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 look to replace, its three aircraft carriers. It has recently decided to select two larger carriers that can operate both the F35 Joint Strike Fighter and a range of helicopters.
But the aircraft carriers themselves would be of little use without effective aircraft. The present Sea Harrier FA2, with its advanced radar and AMRAAM medium range air to air missiles, Sidewinder short range air to air missiles and laser guided bombs, is one of the most advanced packages in Europe.
But studies indicate that it will be outclassed by 2010. So 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 Sea 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 Sea 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.
The Royal Navy's long-term vision paper, "The Future Navy", is now available below as a PDF document to read or download.