I wonder what will replace HMS Ocean the RNs only LPH? The Queen Elizabeth Class can in no way take on this role, as the RNs amphibious forces are required to get within only a few kilometers close to shore to land troops. Also the Queen class wont be built to support landing craft like Ocean.
HMS Ocean is soon to enter a long re-fit, with HMS Illustrious taking on the role of LPH until her decommissioning in 2014. HMS Ocean will under go sea trials in 2013 before resuming normal LPH operations in 2014. Which should see her through too 2018, by which time her basic 20 year life span will be over. Oceans structure being built to commercial standards gives her a 20 year lifespan. However, her weapons and systems are all built to military specs.
HMS Ocean has at times been given a lifespan extended to 2022, and could last to 2028 with a live extension refit, but with the last Invincible class carrier gone in the next 3 years the RN will be without a LPH when Ocean is inactive.
I just cannot see the Navy using the Queen class in that role. Although the Queen class will often embark 100s of Royal Marines and their helicopters in support of amphibious operations, she wont have landing craft, will be operating much further out at sea from the rest of the dedicated amphibious forces and wont hold as many Royal Marines!
Liam Fox recently confirmed both Queen class carriers will be built with Cats and Traps, and the SDSR mentions two Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers in commission with one in Extended Readiness and one at High Alert. Both Ships will switch between being at Extended Readiness and High Alert to provide a continuous Carrier Strike Capability.
(However the SDSR also mentions it may sell the second carrier instead of switching both Carriers in and out of extended readiness for continuous Carrier Strike) - The decision will be made in 2015
This further suggested that the Queen Class will-not replace Ocean as it will compromise Carrier Strike. Also going back to the SDSR it says one Amphibious Ship will be in extended readiness with further Amphibious Ships (- plural) at high alert/refit etc
We now know HMS Albion will go into extended readiness at the end of this year and HMS Bulwark will take over as fleet flag ship.....at a later stage HMS Bulwark will be placed in extended readiness and HMS Albion re-activated.........they will keep switching in and out. (Just the same as the Queen Elizabeth class carriers will).
Recently I heard a rumor that BAE has a new LHD concept drawn up (obviously knowing the Royal Navy will be requiring one soon). I haven't found anything yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were true.
All of these facts beg for HMS Oceans replacement, I hope with atleast one LHD.
On a side note the SDSR mentions the MCM, Hydrographic and Patrol Capability (MHPC) which will replace the Navy s Mine hunters, Patrol Vessels and Echo class Survey vessels. I think its and envisioned fleet of 14? vessels. They will primarily undertake survey, patrol and mine counter measures roles, while also being deployed at times with special forces, Lynx and run anti piracy and anti drug runs.
The BAE 99m OPV and the BMT Venator were both pushed forward as the two main designs to fill this role.....(previously the C3 of the FSC)
I prefer the Venator.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqN5MG4Tq_A
The MHPC if built like a Venator pr the 99m OPV will definitely argument the Navys Destroyer and Escort fleet. No longer would the RN have to commit a large high end war fighter such as the T-26 frigate or T-45 Destroyer to drug runs, anti piracy or provide protection for mine hunters in the gulf. Freeing up the big boys for fleet escort and other high end roles.
I dont know if all the MHPC will be built with a VLS and the CAMM surface to air missile (like the T-26), but I expect a handful might (especially for Falklands Patrol), and in time all could be equipped with VLS and CAMM. They certainly would be superior to the French La Fayette!
Well this is the direction the Navy is heading, and with the equipment budget rising, and a total 1% year on year increase on the defense budget from 2015 onward its all looking a possibility.