Lobbying intensifies over basing of Type 26 Frigates

Proposed design for Type 26 Frigate  - BAe Sys...

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In recent days lobbying has intensified over where to base the Royal Navy’s planned Type 26 Frigates. It’s the same old south-coast horse trading that occurs every time a new class of warship is ordered.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage told the Portsmouth News: ‘This new Type 26 is the global combat ship and I feel that Portsmouth is now very much the home of the Royal Navy. The HQ is in Whale Island, the new Type 45 destroyers are in Portsmouth and the new aircraft carriers will be here too so it makes sense to have the Type 26s based here as well. As a cost-saving and logistics exercise, it makes sense to me to have all the future force ships based in the same area.’

In the same article Dineage also stated that Plymouth MP’s are lobbying hard to try and get the Type 26’s based there. And they have reason to be anxious. The four remaining Type 22 Frigates, based in Plymouth, will be decommissioned this year. And one of the Landing Ships based there will also go into extended readiness. Furthermore, the previous Government had decided that all of the Type 23 Frigates would move to Portsmouth in 2014, although that decision was rescinded during the Coalition Government’s Defence Review.

Recent issues of Warship International Fleet Review put the cases for and against both Portsmouth and Plymouth. To this observer – albeit a slightly biased one- the for and against arguments for both ports seem finely balanced. But what is clear is that with the Royal Navy shrinking at such a rate, and highly unlikely ever to expand again, it is becoming increasingly unfeasible to maintain two ports handling the surface fleets.

The usual argument given is that closing Portsmouth would have less of an effect on the region than closing Plymouth would have on the South West. But the situation is slightly more complex than that – 50 years ago both cities were virtually identical. Since the Second World War, however, Portsmouth has diversified in terms of economy and employment, developing a tourist industry and generating employment in technology. This has lessened its reliance on the Navy. Meanwhile, the authorities in Plymouth have done, to put it bluntly, bugger all. If people in Plymouth are concerned about the possible closure of their naval base, they should look to their City Council‘s complacent record over 50 years.

In other Type 26 related news, there are links below of reports that the UK is in talks with both Canada and Turkey about collaborating in various ways on the Type 26 programme.

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27 Comments

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27 responses to “Lobbying intensifies over basing of Type 26 Frigates

  1. John Erickson

    I’d be a little bit worried, if I were a Plymouth resident, about getting the basing. Being from the US Midwest, I’ve seen what happens to one-industry towns. If the RN decided to base in Plymouth this or next year, what happens in another couple years when they decide to shift basing somewhere else? It sounds like Plymouth needs to get its’ act together, and get some economic diversity, with the naval basing being a nice addition, not a necessity. Then again, I’m rooting for Portsmouth. I wonder why? ;)

    • James Daly

      I’ve never understood plymouth’s lack of foresight – its in a nicer part of the world, with plenty of tourism nearby, all it needed was someone with a bit of vision and there could have been a Plymouth historic dockyard. Yet Portsmouth ‘can take it’, apparently…

  2. x

    Considering they are both navy towns Plymouth and Portsmouth always feel to me very different.

    From a military point of view I wouldn’t all my eggs in one basket.

    Um. Plymouth is a lot closer to the rest world than Pompey….. :)

    (I avoided saying Deveonport on purpose…..)

    • John Erickson

      But X, I thought Britain prided itself on NOT being close to the rest of the world! ;)
      I must admit, the thought of everything in one port did raise my eyebrows as well, but with all the defence cuts, I figured suggesting redundant ports was out of the question from the get-go. Considering our military doesn’t even want a spare ENGINE for the F-35, you could imagine what kind of reception you’d get for suggesting a spare port! :D

  3. x

    Being English I do have the advantage of not being foreign….
    …….and yes when there is fog in the Channel the Continent is cut off.

    Basing is a tricky issue. The RN has lot a tremendous amount in terms of defence real estate since the end of the Cold War. I suppose it could be argued that Britain in’ts exactly bereft of alternative ports in the event of an emergency. There is even a programme for certifying civilian ports for use by nuclear submarines. But again on prime facie evidence the RN is being cut again while the RAF and the Army are escaping. Nobody is expecting the former just to operate from 3 airfields; though they won’t be far off that number after SDSR. And don’t forget that the RLC is losing Marchwood too.

    • James Daly

      I’ve never understood the idea of Marchwood really… its comparatively tiny, and theres only ever one or two ships there, normally RFA’s or chartered merchants. Might it not make sense to give the RLC a space at Pompey? Its only 17 miles away, and better connected… mind you Marchwood is an easier run from the Salisbury Plain area when it comes to loading armoured vehicles.

      • x

        Yes Marchwood is an oddity. But it appears a lot of thought went into its design; it is surprisingly large. As you say road access is good off the Plain. And there a lot of railway sidings in the port too. I don’t know where you would put the equivalent in Pompey. Up past Whaley? But the railway is on the other side. Perhaps we should find out what is going to happen now it is closing……

        (The Points are always busy aren’t they?)

        • James Daly

          The railway doesnt run straight into Pompey Dockyard – although it used to in days gone by, hence South Railway Jetty where the Portsmouth Harbour line ran into. There has been talk of basing a rail freight terminal at Fratton, where containers could be shuttled to the docks. This is part of the idea for expanding Pompey’s Commercial Port.

          The Points are always busy, it always seems to be one of them thats tied up at Marchwood.

          • x

            I was talking about the railway going into Marchwood not Portsmouth docks.

            “Tied up”? Don’t you mean berthed? They aren’t shoes…. ;) :p

    • x

      Yes and note it is the helicopter and transporter pilots being clobbered. The ones the Army depends in places like…oh yes Afghanistan!!!

      I still think Nimrod was sacrificed on the alter of the fast jet. I wonder who sold who what story over the threats to UK; old and slow Soviet-era bombers in our airspace verses Russian submarines chasing Vanguards about the North Atlantic?

  4. Puttinng all the eggs in one basket makes little strategic sense. Devonport has a larger dockyard, and I would say that it is better protected from rogue vessels.

    • x

      Devonport is the biggest naval base in Europe.

      And yes I suppose Pompey could be shut by a few mines in the Solent.

      • James Daly

        I have to say, looking at the Ad Charts of the approaches into both Pompey and Guz, its swings and roundabouts for me.

        Whilst Pompey might be entered via a bottleneck, said bottleneck is also easy to police – I remember watching rigid raiders zipping up and down it in 2005 during the International Fleet Review. You can also monitor the approaches to the Solent pretty well. Plymouth has sheltered anchorages in the Sound, but then so does Pompey at Spithead, which are hardly used nowadays but in times gone by the Navy was pretty much based on Spithead, with ships only coming in for maintenance. In the nineteenth century visitors to Pompey spoke of being able to see a forest of masts from Portsdown Hill.

        • x

          Plymouth, Pompey, and Chatham are all sailing harbours so they will be sheltered.

          Back in Cold Wars days there were many “sailors” whose only sea time was on the Gosport ferry!!!

          Portsmouth always looks further away from the Hill than in reverse.

  5. Doesn’t no3 basin at Portsmouth contain lots of micro organisms that eat steel?

    • James Daly

      In that case Cameron and Co had might as well move the whole Navy into 3 Basin and get it over and done with, as that seems to be where we’re heading…

      • x

        Keep your chin up!!! I heard the Victory “refit” got passed……

        • James Daly

          can you imagine the speeches when the work on Victory is finished… ‘most advanced first rate in the world today’….’major additon’…’warfighting capabilities’…. ‘Government’s commitment to the armed forces…. blah blah

  6. Guess we should be lucky she isn’t getting the axe…

    • James Daly

      Theres such a huge difference between how heritage assets are looked after in the US and here in Blighty. The US manage to take care of scores of historic warships, yet we cannot even look after the worlds most famous fighting ship correctly.

    • John Erickson

      Oh, James, careful what you think! Most of our “heritage” ships are privately owned. Yes, we maintain our mothball fleet, more out of cheapness than history – they sit around as floating spare parts farms. Once a ship is decommissioned, there’s a HUGE amount of work AND money that have to be expended to get a ship. USS Texas has been on the razor edge of bankruptcy several times. The only reason we have as many ships as we do, is most of the groups have tied into the National Parks system – USS Texas with the San Jacinto Battlegrounds, the ships in Buffalo with a waterfront park, and so on. Right now there’s a huge battle trying to save the USS Olympia, a ship from “The Great White Fleet” from the Spanish American war around 1900. A Chicago company donated $30,000 – a good chunk of change – and it was burned through before the check cleared. When you consider how many ships we’ve used just in the last 100 years, and how few are preserved, we aren’t really doing that well. Two of the Iowa class are still trying to find homes. USS Texas is the only WW1 ship around the entire country – the only other WW1 or earlier steel ship is the Olympia, and she’s falling apart. I worry what will happen to the WW2 ships as the vets disappear and schools shift to looking at Vietnam as ancient history.

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