Scotland, Subs and Royal Yachts

The Royal Yacht Britannia

A couple of interesting stories emerged today in naval circles.

Firstly, the Mail in Scotland yesterday reported that the Ministry of Defence was considering contingency plans to re-locate submarines and ships based at Faslane in Scotland, in the event of an independence referendum voting in favour of severing ties with the rest of Britain. Currently, Faslane hosts the four Vanguard Class Ballistic Missile Submarines, HMS Astute, and eight Sandown Class MCMV’s of the 1st MCM Squadron. Faslane is also due to be the base port for the rest of the Astute Class as they come in to service.

Devonport has the sole nuclear refuelling and repair facility for submarines in Britain, including a dock specially built to fit the Vanguard Class, so it would make sense to base at least some of the submarines there. Given that Plymouth is more remote than Portsmouth, it might make sense to base the Vanguards there, and the Astutes at Portsmouth. The Sandown Class Minehunters would fit in well at Portsmouth, given that the Hunt Class are already based there. Or, perhaps, Plymouth could become more of a Submarine base, taking Vanguards and Astutes and transferring surface ships to Portsmouth in their stead. The fly in the ointment would be the Trident missile facility at Coulport on the Clyde – not something you could move in a hurry.

Secondly, Education Secretary Michael Gove has egg on his face after suggesting that perhaps the Government could purchase a new Royal Yacht for the Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee this year. The last Royal Yacht, HMY Britannia, was retired in 1997 as a cost-cutting measure. As wonderful as she was, the concept of a Royal Yacht belongs in the twentieth century. The figure being quoted for building a replacement is £60m, which seems conservative for me – that was the figure quoted in 1997, and with inflation, it must be well over twice that now. At a time when the Royal Navy is losing ships hand over fist, is it a great idea to commit it to running a Royal Yacht? Not only do we need to consider the build costs, but the fitting out, the manning, the basing, the maintenance, the running costs… can we really afford it? I doubt it. I’m a keen supporter of traditions and heritage, but only where it makes sense on an operational and economic level.



Filed under Navy, politics, Uncategorized

48 responses to “Scotland, Subs and Royal Yachts

  1. x

    I wouldn’t worry about Coulport. Push comes to shove I suppose the RN would turn to the USN. The missiles come from a common USN/RN pool anyway.

    It would be great for Plymouth if the submarines moved south.

    In one of x’s more realistic fantasy worlds Plymouth would be home to submarines, amphibs, and hydrographic vessels. Leaving the escorts and carriers for Pompey. MCMV/SRMH would be split between both bases (as defence assets.)

    As for the yacht. Well even though I am a royalist I don’t think the idea is a good one. Even the concepts where the vessel spends the majority of its time being used for sail training and environmental science. HM Queen is probably more than well aware of the current economic situation and would probably have no truck with the idea. It should be remembered that Royal Estates pay more into the Exchequer than the total cost of the Civil List. Compare how the Queen lost Britannia in 1997 and then the new PM (can’t remember his party…) became very fond of a very presentational style of doing business. 😉

    On a side note as a ship apart from her steam plant I have never been that enamoured of HMY Britannia.

    • James Daly

      I was thinking the same x. If we share stockpiles with the USN, and use their ranges, and we only have Trident by the grace of the US anyway…

      I think your basing scenario makes sense x. Plymouth is more suitable for subs than Pompey, and all the time 3 Cdo Bde is based down there it makes sense for the amphibs to be there.

  2. Brian Iddon

    I thought that there was a proposal by private business to provide the royals with a new yacht?

    Like X i’m a royalist and i also think with the idea of using public money for the forseeable future is a no no. If the private idea is a runner then why not.I think if it happens it should be seen as a national asset not just for the royals.

    But the thought of politicans sipping champaigne on ‘our’ yacht would make most peoples blood boil so maybe it’s not that good an idea after all.

    • James Daly

      If private business were to stump up the cash I don’t see why not, but then again we’re not just talking build costs, but on costs – fuelling, fitting out, manning, basing, etc etc which are all considerable. Her Maj is nobody’s fool and I can’t see her going for this in the current climate.

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  4. Nothing to see her…

    Personally I’d prefer the money to be spent on regenerating our fixed wing carrier capbability now, just in case of things happening in the Gulf or the South Atlantic. I suspect Her Majesty would to, it is after all, HER Royal Navy.

    • James Daly

      I doubt she would have much truck with the idea, she’s nobodys fool. Think how long shes been in the public eye, and how many mistakes shes made. I can’t think of any. Then compare that to our blundering politicians, of all party persuasions.

      I’m not keen on this tall-ship royal yacht idea either. We’d might as well regenerate Victory. We already have sail training ships, but imagining the royal family bunking in one of them at the stern is just tacky.

      • x

        We must not forget that HRH Duke of Edinburgh was a career navy man and that his uncle and his great uncle were both 1SL.

        Off on a tangent I do like it when the Left accuse us Euro-sceptics of being Little Englanders when many of us are Royalists happy with a monarch of Anglo-German decent married to an Anglo-German-Dane-Greek……..

    • x

      If a new yatcht costs 100milion what would it buy? About 2/3 of one JSF. 🙂

  5. About half an Olympic opening ceremony…

    • x

      Not a fan of the Olympics. London investing in itself again.

      • James Daly

        Aside from the OTT glitz and pomp, I do enjoy the athletics. It’s probably one sport that is relatively untouched by commercialism. Coming from a family of runners I will be hoping Mo Farah brings it home, and wouldn’t it be great if Paula Radcliffe manages the Marathon at third time lucky?

  6. chris of herts

    Two points here,
    1, if Plymouth is the largest naval base in western Europe, why is everything being considered to be sent to Portsmouth, they will get the carriers, and probably the type 26, so all subs should go to Plymouth, it is a deep water, and should be expanded far beyond, its north inlet,
    And the army should be moved either across to south Wales, or south Cornwall,
    2, has it ever been suggested that as we have pacific territory, islands, could we not locate Britain’s nuclear missiles and or subs down their, a missile site that can fire ICBM,S can not only reach anywhere in the world, but can easily be protected, , this takes away the dangers of nuclear weapons near the public, places and cities, can be got to, underwater, well protected, and allow the RAF and a NAVY out station to be deployed, and a small army garrison , the British military needs to grow, not shrink, further cuts that are made, smaller and irreversible it will get,
    I would like to remind everybody, even the peaceful ones, [it] take seconds to make a decision to scrap ships, it takes minutes and hours to pass down the line, and it takes just days to remove them from service,
    BUT IT TAKES YEARS to replace them .
    Criss of herts

    • James Daly

      I don’t think everything should go to Plymouth simply because it is the biggest. The only reason Portsmouth has got smaller is because the navy, mod and council have been more proactive in developing things such as the historic dockyard, gunwharf and BAE. Whereas it seems that Plymouth has stood still. If it’s the biggest naval base, that probably means theres a lot of spare space doing nothing. That said I do think submarines would be better off at Plymouth than Pompey, with the facilities there more geared up for subs. All the time the Cdo Brigade is in Plymouth it makes sense for the Amphibs to be there as well. But Devon and Plymouth specifically does have more Conservative MP’s than Portsmouth, which accounts for some of the investment that Devonport received in the 80’s, such as the Frigate Overhaul complex.

      As for ICBM’s on pacific islands, I haven’t heard it suggested before. It would have advantages in terms of taking away risk, but I think the strategy with a submarine delivered deterrent is that it is less detectable and more flexible.

      Your point about seconds and days versus years is very pertinent – it took almost ten years from order to commissioning for HMS Daring, and yet the four Type 22 Batch 3’s were decomissioned, stripped and decimated in a matter of weeks.

  7. criss of herts

    Thank you for your reply,
    The island suggestion, was I thought a good thought,
    But although the argument for submarines is always very good, like everything else nowadays, we just don’t have enough of them, the people get told, that we have [4] but in reality just how many of those four could we field in an emergency,
    Perhaps 7 would help, just a thought .

    • x

      Submarines are extremely complex and to have one available they are best purchased in groups of 4; one in refit, one deployed, one working up, and one returned (leave, crew training, shallow refit, crew rotation etc.) Another thing to consider is that the submarine service has to keep a certain mass in manpower terms to maintain corporate knowledge. For that reason amongst others I would like the RN to have a class of 8 AIP SSK.

      When HMG purchased the R-boats in the 60s to carry Polaris the original intention was to buy 5 hulls, but one was cut for cost reasons. You have to consider at the time nuclear submarines were still new technology so perhaps 5 would have been prudent. Nearly 50 years on though technology has moved on I still wouldn’t to go down to 3. (If it were up to me surface ships would be on a 4 hull rotation.)

      FYI Submarine service isn’t an all volunteer either; Drafty can and does send non-volunteers to fill submarine drafts.

  8. Now, see, the crooked Chicagoan in me says go ahead and secure funding for a “royal yacht”, then build a frigate with an extra set of luxury quarters and a nice sundeck. Run it as the Royal Yacht during peacetime, and kick the Queen off when you need to shoot something.
    But then again, we Americans have no sense of decency whatsoever. It’s what makes us so beloved around the globe.

  9. criss of herts

    So beloved ,that you are feared rather than respected,
    And that’s the difference between the Americans and the British ,
    and your remark shows your lack of respect and arrogance,
    [Please] if you wish to show us how tough you are, then visit the Chinese, you may yet have a different opinion of yourself .

    • James Daly

      I can assure you that johns comment is in jest. Not only is he an American who knows more about British history than most Brits, he actually has a sense of humour.

      • x

        John is one of most intelligent goats I know.

        Not sure about the fellow in the boony hat………

        • I’ve been told the guy in the boonie hat is some bizarre fellow from Chicago, who designs cars with machine guns and World War 2 “never-built” battleships in his spare time. Though I have to admit, his head is just as dense .. er … hard as mine! 😀

          • x

            How do you design a car with a machine gun?

            • James Daly

              I knew there were advantages to being the passenger – getting to man the MG for one. Hell, why not fit a WMIK, the choices are endless – .50 cal, grenade launcher, MILAN for those annoying buses that cut you up…

            • It’s a VERY old board game called “Car Wars”. Set in the “far future” of 2035 and onward (it came out in the early 80s), it’s set in a world where “autoduelling” is perfectly legal. Think Mad Max, but with mass-produced vehicles and weaponry. I don’t have anybody to actually fight against, but it’s fun building cars like station wagons (estates, to y’all) with anti-tank guns and lasers! 😀

              • x

                No!!!!!!!!!!!!! How do you design a car with a machine gun? Surely a pencil and paper or a computer are much better tools…..

                • Naw, it’s just as easy with a machine gun. You just need a REALLY steady hand, or if you’re lucky, your luxury car becomes a hot hatch. If you’re unlucky, your friends start calling you “PegLeg”. 😉

          • James Daly

            I got in a lot of trouble in the summer for wearing a British DPM, special forces hat. Basically its a boonie with a cut down brim. I’ve had it for years and its been everywhere with me – fishing, walking, camping – but she who must be obeyed is not a fan. I have to hide it to stop her chucking it out!

            • x

              Isn’t that USMC Supplies that I see advertised in Soldier based in Portsmouth?

              I am sure if you popped in there they would give you a catalogue full of camouflaged apparel. You could buy SWMBO something nice in desert cam for Valentine’s Day. There is nothing cuter than couples who wear matching jumpers, jackets, or fatigues.

              • James Daly

                USMC is about 300 yards from where I work, I’ve often popped in there of a lunchtime. SWMBO actually has some woodland camo DPM trousers. I had to hunt high and low to find some small enough, although I suppose some tiny little cadets out there must need XX small trousers!

    • Sorry, Criss, the comments were very much in jest. Just ask James or X – I am an itinerant smart-aleck, possessed of a truly warped sense of humour. But I do have a VERY healthy respect of non-US militaries, and an all-too-painful familiarity with our heavy-handed dealings with the rest of the world.
      And I take my role here as the token “bloody Yank” VERY seriously. Well, I take it as very important, but rarely seriously. 😉

  10. criss of herts

    John Erickson
    Hi, thank you for your reply,
    I misunderstood the point, and apologise,
    I am a true brit, who tends to be a bit to patriotic,
    And sadly to have a government that seems only to willing to give multy, billions abroad, yet at the same time, destroying our defence, I take rather dimly,
    But I of course misunderstood you, and as others have stated, you are a very nice man, and I just interpreted it wrongly,
    Please except my apology.
    Thank you, criss of herts UK.

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