Tag Archives: hms albion

HMS Albion mothballed for five years

The HMS Bulwark, a Albion class landing platfo...

HMS Bulwark, now the Royal Navy's sole Landing Ship (Image via Wikipedia)

We’ve seen in the news today how HMS Albion, the Royal Navy’s flagship and one of two main landing ships, is to be put in mothballs in Devonport Dockyard for five years. She’s a little over ten years old, which ranks as not even mid-life for a major warship.

Make no mistake about it, after five years in mothballs she will require a LOT of work to get her operational again – that will take time, and cost money. I would also imagine that if HMS Bulwark needs spare parts during the next few years, the temptation to ‘borrow’ them from Albion would be all too tempting. Meanwhile, for five years the Navy will only have one crew practising amphibious warfare. If Albion is needed to be brought back into service in a hurry, where will another crew come from?

As I’ve mentioned before, hull numbers matter – a ship can only be in one place at any given time, and if you want it to get to somewhere else then it is going to take time. If Bulwark is on a flying the flag exercise in the Far East, for example, and something kicks off in the South Atlantic, we can pretty much count out any kind of rapid response. The Government has also descreased the Navy’s second line Amphibious vessels, the Bay Class Landing ships. We now only have three of them, and they are often off around the world filling in for non-existant frigates and destroyers.

The parallels with 1982 are quite a coincidence. Back then, only HMS Fearless was ready for action. Intrepid was destored and effectively mothballed in Portsmouth Dockyard, and took weeks to be made ready, even with round the clock effort from the Dockyard – many of whom were working under redundancy notices, and in any case, such a workforce no longer exists. In 1982, the date for the landings at San Carlos was dictated by when exactly Intrepid could be made ready and reach the South Atlantic. The inference is that without her, it could not have happened. The situation now is identical. These are very useful vessels, absolutely central to commanding and controlling the projection of force worldwide.

The most fundamental function of Government is to defend the realm, and keep British territories and citizens safe from aggressors. Secondly, the armed forces exist to maintain Britain’s interests around the world. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that decimating armed forces does not defend the realm, in a very uncertain world. Compared to money ringfenced for overseas aid, or even more so the bailing out of the banks, the money saved by hatcheting defence is minimal. Is this the ‘good job’ that Liam Fox was doing? If Adam Werritty was his advisor, then he clearly wasn’t a very good one.

With just one landing ship operational, no strike aircraft carrier,┬áminimal escorts and sparse auxiliaries, our ability to mount another Falklands operation is non-existant. Should I revisit my 2009 series of posts ‘The Falklands: Then and Now’, or would it simply be too painful?

21 Comments

Filed under defence, Navy, News, politics, Uncategorized

Navy to the rescue? or a drop in the ocean?

There has been much publicity in the last few days about the Royal Navy ships sailing to the rescue of the thousands of Brits stranded in Spain. The BBC website even compared it to Dunkirk. Whilst its great that the Navy is able to help, lets try and get a few things in perspective.

HMS Albion is a 13,000 ton Landing Platforn Dock, commissioned in 2004. She is designed to land a military force, using Landing Craft and Helicopters. She can carry 300 troops over a long period, and 650 for short emergency situations. She has been deployed to Santander in northern France to bring home military personnel on their way home from Afghanistan, and a number of civilians. In 2006 her sister ship HMS Bulwark evacuated 1,300 people in one day. As civilians will take up much less space than soldiers and their equipment,

HMS Ocean is a 20,000 Landing Platform Helicopter, or Heliopter Carrier. She entered service in 1998. She has a very similar role to Albion, only using Helicopters more than Landing Craft. She can normally carry up to 800 me for short periods. This, however, is while the air group is embarked, so potentially with more space in her hangar more could possibly be accomadated.

HMS Ark Royal is the current Flagship of the Royal Navy. An Invincible Class Aircraft Carrier, she weighs in at 20,000 tons. Her primary role is to operate Harriers, but she can also act as a Helicopter Carrier in a similar manner to HMS Ocean. Ark Royal is currently at sea off the west cost of Scotland, with her air group embarked. Therefore to use her to evacuate civilians from Spain will take her – the UK’s only active aircraft carrier – away from an important exercise.

Between the three ships we are looking at a lift capacity of somewhere in the region of 3,000 people. However according to the BBC, there are somewhere in the region of 150,000 British nationals stranded around the world – a drop in the ocean indeed. Given that a run from northern Spain to the south of England will take the best part of a day, the three ships will make an almost microscopic dent in the backlog of Brits needing help.

Not only that, but the three ships represent almost all of the Royal Navy’s large assets – having them removed from duties dents the capability of the Royal Navy. They are not designed to carry large amounts of people, in the same manner as a roll-on-roll-off ferry or a cruise liner. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary does possess four Bay Class Landing Ships which would be ideal, but they are very stretched indeed.

Its great that the Royal Navy is able to assist in this kind of a crisis, but in this particular example it is hard to argue that their contribution is important. If, for example, thousands of Briton’s needed evacuating from a far-away country with little infrastructure, such as Lebanon, the Landing Craft and Helicopters would be absolutely invaluable. That would be exactly the kind of job the Navy is there for.

2 Comments

Filed under Navy, News