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Royal Marines to Get New Support Ships Amid Scramble to Fix UK Navy’s Woes

Britain’s Royal Navy warship HMS Westminster sits docked in Gibraltar, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013

News that the Royal Marines will be getting new specialist vessels comes as two of the UK’s aircraft carriers – the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – have been plagued by technical malfunctions, with humiliating breakdowns affecting Britain’s ability to participate in large-scale joint NATO drills.Amid a scramble to fix the technical and operational woes plaguing the UK’s Navy, the Royal Marines are to receive a set of new support vessels.The Multi Role Support Ships (MRSS) will be specialist warships geared to “quickly transport the Royal Marines Commando Force from sea to shore,” UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps told The Telegraph.Development of the six vessels has just begun, with Shapps underscoring that the investment is crucial to ensure that the Royal Navy is not “not left behind” by adversaries “like China and Russia.” The new-generation ships will:feature docks for landing craft;have a hangar to accommodate a Chinook helicopter as well as a launch pad for helicopters;will enable hosting and launching of attack drones from a dock that can be lowered into the water;may be fitted with laser weapons such as DragonFire.

In April, the UK announced plans to deploy the new DragonFire laser platform by the year 2027. Britain’s MoD released footage of a test of the DragonFire directed energy weapon in March, showing the system firing a powerful beam of light into the night sky. It also released a computer graphic showing the laser being carried by a British warship and targeting a small boat.

The MRSS ships touted by Shapps as “critical investments in shipbuilding to build the future Royal Navy needed to deter our adversaries, and then win if they are not deterred,” will be the first large-scale investment after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced £75 billion (around $94 billion) in new funding for the Ministry of Defense.The announcement that Grant Shapps is officially making at the First Sea Lord’s Sea Power Conference at Lancaster House on Tuesday comes amid a host of embarrassing setbacks for the Royal Navy. Military‘Big Lizzie’ on Fire: Flagship UK Aircraft Carrier Hit by Blaze in Latest Malfunction10 March, 14:22 GMTIn a reflection of the UK’s host of internal political and economic problems, its flagship aircraft carriers the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales have faced a number of technical malfunctions and operational restrictions.The HMS Queen Elizabeth, which was officially commissioned into the Royal Navy on December 7, 2017, may boast sophisticated weaponry and communications systems, but critics have pilloried it as an expensive project unable to tackle drone and hypersonic missile strikes. A minor fire broke out onboard the 65,000-ton aircraft carrier in March as it was docked at Glenmallan in Scotland awaiting repairs. Earlier in the same month, the flagship worth £3.5 billion ($4.5 billion) was forced to withdraw from a major NATO drill after a coupling on the vessel’s 33-ton starboard propeller malfunctioned. Although Big Lizzie was replaced by the HMS Prince of Wales, its departure was also canceled due to the same malfunction.At the time, geopolitical analyst and former US Marine Brian Berletic told Sputnik that it is “just the latest incident in a long line of maintenance problems plaguing” both the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and its sister ship, singling out their major propulsion issues.Earlier in the year, The National Interest referred to problems with UK aircraft carriers the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales as a “nightmare” that “won’t end.” Furthermore, The Telegraph reported that the Royal Navy’s auxiliary fleet, which is supposed to provide supplies at sea, is in an “even worse mess”. It pointed to issues such as lack of personnel, many vessels not operating, with some being in a state of “extended readiness,” and others believed never to be deployed. AnalysisHMS Queen Elizabeth’s Technical Woes Highlight ‘Systemic Problems’ in West’s Largest Weapon Programs5 February, 19:07 GMT

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