The surface fleet was reorganised in 2002 into two flotillas, one based at each of the two naval bases at Portsmouth and Devonport.
Aircraft carriers are the largest ships in the fleet. Their innate versatility and comprehensive command facilities make them key to modern expeditionary operations. Their main armament is provided by their embarked carrier air groups, enabling carriers to deploy rapidly around the world to local points of crises.
Destroyers and frigates are, as always, the workhorses of the fleet, the former being optimised for air defence and the latter for surface and subsurface warfare. They are equally at home in large task groups or on independent operations which may include sanctions enforcement, humanitarian relief or anti-drug patrols.
Smaller fighting ships include the world-leading mine countermeasures ships (MCM). Sophisticated and cheap mines are available the world over, and the neutralisation of their threat is a skilled and painstaking business that usually continues long after hostilities have ended.
Offshore patrol vessels play an important role in UK home waters by enforcing fishery laws and providing a reassuring presence in UK oil and gas fields.