Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

First Sea Lord Integrated Review Speech

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin CB ADC
13 October 2020
Good morning, and welcome to HMS Prince of Wales. One of the two most modern and most efficient aircraft carriers in the world. And more importantly, the floating embodiment of the Prime Minister’s vision, set out eight months ago in Greenwich, when he launched the Integrated Review.

A vision of a global United Kingdom: open and outward-looking.

Going out into the world again in the spirit of our amazing seafaring history. A spirit that made us the world’s greatest maritime trading nation. And now the spirit of a new maritime age. The maritime sector already brings in 46 billion pounds to our economy and supports over a million UK jobs. And it is growing. Our nation’s prosperity, influence and success still come from the sea. But as this grows, so do the threats.

The Chief of Defence Intelligence has told you about the dangers of a resurgent Russia and an increasingly assertive China, and the threats from new technologies, space and cyber. The Chief of the Defence Staff and the other Chiefs have already talked about constant competition and our need to project our forces forward around the world. Let me put these threats into a maritime context. And in doing so, I want you to picture not a map, but a globe. Because I think we sometimes forget just how small the world really is and what a huge geographic advantage our nation has.

Climate change is a concern for all of us, but it is opening up new maritime trade routes across the top of the world, halving the transit time between Europe and Asia. And we sit at the gateway to those routes. But when China sails its growing Navy into the Atlantic, which way will it come – the long route, or the short? And these routes skirt the coast of that resurgent Russia. A Russia that is now more active in the Atlantic – our back yard – than it has been for over 30 years.

These routes are bigger than just the UK, bigger than Europe. They are part of an 8 trillion pound global maritime trade network, the veins and arteries along which the lifeblood of the world’s economy flows. Over the last 25 years, over a billion people have lifted themselves out of poverty. Over 2.5 billion have gained access to clean water. Infant mortality rates have dropped by nearly 60%. And the beating heart of this progress is the prosperity that comes from being able to trade freely with the world. And this trade network thrives largely because of one man.

A Dutchman galled Grotius. 400 years ago, he wrote a small book called Mare Liberum, the Free Sea. From that small book came this enormous concept of the High Seas, a global commons where nations, their navies, and above all their merchant ships can move freely. This is still the basis of international law today. And that is why these laws and these rules really matter… because upon them depends the prosperity of the whole world. But there are those that would threaten this concept. And this is why the Royal Navy is constantly on watch around the world. For everyone. Upholding those freedoms, protecting trade, enforcing those rules. This is the embodiment of the Integrated Operating Concept launched last week by the Chief of Defence Staff. Continuously operating. Continuously competing. And where necessary, continuously contesting. But let me turn to an area we talk about far less.

Although space and cyber are making the whole world transparent, there is still one place left to hide. Under the sea. And it is increasingly important. We all know that data powers the world, from commercial transactions to private emails, from stock exchange trades to computer games, from medical research to television programmes. 97% of that data travels on undersea cables. And our adversaries are already threatening these. And this is why the government is committed to developing new capabilities to protect those cables, standing up to this threat on behalf of everyone.

This undersea world matters. Because this one remaining stealth medium is also the home to our nuclear deterrent. The UK holds that great responsibility as a nuclear state, standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world’s leading powers. And it is the Royal Navy that delivers the deterrent, to which this government remains committed: today, tomorrow and for the future. Not just on behalf of the nation but on behalf of NATO and our allies. Hidden. Undetected. Always ready. This is the world in which we operate. And this ship tells its own story of what your Royal Navy is achieving.

There were those that said we couldn’t build these carriers. That we couldn’t crew two of them, couldn’t operate two of them, couldn’t fly aircraft from them. They were wrong.

Next year, HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail from this dockyard, at the heart of a multinational Carrier Strike Task Group, with over 40 aircraft. The floating embodiment of Global Britain, of the prosperity and influence and success of the maritime. And all this isn’t at the expense of the rest of the Navy – far from it.

Our ships remain forward deployed, from the Caribbean to the Indo-Pacific. Gibraltar to the Falklands. And our new Offshore Patrol Vessels and Type 31 frigates offer us the chance to increase that presence, more persistently, in more areas of the world. And our Royal Marine Commandos, always providing nearly half of UK special forces, always poised to deliver, from lethal strike to humanitarian aid, wherever we need them. And let me talk for a moment about those Royal Marines, and the Future Commando Force. 80 years ago, we invented the Royal Marine Commandos, to give ourselves a fighting edge when we needed it most.

Today, we are reinventing them, returning them to their Commando roots, equipping them with tomorrow’s technology, ready for tomorrow’s fights. And hundreds of these Future Commandos will be permanently deployed, in both the Euro-Atlantic and East of Suez, ready to react at a moment’s notice. And this is all part of our continuous transformation – not just a change in technology but a change in mindsets. Ruthlessly driving down bureaucracy; shrinking our headquarters by 40%; fewer Admirals; more people on the front line; and greater diversity.

A navy where every sailor will join as an apprentice. And a navy confident enough to swap ships for drones. Something we are already doing on the Clyde right now, with our minehunters, trialling new systems we can deploy around the world. The first step in our plan to move to a fully autonomous minehunting capability. And every ship, submarine and Royal Marine will be a sensor.

An intelligence station. An embassy. And a launchpad. And all of them playing their part in increasing maritime special operations. This, then, is your Royal Navy. One of the world’s most powerful navies. One of only three navies that can operate two aircraft carriers. The reference Navy for most nations. Global, Modern and Ready. From the seabed to space, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, a Global Navy for a Global Britain.

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.