Changes to the Royal Navy's surface fleet, including the withdrawal from service of HMS Illustrious and the four remaining Type 22 frigates, have been announced today by Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox.
The changes follow announcements regarding the Royal Navy's surface fleet in the White Paper 'Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review' published on 19 October.
In a written ministerial statement to parliament today, Dr Fox said that HMS Illustrious will be withdrawn from service in 2014 and HMS Ocean will be retained to provide the landing platform helicopter capability for the longer term.
Four frigates are also to be withdrawn from service. These are the remaining Type 22s: HMS Chatham, Campbeltown, Cumberland and Cornwall.
Chatham will be withdrawn from service at the end of January 2011, Campbeltown and Cumberland will follow on 1 April, and Cornwall at the end of April.
HMS Ark Royal will be finally withdrawn from service at the end of this year.
The Bay Class amphibious support ship to be withdrawn from service will be RFA Largs Bay, in April 2011. The Auxiliary Oiler RFA Bayleaf and the Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessel RFA Fort George will also be withdrawn from service in April next year.
October's White Paper explained the Government's intention to make certain changes to the Armed Forces in order to deliver the force structure we require for the future and to help address the legacy of unaffordability in the Defence Budget.
Today's written ministerial statement explains in more detail those changes that affect the Royal Navy's surface fleet.
HMS Ark Royal, Ocean and Illustrious
The White Paper announced that the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal would be decommissioned, and, accordingly, she will finally be withdrawn from service at the end of this month.
It also announced that either her sister ship HMS Illustrious or the Landing Platform Helicopter ship HMS Ocean would be withdrawn from service following a short study into which of these two ships was better able to provide the capability we require over the next few years.
This work has now been completed and it has been decided that HMS Ocean should be retained to provide our landing platform helicopter capability for the longer term.
HMS Illustrious will be withdrawn from service in 2014, once Ocean has emerged from a planned refit and been returned to a fully operational state. This will ensure that we retain the ability to deliver an amphibious intervention force from the sea and maintain an experienced crew to support the later introduction into service of the new Queen Elizabeth Class carrier.
HMS Chatham, Campbeltown, Cumberland and Cornwall
The White Paper explained that four frigates would be withdrawn from service in 2011. These are the remaining Type 22 frigates HMS Chatham, Campbeltown, Cumberland and Cornwall.
Chatham will be withdrawn from service at the end of January 2011 and Campbeltown and Cumberland will follow on 1 April.
HMS Cornwall will be withdrawn at the end of April once she has returned from her current operational deployment to the Indian Ocean.
Other changes affect the Navy's amphibious ships. One of the two Landing Platform Dock ships will in future be placed at extended readiness while the other is held at high readiness for operations.
From November 2011, the high-readiness ship will be HMS Bulwark, and on current plans this will change to HMS Albion in late 2016 when Bulwark enters a refit period.
Royal Fleet Auxiliary
The final changes affect the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The White Paper said that there would be a fleet of resupply and refuelling vessels scaled to meet the Royal Navy's requirements.
With a smaller surface fleet these requirements are correspondingly lower, and hence we have decided to withdraw from service the Auxiliary Oiler RFA Bayleaf and the Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessel RFA Fort George from April 2011.
Additionally the Bay-Class amphibious support ship RFA Largs Bay will be withdrawn from service in April 2011.