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New Top Officer Lays Out Vision for a Bolder, Better-Armed Royal Navy

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Royal Navy file image

Published Feb 13, 2022 4:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Navy's new top officer has laid out an ambitious vision for a better-armed, more assertive fighting force capable of deterring Britain's potential adversaries. 

“We can't afford to stand still, because the world in which we are operating is also not standing still. The threat is setting the pace, and that is what we need to respond to," said First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key in an address at Rosyth, a Scottish naval shipyard. 

Adm. Key described the Royal Navy of the 2030s as a bolder, more potent, offensively-minded fleet, equipped with hypersonic missiles, drones and unmanned systems. He suggeted that in the decades to come, sea power will be essential to security. 

"The geopolitical tectonic plates are moving," he said. “It feels as if we are returning to a maritime era. Our government realizes that."

To get to a modernized future fleet,  he said that Britain will have to accept some “hard truths." He advocated retiring older ships, weapons and sensors and invest the savings in modern equipment.

He sees a bolder Navy “less wedded to defensive systems” - reflecting a criticism leveled at the service in the past - and equipped with hypersonic weapons, pilotless drone aircraft on the flight deck, and Royal Marines refocused on their new tactical role as a commando raid force. 

"Russia and China, today, autocracies by nature are seeing fit to challenge the international system by which most other nations abide by. 

"Our Prime Minister has charged us with becoming the foremost naval power in Europe. Now, that is a good challenge and one I accept. But it's not something we measure in terms of number of people who are serving in uniform, or the tonnage of the fleet albeit it's great to see that growing, or the number of miles steamed. I think it's more fundamental," he said. "It's about changing the way we think, of utilizing the maritime as an instrument of national power. It's about packing more punch, more lethality . . . into our ships, submarines and aircraft."