Sea change [DSEI19D1]
10 September 2019
Three months after his appointment, the Royal Navy’s (RN’s) most senior officer has outlined his five priorities for the transformation of the service.
Speaking at the DSEI Maritime Capability Conference 2019, Admiral Tony Radakin CB ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said he was encouraged by the investment in the recapitalisation of the RN, including new submarines, aircraft carriers, frigates, offshore patrol vessels and support ships.
‘‘The upshot is that the Royal Navy is growing for the first time in 70 years,’’ he told delegates. ‘‘That’s a great place to be in for the service.’’
However, Adm Radakin added that the navy needed to change. ‘‘The reasons why are compelling. Defence and the navy’s strategic context has changed and we need to change with it.
‘‘We’re now in an era of potential state-on-state conflicts [and] these threats are appearing in different ways.
This is not a straightforward return to the old Cold War and that mentality. Sub-threshold and ‘grey zone’ activity is becoming much more the norm.
We are in a state of constant competition, and we need to be able to handle, to shape and respond.’’
The First Sea Lord also identified Brexit as another strategic change. ‘‘We must also play our role in highlighting that we are not withdrawing from the world stage, in fact quite the opposite. We are a global navy supporting a global Britain.’’
Rapid technological change was another factor, said Adm Radakin. ‘‘This is affecting everything across society, from the way that we live our lives, to the way that we will conduct warfare. Our adversaries are exploiting this, and we need to embrace, match and utilise this pace of change.’’
Listing five main priorities for transformation, Adm Radakin identified the North Atlantic as his number one concern given increasing pressure from Russia. ‘‘We need to carry on investing here so we can maintain and even extend our advantage and in turn fulfil our commitments to the nation and to our allies,’’ he said.
Carrier Strike is the number two priority. ‘‘We are enormously grateful for the investment by successive governments and the nation,’’ said Adm Radakin. ‘‘My task now is to deliver on this [and] increase and magnify the value of that investment. And we need to shift the whole navy to being a carrier task group navy.
That will allow us to project our power around the world, and at a level alongside our American and French allies.’’
Adm Radakin’s third priority is the Future Commando Force.
‘‘We will build on the amazing cachet and specialness of our Royal Marines, blend them with technology, and have fifth-generation Commando warriors.
We plan to have more Royal Marines deployed forward and ready to respond.’’
Next is forward presence. ‘‘This is about being able to demonstrate a global navy, project influence, and respond to threats far more quickly,’’ Adm Radakin explained.
‘‘I intend to have a high percentage of the navy at sea and stationed abroad.
‘‘We’ve already seen the success of forward basing in Bahrain. Now I want to have a conversation about whether we could have ships forward based in other areas of the world where we have significant UK and international interest.’’
On his fifth and final priority, the First Sea Lord said the navy had to embrace technology and innovation in a much bigger way. ‘‘We’re doing some great things across the service, but it has to be stronger, bolder and far more impactful.’’
Adm Radakin also touched on operations in the Gulf, lauding the RN’s efforts ‘‘to try and temper a volatile situation and ensure that British and international shipping is free to go about its business’’
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