Future of the Royal Navy

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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and end of the Cold War, the Royal Navy's mission transitioned from an anti-submarine focused force to a wider range of objectives around the world, while experiencing a gradual reduction in the size of its surface and submarine fleets. As a result, the Navy began a series of projects to improve its fleet, with a view to providing enhanced capabilities. This led to the replacement of smaller and more numerous units with fewer, but larger, units. For example the replacement of twelve Type 42 destroyers with six Type 45 destroyers and the replacement of the three 20,000-tonne Invincible-class aircraft carriers with two 65,000-tonne Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

As of June 2020, the following are under construction or being laid down; the final three of seven Astute-class submarines; the first of four Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarines, the first two of eight Type 26 frigates; the ninth of nine River-class ocean-going patrol vessels. In addition, early design and preparation work has begun for a fleet of at least five Type 31 frigates.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has described the Ministry of Defence's current equipment plan as "unaffordable". With respect to the 2019 to 2029 period, the NAO has noted that the Royal Navy has allocated no funding to replace certain key capabilities, specifically referencing the Royal Fleet Auxiliary hospital ship RFA Argus and the Royal Navy's mine countermeasures capability as examples.[1] These issues are planned to be addressed in the pending integrated foreign policy, security, defence and international development review which had been anticipated in 2020 but, due to Covid-19, is likely to be deferred for at least a year.[2][3]

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 stabilize 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, was also announced, though further details about this program and about the replacement of other aging naval capabilities would have to await the publication of the full defence review anticipated as likely in early 2021.[4]

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
River class Spey P234 BAE Systems, Glasgow 2,000 tonnes Offshore Patrol Vessel Portsmouth Expected 2021[5][6]
Gibraltar patrol boats TBC Marine Specialised Technology, Liverpool TBC Inshore patrol vessel Gibraltar Expected 2021[7]
TBC Expected 2022/2023[7]
Astute class
Anson S123 BAE Systems, Barrow-in-Furness 7,400 tonnes Fleet submarine Clyde TBC[8][9]
Agamemnon S124 TBC
Agincourt S125 Expected 2026[10]
Dreadnought class Dreadnought 17,200 tonnes Ballistic missile submarine Clyde Expected early 2030s[10]
Valiant TBC
Warspite TBC
King George VI TBC
Type 26 Glasgow BAE Systems, Glasgow 6,900 tonnes Anti-submarine frigate Devonport Expected 2026/27[11]
Cardiff TBC
Type 31 TBC Babcock International, Rosyth 5,700 tonnes General-purpose frigate Expected 2026/27[12][11]


Type 26, Type 31 and Type 32 frigates[edit]

In the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review a replacement programme was authorized 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.[11][13] 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).[14][15] According to the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, the lower cost of these frigates could lead to the Royal Navy acquiring more than five of them, thus increasing its numbers of frigates and destroyers.[16]

However, in the interim it is anticipated that 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 9 frigates. By the latter 2020s and 2030s it is anticipated that numbers may rise again as the replacement vessels enter service. The only way to mitigate this impact would be for currently envisaged retirement dates for the Type 23 to be pushed back.[17] The question of how to address this challenge will have to be tackled in the integrated foreign policy, security, defence and international development review which is due in 2020-21 or, due to Covid-19, even later.[3]

In July 2016, BAE revealed two Type 31e designs, namely the Avenger-class and the Cutlass-class.[18] Work on the first Type 26 frigate, HMS Glasgow, began in July 2017.[19] On 6 September 2017, the UK government committed to building a first batch of five Type 31e frigates.[20] On 26 July 2018 the Government ‘paused’ the procurement citing the fact that neither of the submissions met the £250M price point. It stated that it would restart the procurement shortly.[21][22] On 10 December 2018, three groups were selected for the competitive design phase: BAE Systems/Cammell Laird with their planned Leander design, Babcock/BMT/Thales with their Arrowhead 140 design and Atlas Elektronik UK/Thyssenkrup Marine Systems, which is likely to be based on the MEKO A-200 design.[23] The Daily Telegraph reported the Arrowhead 140 design was chosen on 24 August 2019.[24] The Babcock-led Arrowhead 140 was officially announced by the UK government on 12 September 2019.[25]

In November 2020, the first decisions of the Integrated Review were announced which included a pledge to construct a new Type 32 frigate.[26] 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".[26] Defence journalists have speculated that the ship is either an export version of the Type 31 frigate, a replacement for the Type 45 destroyer (a programme known as T4X), littoral strike ships or mine-countermeasure vessels.[27][28]

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 are to be built.[29][30] 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 are being built on the Clyde in Scotland, with an in-service date from 2017. It is envisaged that they will be used for constabulary duties such as counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations.[31] The vessels have been named, HMS Forth, HMS Medway and HMS Trent.[32] They displace around 2,000 tonnes, be 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.[33] The latest Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 stated that two more OPVs will be procured,[34] with the new vessels later receiving the names Tamar and Spey.[35]

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.[36] 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.[37] 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.[38][39]

Mine countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC)[edit]

The 2015 SDSR specified that only 12 mine-counter measure vessels will exist in Joint Force 2025.[34] 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]

However, in 2020 the parliamentary National Audit Office (NAO) noted that no funding was allocated in the 2019 to 2029 period to replace the Navy's mine countermeasures capability.[1] This issue is likely to be addressed, one way or another, in the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy anticipated to be carried out in 2020 or later.[3]

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 new warships which will be more "capable", "faster" and have "bigger guns", to replace their existing patrol vessels HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar "within the next two years".[43] Commander British Forces Gibraltar, Commodore Timothy Henry, mentioned in an August 2019 interview that the process of acquiring is proceeding and expect a choice by the end of 2019.[44] In June 2020, pending the planned eventual procurement of new-build vessels, it was decided to replace the existing vessels with HMS Dasher and HMS Pursuer, a pair of Archer class patrol boats previously attached to the Cyprus Squadron. These were transported to Gibraltar by MOD chartered Ro-Ro vessel MV Hurst Point to serve as interim replacements for Sabre and Scimitar.[45] In July 2020, a contract was signed between the MoD and Merseyside-based boat builder Marine Specialised Technology for the construction and delivery of two new boats for Gibraltar. The first boat is scheduled for delivery in Q3 2021/22 and the second boat in Q1 2022/23.[46]

Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ships[edit]

The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 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.[47][48][49] 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.[50] 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 re-started with revised terms of reference.[51] In 21 October 2020, it was indicated that the competition for the FSS will be re-started in Spring 2021, covering three ships and it will be an international competition but the team must be a led by a British company.[52]

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.[53] The decision may be taken before or during the next Defence Review in 2020. 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".[54] An August 2016 notice stated that Diligence is placed up for sale,[55] and it was stated that the MOD is considering options for a replacement.[56] However, as of June 2020, no further progress had been reported.

Littoral Strike Ships[edit]

On 11 February 2019, Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson stated the Royal Navy will purchase two commercial ships and develop them into Littoral Strike Ships. One will be based the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Baltic areas while the other, east of Suez in the Indo-Pacific. These ships will be used to deploy British Special Forces or Royal Marines.[57][58] A consultant firm, Prevail-Partners, has introduced a concept named as the Multi-role Vessel.[59] USNI News reported that the Amphibious Task Group would be renamed as the 'Littoral Strike Group'. It will consist of two Littoral Strike Units, each comprising up to three amphibious ships, chartered maritime ships with special forces and at the extreme, a Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier with embarked F-35Bs.[60] In November 2019, it was reported that the Littoral Strike Ship idea was at an early concept stage with limited funds allocated to the project.[61]

Unmanned Surface Vessels[edit]

At the Defence and Security Equipment International 2019 exhibition, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace unveiled the MAST-13, an unmanned surface vehicle that would be attached to a PAC24 rigid inflatable boat and protect surface ships. This is part of a Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed (MAST) 13, a collaboration between DSTL and L3Harris.[62] HMS Argyll was involved in the demonstration.[63] On 24 June 2020, the Royal Navy announced that the first crew-less Pacific 24 boat has been launched.[64]

Other smaller non-combatant ships[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.[65] 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.[66]

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.[67] 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.[68]


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.[10] 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.[69] MUFC is also known as the 'Astute Replacement Nuclear Submarine (SSN (R)'.[70]

Dreadnought-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine[edit]

In July 2016 it was confirmed that a new class of submarine would be built retaining the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent by replacing the current fleet of 4 Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBN).[71] On 18 July 2016 the House of Commons voted 472 for and 117 against to proceed to build the new submarines.[72] 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.[73] On 25 April 2017, junior minister Harriet Baldwin confirmed that Dreadnought was under construction.[74] On 6 December 2018, the second boat of this class was named by the Secretary of State for Defence as HMS Valiant.[75] The final two boats of the class have been named HM Submarines Warspite and King George VI.


Fixed-wing aircraft[edit]

F-35 Lightning II

The aircraft carrier's major instrument of power projection is the carrier air group. The larger the air group, the more tasks it can perform. 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. The UK had plans to order 138 F-35Bs for the FAA and RAF. The financial crisis led to the decision taken in the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010 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.[76] In July 2012, the Secretary of State for Defence stated that an initial 48 F-35Bs will be purchased to equip the carrier fleet.[77] In September 2013, it was announced that the second JSF squadron would be the Fleet Air Arm's 809 NAS.[78] Chancellor George Osborne announced on 22 November 2015 that the UK will have 24 F-35Bs on its two new carriers by 2023.[79] The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 also confirmed that the United Kingdom will buy 138 F-35s over the life of the program. On 20 May 2016, it was reported that the UK would field four frontline squadrons as part of its Lightning Force, including 809 NAS and 617 Squadron, plus an RAF-numbered Operational Conversion Unit (later 207 Sqn) and 17(R) Squadron as the Operational Evaluation Squadron.[80] The UK is committed to improving its F-35Bs to Block 4 standard, however, the actual number of improved jets is yet to be known.[81][82] 809 NAS will stand up in April 2023.[83]


Merlin HM2's operating on HMS Illustrious

The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review saw the Fleet Air Arm operate two types of helicopter to replace the RN’s aging fleet — the AW101 Merlin and the AW159 Wildcat.[84] In the carriers and frigates, the larger Merlin anti-submarine warfare helicopter is used. There are 30 Merlin HM2 helicopters in service.[85] The Royal Navy's Sea King Commando HC.4s were withdrawn in 2016, replaced by the Merlin HC.3 variant obtained from the Royal Air Force. These are currently being upgraded to HC.4 standard, including a full glass cockpit standard in the HM.2, and folding rotor blades and tail.

The future AEW capability of the FAA is the "Crowsnest" programme, is set to replace the former Sea King ASaC7 fleet which retired in September 2018. Current plans will see Crowsnest achieve initial operating capability in September 2021. Full operating capability is expected in May 2023.[86] 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.[87] A PAC report had revealed the Main Gate decision for the Crowsnest to be around 2017.[88] Crowsnest is now scheduled to be initially operational by late 2021. As a result of the time gap between the planned out of service date of the Sea King, and the introduction of "Crowsnest", seven Sea King ASaC.7 helicopters were extended in service until September 2018.[89][85] Thales was selected as the chosen bidder to provide the radar and mission system at the heart of the Crowsnest capability on 22 May 2015. They will provide a slightly upgraded version of the existing Searchwater 2000 radar.[90] 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.[85] As of 2020, the out of service date for the HM2s was envisaged as 2029 while the Mk4s were scheduled to retire by 2030.[91]

Remote Piloted Air Systems[edit]

The RN has been slower to adopt unmanned systems than some other navies; 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.[92] 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.[93] The ScanEagle will be withdrawn by 2017 and likely to be replaced by an unknown UAS, chosen through the Unmanned Warrior exercise in 2016.[94]

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.[95] 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.[96][97] The Royal Navy has also utilised 3-D printed unmanned aircraft in its operations.[98][99]

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.[100] In November 2019, 700 NAS tested two new UAS, namely, the AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma and the AeroVironment Wasp III.[101]

Royal Marines[edit]

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 will be 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.[102] This organisational change for 42 Commando was completed in May 2018.[103] 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.[104] There will be two Littoral Response Groups: One based East of Suez, one based in the High North.[105] On 27 June 2020, the Royal Marines announced they will adopt a new uniform with the MultiCam camouflage.[106][107]


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.[108]
  • 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.[109] 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.[110][111]
  • Sea Venom (formerly FASGW (Heavy)), a bigger anti-shipping missile launched from helicopters, to begin to replace Sea Skua from 2022.[110][112][113][114][115] (Sea Skua itself was withdrawn from service in 2017).[116] Full operating capability for Sea Venom expected in 2024.[111]
  • 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'.[117][118]
  • The FC/ASW (Future Cruise/Anti Ship Weapon)[119] 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[120] 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."
  • 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. The possible candidates for replace 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.[121][122] 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.[123][124]
  • 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.[125]
  • In July 2019, the UK issued a Prior Information Notice for Directed Energy Weapon (DEW) demonstrators.[126] 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.[127]

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.[128]
  • 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.[129] 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.[130]
  • 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.[131]

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.[132] The fighting arms excluding Commandant General Royal Marines would be reduced to 1-star or Commodore rank and the surface flotillas would be combined together.[133] Training would be concentrated under the Fleet Commander.[134] For example, Flag Officer Sea Training will be reduced from a Rear-Admiral position to a Commodore position and be re titled as 'Commander Fleet Operational Sea Training'.[135]

See also[edit]


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