The role of the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom's foreign and security policy, means that the size and shape of the fleet will continue to evolve. The driving factors are not simply those of need, but to do so cost-effectively avoiding waste and unnecessary expense.
This philosophy has been carried through into the design of the next generation of ships, which have much smaller crews, a high degree of computer automation and are multi-role.
They need to be multi-role to face the wide range of tasks that they will be called upon to perform around the world. But they must also be capable of carrying out specialist roles when needed. This section therefore offers a glimpse of what sort of Navy we will require and how that translates into specific ships, aircraft and submarines.
Maritime Organic Air Power
The first of the three core capabilities is expected to remain an essential component of most operations - be they deterrent, hostilities, peace-keeping or major humanitarian efforts. The ability to put combat aircraft, or support helicopters, into the air over international waters or inland during coastal operations is likely to be a key factor in determining success. Thus the Royal Navy intends to retain, and ultimately to replace, its three aircraft carriers. with two larger Carriers that can operate both the F35 Joint Strike Fighter and a range of helicopters, see Queen Elizabeth class
But the aircraft carriers themselves would be of little use without effective aircraft. Having withdrawn the Royal Navy Sea Harrier airborne interceptor aircraft from service, the Joint (RN & RAF) Force Harrier, based at RAF Cottesmore and RAF Wittering, fly the Harriers GR7 / GR9 / T10 close air support aircraft. The latest GR9 standard is a heavily updated development of the extant GR7, but incorporates the ability to use a wide range of advanced precision weaponry, new communications and systems upgrades. These weapons provide the option to attack a wider range of targets, at longer ranges and with less risk.
Alongside the GR9 upgrade programme, some aircraft are being fitted with more powerful engines to enable them to perform better in extremely hot climates. Upgraded aircraft with the improved engine will be designated GR9A. New digital weapons that are being integrated onto the GR9 include the advanced Global Positioning System and laser-guided Paveway IV bomb, and infrared and television variants of the Maverick missile to achieve high-precision ground attack capabilities. The aircraft will be able to carry up to six Paveway IV bombs. The Successor Identification Friend or Foe system now makes the aircraft less vulnerable on operations. The aircraft is being fitted to carry the advanced Brimstone fire and forget anti-armour missile. Part of the longer-term plans for the aircraft currently include equipping it with secure communications, a ground proximity warning system and, for training sorties, the Rangeless Airborne Instrumentation and Debriefing System. The programme also includes an upgrade to the two-seater T10 training aircraft to T12, the equivalent of the GR9 avionics standard. Work is underway, with the United States, to develop the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, that can fly from our smaller aircraft carriers, and that will be both stealthy and supersonic. Lockheed Martin has been chosen as the prime contractor to build the Harrier replacement with aircraft F35 which will enter service alongside with US Forces as well.
The replacement for the Type 42 Destroyer is the Type 45, which together with the Harrier successor F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will provide the Royal Navy's major maritime Anti Air Warfare contribution.
The vessel must be capable of worldwide operations in open ocean and the littoral areas, in climates ranging from tropics to Atlantic winters. It must be capable also of operating with other units of a national, NATO or coalition force over a wide range of missions with varying levels of command embarked, and in a number of roles covering the full spectrum of activities from defence diplomacy, in peace and tension, to war.