Defence CommitteeWritten evidence from the “Keep Our Future Afloat Campaign”

1. Executive Summary

1.1 This paper by the Keep Our Future Afloat Campaign, a trade union lobby group, offers our views on the following issues identified by the Committee:

the contribution of allies and partner nations in delivering a successful military intervention;

the effectiveness of the operation in Libya and the UK forces’ role with particular regard to the submarine element of maritime forces;

the implications of this operation for the outcomes of the SDSR; and

new capability decisions taken in the SDSR have affected our contribution in Libya.

We focus primarily upon the important roles Royal Navy nuclear powered submarines have played being “on station, first” delivering a range of defence precision attack, intelligence gathering, and sea denial capability and effect in the Libyan campaign. Where relevant we allude to US Navy submarine operations in the same theatre.

1.2 Events in Libya have shown that the Royal Navy continues to be called upon to deliver a multi-faceted role ranging from covert intelligence gathering through to delivery of precision military effect, enforcing an arms embargo, delivering humanitarian aid and mine clearance. These complemented the often higher public profile operations delivered by the RAF and its partner NATO air-forces.

1.3 Publically available evidence points to UK’s Operation Ellamy and USA’s Operation Odyssey Dawn(1) in Libya demonstrating the strategic defence importance of both nations nuclear-powered attack and SSGN submarines in monitoring emerging situations early, and when required to delivering capability and effect designed to rapidly erode the air defence, command and radar abilities of the Libyan regime’s forces.

1.4 The Strategic Defence and Security Review’s (SDSR) commitment to submarines reinforces Peter Luff MP’s views, expressed in a letter to the Chairman of KOFAC dated 11 August 2011 that “the Strategic Defence and Security Review was relatively positive for you”.

1.5 If the events had unrolled some weeks later the Royal Navy may have had less capability available, HMS Cumberland for example was on its way back to UK to be decommissioned when it was tasked to stay on station and enter the new theatre of operations performing valuable humanitarian evacuation roles when air evacuation was not practical.

1.6 KOFAC feels that the operations in Libya reinforce the need for UK to have the fleet, air and other resources ready to respond against further unanticipated scenarios and missions.

1.7 It is understood that stocks of ammunition to support a number of weapon systems became challenged,(2) for example cruise missiles, for future campaigns and to ensure flexibility there will need to be a timely replacement supply of munitions including Tomahawk Cruise Missiles.

1.8 We also note that the American Marine Corps forces welcomed the flexibility offered by their AV 8B Harrier STOVL aircraft in being able to operate from a variety of naval platforms to support ground forces.(3)

1.9 As the Secretary of State for Defence—Liam Fox MP has stated, “... operations in Libya are showing how capable we are post SDSR as a leading military power.”

2. The Keep Our Future Afloat Campaign—An Introduction

2.1 This evidence is offered by the “Keep Our Future Afloat Campaign” (KOFAC).KOFAC was launched in April 2004, it is led by UNITE, GMB and CSEU with support from Furness Enterprise and the local community. Its aims are to:

sustain and grow jobs in naval shipbuilding in northwest England;

secure full utilisation of the unique naval shipbuilding industrial base—the shipyard at Barrow in Furness and a supply chain of 1,200 companies; and

sustain the naval ship/nuclear powered submarine power design capability, which is located in Barrow in Furness—600 designers comprising 60% of UK total capability.

2.2 The Campaign’s strategy is set out within the Strategy and Action Plan 2010–12 available at The Campaign believes that investment in maintaining a strong Royal Navy is crucially important as UK depends on the sea lanes for its trade. KOFAC is widely recognised as being influential.(4),(5),(6),(7),(8)

3. Submarines

3.1 Royal Navy and US Navy nuclear powered submarines had a dominant early involvement in implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 through Joint Task Force “Operation Odyssey Dawn”, also known in the UK as “Operation Ellamy”. Over the past six months they have played a significant, valuable and by their nature stealthy and sometimes secretive, role in maritime Operation Unified Protector off Libya demonstrating the enduring value of nuclear powered submarines that were originally designed and built to counter anti-submarine warfare threats in the cold war age. These boats have highly relevant, highly flexible capabilities (see Annex 1) in today’s joint operations namely first on station—independent and enduring—covert—intelligence gathering, support operations and precision strike. This complemented the delivery of capability and effect by the coalition air forces and surface warships.

3.2 A Royal Navy Trafalgar Class submarine had been off Libya, on stand-by, undetected in the Mediterranean for several days(9) operating independently well before it was announced the Royal Navy had launched cruise missiles. This showed the value of submarines stealthy, persistent presence compared to other ships.

3.3 The Royal Navy used Tomahawk cruise missiles on 19 March 2011(10) to attack targets inside Libya which included neutralising air and missile defence system radars, anti-aircraft sites, key communications’ nodes in the areas around Tripoli and along the country’s Mediterranean coast.(1),(10) These operations were designed both to de-risk subsequent missions flown by NATO aircraft, degrade its capability re resist a no-fly zone and to prevent further attacks on Libya’s citizens and opposition groups by the Libyan regime.

3.4 The media on 23 March 2011 reported that HMS Triumph had fired Tomahawk missiles at Libyan air defence targets during the opening two nights of Operation Ellamy’s coordinated action with some media reports suggesting as many as 12 had been fired from Triumph over the previous four days.(11) Triumph was at sea until 4 April 2011 and returned in June.(12)

3.5 Submarines also showed their strategic roles to “collect intelligence where other intelligence systems would not work.” According to the Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson (Providence Journal, 5 September 2011).

3.6 Subsequently HMS Turbulent patrolled in June off Libya.(13)

3.7 For the first time a modified US Navy Ohio Class guided missile submarine, USS Florida fired cruise missiles in combat.(14),(15)

3.8 It is anticipated that our submarine presence off Libya will have also contributed to sea control, sea denial and monitoring Libyan naval assets and merchant vessels approaching the coast.

3.9 Evidence is now emerging in the public domain of the effectiveness of submarines. Vice Admiral John Richardson, US Navy is reported as saying operations off Libya “highlight the value of a multi-mission platform like an attack submarine or a guided missile submarine”,(15) adding “there were other things submarines did, beyond first strike to exercise the multi-mission capability”.(15) Submarines are becoming the preferred way of controlling sea-lanes and attacking targets onshore.(14) which is why KOFAC believes that they are an essential part of UK’s post SDSR defence posture.

3.10 The Committee may wish to consider asked MoD about the effectiveness of submarine operations and whether there may be a case post Operation Ellamy and post SDSR for increasing UK’s stock of Tomahawk cruise missiles rather than having to rely on the US fleet to provide emergency replacement stocks of the weapon.

4. Surface Warship Operations

4.1 In addition to using Trafalgar Class submarines, the Royal Navy’s destroyer, HMS Cumberland, which was due to be decommissioned under the SDSR, was initially diverted to undertake humanitarian evacuation from Libya on 24, 27 February and 4 March 2011 and later given an extended life so it could operate off the coast of Libya along with HMS Westminster to enforce an arms embargo and used surveillance to verify shipping activity(16) as part of a fleet of NATO ships.

4.2 HMS Liverpool (destroyer) then in late July HMS Iron Duke and HMS Sutherland and HMS Ocean engaged in Sea King Helicopter led area control and surveillance operations, interception of small high speed craft boarding undertaking mine laying, returning fire, from regime shore batteries, acting as a floating base for first maritime operational use of Apache strike helicopters to attack shore facilities, intercept and destroy small boats, and take out armoured vehicles. Protecting humanitarian shipping movements into Tripoli and at sea rescue of damaged shipping. They also helped prevent Libyan warships shelling shore positions and prevented arms being delivered.

4.3 HMS Brocklesby and HMS Bangor, Sandown Class, Mine Counter Measures’ vessels helped ensure maritime security and clear mines from the port of Misrata which threatened delivery of humanitarian aid into Libya. RFA Orange Leaf provided logistics support.

4.4 It is also worth noting that the American US Marine Corps used AV-8B Harrier(17) aircraft flying off assault ships to attack ground forces and air defences in Libya, because they did not have “in theatre” an aircraft carrier. Britain was unable to use its own Harrier aircraft because they had been withdrawn from operational service earlier, following October 2010’s Strategic Defence and Security Review.

4.5 The American armed forces have concluded that use of the AV-8B “shows why the Marine Corps needs the F35-B STOVL joint strike fighter because it can offer an immediate ability to start impacting on a wide range of things... the need for a STOVL jet sells itself”.(17)

5. Conclusions

5.1 Operations in Libya have shown the “Strategic Utility of the Royal Navy(18) and that the “Adaptable Britain” security posture is “able to operate and be maintained at range”.(18) Submarines have played a unique and vital role in our NATO operations. They are “the most sophisticated and flexible weapons that we have to exercise sea control.” The Libyan theatre highlighted our submarines:

Stealth, mobility, firepower and advanced sensors which make them the weapon of choice across the full spectrum of military operations;

Operability in open ocean and littoral seas delivery force protection for other maritime assets;

Intelligence gathering so critical to irregular war effort using advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability; and

Land attack through precision strike capacity using Tomahawk cruise missiles.

5.2 It therefore follows that there is “an enduring need for Britain to retain the capability to design, build, operate, maintain and dispose of nuclear powered submarines.

5.3 The surface fleet has also demonstrated “the value of persistent presence in regions of interest”.(18)

5.4 It is, as the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology said on 7 June 2011, that “the Royal Navy’s submarines, destroyers, mine-hunters and support ships have been invaluable in protecting civilians from Gaddafi’s war machine.”(19)

Annex A


The most basic and important attribute of a submarine is based on its ability to submerge beneath the surface of the sea and become virtually invisible from threat sensors. This covert nature offers a number of advantages:

It allows the submarine to conduct operations without any indication that a UK force is present.

It provides the element of surprise—an aspect of warfare in which any military force can attempt to capitalise on. This in turn creates uncertainty in the mind of the adversary.

Freedom of movement to operate in waters that may be denied to other forces.

Finally, it provides survivability—the submarine cannot be readily attacked because it cannot be readily detected.

The SSN has the ability to deploy at high speed independently and operate in forward positions for prolonged periods without logistic support. The limits of endurance are only food and weapon expenditure. A UK SSN has a standard endurance of in excess of 70 days.


8 September 2011



(2) Navy running short of Tomahawk missiles, T Harding Defence correspondent, Daily Telegraph, 23 March 2011.

(3) Harrier ops making case for F35B, Tom Kington, Defense News, 28 March 2011.

(4) September 2004 Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP described KOFAC as “one of the most effective defence lobbies he had come across.”

(5) The Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Minister for Industry and the Regions 13 December 2005 indicated “This (KOFAC) type of approach by management, trade unions and the local authority is very powerful.”

(6) 27 September 2006 Lord Drayson, the Ministry of Defence Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Defence Procurement, said “you do realise you are effective”, adding “no-one else is doing this type of thing”.

(7) “KOFAC has made valuable contributions to the Defence and Maritime Strategies in the past, it would be useful to hear their thoughts as we move forward ... my predecessors Lord Drayson and Baroness Taylor always found their input both useful and information.”—Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, 24 June 2009.

(8) KOFAC has made an extremely powerful effective case for a smooth transition between the ASTUTE and Successor programme. Peter Luff MP, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology 20 September 2010.

(9) Source:

(10) Royal Navy fires cruise missiles at key Libyan targets, MoD 20 March 2011.

(11) Royal Navy submarine home from Libyan operations, MoD 4 April 2011.

(12) Triumph home from striking another blow, MoD Press Release 20 June 2011.

(13) Turbulent knuckles down to her extended tour of duty—MoD Press Release, 20 June 2011.

(14) Navy running short of Tomahawk missiles, T Harding Defence correspondent, Daily Telegraph, 23 March 2011.

(15) US Sub Force Sharpens it sense of self—page 6, Defense News—Christopher Cavas 29 August 2011.


(17) Harrier ops making case for F35B 28 March 2011.

(18) 7 June 2011 speech by First Sea Lord at RUSI Future Maritime Operations Conference.

(19) 7 June 2011 speech by Peter Luff MP at RUSI Future Maritime Operations Conference.

Prepared 7th February 2012