New Delhi, 24 June 2001

HMS Ark Royal

IDC rates the Royal Navy to be the most professional Navy in the world. Our IDC correspondent now in London reports that the present First Sea Lord Admiral Nigel Essenhigh, when he was C-in-C Fleet –– the most important operational job in the Royal Navy –– had written a confidential report on the state of the Royal Navy and the lack of punch and technical support in many sectors like submarines, missiles, dockyard facilities and the need for more resources. He used consultants to get the report prepared and the main theme was shortage of pilots and technical manpower. It may be recalled that Admiral Essenhigh had attended IFR in Mumbai in February 2001.

This report has been leaked to the media and far from embarrassing the First Sea Lord, the bureaucrats, official spokesmen and the media have been unanimous and supportive in analysing, that in a security related scenario where new systems and weapons are being introduced there will always be lacunae and these should be dealt with and not swept under the carpet. 

Admiral Boyce the CDS has taken this maturely and the three services have risen as one. In fact the RAF flies with the Royal Navy at sea. (We hope the IAF and MOD are reading this!) 

There are lessons here for the Indian media and our bureaucrats, who love to run down the Indian Armed Forces even if the slightest lacuna comes to light.


1.       We need an integrated MOD.

2.       We need defence consultancies and consultants and retired officers must be made to take the oath of secrecy and assist, to see that we get the maximum bang for the bucks spent. IDC offers this service.

3.       We need an effective CDS System.

4.       Finally, defence agents must be permitted legally –– not middlemen as they now operate illegally.

In order to illustrate our analysis we give below some extracts from 

‘The Royal Navy Fact File’. The full details may be seen at


Royal Navy Fact File

The Royal Navy Fleet consists of:

129 ships and submarines

182 aircraft

A Commando Brigade comprising of 7,000 men and women.

43,526 uniformed personnel (trained and untrained)

6,338 civilian personnel working directly for the Royal Navy

Over 12,000 civilians working for Chief of Fleet Support in the new Defence Logistics Organisation.

4 Vanguard Class ballistic missile submarines

12 nuclear attack submarines

3 Aircraft Carriers

1 Amphibious Helicopter Carrier

1 Amphibious Landing Ship

33 Frigates and Destroyers

18 Mine Countermeasures Vessels

32 Patrol Ships

6 Survey ships

15 Royal Fleet Auxiliaries

The Royal Navy is not solely a defence team. Over the past 6 years the Royal Navy has participated in 3289 search and rescue operations around the UK and between 1994 and 1998 the Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squadron (operating within British fishing limits under MAFF contact) have boarded 9,769 vessels resulting in 138 convictions.

The Royal Navy Budget

The £22.38 Billion defence budget for 1999/2000 is distributed as follows, (% approx.).



Approximate %



















Defence logistics

£4.92 (£2.14)





The £22.38 Billion allocated for defence budget represents 2.7% of GDP. This compares with 5.3% of GDP in 1984 which would represent £44 Billion today. Spending by other nations on defence (% GDP in 99) include: France 3%, Germany 1.5%, Sweden 2.3%, USA 3.3%, and Greece 4.8%.

Other Departments for comparison are: Health, 6.6%, Social Security, 11.8%, & Education, 4.6%).

Role of the Royal Navy

The government's recent Strategic Defence Review (SDR) recognised the crucial contribution of the Royal Navy to achieving a peaceful environment in which the UK's foreign policy and trade would flourish, along with the assured security of the UK & her Overseas Territories.

To maintain this, the SDR confirmed the need for a powerful and well balanced front line, capable of rapid deployment and sustained operations of an expeditionary nature wherever the UK's national and international interests demand. The review considered the UK's strategic environment, the global nature of the UK's interests, and recognised that the UK's peace and freedom was indivisible from her European Partners. As a result, the SDR confirmed that NATO remained the cornerstone of the nation's security policy.

As a result, today's Royal Navy is a force of discrete and highly capable units that are effective when operating on their own, yet able, at almost immediate notice, to play a significant part in a large multi-national task force anywhere in the world. Their role is very much to contribute towards preserving the peaceful environment in which our foreign policy and trade can flourish. To do this, we must be able to deter aggression, which means that we must have, and continue to develop, forces which can be rapidly adapted to changing circumstances. With a powerful, well equipped Navy, consisting of aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, amphibious forces and the rest of the supporting ships, we have the essential elements in our armoury to contribute to the United Kingdom's joint operational capability.

We are always looking for new ways to make the Navy more effective in working with potential allies and other Services; nowhere is this process more apparent than in coastal regions where developing our links into land operations could prove decisive. And so we strive to make our platforms ever more compatible with those of other Services, to enhance the overall utility of Joint Rapid Deployment Force assets.

What is the Royal Navy Doing?

The Royal Navy's Vanguard Class submarines are on patrol, maintaining the strategic nuclear deterrent at this very moment. Closer to home, Northern Ireland patrols and Fishery Protection duties are being undertaken, whilst our commitments to NATO, Standing Naval Force Channel are being met.

Elsewhere, ships are conducting exercises and training to keep their capabilities up to scratch. In the South Atlantic two ships and an RFA tanker are at sea on patrol and, in the Gulf, the Armilla patrol, now in its 18th year continues to be conducted to reassure British flagged shipping and demonstrate UK's commitment to this region of strategic importance. Over in the West Indies, our guardship is currently on counter drugs operations in company with its RFA tanker, an operation which has been spectacularly successful in recent months. Details of all this activity can be found on the Operations page of the website.

In general, The Royal Navy's capabilities are designed around 3 core assets, carrier borne aircraft, submarines and amphibious forces, supported by escorts and other vital enabling units. Looking at carrier borne aircraft first, Bosnia was a good example of what aircraft carriers can offer. It took just 10 days to have an aircraft carrier in the Adriatic, operating and able to put aircraft over Bosnia. Once on station, the aircraft carriers were able to provide almost continuous cover, operating back to back for over 3 years with FA2s flying many thousands of air defence and ground attack sorties without failure to meet their task.

Since the end of March 2000, traing and operation of the Royal Air Force Harrier GR7 ground attack aircraft and the Royal Navy Harrier FA2 air defence fighters will be combined to create Joint Force Harrier, creating a force capable of operating anywhere in the world and greatly increasing the operational capability of the aircraft carriers.

Next are the nuclear attack submarines, the SSNs, which are highly capable platforms with relevance throughout the course of a crisis. Their flexibility, mobility and sustainability make them powerful instruments of Government policy. Able to sustain high speed, they can cover 600 nautical miles per day with no need to refuel, they may be first on the scene, overtly or covertly, where they are then available for SF insertion, early denial of the sea to an enemy or to gather critical intelligence. They can, furthermore, remain at sea independent of outside support, for up to 90 days.

Amphibious capability, as part of the UK's Joint Rapid Reaction Force, provides the only means by which the UK can insert troops with the necessary heavy battle winning equipment into a hostile and defended area in tactical fighting order. To achieve this an Amphibious Task Force (ATF) comprises three essential elements; the amphibious ships, the landing force and the escort ships to defend the task force. HMS OCEAN, the new LPH, has restored a much needed component of our maritime projections capability, in that it enables amphibiuos assault from sea to shore objective to be conducted in the air, the third dimension of naval warfare. Helicopters play a crucial role in providing this depth of assault, considerably widening the deployment options for the assaulting force. The ability to embark the recently procured Apache Attack Helicopters will also greatly increase this capability. In addition to this the orders for the two landing ships (LPD( R )'s) HMS ALBION and BULWARK will restore our full amphibious capability, given their capability of carrying some 650 troops, vehicles and heavy equipment whilst providing the vital command and control facility. Once ALBION, BULWARK and HMS OCEAN are in service together with the 5 Logistic Landing Ships (LSLs), our specialist shipping capability will be very impressive.

In outlining the capabilities of amphibious forces, carriers and nuclear submarines, it is important to remember that destroyers and frigates, mine-countermeasure vessels and afloat support ships play key enabling roles. These ships are essential assets in any maritime conflict in providing layers of defence, and destroyer also has a Lynx helicopter which, as well as providing an ASW torpedo capability, is fundamental particularly for ships taken up from trade like the Canberra during the Falklands campaign. They are also crucial in sea control tasks upon which all reinforcement and amphibious operations depend.

These pages set out to answer these questions objectively, realistically and honestly. In so doing it also aims to introduce the greatest single factor in our ability to defend the United Kingdom's interests world-wide, the men and women who go to sea and make the Royal Navy one of the most powerful forces in NATO.

How is the Royal Navy Managed?

The First Sea Lord known, as 1SL, is the professional head of the Royal Navy. The First Sea Lord is responsible to the Secretary of State for Defence for Military Capability and the current and future fighting effectiveness, efficiency and morale of the Service. He is also the senior advisor to the Secretary of State and the Chief of Defence Staff on maritime strategy and policy, and as a member of the Defence Management Board (DMB) he advises the Permanent Under Secretary on resource allocation and budgetary planning. As a member of the FPMG he has a collective responsibility for its decisions."

(For the full report visit

Back to Top

Disclaimer   Copyright