Under the plans, HMS Monmouth will be removed from service by the end of this year, with HMS Montrose to be retired after it returns from forward deployment in the Middle East in 2022.
Monmouth and Montrose are some of the UK’s oldest in-service Type 23 Frigates and Monmouth has been tied up, held at extended readiness since its crew became one of those double-crewing Montrose. Decisions have not yet been made as to whether the ships will be sold off or scrapped.
Money saved by the two ships’ retirement will be invested into the development of the follow-on capabilities of the Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigate and Type 31 general purpose frigate.
Under the plans laid down by the Defence Command Paper, the Royal Navy expects to have an escort fleet of more than 20 frigates and destroyers by the start of the 2030s, with an ambition to have a fleet of 24 escorts as it introduces new Type 32 frigates.
The Royal Navy’s mine countermeasure vessels (MCMV) will also be replaced by an autonomous mine-hunting capability being developed in partnership with France.
There are no plans to retire the MCMV capability early and instead previously announced out of service dates will be maintained, meaning there will be a gradual drawdown of the Hunt and Sandown-class ships as the autonomous systems come online.
Plans to retire the minehunting ships could be accelerated if the pace of deployment and capability exceeds expectations. Naval Technology also understands that maintenance of the Hunt-class ships could be prioritised over the Sandown vessels as autonomous mine countermeasures have already proved their utility in UK waters.
Both the Sandown and Hunt-class ships will be replaced by the end of the decade.
Sandown-Class HMS Shoreham. Image: MOD/ Crown Copyright.
The Royal Navy will also develop a new multi-role ocean surveillance capability designed to protect critical national infrastructure (CNI) such as undersea cables. In the document, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) said the ship would also improve the Royal Navy’s ability to detect threats in the North Atlantic.
The vessel will likely end up carrying several autonomous systems that can fill the various surveillance missions the ship is tasked with.
The document also expanded on the plans for a new class of Type 32 frigates that will be used to ‘protect territorial waters, provide persistent presence overseas and support our
Littoral Response Groups.’ Naval Technology understands that the resultant Type 32 vessel may not be a frigate in the traditional sense.
Investment is also set to be made in the conversion of a Bay-class ship to better support the new Littoral Response Groups and Royal Marines Future Commando Force. £50m will be spent on converting either RFA Mounts Bay or RFA Cardigan Bay.
Upgrades to the ship will likely see improved command and control facilities put in place to support a more persistent Royal Marines deployment and facilities for better deployment of autonomous systems from the vessel.
The conversion of the Bay-class ship will come ahead of plans for new ships designed specifically for the Littoral Strike role however at current the Royal Navy does not have a concrete timeline for the conversion.
RFA Cardigan Bay is pictured during operations in the Middle East. Image: MOD/ Crown Copyright.
The navy plans to acquire Multi-Role Support Ships (MRSS) to fulfil the Littoral Strike mission in the early 2030s.
The document also echoed previous commitments to build three new Fleet Solid Support ships designed to support the UK’s Carrier Strike Group and other vessels when at sea. A competition to procure the ships is due to kick off after serval false starts this year.
Elsewhere in the document, the MOD also announced that the ‘concept and assessment phase’ for a new Type 83 Destroyer designed to replace the in-service Type 45s in the late 2030s would begin.
The MOD estimated that over the course of the current Parliament, investing in shipbuilding would rise to more than £1.7bn a year.
The Harpoon missile will also be replaced with a new land-attack and surface strike weapon. Stocks of Sea Viper air defence missiles are also set to be increased and upgraded.
Commenting on the conclusions of the paper, First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin said: “The review is the most wide-ranging for a generation and it sets out the government’s priorities for Defence, The Secretary of State wants us to respond better to the threats we face. We will. The Prime Minister wants us to be the foremost Navy in Europe. We will be.
“The White Ensign will fly in all the places where we are now, but also further afield and more persistently. All of us now have a new responsibility to deliver a global Navy for a global Britain.”