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UK Parliament Launches Probe on Decommissioning Two Royal Marines Vessels

Royal Navy amphibious vessels
Sister ships Albion and Bulwark are the Royal Marine's amphibious vessels (Royal Navy)

Published Jan 12, 2024 4:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

Following reports that the UK government is considering retiring the Royal Navy’s two Albion Class assault ships, the House of Commons Defence Committee announced it will launch a probe as well as a broader look at the status of the service. The plans for an evidence session to be held within the next few weeks come as the Defence Committee has also expressed concerns about the current government’s plans for the Royal Navy and Marines.

Last week, several local news outlets reported that Secretary of Defense Grant Shapps had decided to decommission both HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, ten years earlier than their scheduled phase-out. The reports said the decision was reached due to the recruitment crisis facing the Royal Navy. By standing down the two vessels the reports suggest the Royal Navy would reassign the crews to the new fleet of Type 26 frigates joining service.

Defence Minister James Cartlidge was quick to respond to the reports saying “No final decision has been made on these platforms.”

The two ships are amphibious Landing Platform Docks, designed to transport the Royal Marines and their equipment. The two vessels, which are the only ones of their kind in the fleet, were commissioned in 2004 and 2005 and in its materials, the Royal Navy highlights the versatility of the vessels. Each has a crew of approximately 325 sailors and can also accommodate up to 400 additional troops, as well as 31 trucks, 36 smaller vehicles, battle tanks, and on their flight deck can also house two Merlin or Sea King helicopters and two Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. There is also a floodable well dock that can take four Landing Craft Utility boats.

 

HMS Albion's return to base in 2023 after six years of overseas deployment (Royal Navy)

 

HMS Albion was deployed for six years from 2018 to the summer of 2023 sailing the world, initially to the Far East, and later spending most winters and springs in the Arctic and Baltic with fall deployments to the Mediterranean. She returned to Portsmouth in July 2023 with her duties scheduled to be assumed in 2024 by her sister ship HMS Bulwark after the vessel completes an extended period of refurbishment. As per recent Royal Navy plans, HMS Albion is to be held in reserve for the next few years, and both vessels were scheduled to remain in service until at least 2034.

The Defence Committee in a 2018 report titled “Sunset for the Royal Marines?” warned that an early disposal of HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark would be “militarily illiterate” and “totally at odds with strategic reality.”

Responding to the new reports, the Defence Committee said that it is deeply concerned with the information that the government is considering retiring the two vessels. Losing these ships, they said would make successful amphibious landings very difficult. The Defence Committee highlighted that the suggested alternatives are unlikely to fill the hole HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark would leave in the capabilities of the Royal Navy.

Parliament’s planned evidence session the sponsors said will help to map the impact of losing these ships and to hold the UK government to account for its plans for the Royal Marines’ capabilities.