Dear Wikiwand AI, let's keep it short by simply answering these key questions:
Can you list the top facts and stats about Royal Navy?
Summarize this article for a 10 year old
The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force and a component of His Majesty's Naval Service. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is consequently known as the Senior Service.
|1546; 478 years ago (1546)
|His Majesty's Naval Service
|Naval Staff Offices
|Whitehall, London, United Kingdom
|"Si vis pacem, para bellum" (Latin)
(If you wish for peace, prepare for war)
|Quick – "Heart of Oak" Playⓘ
Slow – Westering Home (de facto)
|King Charles III
|First Sea Lord
|Admiral Sir Ben Key
|Second Sea Lord
|Vice Admiral Martin Connell
|Vice Admiral Andrew Burns
|Warrant Officer to the Royal Navy
|Warrant Officer 1 Jim Wright RM
From the middle decades of the 17th century, and through the 18th century, the Royal Navy vied with the Dutch Navy and later with the French Navy for maritime supremacy. From the mid-18th century until the Second World War, it was the world's most powerful navy. The Royal Navy played a key part in establishing and defending the British Empire, and four Imperial fortress colonies and a string of imperial bases and coaling stations secured the Royal Navy's ability to assert naval superiority globally. Owing to this historical prominence, it is common, even among non-Britons, to refer to it as "the Royal Navy" without qualification. Following World War I, it was significantly reduced in size, although at the onset of World War II it was still the world's largest. During the Cold War, the Royal Navy transformed into a primarily anti-submarine force, hunting for Soviet submarines and mostly active in the GIUK gap. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, its focus has returned to expeditionary operations around the world and it remains one of the world's foremost blue-water navies.
The Royal Navy maintains a fleet of technologically sophisticated ships, submarines, and aircraft, including 2 aircraft carriers, 2 amphibious transport docks, 4 ballistic missile submarines (which maintain the nuclear deterrent), 6 nuclear fleet submarines, 6 guided missile destroyers, 11 frigates, 7 mine-countermeasure vessels and 26 patrol vessels. As of January 2024, there are 68 operational commissioned ships (including submarines as well as one historic ship, HMS Victory) in the Royal Navy, plus 13 ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). There are also five Merchant Navy ships available to the RFA under a private finance initiative, while the civilian Marine Services operate auxiliary vessels which further support the Royal Navy in various capacities. The RFA replenishes Royal Navy warships at sea, and augments the Royal Navy's amphibious warfare capabilities through its three Bay-class landing ship vessels. It also works as a force multiplier for the Royal Navy, often doing patrols that frigates used to do.
The Royal Navy is part of His Majesty's Naval Service, which also includes the Royal Marines and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The professional head of the Naval Service is the First Sea Lord who is an admiral and member of the Defence Council of the United Kingdom. The Defence Council delegates management of the Naval Service to the Admiralty Board, chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence. The Royal Navy operates from three bases in Britain where commissioned ships and submarines are based: Portsmouth, Clyde and Devonport, the last being the largest operational naval base in Western Europe, as well as two naval air stations, RNAS Yeovilton and RNAS Culdrose where maritime aircraft are based.
As the seaborne branch of HM Armed Forces, the RN has various roles. As it stands today, the RN has stated its six major roles as detailed below in umbrella terms.
- Preventing Conflict – On a global and regional level
- Providing Security At Sea – To ensure the stability of international trade at sea
- International Partnerships – To help cement the relationship with the United Kingdom's allies (such as NATO)
- Maintaining a Readiness To Fight – To protect the United Kingdom's interests across the globe
- Protecting the Economy – To safeguard vital trade routes to guarantee the United Kingdom's and its allies' economic prosperity at sea
- Providing Humanitarian Aid – To deliver a fast and effective response to global catastrophes
The Royal Scots Navy (or Old Scots Navy) had its origins in the Middle Ages until its merger with the English Royal Navy per the Acts of Union 1707.
During much of the medieval period, fleets or "king's ships" were often established or gathered for specific campaigns or actions, and these would disperse afterwards. These were generally merchant ships enlisted into service. Unlike some European states, England did not maintain a small permanent core of warships in peacetime. England's naval organisation was haphazard and the mobilisation of fleets when war broke out was slow. Control of the sea only became critical to Anglo-Saxon kings in the 10th century. In the 11th century, Aethelred II had a large fleet built by a national levy. During the period of Danish rule in the 11th century, authorities maintained a standing fleet by taxation, and this continued for a time under Edward the Confessor, who frequently commanded fleets in person. After the Norman Conquest, English naval power waned and England suffered naval raids from the Vikings. In 1069, this allowed for the invasion and ravaging of England by Jarl Osborn, brother of King Svein Estridsson, and his sons.
The lack of an organised navy came to a head during the First Barons' War, in which Prince Louis of France invaded England in support of northern barons. With King John unable to organise a navy, this meant the French landed at Sandwich unopposed in April 1216. John's flight to Winchester and his death later that year left the Earl of Pembroke as regent, and he was able to marshal ships to fight the French in the Battle of Sandwich in 1217 – one of the first major English battles at sea. The outbreak of the Hundred Years War emphasised the need for an English fleet. French plans for an invasion of England failed when Edward III of England destroyed the French fleet in the Battle of Sluys in 1340. England's naval forces could not prevent frequent raids on the south-coast ports by the French and their allies. Such raids halted only with the occupation of northern France by Henry V. A Scottish fleet existed by the reign of William the Lion. In the early 13th century there was a resurgence of Viking naval power in the region. The Vikings clashed with Scotland over control of the isles though Alexander III was ultimately successful in asserting Scottish control. The Scottish fleet was of particular import in repulsing English forces in the early 14th century.
Age of Sail
A standing "Navy Royal", with its own secretariat, dockyards and a permanent core of purpose-built warships, emerged during the reign of Henry VIII. Under Elizabeth I, England became involved in a war with Spain, which saw privately owned vessels combining with the Queen's ships in highly profitable raids against Spanish commerce and colonies. The Royal Navy was then used in 1588 to repulse the Spanish Armada, but the English Armada was lost the next year. In 1603, the Union of the Crowns created a personal union between England and Scotland. While the two remained distinct sovereign states for a further century, the two navies increasingly fought as a single force. During the early 17th century, England's relative naval power deteriorated until Charles I undertook a major programme of shipbuilding. His methods of financing the fleet contributed to the outbreak of the English Civil War, and the abolition of the monarchy.
The Commonwealth of England replaced many names and symbols in the new Commonwealth Navy, associated with royalty and the high church, and expanded it to become the most powerful in the world. The fleet was quickly tested in the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654) and the Anglo-Spanish War (1654–1660), which saw the British conquest of Jamaica and successful attacks on Spanish treasure fleets. The 1660 Restoration saw Charles II rename the Royal Navy again, and started use of the prefix HMS. The Navy remained a national institution and not a possession of the Crown as it had been before. Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, England joined the War of the Grand Alliance which marked the end of France's brief pre-eminence at sea and the beginning of an enduring British supremacy.
In 1707, the Scottish navy was united with the English Royal Navy. On Scottish men-of-war, the cross of St Andrew was replaced with the Union Jack. On English ships, the red, white, or blue ensigns had the St George's Cross of England removed from the canton, and the combined crosses of the Union flag put in its place. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Royal Navy was the largest maritime force in the world, maintaining superiority in financing, tactics, training, organisation, social cohesion, hygiene, logistical support and warship design. The peace settlement following the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1714) granted Britain Gibraltar and Menorca, providing the Navy with Mediterranean bases. The expansion of the Royal Navy would encourage the British colonisation of the Americas, with British (North) America becoming a vital source of timber for the Royal Navy. There was a defeat during the frustrated siege of Cartagena de Indias in 1741. A new French attempt to invade Britain was thwarted by the defeat of their escort fleet in the extraordinary Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759, fought in dangerous conditions. In 1762, the resumption of hostilities with Spain led to the British capture of Manila and of Havana, along with a Spanish fleet sheltering there. British naval supremacy could however be challenged still in this period by coalitions of other nations, as seen in the American War of Independence. The United States was allied to France, and the Netherlands and Spain were also at war with Britain. In the Battle of the Chesapeake, the British fleet failed to lift the French blockade, resulting in the surrender of an entire British army at Yorktown.
The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1793–1801, 1803–1814 & 1815) saw the Royal Navy reach a peak of efficiency, dominating the navies of all Britain's adversaries, which spent most of the war blockaded in port. Under Lord Nelson, the navy defeated the combined Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar (1805). Ships of the line and even frigates, as well as manpower, were prioritised for the naval war in Europe, however, leaving only smaller vessels on the North America Station and other less active stations, and a heavy reliance upon impressed labour. This would result in problems countering large, well-armed United States Navy frigates which outgunned Royal Naval vessels in single-opponent actions, as well as United States privateers, when the American War of 1812 broke out concurrent with the war against Napoleonic France and its allies. The Royal Navy still enjoyed a numerical advantage over the former colonists on the Atlantic, and from its base in Bermuda it blockaded the Atlantic seaboard of the United States throughout the war and carried out (with Royal Marines, Colonial Marines, British Army, and Board of Ordnance military corps units) various amphibious operations, most notably the Chesapeake campaign. On the Great Lakes, however, the United States Navy established an advantage.
In 1860, Albert, Prince Consort, wrote to the Foreign Secretary John Russell, 1st Earl Russell with his concern about "a perfect disgrace to our country, and particularly to the Admiralty". The stated shipbuilding policy of the British monarchy was to take advantage of technological change and so be able to deploy a new weapons system that could defend British interests before other national and imperial resources are reasonably mobilized. Nevertheless, British taxpayers scrutinized progress in modernizing the Royal Navy so as to ensure, that taypayers' money is not wasted.
Between 1815 and 1914, the Royal Navy saw little serious action, owing to the absence of any opponent strong enough to challenge its dominance, though it did not suffer the drastic cutbacks the various military forces underwent in the period of economic austerity that followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the American War of 1812 (when the British Army and the Board of Ordnance military corps were cutback, weakening garrisons around the Empire, the Militia became a paper tiger, and the Volunteer Force and Fencible units disbanded, though the Yeomanry was maintained as a back-up to the police). Britain relied, throughout the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, on imperial fortress colonies (originally Bermuda, Gibraltar, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Malta). These areas permitted Britain to control the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Control of military forces in Nova Scotia passed to the new Government of Canada after the 1867 Confederation of Canada and control of the naval dockyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia was transferred to the Government of Canada in 1905, five years prior to the establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy. Prior to the 1920s, it was presumed that the only navies that could challenge the Royal Navy belonged to nations on the Atlantic Ocean or its connected seas. Britain relied on Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, to project power to the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean via the Suez Canal after its completion in 1869. It relied on friendship and common interests between Britain and the United States (which controlled transit through the Panama Canal, completed in 1914) during and after the First World War, and on Bermuda, to project power the length of the western Atlantic, including the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. The area controlled from Bermuda (and Halifax until 1905) had been part of the North America Station, until the 1820s, which then absorbed the Jamaica Station to become the North America and West Indies Station. After the First World War, this formation assumed control over the eastern Pacific Ocean and the western South Atlantic and was known as the America and West Indies Station until 1956.
During this period, naval warfare underwent a comprehensive transformation, brought about by steam propulsion, metal ship construction, and explosive munitions. Despite having to completely replace its war fleet, the Navy managed to maintain its overwhelming advantage over all potential rivals. Owing to British leadership in the Industrial Revolution, the country enjoyed unparalleled shipbuilding capacity and financial resources, which ensured that no rival could take advantage of these revolutionary changes to negate the British advantage in ship numbers. In 1889, Parliament passed the Naval Defence Act, which formally adopted the 'two-power standard', which stipulated that the Royal Navy should maintain a number of battleships at least equal to the combined strength of the next two largest navies. The end of the 19th century saw structural changes and older vessels were scrapped or placed into reserve, making funds and manpower available for newer ships. The launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906 rendered all existing battleships obsolete. The transition at this time from coal to fuel-oil for boiler firing would encourage Britain to expand their foothold in former Ottoman territories in the Middle East, especially Iraq.
The Royal Navy played an historic role in several great global explorations of science and discovery. Beginning in the 18th century many great voyages were commissioned often in co-operation with the Royal Society, such as the Northwest Passage expedition of 1741. James Cook led three great voyages, with goals such as discovering Terra Australis, observing the Transit of Venus and searching for the elusive North-West Passage, these voyages are considered to have contributed to world knowledge and science.
In the late 18th century, during a four year voyage Captain George Vancouver made detailed maps of the western coastline of North America. In the 19th century, Charles Darwin made further contributions to science during the second voyage of HMS Beagle. The Ross expedition to the Antarctic made several important discoveries in biology and zoology. Several of the Royal Navy's voyages ended in disaster such as those of Franklin and Scott. Between 1872 and 1876 HMS Challenger undertook the first global marine research expedition, the Challenger expedition.
World War I
During World War I, the Royal Navy's strength was mostly deployed at home in the Grand Fleet, confronting the German High Seas Fleet across the North Sea. Several inconclusive clashes took place between them, chiefly the Battle of Jutland in 1916. The British fighting advantage proved insurmountable, leading the High Seas Fleet to abandon any attempt to challenge British dominance. The Royal Navy under John Jellicoe also tried to avoid combat and remained in port at Scapa Flow for much of the war. This was contrary to widespread prewar expectations that in the event of a Continental conflict Britain would primarily provide naval support to the Entente Powers while sending at most only a small ground army. Nevertheless, the Royal Navy played an important role in securing the British Isles and the English Channel, notably ferrying the entire British Expeditionary Force to the Western Front without the loss of a single life at the beginning of the war.
The Royal Navy nevertheless remained active in other theatres, most notably in the Mediterranean Sea, where they waged the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns in 1914 and 1915. British cruisers hunted down German commerce raiders across the world's oceans in 1914 and 1915, including the battles of Coronel, Falklands Islands, Cocos, and Rufiji Delta, among others.
At the end of World War I, the Royal Navy remained by far the world's most powerful navy, larger than the U.S. Navy and French Navy combined, and over twice as large as the Imperial Japanese Navy and Royal Italian Navy combined. Its former primary competitor, the Imperial German Navy, was destroyed at the end of the war. In the inter-war period, the Royal Navy was stripped of much of its power. The Washington and London Naval Treaties imposed the scrapping of some capital ships and limitations on new construction.
The lack of an imperial fortress in the region of Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean was always to be a weakness throughout the 19th century as the former North American colonies that had become the United States of America had multiplied towards the Pacific Coast of North America, and the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire both had ports on the Pacific and had begun building large, modern fleets which went to war with each other in 1904. Britain reliance on Malta, via the Suez Canal, as the nearest Imperial fortress was improved, relying on amity and common interests that developed between Britain and the United States during and after World War I, by the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, allowing the cruisers based in Bermuda to more easily and rapidly reach the eastern Pacific Ocean (after the war, the Royal Navy's Bermuda-based North America and West Indies Station was consequently re-designated the America and West Indies station, including a South American division. The rising power and increasing belligerence of the Japanese Empire after World War I, however, resulted in the construction of the Singapore Naval Base, which was completed in 1938, less than four years before hostilities with Japan did commence during World War II.
In 1932, the Invergordon Mutiny took place in the Atlantic Fleet over the National Government's proposed 25% pay cut, which was eventually reduced to 10%. International tensions increased in the mid-1930s and the re-armament of the Royal Navy was well under way by 1938. In addition to new construction, several existing old battleships, battlecruisers and heavy cruisers were reconstructed, and anti-aircraft weaponry reinforced, while new technologies, such as ASDIC, Huff-Duff and hydrophones, were developed.
World War II
At the start of World War II in 1939, the Royal Navy was still the largest in the world, with over 1,400 vessels. The Royal Navy provided critical cover during Operation Dynamo, the British evacuations from Dunkirk, and as the ultimate deterrent to a German invasion of Britain during the following four months. The Luftwaffe under Hermann Göring attempted to gain air supremacy over southern England in the Battle of Britain in order to neutralise the Home Fleet, but faced stiff resistance from the Royal Air Force. The Luftwaffe bombing offensive during the Kanalkampf phase of the battle targeted naval convoys and bases in order to lure large concentrations of RAF fighters into attrition warfare. At Taranto, Admiral Cunningham commanded a fleet that launched the first all-aircraft naval attack in history. The Royal Navy suffered heavy losses in the first two years of the war. Over 3,000 people were lost when the converted troopship Lancastria was sunk in June 1940, the greatest maritime disaster in Britain's history. The Navy's most critical struggle was the Battle of the Atlantic defending Britain's vital North American commercial supply lines against U-boat attack. A traditional convoy system was instituted from the start of the war, but German submarine tactics, based on group attacks by "wolf-packs", were much more effective than in the previous war, and the threat remained serious for well over three years.
After World War II, the decline of the British Empire and the economic hardships in Britain forced the reduction in the size and capability of the Royal Navy. The United States Navy instead took on the role of global naval power. Governments since have faced increasing budgetary pressures, partly due to the increasing cost of weapons systems.
In 1981, Defence Secretary John Nott had advocated and initiated a series of cutbacks to the Navy. The Falklands War however proved a need for the Royal Navy to regain an expeditionary and littoral capability which, with its resources and structure at the time, would prove difficult. At the beginning of the 1980s, the Royal Navy was a force focused on blue-water anti-submarine warfare. Its purpose was to search for and destroy Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic, and to operate the nuclear deterrent submarine force. The navy received its first nuclear weapons with the introduction of the first of the Resolution-class submarines armed with the Polaris missile.
Following the conclusion of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the Royal Navy began to experience a gradual decline in its fleet size in accordance with the changed strategic environment it operated in. While new and more capable ships are continually brought into service, such as the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, Astute-class submarines, and Type 45 destroyers, the total number of ships and submarines operated has continued to steadily reduce. This has caused considerable debate about the size of the Royal Navy. A 2013 report found that the Royal Navy was already too small, and that Britain would have to depend on her allies if her territories were attacked.
The financial costs attached to nuclear deterrence, including Trident missile upgrades and replacements, have become an increasingly significant issue for the navy.
Assets and resources
HMS Raleigh at Torpoint, Cornwall, is the basic training facility for newly enlisted ratings. Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, Devon is the initial officer training establishment for the Royal Navy. Personnel are divided into a warfare branch, which includes Warfare Officers (previously named seamen officers) and Naval Aviators, as well other branches including the Royal Naval Engineers, Royal Navy Medical Branch, and Logistics Officers (previously named Supply Officers). Present-day officers and ratings have several different uniforms; some are designed to be worn aboard ship, others ashore or in ceremonial duties. Women began to join the Royal Navy in 1917 with the formation of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS), which was disbanded after the end of the First World War in 1919. It was revived in 1939, and the WRNS continued until disbandment in 1993, as a result of the decision to fully integrate women into the structures of the Royal Navy. Women now serve in all sections of the Royal Navy including the Royal Marines.
In August 2019, the Ministry of Defence published figures showing that the Royal Navy and Royal Marines had 29,090 full-time trained personnel compared with a target of 30,600. In 2023, it was reported that the Royal Navy was experiencing significant recruiting challenges with a net drop of some 1,600 personnel (4 percent of the force) from mid-2022 to mid-2023. This was posing a significant problem in the ability of the navy to meet its commitments.
In December 2019 the First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, outlined a proposal to reduce the number of Rear-Admirals at Navy Command by five. The fighting arms (excluding Commandant General Royal Marines) would be reduced to Commodore (1-star) rank and the surface flotillas would be combined. Training would be concentrated under the Fleet Commander.
The Royal Navy has two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. Each carrier cost £3 billion and displaces 65,000 tonnes (64,000 long tons; 72,000 short tons). The first, HMS Queen Elizabeth, commenced flight trials in 2018. Both are intended to operate the STOVL variant of the F-35 Lightning II. Queen Elizabeth began sea trials in June 2017, was commissioned later that year, and entered service in 2020, while the second, HMS Prince of Wales, began sea trials on 22 September 2019, was commissioned in December 2019 and was declared operational as of October 2021. The aircraft carriers form a central part of the UK Carrier Strike Group alongside escorts and support ships.
Amphibious warfare ships in current service include two landing platform docks (HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark). While their primary role is to conduct amphibious warfare, they have also been deployed for humanitarian aid missions.
The Royal Navy clearance diving unit, the Fleet Diving Squadron, was reorganised and renamed the Diving and Threat Exploitation Group in 2022. The group consists of five squadrons: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and Echo. The Royal Navy has a separate unit with divers the special forces unit the Special Boat Service.
The escort fleet comprises guided missile destroyers and frigates and is the traditional workhorse of the Navy. As of April 2023[update] there are six Type 45 destroyers and 11 Type 23 frigates in active service. Among their primary roles is to provide escort for the larger capital ships—protecting them from air, surface and subsurface threats. Other duties include undertaking the Royal Navy's standing deployments across the globe, which often consists of: counter-narcotics, anti-piracy missions and providing humanitarian aid.
The Type 45 is primarily designed for anti-aircraft and anti-missile warfare and the Royal Navy describe the destroyer's mission as "to shield the Fleet from air attack". They are equipped with the PAAMS (also known as Sea Viper) integrated anti-aircraft warfare system which incorporates the sophisticated SAMPSON and S1850M long range radars and the Aster 15 and 30 missiles.
Sixteen Type 23 frigates were delivered to the Royal Navy, with the final vessel, HMS St Albans, commissioned in June 2002. However, the 2004 Delivering Security in a Changing World review announced that three frigates would be paid off as part of a cost-cutting exercise, and these were subsequently sold to the Chilean Navy. The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review announced that the remaining 13 Type 23 frigates would eventually be replaced by the Type 26 Frigate. The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 reduced the procurement of Type 26 to eight with five Type 31e frigates to be procured.
Mine countermeasure vessels (MCMV)
There are two classes of MCMVs in the Royal Navy: one Sandown-class minehunter and six Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels. All the Sandown-class vessels are to be withdrawn from service by 2025 and are being replaced by autonomous systems that are planned to operate from a range of vessels, including so-called "motherships" planned for procurement by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The Hunt-class vessels combine the separate roles of the traditional minesweeper and the active minehunter in one hull. If required, the vessels can take on the role of offshore patrol vessels.
Offshore patrol vessels (OPV)
A fleet of eight River-class offshore patrol vessels are in service with the Royal Navy. The three Batch 1 ships of the class serve in U.K. waters in a sovereignty and fisheries protection role while the five Batch 2 ships are forward-deployed on a long-term basis to Gibraltar, the Caribbean, the Falkland Islands and the Indo-Pacific region. The vessel MV Grampian Frontier is leased from Scottish-based North Star Shipping for patrol duties around the British Indian Ocean Territory. However, she is not in commission with the Royal Navy.
HMS Protector is a dedicated Antarctica patrol ship that fulfils the nation's mandate to provide support to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). HMS Scott is an ocean survey vessel and at 13,500 tonnes is one of the largest ships in the Navy. As of 2018, the newly commissioned HMS Magpie also undertakes survey duties at sea. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary plans to introduce two new Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance Ships, in part to protect undersea cables and gas pipelines and partly to compensate for the withdrawal of all ocean-going survey vessels from Royal Navy service. The first of these vessels, RFA Proteus, entered service in October 2023.
Royal Fleet Auxiliary
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) provides support to the Royal Navy at sea in several capacities. For fleet replenishment, it deploys one Fleet Solid Support Ship and six fleet tankers (two of which are maintained in reserve). The RFA also has one aviation training and casualty reception vessel, which is planned for conversion into a Littoral Strike Ship.
Three amphibious transport docks are also incorporated within its fleet. These are known as the Bay-class landing ships, of which four were introduced in 2006–2007, but one was sold to the Royal Australian Navy in 2011. In November 2006, the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band described the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels as "a major uplift in the Royal Navy's war fighting capability".
In February 2023, a commercial vessel was also acquired to act as a Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance (MROS) Ship for the protection of critical seabed infrastructure and other tasks. She entered service as RFA Proteus. An additional vessel, RFA Stirling Castle, was acquired in 2023 to act as a mothership for autonomous minehunting systems.
The Royal Navy also includes a number of smaller non-commissioned assets. On 29 July 2022, the Royal Navy christened a new experimental ship, XV Patrick Blackett, which it aims to use as a testbed for autonomous systems. Whilst the ship flies the Blue Ensign, it is crewed by Royal Navy personnel and will participate in Royal Navy and NATO exercises.
The Submarine Service is the submarine based element of the Royal Navy. It is sometimes referred to as the "Silent Service", as the submarines are generally required to operate undetected. Founded in 1901, the service made history in 1982 when, during the Falklands War, HMS Conqueror became the first nuclear-powered submarine to sink a surface ship, ARA General Belgrano. Today, all of the Royal Navy's submarines are nuclear-powered.
Ballistic missile submarines (SSBN)
The Royal Navy operates four Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines displacing nearly 16,000 tonnes and equipped with Trident II missiles (armed with nuclear weapons) and heavyweight Spearfish torpedoes, to carry out Operation Relentless, the United Kingdom's Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD). The UK government has committed to replace these submarines with four new Dreadnought-class submarines, which will enter service in the "early 2030s" to maintain this capability.
Fleet submarines (SSN)
As of August 2022, six fleet submarines are in commission, one Trafalgar-class and five Astute-class (one of which was still working up to operational status as of August 2022). Two more Astute-class fleet submarines are scheduled to enter service by the mid-2020s while the remaining Trafalgar-class submarine will be withdrawn.
The Trafalgar class displace approximately 5,300 tonnes when submerged and are armed with Tomahawk land-attack missiles and Spearfish torpedoes. The Astute-class at 7,400 tonnes are much larger and carry a larger number of Tomahawk missiles and Spearfish torpedoes. HMS Anson was the latest Astute-class boat to be commissioned.
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) is the branch of the Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft, it can trace its roots back to 1912 and the formation of the Royal Flying Corps. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AW-101 Merlin HC4 (in support of 3 Commando Brigade) as the Commando Helicopter Force; the AW-159 Wildcat HM2; the AW101 Merlin HM2 in the anti-submarine role; and the F-35B Lightning II in the carrier strike role.
Pilots designated for rotary wing service train under No. 1 Flying Training School (1 FTS) at RAF Shawbury.
The Royal Marines are an amphibious, specialised light infantry force of commandos, capable of deploying at short notice in support of His Majesty's Government's military and diplomatic objectives overseas. The Royal Marines are organised into a highly mobile light infantry brigade (3 Commando Brigade) and 7 commando units including 1 Assault Group Royal Marines, 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines and a company strength commitment to the Special Forces Support Group. The Corps operates in all environments and climates, though particular expertise and training is spent on amphibious warfare, Arctic warfare, mountain warfare, expeditionary warfare and commitment to the UK's Rapid Reaction Force. The Royal Marines are also the primary source of personnel for the Royal Navy's special forces unit the Special Boat Service (SBS).
The Royal Marines have seen action in a number of wars, often fighting beside the British Army; including in the Seven Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, World War I and World War II. In recent times, the Corps has been deployed in expeditionary warfare roles, such as the Falklands War, the Gulf War, the Bosnian War, the Kosovo War, the Sierra Leone Civil War, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. The Royal Marines have international ties with allied marine forces, particularly the United States Marine Corps and the Netherlands Marine Corps/Korps Mariniers.