The Next Chapter of the Special Relationship in the Maritime Domain

By RADM Kevin Donegan
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy (N3/N5)

Last month, the CNO and the First Sea Lord signed Combined Seapower: A Shared Vision for Royal Navy-United States Navy Cooperation, a narrative that articulates how our two navies will work together over the next 15 years.  Given the growing importance of the maritime domain, the Royal Navy and the United States Navy are actively pursuing opportunities to further enhance cooperation between our two navies.  By identifying shared interests and emphasizing key collaborative opportunities, Combined Seapower charts a strategic course for taking our Navies’ long-standing relationship to the next level.

Seapower is integral to the prosperity and security of the US and UK due to our extensive worldwide interests, globalized economies, and international responsibilities.  Both the US and UK depend on unhindered access to the sea and the unimpeded flow of trade for our economic prosperity.  In today’s global economy, over 90% of all trade arrives by the sea[1]making the world’s oceans the life blood of the global economy.  The economic importance of global sea trade will continue to grow in the future, as seaborne trade by volume is expected to double between 2010 and 2030.[2]   Our naval forces ensure that these sea-lanes remain open by exercising freedom of navigation and enforcing the rule of law.

 ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 5, 2014) The British Royal Navy frigate HMS Kent (F78) is underway with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 5, 2014) The British Royal Navy frigate HMS Kent (F78) is underway with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70).

The U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy share a common naval heritage and a history of cooperation dating from the 19th century to the present day. During the past year, we have sailed together often, most recently with a combined RN-USN destroyer squadron staff in support of USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group. We have also trained together aboard USN carriers and at USN aviation facilities as the RN rebuilds its carrier aviation capability in preparation for operating its new carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth. We are currently flying together over the skies of Iraq with Royal Navy pilots operating alongside USN pilots on the USS George H.W. Bush and the USS Carl Vinson in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.  Simply put, we are operating forward together and we maintain forces ready to execute the full spectrum of operations at sea where it matters, when it matters.

The cooperation between our two Navies is one of the hallmarks of the special relationship between our two countries.  To further expand and enhance this cooperation, we have articulated an actionable vision for the USN-RN partnership over the next 15 years.  It is characterized by the following five features:

  1. STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Nov. 3, 2014) A British Royal Navy sailor climbs aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) during the International Mine Countermeasure Exercise.

    STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Nov. 3, 2014) A British Royal Navy sailor climbs aboard  USS Sterett (DDG 104) during the International Mine Countermeasure Exercise.

    Interoperability and Mutual Technology Investment – We will retain our strategic advantage through continued support of modern capabilities, such as Carrier Enabled Power Projection and the next generation SSBN Common Missile Compartment.  The joint development of these capabilities will ensure interoperability between our Navies.

  2. Combined Aircraft Carrier Operations – The return of the UK aircraft carrier capability creates opportunities for combined UK-US aircraft carrier operations.  Interoperability between our carriers will provide flexibility in mission execution.
  3. Force and Capability Planning – The RN and USN will maintain a balanced mix of capabilities.  We will pursue compatible weapon systems and sensors to improve interoperability.  In addition, we will develop the necessary capabilities and operational concepts to operate together in anti-access/area denial environments.
  4. Personnel Exchanges– We will maximize exchanges to enhance our ability to execute combined operations in times of crisis.  Frequent and regular interactions between our personnel facilitate and strengthen the foundation of the USN-RN relationship.
  5. Collaborative Force Management – Mutual operational and tactical proficiency will allow us to take a more collaborative approach to force management.  Where possible, we will seek to coordinate global operations and engagement.  For example, by sharing information on security cooperation activities and partner capacity efforts, we can reduce duplication of effort and engage more partner navies.

The features described above are not aspirational, but instead form the basis of a cooperative plan already in execution.  In 2013, the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy agreed to eight lines of effort based on these features.  From ensuring interoperability and refining logistics support, to exploring collaborative force management and ensuring combined warfighting capability, our Navies are working together to defend and promote our shared national interests today and into the future.

[1]International Chamber of Shipping. Sustainable Development: IMO World Maritime Day 2013. N.d. 21 July 2014. <http.://www.ics-shipping.org/docs/default-source/resources/policy-tools/sustainable-development-imo-world-maritime-day-2013.pdf> Pg. 3.

[2]Lloyd’s Register.Global Maritime Trends 2030.  2013.

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The Next Chapter of the Special Relationship in the Maritime Domain