Relevant to a number of threads but https://www.defensenews.com/interviews/ ... ral-ships/
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson recently announced a plan to develop a new littoral fleet, but a lot of people looked at that and said it was thin on details. What’s the thinking and timetable here?
I think it will certainly be part of the debate in the spending review. At the moment, the money has been found to examine the concept and develop the concept, and I think until we have the information that that phase will bring, it’s very difficult to put a timeline or a sort of hard figure against it, and clearly that’s going to need to be weighed up against other priorities. But it’s a way of us understanding more about it. It’s a capability that is attractive, it’s a capability that we think will have relevance in the future. But until we really understand more about it, it’s difficult to weigh up against other priorities, and that’s why we’re spending a relatively small amount of money in developing the concept.
When do you think that study will be done? Do you expect you’ll need to invest in other areas, like escort or supply ships, to make this concept work?
I think a year from now.
[In terms of investments], it depends on your concept of operations. I mean, we’re investing in support ships anyway. We’ve got a brand-new class of refueler from South Korea, and we have budgeted and [are] yet to go to tender [on] solid support ships, which we think are going to be an important part of the carrier concept. So that’s where the munitions will be held, where the stores will be held. And, of course, those ships will be compatible not just with the carrier but with the other warships of the Royal Navy. So we’re investing quite a lot in support ships and then trying to work out what the best [concept of operations] is, given that we’re never going to have everything that we want because we’re simply not a nation of that sort of size.
U.K. politicians have said that post Brexit, they intend to have a greater presence abroad. Do you have enough ships to do that?
Well, we have 19 destroyers and frigates. That is stated government policy. When the Type 26s come in and the Type 31s come in, and, in fact, that remains the policy. Particularly in your maritime force structures, [you must] get that balance right between war fighting at the very highest end, and the sort of ubiquity that comes from platforms in, let’s call it the constabulary role, and we’re trying to get that balance between that Type 26-Type 31 split. But the numbers remain consistent. Then you don’t have to just think warships. We get a lot of utility out of our amphibious shipping. We have offshore patrol vessels, which are [such] capable platforms that we’re just buying new ones. So you don’t have to be out-and-out warships.
I’ll tell you another example: The [oil refueling ship], you know, has got a really capable hanger on the back. It’s got medical facilities onboard, it’s got space to carry capability that you’d want offshore. It’s got cranes onboard. It’s principal task will always be to carry fuel for warships, but nonetheless the utility you can get from that fleet is considerable. So, you know, could we do with more? Yes, but do I feel that we’re about appropriately configured for what we want to do? Probably. And the fact that we’ve been able to have an LPD — an amphibious ship — and three frigates go to the Far East in the last year and a half is an indication of our ability to veer and haul and flex availability for areas that we want to prioritize.