Future Direction, RN...

Discussion in 'Staff College and Staff Officers' started by Yeoman_dai, Oct 29, 2010.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. I've been mildly inspired by the "realities of Herrick" thread, where much angst and soul searching has been performed. Now, surprisingly there are quite a few thinkers knocking around ARRSE, and as an answer to this question I think we do need to draw in all three services, because frankly the Navy isn't doing itself any favours right now anyway, may as well ask others as well ;)

    So, the question is this - how can the Royal Navy, hidebound by arguably 600 years of tradition and being the top dog in British Defence, readjust to the modern world. Frankly, currently, we aren't achieving this and are stuck with the Big carrier, FFG/DDG paradigm that we've had since... well, World War Two.

    Much like the Army, in fact possibly even more so the RN has been at the forefront of technological and strategic thinking, embracing new tactics and weapons long before anyone else even saw them, so I ask again where did it go wrong, and if you can be so bold, what exactly can you suggest to take us forwards?

    The SDSR is an excellent example of this, and you can see the infighting even within the service, let alone outside. It seems each branch wrote its own part, then they glued it together, then glued it onto the RAF's and Army's - NOT the way to conduct such an important document, which is why you get schizophrenic behaviour within it, such as claiming Carrier Strike as vital to a modern country (thanks FAA), then later on mentioning how land basing can cover most eventualities with long range TLAM and Storm Shadow (Submariners and RAF). It was ridiculous but that's what has happened.

    So, the reason? I'd argue the same as with the Army of Stonkers generation - you progress not by being a free thinker, but by being safe and an able administrator. In peacetime these show up as good qualities - all MPAR's are in on time, the books balance, the Ratings are happy as they are being career managed, but by this kind of Officers very nature it precludes change, which is why the paradigm never shifts. I can see it in the quality of YO's - if the current crop carry on, then you will see the same happen - the rule makers (Regulators ;) ) get positions of authority, and those who chafe at the bit simply get frustrated and leave, or just mess about because these is no room to progress intellectually for them.

    So the future? Well i'm no expert in Maritime Operations but several aspects of the RN have proved, timelessly, to be essential. Without wanting to make this a CVF thread, one of those is Carrier Air - granted, maybe not right now at this point in the UK's existence but if we'd bought them when the call first went out then we wouldn't be having this problem. Larger does indeed = better - i've seen the theory that they are too big for fleet defence, too small for strike - but a surged airwing of 40 (in 2020) is more than enough to take on any state in the world, and bigger = better in regards to resistance to battle damage, sortie rate, C2 capabilities. One for one, its even cheaper than a land based airfield. Fleet carriers are, and continue to be a crucial aspect of blue and brown water capability around the world - in terms of layered air defence, and AEW.

    What has also shown its worth is the ASW Helicopter, and that is why I believe that the Italians should be followed in this case - their excellent concept of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_aircraft_carrier_Giuseppe_Garibaldi_(551) shows the way forwards as does the use of this kind of ship for other tasks - ideal for counter-narcotics and piracy as well, a small carrier with three Merlins and two RIBS makes a higher contribution than one T23. They come out at about the same cost as well, air assets aside and are not much bigger than a T45.

    Another lead we can take from the Europeans is the German long range ocean goer Braunschweig class corvette - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. If nothing else why do we need a ship 3000 tons to do a job a ship this size could accomplish? There is a strong case for one hull form and size to carry out the roles of MCMV, Hydro/Met, and Patrol - of around 3000 tons, with a helo pad. Possibly working in conjunction with the above helo carrier as a 'Lillypad'... having 4 hull forms (more maybe) to do 3 jobs is ridiculous, especially with the MCMV role now altering to become more about a networked swarm of robots released from outside the minefield, rather than divers physically going down themselves.

    One more thing that simply isn't given the priorities are Riverine, brown water operations - especially useful in todays COIN centric battle space (thank you Alfred_the_great for pointing this out in another thread). Whether they be RM or RN or mixed manned, there are significant numbers of states around the world where delta's and large rivers cut deep inland, and having small FIAC's of our own to work these shallow waters could pay dividends in the long run - think Iraq 2003 as an example for starters.

    As with so many questions, you must ask what you want to achieve first, before you can begin to think of routes to get there - be it destroying the petty rivalries within, or outside the service, the roles you want to commit to, the constraints you are working to... so, considering that the RN will never be operating anywhere above a funding level of about 1/3's defence total (a ridiculous situation, thank you Labour) and needs to be Blue water capable to support the US and SLOC, and also needs to take the 'Brown Water' and "littoral' by the horns. I really believe that we have talked a good game in this regard for the past 20 years, and have even taken steps with the Amphibs but as a Service have never really bought into it, and it has shown. Blue Water capability is essential, but must take IMHO a back seat for the next decade at least, to Littoral conflicts - be it Horn of Africa or an as yet unspecified state. The fact that we currently have no actual real warfighting role to point to beyond the RM and FAA in Afghanistan (stand fast the 1000 or so RN in theatre, BZ to you) which as we all know is the be all and end all currently :roll: then we need to think of specific strategic goals that we, and only we, can accomplish.

    One ground rule - anyone is welcome, regardless of service or state (or age ;) ) to comment, but please can we not use the Falklands as an example for everything and anything? It is a great moment in British history but it ISN'T the answer to everything when we need to justify our 1/3 of £38bn
  2. Y_d- excellent idea for a thread, and an interesting point from C_C.

    The obvious starting point is to go back to what we, UK plc, want a navy for. Taking SDSR part 1 as our stating point, then the main threats to the UK, for the next 10 years, are terrorism and cyber war. Both these things can be state or non-state directed. Beyond this there is considered to be a small risk of 'traditional' state-on-state warfare, and an ongoing WMD threat (again, state and non-state).

    Unpacking what this means for the maritime component (I feel dirty just using those two words).

    1) A continuous at sea deterrent (unless and until the Government of the day judge that there is an alternative). CASD doesn't just require the bombers, but a supporting force structure. MPA, FF, SSN, MCM and the various logistical / manning pipelines to maintain this structure.

    2) A force capable of coercing state actors who are sponsoring terrorism or conducting cyberwarfare i.e. capable of deploying hard power agains the Queen's enemies.

    There's a big caveat here. Russia and China conduct cyberwarfare. Often the best response is either passivity, or clandestine retaliation. If, however, things escalated to a point where cyber warfare represented a plausible threat to key national infrastrucutre then a credible hard power threat might be our only remaining defence. The question, therefore, is how much hard power are we willing to retain for this sort of role?

    3) Maritime COIN. I'm not entirely sure what this is, and think it might be an interesting area for discussion. Is it providing maritime security against low-level threats e.g. Somali pirates? Or is it the capability to support the deployment of small numbers of land forces and their supporting equipment ashore and sustain them for a period of time? Obviously this needs to be understood before an appropriate force structure.

    I realise that I've posed questions, rather than given any answers. Interested to see what other posters think.
  3. Yes, you are having a go. Few of the 1,000 RN personnel deployed in Afghanistan are in war-fighting roles because that went out in 1919 with the disbandment of the Naval Brigades. Nowadays, front-line ground combat is the sole preserve of the Army and the Naval Service's Royal Marines and they do it exceedingly well. Sailors are neither recruited nor trained to be professional soldiers and it is foolish to imagine that you can wave a magic wand to make them otherwise.

    The Naval Service's RN personnel in Afghanistan occupy billets that exploit their particular specialist, often unique, skills and resources, e.g. operating and maintaining helos or working in EOD, medical support, C4I, Logs, media ops, psy ops, FP, police training, civil mediation, etc., often 'outside the wire'. All have undergone the equivalent of OPTAG training before deploying but, by and large, their value to the war effort is not measurable in terms of casualties or decorations with the possible exception of AB Kate Nesbitt MC.

    While I mourn the loss of all UK service personnel and am grateful for their sacrifice, why are you so keen on equating the value (N.B. value not cost) of people's contribution with the number of casualties they sustain? As you intimate, FAA FJ pilots have probably saved scores of lives while providing CAS. Is their contribution any less significant because they have not been shot down in droves? By the same token, do you regard the work of anyone not in the front line as worthless? Afghanistan is a joint effort by personnel from all three services. Each person brings their particular skill set and other attributes to the party and I applaud them all.

    For some examples of the diverse work being performed by RN personnel in Afghanistan, take a look at this thread on Rum Ration. Coincidentally, it contains a few residual comments by an individual calling himself 'prop_shaft' who ended up being banned for persistently denigrating the contributions of RN personnel in Afghanistan (not enough casualties or decorations to be worth their salt!). His claim to be a serving member of the RN and his twisted views were roundly discredited when put to the test.
  4. My bold. This, as I see it, is where the RN should hang their hat, your second point on hard power has been fairly roundly dismissed by all who talked about the benefits of Carrier Strike during SDSR. While the ability to slap down anyone who attempts to interfere with the UK's interests is useful I believe it will fall under a much more localised (and justifiable) maritime/littoral security type operation, not a deep strike operation.

    Looking at piracy at the moment, are we justified in attacking pirate's operating bases? I believe so and this would be easy to link into the current strategy of maritime security in the area - once you have done everything you can at sea the next logical step is to deal with the ports these pirates use. Looking at another scenario, would we be justified in launching a Carrier Strike operation against Buenos Aires to deal with the Argentine military leadership were they to launch another attack on FI? Probably not and we would likely be criticised heavily by the International community for doing so, even if it was the best way of ending a conflict easily.

    SDSR has taken UK forces out of deep strike (stand fast TLAM, which will become less useful as we move through this decade and more and more countries get an air defence network capable of taking this out). Basing our force structures around CASD (which incidentally gives you a lot of capacity for traditional defence of the UK and home waters type activites) and an ability to cover a large area of the globe with versatile platforms, combined with a force capable of penetrating a short distance inland, launching a limited force capable of achieving limited objectives (but not holding ground for long periods of time) and then withdrawing is where we should aim.

    Whether SDSR delivers this is up for discussion, frankly I don't think it has. Without enduring commitments, i.e. post Afghanistan, there is little requirement for a large standing army, or vast numbers of offensive air (or even SH). The next review should be interesting!

    Apologies if this is a bit of a ramble, but I'm thinking as I go but as I see it there is the beginnings of a cohesive defence policy somewhere in there!

  5. Have you followed my link to this thread on Rum Ration? As I said before, RN personnel are not employed for their front-line combat skills and are already doing useful things in roles where they are best suited. It just so happens that these are mainly in HQs and with support arms, often at high level. However, they haven't all sat behind the wire. Here are just a few examples:

    Royal Navy engineers receive infantry training in Afghanistan
    Royal Navy Engineer Taking His Skills To Afghanistan
    From Trafalgar to Afghanistan - the Royal Navy compares then and now
    Navy Divers defuse bombs in Aghanistan
    From Sea to Sand!
    Not Quite the Average Day…..
    Royal Navy Reservist takes control of Apache over Afghanistan
    Navy medic helps soldiers in Afghanistan
    Petty Officer shows what the Royal Navy can offer in a landlocked country
    Photographers win award
    Afghanistan nurse trainer wins award from Royal Navy
    Isn't this enough of a "flexible and fluid attitude" for you?
  6. C_C

    Are they allowed to? A (RNR) oppo of mine was over there (Camp Bastion I think) and was firmly told that there was a policy of no military tourism. Also surely this is the natural environment for the Army, Royal Marines and also the RAF?

    Anyway, getting back on topic....

    Maritime COIN? Perhaps you remember the tanker war in the Gulf in the 80s?

  7. Cafe_creme - I agree. As my tagline suggests, I was a STAB whilst at university, before I went Dark Blue and since coming over i've been distressed at what i've seen in regards to land-based military skills, even the basics. Due to cuts, the cadets at BRNC can only fire on the 25m range, to pass competancy. They deploy on ABLE with an SA80, but without magazine or blanks. No teaching is given on how to perform tactically in the field - something our forebears could do without thinking so why have we lost the capability? The same goes for Ratings, i've been part of the SRLC and all high quality, experienced Killicks moving up to PO but on the field phase only the AWW/AWT ratings really had an idea of what to do, and they didn't truly give it the respect it deserved. The scenario being a shore party in a hostile state - but there was no thought given to the military aspect of defence or force protection. The "weapons" were rubber as well...

    If nothing else, a FIBUA package at some point in early training and reinforced once a course would have the effect of bringing up those core military (NOT RN, but general military) skills, and FIBUA (Fighting in Built up areas by the way) in particular is an EXCELLENT test of small unit leadership and thinking under pressure - i'm sure any Army or RM readers could expand on this?

    Regardless, BZ to all those mentioned above Dunservin, but I must agree with C_C that the ground support element of what we do has declined to nothing IMHO, and it shouldn't do - maybe it would be a good way to find this 'GRIT' that the old 2SL was expounding?
  8. C_C - it's simple, everyone in the Army is soldier first, tradesman second. If we want everyone in the RN to be soldier first, sailor second, branch third, it's entirely possible, however we need to move the resource from somewhere else. Moreoever, what happens post 2015, after we're out of Afg?

    Do we need to instigate the Naval Brigades? We have P Coy FPGRM who are starting to do some tasks that the RM of FPGRM used to do, do we want to expand on that?

    More to follow on the main point later, when I've had a think about it.
  9. Guns

    Guns LE Moderator Book Reviewer
    1. The Royal Navy

    I remember a similar troll ruining a thread on RR by equating deaths and value.

    Now as training in Inf skills, fine but I will only go with that if Army start doing BSSC, or RAF FJ pilots do ADWAS training. Its the same thing - why spend resources training people to do a job with have the RM for. Instead we have a suitable training package for those that need it.
  10. Now there's a question - do we need a NECC in addition to the RM? (NECC - US Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Welcome to Navy Forces Online Public Sites ). RM are all well and good for the Amphib part of life (going over the beach, offensive ops etc), but are they wasted as the "heavier" end of our boarding capability/Force Protection (i.e. defensive, reactive ops)? Can we bring the tasks of FPGRM into the RN, thus releasing the equivalent of a Cdo back into Bde, with all the positives that brings?
  11. Aren't AWW trained in such roles right now? And wouldn't such trained personnel be useful with regards to use in the Riverine environment that technically should be ours, but is currently ignored or covered by the Royal Engineers (not decrying the work they do mind you)

    Reference training for inf skills - think more sailor first, trade second, soldier (for lack of a better term, maybe 'gunner') third. Not trained to the level of an infanteer, but enough in basic training that sailors have an idea of what to do on a shore based tactical environment. We are constantly using shore parties and disaster relief as a reason for existence, and we are pretty damn good at it, but what if it happened with no RM, in a non-permissive environment? Like I mentioned, we could do it 50 years ago, why not now?
  12. rampant

    rampant LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    I think that's an excellent suggestion alfie. Going back to Yokel's mention of the Garibaldi, th Japanese Helicopter destroyer concept is very good, as encapsulated in the Hyuga Class (Hy), though it could be a bit too expensive however.

    Possibly something along the lines of the Shikishima class might be worth while investigating?


    An OPV (H) capable of embarking 2 or 3 Merlin would be a superb vessel for counter-piracy, and sea lane policing, not to mention flexibility for SAR, ASW fisheries patrols etc etc etc. The ability to embark multiple Helos would hugely increases the area that can be patroled.
  13. I won't bore you with the death of Skill at Arms in the Royal Navy (mainly because a v nice RM Col did it on behalf of FOST, and was promptly ignored by NCHQ), but that's exactly the kind of thing I meant. We don't need to invent a new branch, lets just give the Gunners their pride back. If you give me 30 minutes at a bar, I could sketch this "thought" out in great detail, although it may require some references to the RAF Regiment, for which I apologise in advance..... :D
  14. Yokel's mention of the garibaldi? AHEM! ;)

    Shikishima - good, but underarmed, frankly. Also a bit large for little return? Interesting on the range though!
  15. rampant

    rampant LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    easily remedied in the design phase

    possibly, been looking around at different concepts in the range of OPV/Corvettes and it's one of the ones that intrigued me.

    excellent and a definate positive