Future of the Royal Navy

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Future planning of the Royal Navy's capabilities is set through periodic Defence Reviews carried out by the British Government. The Royal Navy's role in the 2020s, and beyond, is outlined in the 2021 defence white paper, which was published on 22 March 2021.[1][2] The white paper is one component of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, titled as Global Britain in a Competitive Age which was published on 16 March 2021.[1]

The National Audit Office (NAO) has, for a considerable period of time, described the Ministry of Defence's equipment plan as "unaffordable". As late as January 2021 the NAO reported that the Royal Navy had the largest shortfall of the three services at £4.3 billion over the 2020 to 2030 period.[3] To address some of these gaps, in November 2020, the Prime Minister announced the first outcome of the defence review by pledging increased funding in the range of £16.5 billion over four years to stabilise the defence budget and to provide new funding for space, cyber and research activities. A plan to construct a new class of frigate, the Type 32 frigate, was also announced with five vessels envisaged and likely entering service starting in the early 2030s, though many other details about the program remain to be decided, even following publication of the March 2021 defence white paper.[4]

As of June 2020, the following vessels were under construction or being laid down: the final three of seven Astute-class submarines; the first two of four Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarines, the first three[5] of eight Type 26 frigates; early design and preparation work has begun for a fleet of at least five Type 31 frigates with the government having announced they have also begun the process of procuring five future Type 32 frigates.

Ships under construction[edit]

Royal Navy[edit]

The following is a list of vessels planned, ordered, under construction or undergoing sea trials within the United Kingdom, and destined for the Royal Navy:

Class Ship Pennant No. Builders Displacement Type Homeport Commissioning
Gibraltar patrol boats Dagger[6] Marine Specialised Technology, Liverpool TBC Inshore patrol vessel Gibraltar Expected 2021[7]
Cutlass[6] Expected 2022/2023[7]
Astute class
Anson S123 BAE Systems, Barrow-in-Furness 7,400 tonnes Fleet submarine Clyde TBC[8][9][10]
Agamemnon S124 TBC
Agincourt S125 Expected 2026[11]
Dreadnought class Dreadnought 17,200 tonnes Ballistic missile submarine Clyde Expected early 2030s[11]
Valiant TBC
Warspite TBC
King George VI TBC
Type 26 Glasgow BAE Systems, Glasgow 6,900 tonnes Anti-submarine frigate Devonport Expected 2026/27[12]
Cardiff TBC
Belfast
Birmingham
Sheffield
Newcastle
Edinburgh
London
Type 31 Venturer Babcock International, Rosyth 5,700 tonnes General-purpose frigate Expected 2026/27[13][12]
Bulldog Last ship by February 2030[14]
Formidable
Active
Campbeltown

Ships[edit]

Destroyers and frigates[edit]

In the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) a replacement programme was authorised for the Navy's fleet of thirteen Type 23 frigates. In 2012, BAE Systems Naval Ships was awarded a contract to design the replacement, known as the Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS). It was planned that two variants of the class would be built: five general purpose frigates and eight anti-submarine warfare frigates. According to estimates as of 2020, the first Type 26 frigate is to commission in around 2026/27 and the last commissioning in around 2040, whilst the Type 23s are gradually phased out.[12][15] Eight Type 26 frigates will be built initially. The five remaining ships will be covered by a new class of lighter, flexible general purpose frigate, known as the Type 31e frigate or General Purpose Frigate (GPFF).[16][17]

The slower than planned introduction of both the Type 26 and Type 31, coupled with the pending retirement dates for the Type 23, will mean that Royal Navy frigate numbers are likely to decline in the 2020s to as few as 8 frigates. This reduction was confirmed in the 2021 defence white paper with the announcement that two of the Type 23s would, in fact, be retired early.[18] Nevertheless, the at sea availability of ships (both destroyers and frigates) within this smaller force would actually increase as vessels complete their life extension refits.[19][20] By the latter 2020s and 2030s it is anticipated that overall numbers may rise again as the replacement vessels enter service. The objective of the 2021 white paper is to have 24 frigates and destroyers in service by the "early 2030s", though some argued that a date of 2035 was more likely.[21] This is to be achieved through the construction of yet another class of frigate, the Type 32.

In November 2020, the first decisions of the Integrated Review were announced which included a pledge to construct the Type 32 frigate.[22] No further details were included but the announcement was made in the context of restoring the United Kingdom as "the foremost naval power in Europe" and to "spur a shipbuilding renaissance".[22] Later, the 2021 white paper indicated that the Type 32 was to be "designed to protect territorial waters, provide persistent presence overseas and support our Littoral Response Groups". In November 2020, the Ministry of Defence described the ship as a platform for autonomous systems, such as anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures.[23]

The March 2021 defence white paper also announced that a new class of air defence destroyer, the Type 83, would be designed to replace the Type 45 destroyer with the aim of achieving initial delivery in the latter 2030s.[24] In the interim, in July 2021 it was announced that the Type-45 destroyers would be upgraded through the addition of 24 cells for the Sea Ceptor surface-to-air missile system. The Type-45s were reported as likely to be incrementally upgraded between 2026 and 2032.[25]

Offshore patrol vessels[edit]

HMS Forth

In November 2013 it was announced that to sustain the UK shipbuilding base, and for defence-related reasons, three new offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) with Merlin-capable flight-decks were to be built.[26][27] (Following on the 2015 Defence Review, the total number of Batch 2 ships was increased to five). In August 2014, BAE Systems was awarded a £348 million contract to design and build the new class. The vessels are significantly larger than the River class Batch 1, and were built on the Clyde in Scotland, with all ships entering service by 2021. It is envisaged that they will be used for constabulary duties such as counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations.[28]

The first three vessels were named, HMS Forth, HMS Medway and HMS Trent.[29] They displace around 2,000 tonnes, are equipped with a 30 mm main gun, 16-tonne crane for two sea boats, capable of making 24 kn (44 km/h; 28 mph) and patrol for upwards of 6,000 miles or 35 days with a basic crew of just 34 or maximum of 60.[30] The SDSR 2015 stated that two more OPVs would be procured,[31] with the new vessels later receiving the names Tamar and Spey.[32]

Although the 2015 SDSR laid out plans for the five new River-class ships to supplant in service the existing vessels, in November 2018 it was announced that the first three ships, HMS Tyne, HMS Severn and HMS Mersey, would be retained for service in UK waters. These ships would also be "forward-deployed" to ports that correspond with their names – Tyne at Newcastle, Severn at Cardiff and Mersey at Liverpool.[33] In 2020, Severn was returned to service having undergone a major 12-month refit and reactivation period, the first time in living memory that the Royal Navy had returned a warship to service after what was planned to be its final withdrawal and disposal.[34] Severn, Tyne and Mersey will be retained in UK waters to form the Overseas Patrol Squadron. Forth and Medway have been assigned to the Atlantic Patrol Task (South) and Atlantic Patrol Task (North) standing deployments, with Forth serving as part of British Forces South Atlantic Islands, and Medway forward deployed to the Caribbean.[35][36]

The 2021 white paper indicated that one River Batch II OPV would henceforth be based in Gibraltar for operations in the Mediterranean or off West Africa, while another OPV would be deployed East of Suez, in conjunction with other UK naval forces.[37][38] In the summer of 2021 it was confirmed that two River-class OPVs would in fact be deployed East of Suez.[39]

Mine countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC)[edit]

RNMB Harrier on the Clyde in 2020

The 2015 SDSR specified that only 12 mine-counter measure vessels were planned to exist in Joint Force 2025.[31] The three oldest Sandown-class minehunters will be decommissioned.[40] At one point it was anticipated that the UK and France would collaborate on a Maritime Mine Counter Measures project.[41] At DESI 2017, the First Sea Lord mentioned that the Royal Navy aimed to accelerate the incremental delivery of future mine countermeasures and hydrographic capability (MHC) programme.[42]

In May 2015, a contract was signed with Atlas Elektronik UK to supply Unmanned surface vessels (USVs) of their ARCIMS system for autonomous mine clearance.[43] The first boat delivered under this contract was the optionally-manned RNMB Hazard, which took part in Exercise Unmanned Warrior 16.[44] She was followed by the autonomous RNMB Hussar in 2018[45] and RNMB Harrier in August 2020, by which time they came under Project Wilton within the First Mine Counter Measures Squadron at HMNB Clyde.[46] RNMB Hebe, due in Spring 2021, will be longer - 15 metres (49 ft) instead of 11 metres (36 ft) - to accommodate a Portable Operations Centre Afloat that allows her to control Harrier and Hazard while also co-ordinating autonomous operations.[46]

In 2020 the parliamentary National Audit Office (NAO) noted that no funding had been allocated in the 2019 to 2029 period to replace the Navy's mine countermeasures capability.[47] The 2021 defence white paper subsequently confirmed that all existing MCMV vessels would be phased out in the 2020s and replaced by autonomous systems.[48]

Following on the Prime Minister's announcement in late 2020 of enhanced funding for the Ministry of Defence, Jeremy Quin, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, indicated on 30 November 2020, in response to a parliamentary question, that the envisaged Type 32 frigate would, in part, replace the current mine countermeasures ships and act as a "mothership" for the Navy's future unmanned mine countermeasures capabilities, as well as serving as a platform for anti-submarine warfare. Specifically, he said "... it is envisioned that Type 32 will be a platform for autonomous systems, adding to the Navy’s capabilities for missions such as anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures".[49] Type 32, as well as other platforms, could potentially carry a new autonomous system, which itself was announced on 26 November 2020 as being acquired through a joint production contract with France. This system employs three sets of equipment with each set comprising a portable operation centre, an autonomous surface vessel, towed sonar and a mine neutralization system. [50]

Gibraltar Squadron Ships[edit]

In July 2017 it was announced that the Gibraltar Squadron, responsible for the security of the territorial waters around the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, would receive two larger, more capable warships to replace their existing patrol vessels HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar.[51] In 2020, pending the planned eventual procurement of new-build vessels, the existing vessels were replaced on an interim basis with HMS Dasher and HMS Pursuer, a pair of Archer class patrol boats previously attached to the Cyprus Squadron.[52] In July 2020, a contract was signed between the MoD and Marine Specialised Technology for the construction and delivery of two new boats for Gibraltar. The first boat, HMS Dagger. is scheduled for delivery in Q3 2021/22 and the second boat, HMS Cutlass, in Q1 2022/23.[53]

Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ships[edit]

The 2015 SDSR confirmed that three new large Fleet Solid Support Ships would be acquired for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, to replace the single-hulled RFA Fort Victoria, which entered service in 1994, and RFA Fort Rosalie and RFA Fort Austin (both dating from the late 1970s). The ships were originally expected to enter service in the mid 2020s.[54][55][56] The 2017 National Shipbuilding Strategy confirm this, noting that the Fleet Solid Support ships would be subjected to an international competition and be delivered by the mid-2020s.[57]

However, late in 2019 this competition was stopped in the face of criticism that the competition permitted the potential construction of the ships outside the UK. The competition was anticipated as likely to be restarted with revised terms of reference.[58] On 21 October 2020, it was indicated that the competition for the FSS will be restarted in Spring 2021, covering three ships and it will be an international competition but the team must be a led by a British company.[59] The 2021 defence white paper confirmed that three FSSS would be built. In May 2021 the competition to build the ships was relaunched with the aim of taking a decision within two years.[60]

The SDSR did not mention any current plans to replace RFA Diligence which at the time was scheduled to go out of service in 2020 but was laid up and advertised for sale in 2016, or RFA Argus which will go out of service in 2024.[61] A parliamentary reply on 21 March 2016 noted that "The consideration of options to deliver the capabilities provided by RFA Diligence and RFA Argus remains ongoing".[62] An August 2016 notice stated that Diligence was placed up for sale,[63] and that the MOD was considering options for a replacement.[64] The 2021 defence white paper was silent on a specific replacement for either vessel, essentially confirming that the enhanced aviation capabilities eventually envisaged as being provided by FSSS and the mooted Multi-Role Support Ships (MRSS), would be the de facto replacement for Argus.

Future Amphibious Capability[edit]

The 2021 defence white paper outlined a proposal related to the composition of the Royal Navy's future amphibious capability. While the white paper was unclear about whether the Royal Navy's Albion-class assault ships would be replaced, it did announce an intent to acquire a new class of up to six "Multi Role Support Ships (MRSS) (almost certaintly as Bay-class landing ship replacements), to provide the platforms to deliver Littoral Strike, including Maritime Special Operations in the 2030s".[65] These vessels superseded an earlier plan, announced by the former Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson in February 2019, that the Royal Navy would purchase two commercial ships and develop them into Littoral Strike Ships.[66]

The new MRSS vessels were envisaged as having the utility to transport and deliver troops, vehicles, equipment and supplies from anywhere in the world in support of amphibious warfare and littoral manoeuvre. They were envisaged as incorporating a "mix of ship-to-shore offloading and logistics capabilities allow support to naval operations through landing craft, boat operations, multi-spot aviation and replenishment at sea".[67]

The white paper announced that, in the interim, one of the three Bay-class vessels would be converted to a Littoral Strike Ship (LSS) and fitted with permanent hangars as well as incorporating other upgrades.[68]

Multi Role Ocean Surveillance ship[edit]

The 2021 defence white paper announced an intent to acquire a Multi Role Ocean Surveillance ship (MROSS). The ship is planned to enter service in 2024 and was planned to be "fitted with advanced sensors and will carry a number of remotely operated and autonomous undersea drones which will collect data to help protect our people and way of life with operations in UK and international waters".[69] It was envisaged as necessary to protect undersea cable links to the U.K. and as a likely replacement for the current ocean survey ship, HMS Scott.[70]

Unmanned Surface Vessels[edit]

Madfox ASV during trials in March 2020

Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed (MAST) 13 is a collaboration between DSTL and L3Harris Technologies.[71] In September 2019, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace unveiled the MAST-13 (since renamed Madfox), an autonomous unmanned surface vehicle that would be attached to a PAC24 rigid inflatable boat and protect surface ships. HMS Argyll was involved in the demonstration.[72] On 24 June 2020, the Royal Navy announced that the first unmanned Pacific 24 boat has been launched.[73] On 1 June 2021, the Maxfox ASV successfully completed remote trials from range in the Solent, with personnel operating the vessel from the nearby coastline.[74]

Other smaller non-combatant vessels[edit]

On 9 August 2017, Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin announced the winner of Project Vahana, a £48 million contract for up to 38 (including HMS Magpie) modular glass-reinforced plastic hull workboats of between 11 and 18m long, which will support Royal Navy ships. Tasks to be carried out by the boats will include officer and diver training (8 & 7 boats respectively), hydrographic survey (3 boats), Antarctic exploration, explosive ordinance disposal and passenger transport (3 boats) for HMS Prince of Wales. In their role as passenger transport, the boats are capable of carrying up to 36 personnel to and from the aircraft carriers, especially where port facilities are too small to allow the carrier alongside, before being winched from the water using on-board lifting equipment and stowed inside. These boats will be built by Atlas Elektronik UK in Dorset and are scheduled to be in service by 2021.[75] Unusually, these workboats are not scheduled to be used as passenger transfer boats with HMS Queen Elizabeth as this role was taken by a previously announced contract for 4 such boats with Alnmaritec.[76]

On 15 December 2015, the Ministry of Defence awarded a £13.5m contract to BAE Systems for the production of 60 new Pacific 24 rigid-hulled inflatable boats for use with Royal Navy & Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships. The contract is expected to take 4 years to complete and began in early 2016.[77] Babcock was awarded a maintenance contract at DSEI 2019 for ARCHER-class patrol and training vessels, rigid-inflatable boats (RIB), yachts, static training vessels, small cadet boats and police boats.[78]

Submarines[edit]

Astute-class nuclear attack submarine[edit]

HMS Astute enters Faslane Naval Base

In 1997 the MOD signed a contract with GEC-Marconi (now BAE Systems Submarine Solutions) to deliver a new class of seven nuclear powered attack submarines to the Royal Navy. This class was intended to replace the five boats of the ageing Swiftsure class, as well as the oldest two boats of the Trafalgar class. The first-in-class HMS Astute was laid down in January 2001 and commissioned into the fleet in August 2010, followed by her sisters HMS Ambush (2013) HMS Artful (2016) and "Audacious" (2020). As of April 2020, four of the boats have been commissioned and three are under construction. The entry into service of the seventh boat is planned for 2026.[11]

The Astute class are much larger than their predecessors and have greatly improved stealth, endurance and weapons load. Each submarine is capable of carrying up to 38 Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles and Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes. There is also a plan for a Maritime Underwater Future Capability (MUFC), that is, a successor to the Astute-class SSN.[79] MUFC is also known as the 'Astute Replacement Nuclear Submarine (SSN (R))'.[80]

Dreadnought-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine[edit]

In July 2016 it was confirmed that a new class of submarine would be built to replace the current fleet of 4 Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) which carry the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent.[81] On 18 July 2016 the House of Commons voted 472 for and 117 against to proceed to build the new submarines.[82] On 21 October 2016, the MoD announced that the first of the four planned boats would be named HMS Dreadnought, with the name also attached to the class.[83] Construction of Dreadnought had commenced by 2017.[84] On 6 December 2018, the second boat of this class was named as HMS Valiant.[85] The final two boats of the class have been named HM Submarines Warspite and King George VI.

Aircraft[edit]

Fixed-wing aircraft[edit]

F-35 Lightning II

The Invincible class, because of its small size, had only a limited capacity and was only capable of operating STOVL aircraft, the Harrier GR7/GR9. In 2006 the Sea Harrier was withdrawn from service. This saw the front line Sea Harrier squadron of the Fleet Air Arm converting to the Harrier GR9, as part of the evolution of the Joint Force Harrier concept. The Harrier's replacement in both the RAF and the FAA is the F-35 Lightning II Joint Combat Aircraft. The F-35 is a significant improvement over the Harrier, in terms of speed, range and weapon load.[86]

The UK had plans to order 138 F-35Bs for the FAA and RAF. The financial crisis led to the decision taken in the 2010 SDSR to immediately withdraw the Harrier GR9 force in late 2010 along with HMS Ark Royal, to reduce the total number of F-35s planned for purchase by the UK, and to purchase the F-35C CATOBAR version rather than the STOVL F-35B. By May 2012, the government had decided to purchase the short-take off version, the F-35B instead.[87]

In July 2012, the Secretary of State for Defence stated that an initial 48 F-35Bs will be purchased to equip the carrier fleet.[88] In September 2013, it was announced that the second JSF squadron would be the Fleet Air Arm's 809 NAS.[89] Chancellor George Osborne announced on 22 November 2015 that the UK will have 24 F-35Bs on its two new carriers by 2023.[90] While the 2015 SDSR declared that the United Kingdom would buy 138 F-35s over the life of the program, the 2021 defence white paper sharply reduced that total to "beyond 48". Subsequently, the First Sea Lord indicated that the new envisaged number was to be 60 aircraft initially and "then maybe more", up to a maximum of around 80 to hopefully equip four "deployable squardons".[91]

On 20 May 2016, it had already been reported that the UK would field four frontline squadrons as part of its Lightning Force; in addition to 809 NAS, plus another Fleet Air Arm squadron, four Royal Air Force units (617 Sqn plus another operational squadron, 207 Sqn as the OCU, and 17(R) Squadron as the Operational Evaluation Unit) were also formed.[92] The UK is committed to improving its F-35Bs to Block 4 standard.[93][94] 809 NAS will stand up in April 2023.[95]

Helicopters[edit]

Merlin HM2's operating on HMS Illustrious

The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review saw the Fleet Air Arm transition to operate two types of helicopter – the AW101 Merlin and the AW159 Wildcat.[96] These replaced the aging fleet of Westland Sea Kings and Westland Lynxs. There are 30 Merlin HM2 helicopters in service.[97] The Royal Navy's Merlin HC.3 variant was obtained from the Royal Air Force and are currently being upgraded to HC.4 standard, including a full glass cockpit standard in the HM.2, and folding rotor blades and tail for shipborne operations.

The future AEW capability of the FAA is the "Crowsnest" programme, is set to replace the Sea King ASaC7 which retired in September 2018.[98][97] The Thales Crowsnest radar is a slightly upgraded version of the existing Searchwater 2000 radar.[99] As part of the process of the system reaching initial operating capability, Crowsnest was declared operational on the first Merlin helicopters in March 2021.[100] Full operating capability is expected in May 2023.[101]

The original six-year capability-gap between the retirement of the Sea King ASaC7 fleet and the entry service of Crowsnest was the source of much criticism.[102][103] All 30 of the Royal Navy's HM2 Merlins will be equipped to carry the Crowsnest system, though a maximum of 10 could be fitted with it at any one time.[97] As of 2020, the out of service date for the HM2s was envisaged as 2029 while the Mk4s were scheduled to retire by 2030.[104] The 2021 defence white paper did not reference a Merlin replacement.[105] However, it was subsequently indicated that the out of service date for both the HM2s and the Mk4s had been extended to 2040.[106]

Remote Piloted Air Systems[edit]

Following trials with the rail-launched ScanEagles it started operational flights of leased ScanEagles in January 2014 watching for swarm attacks on HMS Somerset and RFA Cardigan Bay in the Persian Gulf.[107] This was expanded in November 2014, when 700X NAS was formed to serve as both the parent unit for ship based ScanEagle flights, and as the evaluation unit for any future RPAS systems that the Royal Navy elects to try.[108] The ScanEagle will be withdrawn by 2017 and likely to be replaced by an unknown UAS, chosen through the Unmanned Warrior exercise in 2016.[109]

Dstl are testing ISR packages compatible with the RQ-20A Puma hand-launched UAV on board the M80 Stiletto US special forces trials ship in November 2014 under Capability Demonstration 15–1.[110] The optionally-manned PZL-Świdnik SW-4 Solo completed trials with the RN in 2015 as part of the UK's RWUAS (Rotary Wing Unmanned Air System) Capability Concept Demonstrator (CCD) programme.[111][112] The Royal Navy has also utilised 3-D printed unmanned aircraft in its operations.[113][114]

The Royal Navy has planned for two future UAS: The Flexible Deployable UAS (FDUAS) and Joint Mini UAS (JMUAS) programs. FDUAS is seen as a "Sea Eagle (Scan Eagle) Plus" while JMUAS is a UAS for the Royal Marines.[115] In November 2019, 700 NAS tested two new UAS, namely, the AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma and the AeroVironment Wasp III.[116]

In 2020 NavyX tested a heavy quadcopter from Malloy Aeronautics, with the head engineer of Malloy stating that the aspiration was to autonomously deploy 180kg payloads from a Royal Navy vessel over ranges of 20km with their T400 quadcopter.[117] Payloads could include people, torpedoes and fixed-wing drones.

In March 2021, Project Vixen was revealed to the public as a programme to examine the use of fixed-wing UAVs from the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers in roles such as strike and air-to-air refuelling.[118] During the same month, it was also revealed that the MOD was seeking electromagnetic catapults and arrestor cables capable of launching large fixed-wing UAVs from the aircraft carriers within three–five years.[119][120]

Royal Marines[edit]

RM trialling mortars on Can-Am Outlander quad bike in 2020

The Royal Marines will be restructured for the future, with 200 driver and administrative staff posts removed and reallocated to Royal Navy personnel. 42 Commando was transformed into a specialised "Maritime Operations unit" so that roles from that unit such as heavy weapons specialists, can be reallocated across the Royal Navy.[121] This took place in May 2018.[122] The Royal Marines stood up an office programme titled, 'Future Commando Force', aiming to give staff and intellectual horsepower to change the Royal Marines to meet the threats of the future.[123] There will be two Littoral Response Groups: One based East of Suez, one based in the High North.[124] On 27 June 2020, the Royal Marines announced the adopting of a new uniform with the MultiCam camouflage.[125][126]

Weapons[edit]

A dummy Sea Venom anti-ship missile on board HMS Prince of Wales (R09).
  • Sea Ceptor (formerly CAMM(M) or FLAADS) is a short-range air-defence missile to replace Sea Wolf on Type 23 frigates from 2016[127] and to be incrementally added to the armament of the Type-45-class destroyers from 2026.
  • Sea Viper, used by the Type 45 destroyers, has undergone trials using its SAMPSON radar to track ballistic missiles, and work is ongoing to develop its Aster missiles to counter ballistic missiles.[128] The UK is also considering upgrading its Type 45 Destroyers with the Aster 30 Block 1NT missile.[41]
  • Martlet (formerly FASGW (Light) and the Lightweight Multirole Missile) is a short range, supersonic anti-ship missile for use against small surface warships, patrol vessels and craft. Martlet is due to enter initial service in 2021 on the Fleet Air Arm's Lynx Wildcat maritime helicopters. Full operating capability is expected in 2024.[129][130]
  • Sea Venom (formerly FASGW (Heavy)), a bigger anti-shipping missile launched from helicopters, to begin to replace Sea Skua from 2022.[129] (Sea Skua itself was withdrawn from service in 2017).[129] Full operating capability for Sea Venom expected in 2024.[130]
  • The SPEAR 3 missile is a multi-role networked anti-ship and land-attack missile based on the Brimstone anti-tank missile with the JSOW-ER turbojet to extend the range to over 120 km. Four Spear 3 can fit in two internal weapons bay of an F-35B, MBDA are also looking at ship launch for members of the Brimstone family, including a quick-firing, anti-swarm 'Sea Spear'.[131][132]
  • The FC/ASW (Future Cruise/Anti Ship Weapon)[133] is a future anti-ship cruise missile planned for the Royal Navy and the French Navy. MBDA has presented Perseus, a supersonic multi-role cruise missile concept study[134] which was unveiled at the Paris 2011 Air Show. In the 2016 UK-France Security Summit, the two parties pledged to work on a "joint concept phase for the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) programme to identify solutions for replacement of the Scalp/Storm Shadow missiles, for both countries, Harpoon for the UK and Exocet for France." In 2021, Jeremy Quin indicated that the plan was to equip the Type 26-class frigates with the missile from 2028.[135]
  • A prior information notice (PIN) for contracts was announced on 5 March 2019 for a Next Generation Interim Surface Ship Guided Weapon (I-SSGW), that is, an anti-ship missile to replace the Royal Navy's Harpoon Block 1C missiles on five of the Type-23-class frigates.[136] The possible candidates for the requirement are the Harpoon Block II+, LRASM, Naval Strike Missile, RBS15 Mk4, Exocet Block 3C, Gabriel V missile, C-star, Type 90 Ship-to-Ship Missile or Hsiung Feng III.[137][138] A contract notice was issued on 22 August 2019 for an "Interim Surface to Surface Guided Weapon System (I-SSGW)", requesting for an over-the-horizon anti ship capability and a terrain-following precision land attack capability. The land attack requirement is likely to disqualify the Harpoon, Exocet and C-Star from the competition.[139][140]
  • The British Government announced on 5 January 2017 that it had awarded a £30 million contract to UK consortium 'Dragonfire' to develop a directed energy weapon technology demonstrator. Their intention is to have a working prototype ready by the end of the decade and potentially have vessels equipped with directed energy weapons by the mid 2020s.[141]
  • In July 2019, the UK issued a Prior Information Notice for Directed Energy Weapon (DEW) demonstrators.[142] This differs from the above Dragonfire as it combines multiple laser beams to produce a weapon more powerful than its predecessors and resistant to the most challenging environmental conditions.[143]

Navigation & Communication[edit]

  • In January 2016, it was announced that a £44m Navigation Radar Programme would see "more than 60 Royal Navy ships, submarines and shore facilities" fitted with state-of-the-art navigation radars, with contracts awarded to Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems UK and Kelvin Hughes.[144]
  • The MoD is reportedly investing heavily in development of quantum compasses which could potentially transcend the need for GPS as a means of navigation, providing a self-contained and interference-proof alternative.[145] Deployment of this technology is often discussed with regard to the Royal Navy's submarine fleet, allowing vessels to navigate without outside assistance and therefore remain submerged for extended lengths of time.[146]
  • In December 2018, it was announced that a £23m agreement to provide Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships with new radios had been signed. The radios will be installed on 39 ships in total, including 13 Type 23 Frigates, 4 survey and ice patrol vessels, 13 minehunters and 9 RFA supply ships and will be used to communicate with other ships, ports and aircraft during operations. They will replace numerous older radios and as more modern pieces of equipment, they are easy to use and can be updated via software and operated remotely. Under the contract, Thales will develop, fit and support a V/UHF radio solution which includes the acquisition of around 300 Rohde & Schwarz radios. The first radio will enter service on a Type 23 Frigate in 2020, with all radios due to be delivered and installed by the end of 2023.[147]

Senior Personnel changes[edit]

The Sunday Times reported that First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin was considering reducing the number of Rear-Admirals at Navy Command by five.[148] The fighting arms excluding Commandant General Royal Marines were reduced to 1-star or Commodore rank and the surface flotillas combined together.[149] Training is now concentrated under the Fleet Commander.[150] From May 2020, the post of Flag Officer Sea Training was downgraded from a Rear-Admiral's to a Commodore's position and was retitled Commander Fleet Operational Sea Training.[151]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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