By Sue Hardie
The Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has arrived and departed from Glen Mallan in Loch Long as part of final preparations before her first operational deployment.
Sailing in along the Firth of Clyde, the 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier has spent the last two weeks at sea testing and trialling her latest equipment, before berthing at the new Northern Ammunition Jetty for a routine on-load of operational stores.
These stores are housed in bunkers which have been built into the hills, initially at Glen Douglas between Loch Long and Loch Lomond.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first of the Royal Navy’s fleet to visit the new £64 million facility at Glen Mallan, built by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.
Operated by Defence Equipment and Support through Defence Munitions, the Northern Ammunition Jetty is specifically designed to support the surface fleet, allowing them to continue entering and berthing at Glen Mallan.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth has a very proud affiliation to Scotland and it is only fitting she returns before her first operational deployment later this year.
“The £64m investment into the new Northern Ammunition Jetty reaffirms our commitment to supporting our core capabilities and defence estate across all corners of the UK.”
Captain Angus Essenhigh, HMS Queen Elizabeth Commanding Officer, said: “We are very proud of the close connection our ship has with Scotland.
“HMS Queen Elizabeth embodies the best of British engineering and craftsmanship, including Scottish shipbuilding, and it is a privilege to return to her birthplace of Scotland.”
DIO project works undertaken include: the installation of four new navigational aids to ensure safe passage through the confined waterway in Loch Long, two new modular fender spacer units that move with the tide to prevent the aircraft carrier flight deck from coming in to contact with the jetty and the installation of dolphin mooring points to ensure the aircraft can be securely berthed.
Craig MacDonald, DIO’s Project Manager, said:“It is fantastic to have HMS Queen Elizabeth berthed at Glen Mallan for the first time.
“DIO previously worked closely with contractors and local partners to ensure vital infrastructure upgrades were completed in time to prepare for the visit and I would like to thank everyone involved.”
This is the first time HMS Queen Elizabeth has visited Western Scotland, after she initially became a familiar sight on the River Forth where she was assembled.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to sail for Portsmouth at the end of the month, and will deploy to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and East Asia later this year, as part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group.
Prime Minister Boris Johnston and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on a visit to HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane and Coulport.
By Rory Murphy
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has outlined the result of the ‘Defence Command Paper’, a white paper outlining the shape and size of the British military over the years to come.
You can read ‘Defence in a Competitive Age‘ for yourself here, below is a brief summary of the main points broken down by service.
- HMS Trent, a Batch 2 River-class patrol vessel, will be permanently based in Gibraltar, and HMS Tamar (P233) will be permanently based in the Indo-Pacific.
- A new surveillance ship will be acquired, tasked to deal with protecting critical national infrastructure, such as undersea cables.
- Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessel and Sandown-class minehunter will be replaced by autonomous minehunting vessels.
- A Bay-class landing ship will be converted to a littoral strike role for the Royal Marines, who will also evolve into the Future Commando Force and be forward-based.
- The Type 83 destroyer will be developed to replace the Type 45 destroyers in the late 2030s.
- Two Type 23 Frigates will be retired early, before an increase in numbers with the introduction of the Type 26 Frigate and Type 31 Frigate.
- Harpoon will be retired and replaced by the interim Surface to Surface Guided Weapon; the Type 45 Destroyer will also receive upgraded air defence weapons.
- The British Army will be reduced in size, to 72,500 regular personnel by 2025, with no change in reserves.
- 77 Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks will be retired, with the remaining 148 upgraded to Challenger 3.
- The planned Warrior upgrade will be cancelled, and instead the vehicles will be retired upon the introduction of Boxer in the mid-2020s.
- £250 million will be invested in Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS).
- £800 million will be invested in a new automated fires platform.
- The Infantry will be restructured into four new administrative divisions.
- A new four-battalion Ranger Regiment will be formed, from the Royal Scots Borderers; 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment; 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment; and 4th Battalion, The Rifles. The new regiment will sit within a newly-formed Army Special Operations Brigade.
- A new Global Readiness Force will be formed, consisting of a newly formed 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, and 16 Air Assault Brigade, the latter of which will be reinforced by a further infantry unit.
- The British Army will be re-organised into 7 self-sufficient Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) – two heavy, two light, one deep strike, one air maneuvre, and one combat aviation.
- The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Mercian Regiment will be amalgamated.
- A Security Force Assistance Brigade will be formed to assist and train partner nations.
- Manning will increase in the areas of electronic warfare, air defence, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
- 23 Gazelle, 20 Puma, and 5 Bell 212 will be replaced by a new medium-lift helicopter.
Royal Air Force
- £2 billion will be invested over the next 4 years, into the Future Combat Air System, alongside further development of the LANCA UCAV system.
- The UK will commit to grow the F-35B fleet beyond 48 aircraft.
- 24 Typhoons retired in the next few years, Hawk T1 will go too.
- Five E-3D Sentry early warning aircraft will be replaced by a more capable but smaller fleet of three E7 Wedgetail in 2023. These will be based at RAF Lossiemouth.
- The UK will retire the C130-J Hercules in 2023, after 24 years of service. Twenty-two A400Ms, alongside the C17s remain.
- The oldest Chinook transport helicopters will be retired and new extended range examples will be purchased.
- Counter terrorism operations are currently supported by nine Reaper RPAS (‘drones’) which will be replaced by 16 Protectors by 2024.
- The UK will further develop combat drone swarm technologies.
- The UK will upgrade the remaining Typhoon jets radars and introduce Spear Cap 3 deep strike capabilities.
- £200 million will be invested in enhanced electronic warfare & signals intelligence capability.
- £6.6 billion will be invested into space over the next 4 years.