Key point: The Royal Navy wants to become a navy centered around two aircraft carrier battlegroups.
Amid great uncertainty, the Royal Navy is about to begin its most radical reorganization in many years. With two new aircraft carriers slated to begin deploying in two years’ time, the U.K. fleet must figure out how to deploy, as a cohesive force, large numbers of warships comprising a carrier strike group.
Contrast this with the fleet’s current deployment model, which for the most part sends out single warships on solo patrols, each at their own pace.
If the reorganization succeeds, the Royal Navy will evolve from a thinly but widely spread force to one that deploys to fewer places at a time, but does so in greater concentration. The Royal Navy would become what Tony Radakin, the new first sea lord, called “a proper, carrier task group navy.”
“The whole pattern of the fleet will have to change so that a group of escort vessels and support ships are all brought to readiness together to deploy with the aircraft carriers,” the website Save the Royal Navy noted. “Changing the rhythm of deployments to this new model, while still retaining the flexibility for ships to operate independently, perhaps detaching to and from the carrier group, will be a complicated balancing act.”
The Royal Navy’s small size -- it possesses just 19 frigates and destroyers -- makes this balancing act even more complicated. A U.S. Navy carrier strike group typically deploys with one carrier, a cruiser functioning as air-defense commander plus three escorting destroyers, an attack submarines and a logistics ship. The destroyers and submarine can detach for solo patrols.
As only one-third of warship are available for operations at any given time, in the Royal Navy a single carrier strike group easily could account for more than half the deployable frigates and destroyers.