Surface ships form one of the five fighting arms of the Royal Navy.[1]

Commander Surface Flotilla
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
CountryUnited Kingdom
BranchRoyal Navy
TypeMilitary branch
Rear Admiral Mike Utley
HMS Northumberland, RFA Tideforce and HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2019


During much of the medieval period, fleets or "king's ships" were often established or gathered for specific campaigns or actions, and these would disperse afterwards. These were generally merchant ships enlisted into service. Unlike some European states, England did not maintain a small permanent core of warships in peacetime. England's naval organisation was haphazard and the mobilization of fleets when war broke out was slow.[2] In the 11th century, Aethelred II had an especially large fleet built by a national levy.[3] During the period of Danish rule in the 11th century, the authorities maintained a standing fleet by taxation, and this continued for a time under Edward the Confessor, who frequently commanded fleets in person.[4]

Royal Navy surface ships currently consist of two flotillas based at HMNB Portsmouth and HMNB Devonport, both located on the south coast of England. Surface combatants range from aircraft carriers to mine countermeasures vessels to offshore patrol vessels, but most are escorts; destroyers (Type 45) and frigates (Type 23).

Surface combatants deploy to conduct several permanent Standing Royal Navy deployments. Closer to home, the surface fleet also conducts Fishery Protection Patrols around UK waters, by agreement with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

At some point between 2011 and 2018, Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces and Rear Admiral Surface Ships was also given the role of Rear-Admiral Surface Ships, the 'tribal chief' of surface ships within the Navy. Commander United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group and Commander Littoral Strike Group are the two main deployable forces, led by Commodores (1* rank) under COMUKMARFOR.

The surface ships were administered by the Commander United Kingdom Strike Force and Rear Admiral Surface Ships (COMUKSTRKFOR or CSF).[5][6] Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces is a sea-going combatant command appointment.

One of the most recent Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces was Rear Admiral Michael Utley.

In 2020-2021 the surface ships were reduced to the status of a Commodore-led flotilla, the Surface Flotilla, under Commander Operations (Royal Navy).[7]

Current surface shipsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "THE ROYAL NAVY'S SURFACE FLEET" (PDF). MOD UK. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  2. ^ Rodger, Safeguard, pp. 52–53, 117–130.
  3. ^ Swanton, p. 138.
  4. ^ Swanton, pp. 154–165, 160–172.
  5. ^ "Rear Admiral Andrew Burns OBE Commander UK Maritime Forces and Rear Admiral Surface Ships" (PDF). Royal Navy. Ministry of Defence. UK. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  6. ^ "Surface Fleet". Royal Navy. 24 December 2019. Retrieved 24 December 2019. ...was appointed Commander United Kingdom Maritime Forces COMUKSTRKFOR (CSF) and Rear Admiral Surface Ships (RASS)
  7. ^ Mackie, Colin (1 October 2020). "Admirals October 2020" (PDF). Colin Mackie. Retrieved 5 November 2020. Commodore Craig Wood: Commander, Surface Flotilla, April 2020 (appointment date?)


  • Brown, David (1987). The Royal Navy and Falklands War. Barsley, England: Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781473817791.
  • Mackie, Colin (August 2018). "Royal Navy Senior Appointments from 1865". gulabin. C. Mackie.
  • Roberts, John (2009). Safeguarding the Nation: The Story of the Modern Royal Navy. Barnsley, England: Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 9781848320437.
  • The Navy Directory: (2017) KEY PERSONNEL: Seniority Lists of Officers on the Active List. (PDF). MOD, UK.
  • Dr Graham Watson, Royal Navy Organisation And Ship Deployments 1947–2013

External linksEdit