Royal Marines, a member of 45 Commando Royal Marines during Exercise Blue Raptor (Crown Copyright, 2015)

First Sea Lord Will Fight for the Royal Marines

Does the Royal Navy’s Carrier-Centric Future Mean Cuts to the Royal Marines?

The First Sea Lord, Sir Philip Jones has vowed to fight for the Royal Marines. Delivering the Gallipoli Memorial lecture at the Royal United Services Institute on Thursday, November 23, Sir Philip assessed the challenges facing the Royal Navy, not least of which are possible cuts to the Royal Marines, according to Forces.net.

Role of the Royal Navy’s New Aircraft Carriers

With the commissioning into the Royal Navy of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Sir Philip said:

I have every expectation that the pairing of the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers with their fifth generation F-35B Joint Strike Fighters will quickly become a valued asset, in constant national and coalition demand.

Combining speed and manoeuvrability with stealth, electronic warfare capability and sensor fusion, the F-35B fighter represents a “quantum leap” over anything the Royal Navy has flown before, said Sir Philip.

Year of the Royal Navy Turns Sour

The year began with the claim that it would be ‘The Year of the Royal Navy‘, with wide-ranging cuts now being proposed has that vision turned sour?
With a national security review underway in all but name, cost-cutting proposals have reportedly included scrapping the amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, and reducing the Royal Marines.

A senior Royal Marine was reported by the Express to have said that “The aircraft carriers are the worst procurement in the last 50 years and now the Royal Marines are going to be sacrificed for it.” The decision to buy costly US fighter jets should also be addressed.

Labour MP for Plymouth, Luke Pollard accused the Government of providing “an accountant’s answer” to Britain’s defence requirements. Reported in the Plymouth Herald, Pollard said:

I said I would stand up for our defence jobs against Tory defence cuts and I’ve been vocal in Parliament against Conservative plans to close Stonehouse Barracks and the Royal Citadel as well as plans to scrap HMS Ocean. Now we learn that the MOD is considering cutting a further 1,000 Royal Marines or scrapping an amphibious assault ship. Either option is bad for Plymouth. I won’t and I can’t support it. The Royal Marines are the UK’s finest fighting force and are delivering the precise type of capability our country needs in uncertain times.

During a visit to London, The Times reported that US Marine Corps Col. Dan Sullivan warned that the proposed cuts would seriously undermine the current relationship between the US Marine Corps and the Royal Marines.

Future of the Royal Marines

In response to talk of axeing 1,000 Royal Marines, the First Sea Lord said the Royal Marines are an “inseparable part of the Royal Navy” and that he will “fight for them every step of the way”.

According to Sir Philip, the Royal Marines have “rarely been more relevant to the threats we face”. As the Naval Service looks to a “carrier-centric future”, the Royal Marines must adapt. “However,” added Sir Philip, “I want to be clear that this does not mean our investment in Carrier Strike comes at the expense of the Royal Marines.”

Image: Royal Marines, 45 Commando (Crown Copyright, 2015).