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UK Defence Command Paper: New headmark set for for Royal Navy

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has set out plans to grow an increasingly forward-deployed Royal Navy (RN) surface fleet as part of the government’s wide-ranging Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

Published on 22 March, the Defence Command Paper, entitled ‘Defence in a competitive age’, spells out plans to introduce a new Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance Ship (MROSS) to safeguard critical undersea national infrastructure in the North Atlantic, and lays out an ambitious long-term UK shipbuilding programme to include three new solid support ships, Type 32 frigates, and a new class of Multi-Role Support Ship (MRSS).

The command paper also confirms plans to radically re-shape the UK’s amphibious forces under the Future Commando Force programme. This will include spending over GPB50 million (USD69 million) to convert an existing Bay-class landing ship dock (auxiliary) vessel to serve as a littoral strike platform.

However, some existing capabilities will be retired early to free-up resources for the recapitalisation programme. The withdrawal of the Type 23 general purpose frigates HMS Montrose and HMS Monmouth will see the destroyer/frigate force level dip from a nominal 19 ships to just 17, while the existing Hunt- and Sandown-class mine countermeasures (MCM) vessels will be phased out during the 2020s in favour of new autonomous MCM systems.

Addressing the House of Commons, defence secretary Ben Wallace said that the RN would, by the start of the next decade, have over 20 frigates and destroyers. He also disclosed further investment to improve the availability of the RN’s submarine fleet.

The command paper renews the commitment to the UK’s new Carrier Strike capability, with HMS Queen Elizabeth to undertake an inaugural carrier strike group (CSG) deployment in 2021 to the Indo-Pacific region. A UK CSG will be permanently available to NATO.

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