Navy

    News : HMS Edinburgh : Type 42 Destroyers : Surface Fleet : Operations and Support : Royal Navy

    "10-23 Mar 07

    This period saw the completion of Safety and Readiness Checks, a 10 day event consisting of various training exercises (simulated Fires, Floods, Helicopter Crash on Deck) conducted under the supervision of Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) staff. The trial period came after the entire Ship’s Company of HMS Exeter flew down to relieve those on HMS Edinburgh as part of the Sea Swap experiment. This required an immense amount of hard work and commitment from everyone onboard, which paid dividends when the Ship was given a clean bill of health to continue with the deployment. "

    Also the Monmouth is deployed on a nine-month Far East patrol and it appears w/o tanker support that in the past has been a normal part of such a deployment.

    Plus the Ocean is the APT-N ship.

    And it appears the FRE ship has morphed into:

    Fleet Rapid Reaction Units
    HMS St. Albans and HMS Argyll with Merlin helicopters from 829 Naval Air Squadron
    are UK based rapid reaction units available for short notice tasking.

    So from this official site.:

    We have:

    Edinburgh APT-S returning this summer
    Southhampton departing April 23 on APT-S patrol
    St Albans/Argyll RRU
    Montrose SNMG 2/MED
    Cornwall Gulf
    Sutherland IO
    Monmouth FE
    Ocean APT-N

    Ill be back later with where the other ships are either updated from the official site or from my somewhat dated notes..
    Last edited by rickusn; 20 Apr 07, at 18:17.

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    Exeter Sea Swap now manned by Edinburgs returning crew.
    Glouster Refit till Dec 2007
    Liverpool Post-refit/ Training
    Manchester Post-refit/Training
    Nottingham Training
    York Post-deployed
    Campbeltown Post-deployed
    Chatham Post-deployed
    Cumberland Refit returns to fleet in 2008
    Iron Duke Post-deployed
    Kent Post-deployed
    Northumberland Exercises with frigate Nansen in March 2007. Now in Home waters.
    Portland Post-refit/Training
    Richmond Training
    Somerset Post-refit/Training
    Lancaster Post-deployed
    Westminster Post-deployed

    So it appears we have:

    8 escorts deployed or deploying
    4 Intermediate training
    3 PR/Training
    2 Refit
    8 Post-deployed

    Make of it what you will.

    Of the remaining tankers:

    Wave Knight Post-deployed
    Wave Ruler APT-N Tanker
    Bay Leaf Gulf Tanker
    Orangeleaf in Home waters
    Gold Rover APT-S Tanker
    Black Rover FOST Tanker
    Fort George Training
    Fort Victoria Unknown to me
    Last edited by rickusn; 20 Apr 07, at 19:12.

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    "Standing tasks

    38. Before March 2004, the Royal Navy's destroyer and frigate flotilla was committed to meeting seven Standing Tasks, each requiring the deployment of one destroyer or frigate and where appropriate supporting elements. Two of these were contributions to Standing NATO Forces Atlantic and Mediterranean. One was escort duties in UK home waters. Of the remaining four, two were committed to Atlantic Patrol Tasks North and South and the final two were deployed east of Suez, the first in the Arabian Gulf and the second in the Indian Ocean and further east.

    39. Admiral Sir Alan West, First Sea Lord, Chief of the Naval Staff, told us that the Standing Tasks had been reduced from seven to six with the withdrawal of the commitment to the Standing NATO Force Atlantic in March 2004. "

    40. The paying-off of three Type 42 Destroyers and three Type 23 Frigates will require that those six tasks are reduced to four.[27]Admiral West argued that it was in the UK's interests to maintain a global (or at least geographically widely spread) naval presence.

    Its interesting to note that none of these tasks were eliminated in the draw-down to 25 escorts or since.

    In fact at times there has been THREE ships East of Suez. Like right now.

    And TWO vessels currently are designated as FRRU formerly FRE.

    Recent major deployments of Task Groups. One Amphibious and one Carrier.

    Here is the OOB for the Vela Deployment Sept 4-Nov 5 2006:

    The Commander of the Amphibious Task Group (COMATG) is Commodore Phil Jones ADC Royal Navy. The Commander of Land Forces (CLF) is Colonel David Hook Royal Marines. The Task Group includes: HMS Albion, HMS Ocean, HMS Southampton, HMS Argyll, RFA Wave Knight, RFA Mounts Bay, RFA Bedivere, RFA Fort Austin, HMS Enterprise, RFA Diligence, RFA Oakleaf, MCM1 and a Fleet submarine. Also involved are elements of: Commando Helicopter Force, Fleet Diving Unit 2, 849 Squadron (B) Flight, 820 Squadron, 845/846 Squadron, Fleet Lead Commando Group, 40 Commando Royal Marines, 59 Commando Independent Engineering Squadron, 29 Commando Royal Artillery and 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines.

    Here is the OOB for the March 29-

    Admiral Morisetti’s command will include the Portsmouth-based Type 42 destroyer HMS Gloucester (which leaves next Monday, April 3), and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel RFA Fort Victoria, one of the RN’s most capable replenishment ships. France has allocated one of her most up-to-date frigates, the Surcouf, to the deployment as part of the ongoing co-operation between British and French military forces.

    At stages throughout the operational deployment – titled Aquila 06 – the Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster, the nuclear-powered submarine HMS Sovereign and the forward repair ship RFA Diligence will also complement the group.

    Also the oiler Brambleaf operated with the group during the entire deployment.

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    Type 2087 sonar and Merlin Helos for frigates. Found in Hansard.:

    July 2005

    Ship Upkeep start date
    HMS Westminster Completed
    HMS Northumberland Completed
    HMS Richmond Completed
    HMS Somerset Completed
    HMS St. Albans May 2007
    HMS Sutherland July 2007
    HMS Kent January 2010
    HMS Portland November 2010

    July 2006

    The operational requirement is for 12 Type 23 frigates to be modified to operate the Merlin helicopter. The decision on which ships are to be modified is determined by the fitting opportunities within the frigate upkeep programme. HMS Argyll will not be modified as the requirement will be met by other frigates with earlier fitting opportunities within the upkeep programme. Should the programme change, then the situation will be reviewed. On current plans HMS Argyll is due to be withdrawn from service in 2019.

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    Thanks for all the info Rick!

    The standing deployments are certainly a sticky point when it come to restructuring the RN. However, if we take a leaf from the French book (which we have done in the past) a robust OPV design could take the brunt of those duties with ease.

    I agree tha the River class OPV deployment to the Falklands is far from ideal (and perhaps sends the wrong message). However, if coupled with Typhoons at Stanley (as will happen) plus the threat of an SSN in the area, it becomes less promblematic as part of a defensive screen.

    The whole enhanced OPV idea is born out of necessity - the compromise between numbers/effectiveness and affordability. The RN could afford 5 or 6 enhanced OPVs (on the Oman model iirc) for the cost of a T45. They are not ideal, and probably not suitable for USN needs. However, given the nature of most of the RN's needs, something like this can be the cost-effective workhorse, leaving the real expensive stuff to do what it was designed to do, and not chase drug dealers in the Bahamas...

    Its not a popular choice with the RN top-brass either, who view it as the thin end of the wedge (perhaps with some justification).

    However, it is time that the British military (and possibly the US military) properly readjusted to the needs of the modern world. We need a true Hi-Lo mix in abilities to be cost effective. The French have achieved something like it with the Floreal class. We need to see the wisdom it that, rather than needing every warship to be bedecked in bells and whistles...
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    Hi-Lo mixes IMHO have not work very well the USN and the costs have always been more than anticipated. Updating has proved to be impossible to accomplish.

    We must remember that the USN in the mid-1990s had planned to decommission virtually all the FFG-7 class by 2000.

    But instead were forced into decommissioning the Spruances instead to save money. Some also include the CGN classes and Kidd classes decommissionings in that decision.

    And what happens even before all the Spruances are decommissioned the OHPs lose their main battery!!!!!!!!

    And in effect become glorifed mini-helo carriers.

    Quite risky IMHO but for the most part they have been consciously kept out of Harms Way and in very low threat areas.

    I digress.

    Back to the HI-LO scenario and OPV's as regards the UK and France.:

    In the UK case the politicians will likely see them as Hi end ships especially if chacterized as "fitted for but not with" and therefore true Hi-end ships wont get built at least in reasonable #s.

    Someone from the UK recently suggested that the Clyde be more or less permanently stationed in the Caribbean rather than the Falklands.

    I dunno personally an OPV w/o a hanger for "overseas possession patrol" doesnt appeal to me in any event.

    As for the French they IMHO have taken a great risk with the Floreal class and an even greater risk with the La Fayette class.

    And the latter class is likely(there is some disagreement***) to be replaced by the FREMM program.

    ***I can expand on this if anyone is really interested.

    But again they are not seen as world power by most and certainly dont have the world-wide responsibilities to the extent the Royal Navy has. Although the French appear to headed in that direction and the FREMM class program epitomises this slow but steady change IMHO.

    So a more important question than Hi or Lo is world-wide or regional?

    If just regional then the Astute class and Type 45 class programs can be truncated at four.

    And then by all means the UK could/should? build like the French were in the 1990s what amounts to an overseas Coast Guard/Fishery Protection type fleet of ships.

    Plus IMHO the RN tasks in the Caribbean, S.Atlantic, NATO SNMG1 & 2, UK protection, N. Arabian/Persian Gulfs, Indian Ocean and Far East are far different than Frances as regards La Reunion, Papeete, Noumea and Fort de France.

    And there may be no need for CVF.

    In particular as it appears there will be few aircraft to fly from them in any event if the discussions on this subject I have read recently have any validity.

    PubFather I much respect your views and Im not trying to start an argument or worse dictate what the UK or any nation should do..

    Just attempting to present a little different perspective.

    Could be the perspective Im trying to convey is all wrong.

    But I wouldnt be willing to bet my life on it and thats how I judge all Naval decsions now. Just like I did when I served.

    It really comes down to something I discuss all the time Risk Management.

    NOTE:

    Its interesting to look at the size,speed of the Floreal class:

    Approx 3000 tons Full Load
    20 kts

    La Fayette class:

    Approx 3600 tons Full Load
    25 Kts

    And then I challenge you to look at their sensor and weapons fits.

    Scares the heck out of me.

    And I just dont see the Royal Navy going this direction. In particular because of the more challenging operating areas and operating scenarios IMHO the RN undertakes except maybe(a big maybe) in the Caribbean.

    Of course #s and cost counts but we shouldnt lose track of the importance of capabilities.

    Its also part of the contradiction and challenges of LCS. Look at the obscene price escalation in that program.

    I wont say the Royal Navy couldnt do better but I do advise caution.

    Sorry to be so long but I think these issues are very important.

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    Speaking of the Falklands:

    I particulary like this line "If such experiences teach anything, it is the need for clear and unambiguous statement of intent and purpose."

    OPVs dont do that.

    Tornados Show Military Commitment to Today's Falklands

    London April 20, 2007 - Report by Graham Bound.

    In 1982 Britain's commitment to defend its own was under-estimated.

    Today, the RAF Tornados patrolling the skies above the Falklands, along with a whole host of modern military equipment at sea and on land ensure there is no misunderstanding again.

    (Photo of Tornados did not paste.)

    During the grueling 17-hour flight between RAF Brize Norton and RAF Mount Pleasant aboard a MOD-charted Boeing 747, the boredom is relieved only by warmed-up meals and even more tepid films fuzzily projected onto screens with 1970s technology.

    However, some excellent in-flight entertainment is saved until the final half hour of the flight. Just before descent, a voice from the cockpit invites passengers to look out their windows. There they see a pair of Tornado fighters "formating" on the wingtips.

    In these post-9/11 days, the arrival of two fighters packing sidewinder missiles could have passengers frantically texting their final "I-love-you" messages. But the waving pilots are friendly. And anyway, there are those reassuring roundels.

    It is not completely clear why the jet jockeys of 1435 Flight (part of 905 Expeditionary Air Wing) go through this ritual every time an airliner approaches the main base at Mount Pleasant.

    Some say that they are checking to make sure that no maverick pilots with ill-intent are coasting into the base, hiding in another plane's radar "shadow". Or perhaps the pilots like a change from the daily practice scrambles and mock attacks.

    Whatever it is, it is not for fun. On the ground at the sprawling tri-service base 40 miles (64 km) from the capital, Port Stanley, Officer Commanding 1435 Flight, Squadron Leader Pete Brombley, and his colleagues clearly take things very seriously:

    "Our job is to deter any incursions in a zone of 150 miles radius," he says very soberly. "We're here to deter. And it's working."

    His team works closely with the Rapier anti-aircraft batteries of 16 Regiment RA, which ring Mount Pleasant. Tornado and Rapier crews engage in mock combat daily.

    "We are on constant alert here," says a surprisingly blunt speaking Captain Rob Wood of 30 Battery. "Aircraft taking off from the mainland could be here in 40 minutes."

    The reason for such blunt speaking is that in nearby Argentina the "Malvinas" cause is still very much alive.

    The Argentines have backed out of an agreement to cooperate over oil exploration in the area, and will not allow increased commercial flights between the islands and Chile.

    No one is suggesting that these moves could escalate to conflict. Argentina has made clear it intends to pursue the claim by peaceful means.

    But there is always a chance that a rogue element could see the media attention given to the 25th anniversary of the Falklands conflict as a chance for a publicity stunt.

    The commander of British Forces South Atlantic Islands, Brigadier Nick Davies, is happy to talk candidly about the situation:

    "I would not wish to change what we do here. I'm here to make sure that we have an efficient force and to make sure that the 1982 conflict does not happen again. And I'm pretty confident I've got the tools."

    Those tools are impressive. As well as Tornadoes and Rapier, there are troop-moving helicopters; a flight of Hercules and VC10 transports and tankers; a destroyer (currently HMS Edinburgh); a Castle class patrol ship; 105mm artillery, and at least a company of infantry with support units.

    (Photo of Edinburgh did not paste)

    The Brigadier came to Mount Pleasant from a posting in Afghanistan, and many of his colleagues have also been hardened by the conflicts there and in Iraq.

    If such experiences teach anything, it is the need for clear and unambiguous statement of intent and purpose. That principle was arguably overlooked once in the Falklands. That seems unlikely to happen again.

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    Im a bit disappointed with the lack of feedback.

    But here are two more interesting articles complete with their own discussion board.

    Scotsman.com News - Politics - Navy set to keep 30-year-old ships in service over £3.6bn carrier delays

    Navy set to keep 30-year-old ships in service over £3.6bn carrier delays
    JAMES KIRKUP
    POLITICAL EDITOR (jkirkup@scotsman.com)
    THE Royal Navy could be forced to delay the retirement of Britain's ageing aircraft carriers because of delays in the programme to order replacement vessels, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.

    The decision would mean the mainstay of Britain's naval power in the next decade will be two ships which are both more than 30 years old.

    The prospect of prolonging the life of HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal will only heighten concerns about the state of the Royal Navy.

    Commanders led by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, have warned ministers they must spend more on the navy if Britain is to remain a global military power.

    The next generation of navy ships will be built around two new aircraft carriers, which at 65,000 tonnes and 230-metres long will be the biggest military ships Britain has ever built.

    But the £3.6 billion Future Carrier project has been hit by delays and bureaucratic haggling. The formal decision to place the contract to build the ships was first scheduled for 2003, but has yet to be made.

    The carriers would be built in pieces, at yards including Govan on the Clyde and Rosyth in Fife, with the contracts securing thousands of Scottish jobs for up to a decade.

    But despite suggestions from Labour ministers campaigning ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections next week, it is unlikely that the "main gate" contract decision for the new carriers will be made before the summer. Some fear the decision could even be delayed until after the Treasury's comprehensive spending review in October or November.

    Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, is said to be putting growing pressure on the MoD to curb the costs of the project as he tries to manage tightening public finances ahead of his expected appointment as prime minister in July.

    Earlier this year, the House of Commons' Defence Committee warned Britain could be left without a working aircraft carrier due to hold-ups in the carrier procurement process.

    The first of the new carriers is officially due to enter service in 2012, but Navy officers and defence industry officials believe that is now impossible.

    Now, a defence minister has conceded that the government may have to delay the retirement of the two existing Invincible-class aircraft carriers until the new vessels are available.

    Illustrious, the flagship of the Navy fleet, has been in service since 1982 and, according to the MoD's current timetable, is due to retire or "pay-off" in 2012. The Ark Royal entered service in 1985 and is due to retire in 2015.

    Now Lord Drayson, the defence procurement minister, has said those pay-offs may be put back because of problems with the Future Carrier problem.

    "Our intention is for there to be, at all times, at least one ship operating in the carrier strike role until the first of the new carriers enters service," Lord Drayson writes in an MoD document seen by The Scotsman. "It is too early to say whether this will require Illustrious or Ark Royal to remain operational beyond present pay-off dates."

    Lord Drayson also suggests the MoD is preparing to revise the delivery timetable for the new carriers. He states delaying the current ships' retirement "does not need to be addressed until we have determined in- service dates of future carriers".

    Last night, the MoD said the "working assumption" for the delivery of the new carriers was 2012 and 2015, but conceded that a delay was possible.

    • Britain and France should share the construction of the two new UK carriers and one for the French navy, Thales, a French defence firm, said yesterday.

    The MoD said it was waiting for defence firms to agree a deal on carrier work before placing the final order.

    MoD CHIEFS LOOK TO SCOTLAND FOR HOME PORT
    BRITAIN'S next generation of aircraft carriers could sail from Scotland, Royal Navy commanders believe.

    During an internal Ministry of Defence review of Britain's major naval bases, Faslane on the Clyde has emerged as a possible dock for the two new aircraft carriers.

    The two serving aircraft carriers currently sail from Portsmouth, but the Naval Bases Review has sparked speculation that the English port, the traditional home of the Royal Navy, could be closed. That speculation will be fuelled by the review's provisional conclusion that it would be possible for the carriers to dock at Faslane, already the home base of the navy's nuclear submarines.

    However, Faslane, officially called HM Naval Base Clyde, would require "changes in infrastructure" to accommodate the 280-metre, 65,000-tonne vessels.

    The suggestion is likely to inflame the simmering political row over the future of the Royal Navy's UK facilities. The Naval Bases Review, started earlier this year, could see one of Britain's bases - Faslane, Portsmouth, or Devonport, near Plymouth - closed or downgraded.

    Related topic

    British armed forces
    Scotsman.com News - British armed forces
    This article: Scotsman.com News - Politics - Navy set to keep 30-year-old ships in service over £3.6bn carrier delays

    Last updated: 24-Apr-07 01:01 BST

    Comments Add your comment1. Edward / 1:56am 24 Apr 2007 The truth will come out after the elections
    All the carriers will be built in France, the hint is already here ' Britain and France should share the construction of the two new UK carriers and one for the French navy, Thales, a French defence firm, said yesterday'
    The french have advised the MOD that if all the carriers are built in France, there would be a saving of £ 500 Billion overall, enough to compensate the British yards for not doing the work

    Report as unsuitable 2. Dragonhead, China / 1:59am 24 Apr 2007 Another 'cost cutting' exercise by a Labour Government, hell bent on destroying the Armed Forces, and consigning the UK to anonymity and 3rd world status. Gorgon Broon, Defence on the cheap! blood instead of iron! What a legacy to hand on to the next government!!! That will give the beggars something to think about!! Unconscionable Rogues, the lot of them. OUT, OUT, OUT!!

    Report as unsuitable 3. Olympic Pole Vaultaire, Paddling pool / 3:26am 24 Apr 2007 Any chance of getting a couple of "Made in China" ships for two bob? that would save some cash.

    Report as unsuitable 4. Conan, Here / 5:21am 24 Apr 2007 There is no reason why these 'Invincible' class hulls cannot be made to have a 50-year service life, with proper management and care.

    However, that will all become unimportant to an INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND pretty soon, hopefully, as the future Scottish Naval Service/Coast Guard (all rolled into one agency) will have no use for such vessel or their expensive outfit of systems and aircraft.

    Report as unsuitable 5. Groucho / 7:35am 24 Apr 2007 Why should Britain want to "remain a global military power"?
    Britain hasn't been a global military power since the end of the second world war. Every war that we have been involved in, with the exception of the Falkland Islands, has been as a minor support for the USA.
    In the Falklands we came close to being beaten by a tinpot dictatorship which was on the verge of collapse. We have to ask for USA approval before we scratch out backsides.
    Why waste a fortune on taking war abroad?

    Report as unsuitable 6. Ichabod / 7:59am 24 Apr 2007 Funny how one article talks up the Navy ability, and yet here we are hindering the very ships needed to make it effective in the future.

    It's a funny old world.

    Report as unsuitable 7. In the Dark, Waving not drowning / 9:04am 24 Apr 2007 I thought that the rumour was that Faslane was going to close due to the MODs concerns about Scotland gaining independence and rejecting the nuclear fleet?

    Report as unsuitable 8. Ian C, Ian C, Fife ex RM / 9:06am 24 Apr 2007 Now there's surprise ! Extend the life of the carriers but will they have any aircraft ? Sea Harriers are already getting scrapped and the Joint Strilke Fighters are too big for these wee ships.

    I know, let's use use Swordfish of WW2 fame !

    Usual MOD (Ministry of Donkeys) stuff !

    Report as unsuitable 9. von-Scharnhorst, Berlin-Preußen (Ex Bathgate) / 9:22am 24 Apr 2007 "That speculation will be fuelled by the review's provisional conclusion that it would be possible for the carriers to dock at Faslane, already the home base of the navy's nuclear submarines."
    GREAT idea!
    Put ALL your stratiegic assets in one basket.

    Have they never heard of Pearl Harbour?

    Report as unsuitable 10. Tormod, Auld Reekie / 9:23am 24 Apr 2007 The labour party attack other political parties about defense and jobs etc, they and the MOD have an appalling track record on service delivery.

    Report as unsuitable 11. Lachie Todd, Edinburgh / 9:24am 24 Apr 2007 The United Kingdom is no longer a significant world power and only struts the world stage because it is a client state of the U.S.! This latest decision only confirms that the U.K. cannot afford to maintain a military infrastructure along the lines of a truly great power! Nowadays, it wouldn't be able to muster enough ships for a naval review at Spithead! The U.K. has a lop-sided defence policy which expends more on an unaffordable U.S. designed nuclear deterrent than it does on properly equipping its conventional air, land, and sea forces! The old cutting phrase "furcoat and nae drawers" comes
    to mind! Lachie Todd

    Report as unsuitable 12. danielrober, London / 9:24am 24 Apr 2007 I think its time we should have a serious national debate over the Royal Navy. Explaining the advantages that we all get from the senior service. As for the new carriers. Well if we can't afford to build them, how can we afford to maintain them. However, all i hear is what the government and MOD want.

    I would like to know what the Royal NAvy wants. After all these are the people who are going to fight in these ships.

    Could the Scotsman interview, senior naval staff?

    Report as unsuitable 13. Hangem_flogem / 9:25am 24 Apr 2007 Ichabod said it: one article saying how wonderful and modern the navy is, and then this one telling us we'll have to make do with 2 old carriers for the next generation... As (s)he says: funny old world.
    I don't think that a country with the gdp of the UK's can really afford to build 2 modern carriers - and equip them! Ian C said it: what bloody planes will we use?

    Report as unsuitable 14. Paddy of Mass Destruction, Republic of Blairistan / 9:57am 24 Apr 2007 So, if we spend £3.6bn on these new carriers, will it stop british seamen being taken hostage by Iranians in speedboats?
    Aircraft carriers, trident and the Eurofighter are relics of the cold war, and we don't need them anymore. When HMG has a problem, it is always the "Poor Bloody Infantry" who have to go and sort it out, and Noo Labour have shown scant regard for them in Scotland. What is needed is rifles that don't jam, proper body armour and decent vehicles, Not "Big Boys Toys" that look good on the shelf but do bugger all. Bliar and Broon should be spending money on what the armed forces want and need, not job creation schemes to buy votes in Labour heartlands.

    Report as unsuitable 15. toryheaven.blogspot.com, Edinburgh / 10:18am 24 Apr 2007 The running down of our Navy is one of the great scandals of the New Labour Government. We shall all come bitterly to regret it. We are an island, and undervaluing the necessity of a properly financed, decent sized navy is a grave mistake. The Prime Minister should stop wasting huge amounts of taxpayers money on unnecessary rubbish, and plough it in to supporting properly our armed forces. Morale is at an all time low, and it is not hard to see why.

    Report as unsuitable 16. Edward / 10:50am 24 Apr 2007 The voters in Govan and Rosyth, should be under no illusion, regardless of the outcome of the election, the carriers will all be built in France.
    The French have changed there ideas on the construction and have put forward a cost saving to the UK Government of £ 500 billion, which will be used in part to compensate uk companies. This is the real reason the projects have been delayed as Labour know that anouncing this before the election, would wipe them out completely. But dont take my word, voters in Govan and Rosyth should be pressing Labour for an answer, workers should be pressing there unions to start pressing for some answers

    Report as unsuitable 17. Calum10 / 10:56am 24 Apr 2007 The UK is no longer a global military power. These carriers will not be built.

    Report as unsuitable 18. MadJockMacMad, Edinburgh / 11:01am 24 Apr 2007 Their home port might be Faslane? Is there an Election on?

    Report as unsuitable 19. petrol head, Edinburgh / 11:03am 24 Apr 2007 #5: Groucho is right

    The idea of Britannia ruling the waves is no longer the case.

    The last time Britain had a proper navy was at the time of the Falklands and even then we had to rescue Hermes from the scrap yard to achieve the objective.

    Once we lost the Type 21s (sold to India) and the Leanders (mainly scrapped) the Navy lost it's capability to mount anything like the Falklands again.

    True enough that warfare has changed considerably since 1982 but our role now, as Groucho correctly says, is to support the USA on their campaigns.

    This is something that Blair has been only too willing to do, but one wonders if the favour would be returned should the UK find itself under attack...

    The planned new ships are geared to the support of NATO operations. They would not be suited to conduct any substantial campaign without NATO support.

    What the Navy needs are several small frigates to replace the Leanders and more of the Type 23s to replace the Type 21s.

    It's all very well having a couple of huge aircraft carriers and various other large capital ships like Ocean and Bulwark but if you can't defend them with frigates and destroyers, whilst at the same time prosecuting the conflict with other frigates and destroyers then you don't have an effective fighting force.

    Report as unsuitable 20. John Jamieson, Edinburgh / 11:10am 24 Apr 2007 Bet that the French come up with a solution which results in the new aircraft carriers being completed in a French shipyard.

    Report as unsuitable 21. cataibh, Ach yur seen it / 11:20am 24 Apr 2007 When I was in Co. Durham two weeks ago there were strong rumours going the rounds that the carriers would be cancelled and the announcement held back until after the May elections.

    Report as unsuitable 22. Billy, Germany / 11:36am 24 Apr 2007 I also fear there is no way these ships will be built,
    not in the UK anyway. It's part of the plan to render the UK forces incapable of operating independently.

    It's the old European Army scenario again. Render your forces useless, then join the european army as a bit player. But hey, have you seen how much cheaper that would be. A national disgrace.

    Report as unsuitable 23. Vaward, Perth / 11:40am 24 Apr 2007 If Britain hasn't been a global military power since the end of the second world war then why does it have the world's second largest defence budget?

    The UK Defence budget in 2007/08 is some £33,447.00($ 65,470.02 USD). In terms of monetary expenditure, this puts Britain second in the world on defence spending. France is at about $58 billion (USD) for 2007/08

    Another comparator is defence spending as a proportion of GDP. At 2.2%, we are above at the NATO European average. We spend about the same proportion as France and much more than Italy and Germany.

    As for a decline in the navy, well - The Royal Navy is currently benefiting from a huge investment programme.

    In the last decade twenty eight ships and one submarine have been put into service including a new Helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, two Albion Class amphibious assault ships, four Bay Class amphibious logistic support ships and three River Class patrol vessels.

    To claim we could not prevail in a conflict such as the Falklands is wrong. Infact it's plain ignorance to suggest otherwise. In reality the RN is more capable of waging long distant amphibious warfare in 2007 than it was in 1982.

    Report as unsuitable 24. Boy Wonder / 11:47am 24 Apr 2007 Hang on!!! This article and the previous one "Shipshape" are BOTH using the SAME picture!!!!

    Didn't you have another naval pic in you library, or was this a time-saving exercise not to go searching for one??

    Poor show Scotsman!!!

    Report as unsuitable 25. Edward / 12:03pm 24 Apr 2007 #20 John Jamieson
    Actually yes they have, they have advised that there would be a cost saving of £ 500 million to the UK
    Life Style Extra...
    also
    'In February and March 2007 reports appeared in the French press stating that France was again urgently seeking a much closer industrial linkage between its PA2 project in order to achieve substantial cost saving for the two countries - this apparently including the manufacture at the Aker shipyard, St. Nazaire, of CVF superblocks or even their whole hulls. Based on previous hints from Thales, this website estimates that the potentials saving to the UK MOD of building the two CVF hulls in France could exceed £500 million. The French apparently propose that BAE Systems Surface Ship Solutions (formerly known as BAE Naval Ships) and VT Shipbuilding were compensated for the loss of work by being given a share of the total savings.'
    Navy Matters | Future Aircraft Carrier Part 19

    Report as unsuitable 26. Rab McClair, ON THE FLIGHT DECK / 12:31pm 24 Apr 2007 #23 VAWARD
    Fact is that the Navy publicly concede that they couldn't repeat a latter day Falklands adventure. The Navy is down to a TOTAL complement of 14,000 personnel after the latest cuts, and we now have twice as many admirals (and Rear-Admirals) as we have ships.
    The Falklands re-visited would still be about getting troops into theatre and we just don't have THAT capability either..........Oh, and many of the same Harriers c.1982 would still ahve to go back.
    Sad but true !!

    Report as unsuitable 27. Porry, Lower Saxony / 12:35pm 24 Apr 2007 What has happened to my question in the original #9? You could have answered it instead of simply omitting it and changing the caption that contained the form in question. (Languages are by no means static and therefore almost anything can change time passing, my dear journalists.)

    Report as unsuitable 28. Allan (Glasgow) / 1:27pm 24 Apr 2007 23,

    Dont know what planet you are on. The Navy now consists of the 25 destroyers and frigates, two ageing but available aircraft carriers with a third in mothballs, a helicopter carrier, two assault ships, four Trident missile submarines and nine nuclear-powered attack boats, eight mine countermeasures vessels, 17 small patrol and fishery protection boats, six survey and hydrographic vessels and 18 Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships manned by civilian crews.

    The Navy now has fewer than half of the warships and submarines it could deploy in 1982, with just three small carriers, eight old destroyers, 17 frigates and 15 submarines and only 12-14 of the major warships from the surface fleet are available at any given time.

    As was stated in another post, the navy themselves have admitted that they couldnt repeat the Falklands
    effort.

    Report as unsuitable 29. Alex the wandering flanker, repeat of the Falkands / 1:57pm 24 Apr 2007 Luckily Argentina is not in much of a position to stage a re-run either.

    Report as unsuitable 30. Kenmac, Oban / 3:15pm 24 Apr 2007 Britannia used to rule the waves.
    Now she waives the rules.

    After the last debacle in the Gulf it is obvious that the present set up in Whitehall could not run a menage.

    Report as unsuitable 31. Goat Boy / 4:53pm 24 Apr 2007 #19 Petrol Head:

    Hermes also went to India and we renamed the INS Viraat.

    The through deck cruisers where more like cruise liners when compared to awful state of the Hermes in its latter years.

    Report as unsuitable 32. Mrs. Trellis, Devon / 5:05pm 24 Apr 2007 #24. Boy Wonder,
    Actually it's very old navy trick, during WW2 we used to change the names of ships to make it look like we had moreships than we really had.
    With the US Dollar on the floor at the moment against the pound.. Now! is the surely the time to make an offer for a couple of those slightly used American nuclear aircraft carriers they have mothballed. And lets face they owe us big time at the moment!!

    On second thoughts, better make that one, as we haven't got the the planes or even sailors to man one, let alone two.

    Mrs.T

    Report as unsuitable 33. danielrober / 5:15pm 24 Apr 2007 # 32 Mrs Trellis

    What a very good idea, why not ask for some other equipment at the same time. If we have to buy it from abraod then lets buy one that can be delivered on time.

    I also deeply question an ability to save £500 million. Unless that is that the ship yards in France intended to build more ships. Maybe Italy and Spain are after new carriers in a decade or so.

    Has the treasury calculated the potential loss of income from lossing a share of possible future requirements in the rest of world. Exports.

    Report as unsuitable 34. Chief S, Edinburgh / 7:27pm 24 Apr 2007 Re #23

    I'm due to go back on a T42 as a marine engineer, something I thought I'd never have to do when I left HMS Glasgow in 1996. The Blair government delayed the T45 programme as well as the new super-carriers.

    As to the new River Class ships, these are owned by Vosper Thorneycroft and are on a 5 year lease by the RN. The Albion & Bulwark were brought into service years late and we had to attempt to keep the Intrepid & Fearless running as virtual wrecks.

    Lack of investment coupled with the inability to conclude speedy contact negotiations means that whenever a ship programme begins they are already out of date, smart procurement indeed. The T23s are a classic example, cold war anti-submarine ships built in the post-communist era.

    I've only a couple of years service left till I can grab my pension and run but still have to manage an under-supported engineering section manned by disillusioned staff.

    Report as unsuitable 35. Chief S, Edinburgh / 9:20pm 24 Apr 2007 Re T45s & T42s

    On taking power the Labour government ordered a Strategic Defence Review that was published in 1998. They also set up the Defence Procurement Agency in 1999.

    BBC News | UK | Navy 'facing warship gap'

    In 1999 the Defence Select committee queried the 8 year gap between the de-commissioning of the first T42, HMS Birmingham and the in service date of the first T45, HMS Daring (still not ready and not due in service till 2009 so the gap will be 10 years!).

    An update of the 1998 SDR was done as 2002 SDR New Chapter which responded to the challenges raised by the War on Terror. This was watered down again in the 2003 Defence White Paper, Delivering Security in a Changing World (reducing the requirement from 12 ships to 8).

    So far two T45s have been built on the Clyde with another now under construction in Portsmouth. The total has now been reduced to 6, half the original order!

    This is only speculation but the Independent carried a story last month that the Saudis are about to place a £2 billion order for 2 T45s. They are likely to get our 5th & 6th ships whilst we try to keep the decrepit T42s operational.

    The ships will be call Daring, Dauntless, Diamond, Dragon, Defender and Duncan. Call me cynical but I'm not sure that we'll see the last 2 ships.

    Scotsman.com News - Scotland - Shipshape?

    Shipshape?
    STEPHEN MCGINTY

    OUR first glimpse of HMS Albion is through a metal grille, one that's being relentlessly splashed by salt water and cold sea spray. The grille rises like a drawbridge at the front of the grey Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP: the navy loves its abbreviations), a troop-carrying vessel which seems to have been lifted from the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. Today, instead of its usual detachment of Royal Marines, the LCVP is carrying members of Her Majesty's press, invited to tour one of the Royal Navy's flagships from its 21st-century fleet.

    Over the next two weeks the waters off Scotland's west coast, from Arran to Cape Wrath, and around many of the islands in between, will become a battleground. Fighter jets will launch low-level assaults on frigates, killer submarines will track aircraft carriers, including the famed HMS Ark Royal, while helicopters will perform ship-to-ship rescues. This is all in the name of the Neptune Warrior training course, which takes place twice a year: this time, however, it will carry a special significance.

    Every one of the 19 ships, 20 helicopters, 60 fixed-wing aircraft and 4,000 men and women involved will be reflecting on the 25th anniversary of the Falklands conflict, the last battle Britain fought alone. Yet the military message imparted at today's event is clear: a quarter-century on, Britain is better equipped than ever to defend itself at sea, following a £14 billion investment package which, in the past ten years, has resulted in 28 new ships, including the HMS Albion, and one submarine.

    Once the LCVP is alongside the ship, giant steel cables are lowered, and the entire boat is efficiently hoisted up and secured to davits (the arms that hold lifeboats on civilian vessels), allowing us to step freely on to the ship's deck, where Rear-Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt greets us. The Flag Officer for Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland, the Rear-Admiral is our host for the morning. After shaking hands, dispensing broad smiles, sprinkling everyone with a brisk, friendly "welcome aboard", he escorts our party along tight and sharply-angled corridors painted grey, through bulkhead doors and down narrow steel steps, until we reach the main storage deck, which resembles a massive car ferry hold. It is packed with heavy trucks, small military vehicles and a few dozen marines, polishing kit, and sitting atop huge rucksacks.

    HMS Albion, which was launched in March 2001, and which weighs 18,500 tonnes, is a purpose-built landing platform deck ship, designed to carry troops as far as possible into combat across water, delivering them to smaller vessels, thence to take the short trip ashore. The LCVP on which we came aboard, and which is capable of carrying 30 marines, is the baby brother of the Landing Craft Utility (LCU), which can carry an 85-tonne Chieftain tank. Four of these tanks currently sit, one pair in front of the other, at the stern. As we wait and watch, the stern slowly opens and the ballast of the ship is adjusted to allow it to sink, the chamber to flood, and the first vessel to drive out.

    Even here under a cold and rainy sky, the Rear-Admiral exhibits the excitable nature of a head boy at school. The Royal Navy, he says, is in great shape as the result of the government's investment over the past decade.

    "The new vessels have created an incredible flexibility," he says, "from which we now have global reach and greater influence. We can swing from humanitarian work to peacekeeping to actual war fighting; onboard we have all the skills necessary - engineers, electricians, plumbers, even dentists."

    When I put it to him that we often read naval "sources" insisting that the service is badly underfunded, he neatly pooh-poohs any such notion: "We have enough ships to do what we are being asked because of our capability. But if the government wants us to do anything more, then that will have to change."

    His enthusiasm is infectious; his pride absolute. Even when questioned about the recent wave of poor publicity for the Royal Navy, following the Iranian captives crisis and subsequent media interviews for which those involved were permitted to accept payment, his smile does not waver.

    "The Navy is very resilient. You wouldn't want me to talk about what the Secretary of State said," he says, referring to the Defence Minister, Des Browne's recent non-apologetic apology, "so I won't add to that, but what I would say is that the Navy bounces back. The sailor's morale is very robust."

    As the LCU takes a few spins around the vessel, offering it a fine view of a military helicopter coming in to land, I speak to a number of local servicemen and women. Alanna MacLeod, 24, from Glasgow is a surgeon lieutenant who works as a Royal Navy dentist.

    She joined up four years ago, after completing two years at Glasgow University. "I just couldn't see me operating as a dentist in civvy street. I think I would have died of boredom. You sign up knowing these things [such as being captured] can happen," she explains. "But I don't know how I would react."

    Jacqueline McNeish, 20, from Lesmahagow, joined up just ten months ago and is now an engineering technician (weapons). Before joining the Navy she had been working as an apprentice electrician, and she decided that she fancied a greater challenge, as well as a chance to travel the world. "It's great fun. You do work hard, but it's with some great people."

    This picture-perfect portrait of a naval career is punctured slightly by James Snowball, 22, a Bellshill boy who knows on which side his bread is buttered. Asked why he joined he explains instantly: "Pension - I want to retire when I'm 42." Yet his accompanying laughter suggests there may be more to his career choice than that.

    After the LCU makes its way back to HMS Albion, the Rear Admiral slips away, leaving us to sample the legendary delights of naval cuisine: delicious pork chops and generous amounts of mashed potatoes - I have to admit, it isn't half bad.

    Our "lift" back to dry land takes much longer this time: HMS Albion has sailed on "doon the watter" and so it's back on the LCVP to crash through the waves until Largs hoves into view. Our last image of HMS Albion is an arresting and memorable one: a helicopter appears to parallel park, moving backwards into its spot, secure on the ship's top deck.

    After even a fleeting visit such as this one, I am left with the sense that, 25 years on from the fire and fighting of the Falklands, the Royal Navy continues to honour those that fell and to support all those who now stand in their place.

    Related topic

    British armed forces
    Scotsman.com News - British armed forces
    This article: Scotsman.com News - Scotland - Shipshape?

    Last updated: 24-Apr-07 01:01 BST

    Comments Add your comment1. Bret, New York / 3:47am 24 Apr 2007 Lord Nelson would have loved that amount of investment in his navy!

    Report as unsuitable 2. Welcome Page. / 5:34am 24 Apr 2007 Fine pathe news style reporting

    Report as unsuitable 3. Conan, Here / 5:34am 24 Apr 2007 The pension arrangement needs to be reviewed. it is ridiculous these days when people live so long to even think about having a 20-years's service retirement ..... it should be extended at least to 25 years, and more likely 30 years.

    Report as unsuitable 4. Welcome Page. / 5:36am 24 Apr 2007 I feel the urge to shout spiffing and jolly good

    Report as unsuitable 5. Jim A, East Calder / 5:55am 24 Apr 2007 #3 Conan, you said you said "The pension arrangement needs to be reviewed. it is ridiculous these days when people live so long to even think about having a 20-years's service retirement ..... it should be extended at least to 25 years, and more likely 30 years".
    Well mate in the Armed Forces living that long especially in todays world is not guaranteed. Also after 20-22 years service believe me when I tell you that pension is well earned. If your young enough mate go give it a try, you'll soon see what I mean.

    Report as unsuitable 6. Ichabod / 7:49am 24 Apr 2007 No problem with Naval pension agreements. 20 years in the Navy would deserve a good pension. Far too many leave the armed services and find great difficulty fitting back into civilian life.

    In spite of the officers delight, I still think all sections of the armed forces are struggling today. Overstretched and lacking far too often equipment that is required.

    Some things never change.

    Report as unsuitable 7. Urban Clearway, Tyneside / 7:57am 24 Apr 2007 "the LCU takes a few spins around the vessel"

    Hardly necessary. There's been no shortage of spin on that exercise.

    Report as unsuitable 8. Dave From Barra, Western Isles / 7:58am 24 Apr 2007 We give a very large proportion of our wage over to our pensions during the service years. The contributions are reflected in our pensions. The living wage we recieve during service years is not great (well ok as a single guy as we get accomodation and food paid for but if you're married it's a slightly different story) but if we manage to make 20 year service then we deserve the pensions we get.

    Report as unsuitable 9. Porry, Lower Saxony / 8:03am 24 Apr 2007 "four large landing crafts" ?

    Just out of curiosity (and since I have read this in The Scotsman before), since when does the plural of "craft" take an 's'?

    Report as unsuitable 10. Dick / 9:12am 24 Apr 2007 A ship is not measured by its weight but by its displacement.

    This reporter needs to be shown the "golden rivet"..

    Report as unsuitable 11. von-Scharnhorst, Berlin-Preußen (Ex Bathgate) / 9:25am 24 Apr 2007 "which can carry an 85-tonne Chieftain tank. "
    CHIEFTAIN????

    I thought they were all out of service now?

    Report as unsuitable 12. Dave From Barra, Western Isles / 9:28am 24 Apr 2007 AISLiverpool - Current AIS for CLANSMAN

    They are measured in tonnage according to this website which is a live tracking of current shipping in the uk waters.

    Report as unsuitable 13. Jacqueline Hyde / 9:46am 24 Apr 2007 #1 Brett
    Nelson's ships were expected to last a lot longer than today's tin boxes which seem to spend more time being refitted than afloat. However today's fleets are far more specialised and most of the investment is in electronics . . . the Victory just need the odd rub down with a Black & Decker.

    Report as unsuitable 14. Halitosis / 10:08am 24 Apr 2007 English Navy to repel all Scots Boarders....lol...but they should have practised on the Thames.

    Report as unsuitable 15. petrol head, Edinburgh / 11:24am 24 Apr 2007 #10: Dick

    As you know, there are many and varied ways of measuring the "weight" of ship.

    You can't expect Stephen McGinty to use the correct terminology. He's only a mere reporter!

    Report as unsuitable 16. Rita / 1:21pm 24 Apr 2007 If Scotland is ever again invaded by sea, we can always tell them they can't land because they didn't spell anything right

    Report as unsuitable 17. Salem / 1:22pm 24 Apr 2007 HMS Cornwall or any other British warship could have simply blown the Iranian motorboats that seized 15 British sailors out of the water.

    Sir Alan West the former First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy explained the British rules of engagement, stressing, they were very much “de-escalatory” because we don’t want wars starting all over the place! And that is why our "chaps" were able to be captured.

    Along with her sister ships Cumberland, Chatham and Campbell, Cornwall is slated to be mothballed as the British government does what no foreign enemy could ever do — sink the Royal Navy.

    Two months ago, Britain announced that almost half its fleet of 44 warships will be mothballed due to budget cuts.

    British naval forces have been so degraded it is doubtful they could pull off the Falkland Islands mission today.

    This time next year the British navy that once ruled the waves will have a navy the same size as the punk nation of Belgium!

    Britain’s once proud navy will be reduced to a river boat patrol and coastal defense force.

    This is the reality of what has become of the Queen’s Navy, a navy with more admirals than ships.

    The Scotsman article is a piece of jingoistic nonsense to make people feel good!

    Report as unsuitable 18. Chamelion, Stranger things have happened at sea / 1:34pm 24 Apr 2007 If HMS Albion weighs 18,500 tonnes out of the water, then it displaces exactly 18,500 tonnes of water. If it weighed zero, it would have zero displacement. I weigh half a tonne, and therefore displace am awful lot of water in my bath.

    Report as unsuitable 19. von-Scharnhorst, Berlin-Preußen (ex Bathgate) / 1:36pm 24 Apr 2007 12. Dave From Barra, Western Isles
    They are measured in tonnage according to this website which is a live tracking of current shipping in the uk waters."

    Gross registered tons for commercial ships, tons displacement for naval vessels.
    A naval ship does not change weight beyond fuel and amunition depletion, a merchant vessel, however, can run empty, or full. A BIG difference.

    Report as unsuitable 20. Baw heid, Holland / 1:53pm 24 Apr 2007 Gunboat diplomacy? Hallo, the Scottish election time is here, co-incident.Should have had a show
    of force in Irak and saved the sailors.

    Report as unsuitable 21. Dave From Barra, Western Isles / 3:32pm 24 Apr 2007 Yup, fuel and ammo depletion, staff, cargo such as warheads, bombs, missiles, jet planes, and other assorted army equipment and so on and so forth. Who cares.

    Report as unsuitable 22. JRMS999, Edinburgh / 4:51pm 24 Apr 2007 More 'morale boosting' tripe from the seniors who run the navy.

    I use to be a Royal Marine and had the displeasure of spending almost a year and a half at Faslane.

    What a dump of a camp.

    Combined with the lack of opportunities and treatment from others, who are supposed to be your comrades in arms. It's no wonder the armed forces have the manning problem it does.

    As soon as the SNP close Faslane the better, what are nuclear weapons doing in Scotland anyway?

    Report as unsuitable 23. Anne / 5:19pm 24 Apr 2007 Not sure I'd fancy visiting a dentist who had spent only two years at university.
    I presume the Surgeon-Lieutenant actually joined up as a cadet officer while completing her studies!

    Report as unsuitable 24. AlphaNEIL / 6:15pm 24 Apr 2007 This reporting is enough to make me vomit! The Chieftain tank is no longer in service and was not 85 tonnes as reported but 55 tonnes. I don't even want to waste my time *****ing about the poor journalism who couldn't even pass a comprehensive.

    Report as unsuitable 25. Sambo, The deep south / 6:41pm 24 Apr 2007 The reason the sailors were captured, they were in a wee rubber boat and didn't want to make waves

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