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Defence launches inquiry into Navy and Naval procurement

23 April 2021

The Defence Committee launches its inquiry into the Navy and Naval procurement. The inquiry will examine the UK's ambition for the Navy's role over the next 20 years. They will ask whether naval procurement and support plans are delivering the capabilities required for this role.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP, said:

"With the Integrated Review complete, the Committee will consider its impact on each of the individual Services, starting first with the Royal Navy.

"As has been widely reported, the decision to advance our cyber and space resilience has come at a cost to our conventional capabilities.

"Yet the review still sets ambitious targets to help project 'Global Britain' and the international order of the future through our hard power.

"These include simultaneously playing a lead role in NATO, being active in the Gulf and East Africa, and executing a tilt to the Indo-Pacific.

"As the Committee appreciated on our recent visit to Portsmouth and the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, our Armed Forces have exceptional surface and sub-surface capabilities in the pipeline.

"However, the current size of our entire Naval force is already tested in meeting today's commitments, let alone the additional ambitions set out in the Integrated Review.

"This inquiry will take a broad look at the Navy's ambitions for the next 20 years, as well as focusing in on procurement, asking whether the current programme is sufficient enough to respond to immediate threats and to future proof our maritime forces in a world of rapid geopolitical and technological change."

Terms of Reference

What is the UK's ambition for the Navy's role over the next 20 years?

What naval threats is the UK likely to face and what standing commitments, including for NATO and UK Overseas Territories, does the government intend the Navy to undertake?

  • In particular what is the implication of a tilt to the Indo-Pacific?

What naval forces (vessels, capabilities and bases) are required to combat these threats and to deliver these standing commitments?

  • What are the implications of cooperation with vessels from allied nations, for example allied vessels participating in carrier strike groups?

Are naval procurement and support plans delivering the capabilities required for this role?

There are several expected pinch points in equipment that pose a risk to the Navy's ability to deliver planned capabilities.

The inquiry will examine where risks to specific programs could threaten the Navy's overall effectiveness, with particular focus on the following areas.

Concerns have been raised over some core equipment and enabling capabilities for the carrier strike program

The withdrawal and removal of partners from the F-35 program has led to speculation that the UK will cut its order.

The Public Accounts Committee reported in November that the Crowsnest radar system had been delayed by 18 months because of poor contractor performance and inadequate departmental oversight.

The tendering process for the Fleet Solid Support Ships (FSS) has been delayed multiple times with the current Solid Support Ships expected to retire between 2023-2025.

  • How will this affect plans for Carrier Enabled Power Projection?

Delays to the Astute class submarine program have been a longstanding area of concern, with the late hand over of HMS Audacious likely to have extended delays further down the tranche.

  • How will these delays affect the replacement timeline for the Trafalgar class and the cost of the program?
  • What impact will delays to Astute have on the Dreadnought program, as some of the same production facilities are required for both models?

The time at sea for the Type 45 destroyers has been limited in previous years due to long-term difficulties with cooling, propulsion and manpower.

  • What is the status of efforts to address this, like the Power Improvement Program, and what impact will the Type 45's readiness levels have on Navy capabilities over this period?

The UK is likely to face a "frigate gap" until at least the early 2030s.

The current Type 23 frigates will begin to leave service on an annual basis from 2023.

There are concerns over the extended retirement dates, especially with regards to the integrity of certain hulls and lack of spare part packages across the board.

The first replacement Type 26s and Type 31s are not expected to be in service until at least four years later.

  • What capabilities will the Navy lose or need to deliver through other means as a result?
  • How realistic are production plans for the Type 31s (already described as "aggressive" and including an ambitious delivery rate of one every 8-12 months, compared to 18 months for comparable European programmes for similar vessels)?

The Navy's Hunt and Sandown Mine Counter Measure Vessels will be replaced by an Autonomous Mine Hunting Capability currently under development.

  • How likely is this to be able to replicate the vessels' full contribution, including to partnerships with allies through deployments like Op KIPION, by the time they reach retirement in the early 2030s and what are the implications if it does not?
  • What other progress is being made on integrating UAVs into the Navy?

Is the UK's domestic shipbuilding industry able to fulfil its role in delivering the country's naval capabilities?

  • What has been the effect of the National Shipbuilding Strategy?
  • Does the government's decision in the Defence Industrial Strategy to determine whether to invite foreign competition on a case-by-case basis (rather than just for warships) increase or decrease the opportunities for UK shipbuilding?
  • What will industry need to see in the government's forthcoming update to the National Shipbuilding Strategy and 30-year plan for Naval and other government-owned vessels?

How realistic are proposed exports of Type 26 and Type 31 frigate designs and what effect would they have on costs of the frigates for the UK?

  • Since most foreign buyers will seek to produce ships domestically, how much value are these export deals likely to deliver to UK shipbuilding?

The government's Defence Industrial Strategy promises up to five Type 32 frigates and a new class Type 83 destroyer but no further details on these ships' designs and roles have been provided

  • How can the government learn from previous programs in designing and delivering these two ships?

Form of written evidence

Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 words.

The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs. Each submission should contain: 

  • a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form
  • a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, for example explaining their area of expertise or experience
  • any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses
  • any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.

Submissions should be in malleable format such as MS Word (not PDFs) with no use of colour or logos.

Deadline for submissions 

The Committee is asking for initial written evidence to be submitted through the Committee’s web portal by midnight on 30 May 2021.

It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines particulars of word count, format, document size, and content restrictions. 


We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence.

We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind when we ask them to choose a representative. We are currently monitoring the diversity of our witnesses. 

Further information

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