The assault ship HMS Albion, at time of writing, had just completed a five day visit to Tokyo in Japan.
In so doing, she became the largest Royal Navy vessel to visit the Japanese capital in over 25 years. During the visit on 3 August, over 6,000 members of the public took the opportunity to look around the British warship, whilst sailors from the ship visited the Yokohama Cemetery in Hodogaya to pay their respects at the last resting place of 1,555 Commonwealth servicemen who died in Japanese prisoner of war camps during World War Two.
HMS Albion’s deployment East of Suez has been a spectacular success and shows the ability of the assault ships to project soft power overseas. Back home, the future of the class, Albion and Bulwark, remains in doubt as further defence cuts are projected in the autumn of 2018. The assault ships are seen, by some, as a luxury item, but Albion’s deployment to the Pacific has reinforced the ship’s inherent flexibility and powerfulness.
Further doubts over the viability of the future Type 31e frigate program emerged when the UK Government suspended its plans to acquire the low cost general purpose ships.
The five projected ships are expected to follow on after completion of the last of the Type 26 frigates, but the program has been suspended due to insufficient funding available from Government. A Government spokesman, however, claimed that the suspension was due to a lack of compliant bids from interested shipbuilders and industry leading to a lack of effective competition. Many commentators now fear that the in-service date of 2023 for the first of the Type 31e ships, will not be met.
The Project 22350 frigate Admiral Gorshkov was commissioned into service on 28 July during the Naval Day parade. The ship is the first of her class that will number four in total when the program is completed.
Displacing 5,400 tonnes and with a length of 135 metres, a beam of 16 metres and an impressive armament of 16 3M55 Oniks anti ship missiles, a 9K96 Poliment-Redut naval air defence system, submarine rockets and an A-192 130mm naval gun, the Admiral Gorshkov is a significant addition to the Russian’s Northern Fleet.
Sister ship Admiral Kasatonov, is slated to start her sea trials in late 2018. The Russians have already identified ways to improve on this basic design and the Severnoye Design Bureau have started work on an upgraded Project 22350M frigate with the aim of delivering warships of this standard by 2026.
The program will cost Qatar an estimated 4 billion Euros and will see the Italian shipyard build seven surface vessels for the fleet. In addition to four Doha class corvettes, Fincantieri will also build an amphibious landing platform dock (LPD) and a pair of offshore patrol vessels.
The Doha class corvettes have a length overall of 107 metres and each will be capable of operating a single NH90 medium sized, twin engine naval helicopter.