HMS Prince of Wales sails into Portsmouth after first overseas port visit in Gibraltar and training at sea 150721 CREDIT BFBS
Sea vessels

Fact Check: What Is The Status Of Royal Navy's Surface Fleet?

The Surface Fleet provides the maritime backbone of the Royal Navy – but how many of the ships are currently ready and available?

HMS Prince of Wales sails into Portsmouth after first overseas port visit in Gibraltar and training at sea 150721 CREDIT BFBS

The Royal Navy Surface Fleet provides a fighting force for a full range of potential military operations – from maritime security to disaster relief – and is crucial in ensuring Britain's maritime defence.

A defence minister revealed last month that only HMS Defender is currently operationally available – one out of the fleet's six Type 45 destroyers – with the rest either undergoing maintenance or being fixed.

With many of the destroyers not currently ready for active missions, Forces News takes a look at which ships in the Surface Fleet are.  

HMS Queen Elizabeth is on her maiden deployment with the Carrier Strike Group (Picture: MOD).

Aircraft Carriers

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the joint largest and most powerful ship ever built for the Royal Navy with her fellow carrier HMS Prince of Wales.

She is on her first operational deployment, with Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21).

They've just arrived in Guam after passing through the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

HMS Prince of Wales returned to Portsmouth Naval Base after visiting Gibraltar in her first port visit outside the UK, last month.

The 65,000-tonne vessel has been undergoing different simulations to prepare for active deployment and will move on to Carrier Sea Training later this year.

Watch: HMS Queen Elizabeth and Carrier Strike Group pass through the Singapore Strait.

Assault Ships

Along with her sister ship HMS Albion, HMS Bulwark's primary role is to transport large numbers of troops, vehicles and equipment and land them ashore using her on-board landing craft.

HMS Albion is currently undergoing a maintenance period after work across the Baltic Sea region on the Littoral Response Group (North) deployment.


The Royal Navy has 15 frigates at its disposal in its Surface Fleet.

Britain's longest-serving frigate HMS Argyll is available for operations until she enters a period of maintenance next year.

HMS Kent, one of the newest of the Type 23 frigates, and HMS Richmond are currently on deployment with CSG 21.

HMS Montrose, another of the Royal Navy's 13 Type 23 frigates, is in the Middle East supporting Operation Kipion.

Meanwhile, the ships HMS St Albans and HMS Sutherland are closer to home, alongside in Portsmouth and Plymouth.  

HMS Montrose is currently on operation in the Middle East (Picture: Royal Navy).


The Surface Fleet also boasts 13 minehunter ships within its ranks which see deployment all over the world.

HMS Pembroke is one of those ships currently posted globally with the NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group, focused on Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea.

HMS Shoreham and HMS Brocklesby are in the Middle East supporting the Kipion Mine Counter Measures, with HMS Middleton leaving to take over from them last month.

Many others are either operating in UK waters or undergoing maintenance in Portsmouth or Faslane.

Patrol Ships

Twenty-six patrol ships are also part of the Royal Navy Surface Fleet, serving many different purposes for the service branch.

Many are involved in training exercises for both personnel and university students looking to start their own naval careers.

Two are currently patrolling the Atlantic, with HMS Forth tasked with patrolling the south, while HMS Medway is doing the same in the north.

Survey Ships

The fleet has five survey ships at its disposal deployed around the world surveying various locations and operating in some global partnerships.