Military Capabilities

Royal Navy surface ship numbers 'woefully low', committee finds

21 November 2016
The HCDC has slated RN surface numbers and demands detail on modernisation plans in a new report. Source: IHS/Patrick Allen

Key Points

  • The RN's surface combatant force of 13 Type 23 frigates and six Type 45 destroyers is a 'historic low' according to the HCDC
  • The committee has called on the MoD to set out the details of how it will replace its 13 Type 23 frigates

A committee of MPs has launched a scathing attack on the state of the UK Royal Navy's (RN's) surface combatant force, warning that frigate and destroyer numbers have hit a "woefully low" level of just 19 ships, and could fall further because of continued delays to new orders.

The House of Commons Defence Committee (HCDC) called for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to detail how it will replace its 13 ageing Type 23 frigates, and commit to a long-term funding plan that will sustain key industry capacity under the government's forthcoming National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Its report 'Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy', published on 21 November, examines the MoD's plans to modernise the RN's escort fleet. This includes the introduction of two new classes of frigate - the Type 26 Global Combat Ship and the Type 31 General Purpose Frigate (GPFF) - to replace the Type 23s, and measures to improve the reliability of the all-electric power and propulsion system fitted to the six Type 45 destroyers.

The 13 Type 23 frigates are due to be retired from service at annual intervals between 2023 (when HMS Argyll decommissions) and 2035. "It is therefore vital that the new frigates are delivered to that timetable," the committee said, adding, "Financial pressures appear to have played a sizeable part in the delays already experienced in the Type 26 programme. If further delays are introduced or funding constraints are allowed to slow down the production schedule, the total of 13 frigates - already an historic low - will fall even further.

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