UK needs to raise the stakes and boost escort, submarine fleets, report suggests

A new report published by the UK’s House of Commons Defence Committee calls for the UK government to double the escort fleet and increase the size of the attack submarine fleet.

Illustration; Photo: Royal Navy

The Defence Committee has published its report “We’re going to need a bigger Navy” following the Committee’s inquiry into The Navy: purpose and procurement. The report found that the next decade is one of significant risk for the Royal Navy’s fleet and one in which the UK and the navy will face an increasingly complex international security environment.

However, successive governments’ “failure to fund the ha’porth of tar the Royal Navy needs has literally spoiled the ships”, according to the UK officials.

The report added that the fleet is increasingly reliant on allies for many capabilities, with a limited scope to act independently, and the government needs to do more at the political level to ensure this support will be provided when needed.

One of the main issues enlisted in the report is the number of escort vessels and submarines. The issue was also recently addressed by Admiral Tony Radakin in his written evidence to the Defence Select Committee. Radakin pointed out that the number of Royal Navy’s frigates and destroyers will return to above 19 vessels by 2026 as new ships are brought into service, but he expects 24 escort vessels by 2030.

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To achieve the navy’s future plans, the committee also found that the UK requires a strong domestic shipbuilding industry. The UK officials called for a planned refresh of the National Shipbuilding Strategy to boost the Royal Navy fleet.

The Royal Navy Submarine Service operates a fleet of six submarines of the Trafalgar and Astute classes and four ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) of the Vanguard-class.

As the current Vanguard-class submarines reach the end of their lifecycle, they will be replaced by a new class of nuclear submarines: the Dreadnought class.

“The next ten years will prove a test for our naval fleet. The UK is faced with an increasingly hostile and unpredictable international environment but the government is still reducing funding, retiring capability and asking the navy to rely on increasingly elderly vessels for the next five years until new ships come in,” concluded Tobias Ellwood, Defence Committee chair.