§ Lord HolmPatrick
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What plans they have to improve the capability of the Joint Rapid Deployment Force.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe)
The Government are committed to the Joint Rapid Deployment Force, which will become operational on 1st August. Our amphibious capability will play a key role in that force: the Royal Marines' ability to mount amphibious operations is critically dependent on the Landing Platform Docks, currently HMS "Fearless" and HMS "Intrepid". Both vessels have given long and distinguished service, including in the Falklands campaign, but will soon be approaching the end of their operational lives. I am pleased, therefore, to be able to announce that a contract has today been placed with GEC Marine to design and build two replacement ships at the VSEL shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness. The new LPDs will be called HMS "Albion" and HMS "Bulwark". They displace 13,000 tonnes, have a maximum speed of 18 knots and have a crew of just over 320. They can carry up to 650 troops, a range of vehicles, including tanks, and eight landing craft. They also have a flight deck that can accommodate two EH101 helicopters or one Chinook. They are expected to enter service early in the next decade. This order will be warmly welcomed by the Royal Navy and will also be good news for Barrow and for the many sub-contractors throughout the UK providing weapons systems, marine equipments and other components for the ships. The order, worth more than £450 million to GEC Marine and its sub-contractors, will help to sustain some 2,000 jobs in the UK.