National Flagship for Britain

Contains threads on Royal Navy equipment of the past, present and future.
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RichardIC
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National Flagship for Britain

Post by RichardIC »

Here we go. Not a Royal Yacht.

In focus: the new National Flagship for Britain – a Royal Navy vessel

https://www.navylookout.com/in-focus-th ... vy-vessel/

Image

On 30th May the Cabinet Office formally announced that a new National Flagship would be built. In this article, we can exclusively provide more depth and detail about the project.

The concept
The decision to invest in a Flagship vessel has been greeted with considerable controversy and scepticism in some quarters. Much of the complaint arises from a misunderstanding of the vessel’s purpose. This is not a decorative bauble or a yacht for the Royal Family but will be a platform to promote Britain abroad. The vessel will showcase UK design and engineering while hosting conferences, trade fairs, political summits and diplomatic talks. Far from being the “expensive gimmick” that its critics claim, the project has the potential to go well beyond just paying for itself by securing trade deals, but also create jobs and a legacy of opportunities in British shipbuilding. This concept has been in development by National Flagship Project Board for more than a year and has the full backing of the cabinet and interest from UK industry.

The 2010 SDSR was a low point but subsequently, there has been a revived understanding across government of the importance of the RN, the maritime industries and the nation’s dependence on the sea. There is still a very long way to go but the National Shipbuilding Strategy (next iteration to be published soon) is evidence of this improvement and the Flagship is completely in line with its objectives. Other nations may not have an equivalent but the project is entirely appropriate to the UK’s history and future as a maritime trading nation.

Royal Navy onboard
From the Royal Navy’s perspective, the concern about this concept has always been that it might come at the expense of its own budget and create additional crewing pressures. Although she will be commissioned into the RN and managed by the MoD, the ship and her running costs will be funded completely separately. The vessel will take full advantage of modern automation and have a very low core crew requirement. The navy itself is now supportive of the plan and recognises the unique experiences serving on board will offer a select number of sailors.

On occasions, the QEC aircraft carriers will continue to be used to host visitors in their defence diplomacy ‘soft power’ role but this is very much a secondary priority to naval operations. Their large hangars make for an impressive conference venue but these are warships and not purpose-built with the facilities and level of comfort that the National Flagship will possess.

Accepting the need for a ‘slimmed down’ monarchy, the Royal Family has not been pressing for a new yacht or had involvement in the new National Flagship project. They may host occasional events on board but the vessel is not intended for their use.

It had been rumoured that the flagship would be named “HMS Prince Philip”. Making this official was felt to be too soon after the Duke’s passing and perhaps would add to the false perception of the vessel being a Royal yacht. A decision on the name may not be taken for some time. HMY Britannia was not publicly named until the day of her launch and it’s possible the same protocol could be followed again. This is somewhat ironic when the RN has already announced the names of ships and submarines that will not be in service until the mid-late 2030s.

Design
The main image above provides an approximate guide to how the vessel will appear but it will be refined further in the detailed design phase. The outline specification had been agreed, she will displace around 7,500 tonnes and be about 125m in length. A spacious flight deck will accommodate helicopters and provide a large open space, although there will be no hangar. She will be built to commercial, not warship standards, essentially a small cruise ship with some bespoke enhancements specific to her role.

The Flagship will have diesel-electric propulsion and every effort will be made to minimise emissions and be as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. She is intended to showcase the best in green marine engineering and could be retro-fitted with LNG, hydrogen or biofuel propulsion as these technologies mature.

The ship will be designed from the keel up to provide the best possible experience for delegates and visitors. She will be equipped with a conference centre, press briefing room, VIP suites and a reception room for up to 200 people. There will be plenty of living accommodation for staff, guests and VIPs along with appropriate food preparation, and storage arrangements. To make arrival and departure as easy as possible, careful consideration will be given to access, using best practice from the cruise ship industry with airport-style security arrangements.

Security and protection for such a high-profile vessel is a concern. Back in the days when the RN had a much larger surface fleet, HMY Britannia was often accompanied by a guard ship but the new Flagship will not always have this luxury. However, the RN has considerable expertise in force protection, especially important when entering and in harbour. Demountable light weapons are likely to be used for self-defence purposes and a small team of Royal Marines may sometimes be embarked. While based on commercial ship standards, the flagship will be enhanced with an NBCD citadel and other classified and defensive and security equipment. Although an attractive terrorist target, a ship can arguably be made more secure than a government building, hotel or country retreat typically used to host high profile events.

Fund, build and deliver
The £200M budget for the project has been approved by Cabinet but it has not been decided whether this will be by direct grant from the Treasury or shared across Whitehall. The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, The Department for International Trade, The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the MoD all share interests in the project.

The procurement process will be managed by DE&S and is intended to be rapid. An initial design competition will be started soon with the winner decided by September. A competition to build the ship will select the winning yard/s by the end of 2021, the first steel cut in 2022 with the ship in service by 2025. By recent UK naval standards, this is an exceptionally aggressive time schedule but is normal in the cruise ship industry.

The ship will be built in the UK and utilise as much domestically manufactured content as possible, although the supply chain will inevitably involve some foreign components. There is construction capacity currently available in shipyards but virtually no experience of building cruise ships in living memory. One of the objectives of the project is to revive this capability in the UK, if necessary seconding expertise to contribute best practice from overseas yards. Despite the ravages of the pandemic, the demand for small cruise ships is likely to grow in the next decade and this project would help with upskilling, potentially making British shipbuilding more competitive in this market again.

The UK does have relevant strengths it can draw upon in a thriving small-medium size yacht building sector as well as many talented naval architects, interior designers and artists. The competition will decide which yard builds the vessel but Cammell Laird in Birkenhead would be the most obvious candidate, having recently completed a complex government-funded vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

Critics will posit an array of alternative priorities for spending £200M of public money, depending on their areas of concern, health, education, social care, transport etc. But in the grand scheme of things, the cost is modest, the equivalent of 0.03% of the defence budget or enough to keep the NHS going for 12 hours. The National Flagship should create new jobs, promote Britain aboard and more than repay the return on investment by acting as a catalyst for international trade and exports.

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ArmChairCivvy
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by ArmChairCivvy »

So, the Primary Casualty 'vessel'
... nothing in the text to suggest that angle?
Ever-lasting truths: Multi-year budgets/ planning by necessity have to address the painful questions; more often than not the Either-Or prevails over Both-And.
If everyone is thinking the same, then someone is not thinking (attributed to Patton)

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Pseudo
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by Pseudo »

Why is it flying a trio of union flags? As an RN vessel then even in design images shouldn't it be flying a single white ensign?

Lord Jim
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by Lord Jim »

It would not be a Cruise Ship but more like a Super Yacht, for which we definitely have the design expertise and Yards that though they haven't built a vessel of that type at that size have built smaller vessels to be constructed in the UK with probably a little help would be more than possible. Having a Helipad is a must and having a hanger below the flight deck is possible, for a Helicopter of the type most likely to be used. If it had the ability to have its stateroom and other accommodation converted into a Hospital, say in forth eight hours in port and the flight deck could take anything up to a Merlin it would allow it to undertake HADR operations which would be just a beneficial to the impression the UK gives aboard as hold meetings for VIPs or hosting the Royal Family of overseas tours. Having such a vessels that gives of positive vibes by doing good for those in need as well as being a floating conference room may encourage the Royal Family to give its blessing. I think it should be called HMS Lord Mountbatten.

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SKB
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by SKB »

It's a stupid drawing drawn by someone stupid enough not to know proper and correct flag etiquette.

Image
^ If it's a Government owned ship, which isn't part of the Royal Navy, then it's only allowed to fly a Government Service Blue Ensign at the stern and a Union Jack on the bow jackstaff. Royal Fleet Auxillary ships have a very similar Blue Ensign, except that the anchor is not on it's side.

Image
^ If it's a purely private civilian vessel, then it's only allowed to fly a Red Ensign at the stern with a civilian Pilot Jack (Union Jack with white border around it) on the bow jackstaff.

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^ The Pilot Jack is a Union Jack with a white border around it, which used to be exclusively used by Harbour Masters, but can now legally be flown from the bow jackstaff of all civilian British owned vessels.

Union Jacks are NOT permitted to be flown by civilians at sea, as the Union Jack is a Crown owned flag used on Her Majesty's Royal Navy and Goverment ships - which is what the Union Jack was originally designed for, to distinguish the monarch's property. The Union Jack is not the official national flag of the United Kingdom as no legal Parliamentary Act has ever made it as one.

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RichardIC
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

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Lord Jim wrote:If it had the ability to have its stateroom and other accommodation converted into a Hospital, say in forth eight hours
Sorry, but creating dedicated clinical space from non-clinical space just isn't that simple. It may have been in the past, but not in the 2020s.

That's why Argus has specialist facilities that aren't used for anything else.

If you want a hospital, build a hospital.

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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by Lord Jim »

The Operating theatre(s) could be permanent as could a small medical area, you never know when a VIP might eat something that doesn't agree with him or her. The State rooms would be convertible to additional medical wards and treatments rooms. Either that or have certain section of the ship modular to accept either hospitality or medical modules, all covered by panels on the outside to hide them so as not to damage the appearance of the hull.

The reason I have gone down this route is I think the ship needs to be more than a floating gin palace for Ministers and VIPs, and it is no wonder the Royal Family want nothing to do with such a vessel. It has to be able to do more, ideally some form of humanitarian work and a hospital is the obvious one. It doesn't need to be a full blown medivac facility but more like a support ship to a vessel with such facilities, providing extra beds and medical care for stabilised patients and treatment for less life threatening cases, but I am not an expert on Hospital Ships

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RichardIC
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by RichardIC »

It isn’t going to happen folks.

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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by Ron5 »

RichardIC wrote:It isn’t going to happen folks.
Who is the first lord of the treasury?

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RichardIC
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by RichardIC »

Ron5 wrote:Who is the first lord of the trea
Maybe now, but in 12 months time???

SW1
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by SW1 »

I thought that was the standard accounting method for how most MoD programs start?

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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by Caribbean »

I'm a little lukewarm on this idea, I must admit. But I can see a rationale of sorts.

As I understand it, there is £50m sat in a bequest "for the purpose of building a Royal Yacht". I suspect that, until HMQ agrees to call it a "Royal Yacht", that can't be accessed. Bit of a dilemma there. HMQ doesn't want a new yacht, but they probably need the bequest as seedcorn money to get a fund rolling and to make the whole project viable. Be interesting how they get around that one! Also, I could see public subscription raising a bit of money for a RY, but not for this "Ship of State" concept. As the current declared purpose is to "assist trade", then big business should be asked to put it's collective hands into their pockets and stump up at least half the money. Perhaps building it with a "Royal Suite" (and three masts, so the correct number of flags can be flown) might allow them to access the bequest.

Also, without the RY tag, it loses a great deal of its "cachet".

Perhaps some compromise can be found between the Royal Yacht, UK Aid and the Hospital Ship campaigns.
The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
Winston Churchill

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RichardIC
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

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Caribbean wrote:Perhaps some compromise can be found between the Royal Yacht, UK Aid and the Hospital Ship campaigns.
When you start making these sort of contortions to try and justify something there really isn’t a justification for it’s time to quit.

Dahedd
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by Dahedd »

Why not make it a training vessel. Some nations navy's still operate a tall ship for training & cadets. Could we not do similar with this project ?

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RichardIC
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

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Dahedd wrote:Why not make it a training vessel.
Yep, add, that to the list. It’s the Royal Trade Aid Hospital Sail Training National Flagship.

Isn't it supposed to be a green technology "showcase" as well? That kind of fits in with the sails.

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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by Caribbean »

RichardIC wrote:
Caribbean wrote:Perhaps some compromise can be found between the Royal Yacht, UK Aid and the Hospital Ship campaigns.
When you start making these sort of contortions to try and justify something there really isn’t a justification for it’s time to quit.
Ah, yes. I make a light-hearted observation and cue the sanctimonious humbuggery
The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
Winston Churchill

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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by dmereifield »

If Boris wants it (and he has announced it, and he will be there in 12 months, and many years beyond), it will happen. And, it will be HMS or RFA, not HMY...

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RichardIC
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

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dmereifield wrote:If Boris wants it (and he has announced it, and he will be there in 12 months, and many years beyond), it will happen. And, it will be HMS or RFA, not HMY...
HMS Shitshow.

You've clearly realised that it is nothing more than a one-man vanity project. Will he be here in 12 months? Let's see.

And does he always get the vanity projects he wants? See Garden Bridge and Thames Estuary Airport.

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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by dmereifield »

RichardIC wrote:
dmereifield wrote:If Boris wants it (and he has announced it, and he will be there in 12 months, and many years beyond), it will happen. And, it will be HMS or RFA, not HMY...
HMS Shitshow.

You've clearly realised that it is nothing more than a one-man vanity project. Will he be here in 12 months? Let's see.

And does he always get the vanity projects he wants? See Garden Bridge and Thames Estuary Airport.
Yes, he will be there in 12 months time. The Garden Bridge and Airport comparisons are hardly relevant; he was not PM then (bridge) nor does the budget require billions (airport)

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Re: National Flagship for Britain

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Defiance
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by Defiance »

Jesus Wept. What a bloody waste of money.

Wonder what the RN will have to cut for this vanity project.

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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by bobp »

It seems that the Government of the UK is down to Boris, and his vanity. No way should this be allowed.

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RichardIC
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by RichardIC »



Tobias Ellwood's heart's in the right place, but sometimes, quite frankly, he sounds nuts. The sooner there's a Tory coup and they get rid of Boris the better.

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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by tomuk »

Now Tobias Ellwoods app based aircraft was complete nonsense but reusing the T31 as a basis for the royal yacht wouldn't be completely mad.

Common systems would reduce costs and a limited aaw fit would be useful in some circumstances.

As I have said before a lot of topside space is wasted in T31 due to the quick and dirty removal of the long range radar and insertion of boat bays.

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RichardIC
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Re: National Flagship for Britain

Post by RichardIC »



A real life yacht frigate. Someone is now going to suggest converting a Type 23.

Actually, sod it, I will.

Convert a Type 23 and leave the missiles.

That's the Boris Party Boat sorted. It makes perfect sense.

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