THE ROYAL MARINES AND UK AMPHIBIOUS CAPABILITY
In July 2017, the Government announced that it would be initiating a National Security Capability Review to ‘refresh’ the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), on the basis that the threats to the UK had intensified and changed since 2015. Unconfirmed reports have suggested that significant changes to the structure of the Royal Marines and UK amphibious forces are being considered as part of this exercise. These changes are said to include the consideration of substantial reductions in the strength of the Royal Marines and the possible deletion of the Royal Navy’sAlbion class ships
This is the latest in a succession of challenges that the Royal Marines have had to meet. Reductions in strength as a result of the 2010 SDSR have been followed by reconfigurations within the Corps which may have an impact on its ability to sustain its role as a leading-edge, high readiness force. 3 Commando Brigade is dependent on elements of all three Armed Services to support its status as a deployable formation, and these supporting elements have been targeted for reduction in previous reviews. The programme of training and exercising opportunities that is necessary to sustain the capability to operate in a full range of hostile environments has reportedly already been reduced.
The Royal Navy’sAlbion class landing platform dock ships, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, have designated out of service dates of 2033 and 2034 respectively andAlbion has recently completed a £90 million refit. They are the principal platform for delivering ‘over the beach’ amphibious capability. With the forthcoming removal of the helicopter carrier HMSOcean from service in 2018, the deletion of the Albion class has the potential to seriously compromise the UK’s ability to conduct amphibious operations at a time when nations around the world are investing in and increasing this capability.
TheAlbion class ships are based in Plymouth, which also hosts headquarters of the Royal Marines and other units within 3 Commando Brigade. Other locations around the UK would also be affected by reconfigurations within these units.
The Defence Committee has subsequently decided to ask for views from the public on any proposed changes and the potential impact of those changes. Feedback from Plymouth is especially valuable as it has Royal Marines, an Army Commando Unit and amphibious ships all based within the city walls.
Johnny Mercer MP, member of the Defence Select Committee, said:
“It’s not often the Defence Committee, or any select committee for that matter, open themselves up to submissions from the public. I couldn’t say if it has even happened before.
“However, I think that on this occasion it is a really good idea. I keep making the case in Westminster that Plymouth and the military are interlinked, that they have been woven together over the centuries through their shared history as well as the culture and values that have built up between them. It is my expectation that this web forum will be an opportunity to show how many people in Plymouth think the very same way and apply further pressure on the decision makers in government so they can see how much that relationship means to us as a city.
“I think this initiative is a really positive move from the Defence Committee and I am proud to play my part in that. Yet more than that, I think it will help further make the case to the MOD about how important the amphibious capability is to the people, to the city of Plymouth and to the defence of this nation.”
Notes to editors:
- Further detail and how to access the web forum can be found at this link:http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/defence-committee/royal-marines-web-forum-17-19/
- Deadline for submission to the web forum is Thursday 21 December 2017.