NEW drone-carrying ships will be built for the Royal Marines, the Defence Secretary has confirmed.

Grant Shapps said up to six multi-role support ships – designed to deliver commandos onto coastlines for special operations – will be constructed.

He said three would “definitely” be built and expressed hopes for another three.

Shapps said: “What we’re trying to do is create a multi-role ship which they can use in all different circumstances.

“Actually, interestingly, we’re learning from what’s happened in the Black Sea in Ukraine and learning what’s happening in the Red Sea currently to make much more flexible ships capable of carrying out a lot of different types of tasks.”

The Defence Secretary claimed the UK was experiencing a “golden age” of shipbuilding, with up to 28 Royal Navy vessels either being constructed or planned.

The National: HMS Diamond in the Red SeaHMS Diamond pictured in the Red Sea

And he said the construction of the new vessels would be informed by lessons learned from the Ukraine war and the Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.

Russia’s Black Sea fleet has proved vulnerable to attacks from Ukrainian missiles and drones.

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In the Red Sea, Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen have used weapons to target merchant vessels and international warships protecting the vital trade routes.

The new vessels are designed to carry a “broad range” of unmanned drones along with vehicles, aircraft and insertion craft.

They will also be able to act as primary casualty receiving ships, providing urgent medical care.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Ben Key, said: “I am delighted that the Secretary of State has cemented the future of our Royal Marines by committing to this new class of up to six amphibious vessels.

“These will be the most capable amphibious warships the nation has ever owned, designed to be fully interchangeable with our closest allies in Europe, and in Nato.”

Meanwhile, Type 23 frigates HMS Argyll and HMS Westminster (below) will be retired.

The National:

The First Sea Lord added: “While always sad to pay off such fine warships, their decommissioning marks the next stage of our reinvestment in new, more modern frigates.”

It come after Rishi Sunak set out a plan to increase defence spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product by 2030, which the Government says amounts to an extra £75 billion, though that figure has been disputed by economists and political opponents.

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The Defence Secretary used a speech at Lancaster House on Tuesday to urge Nato allies to meet the target, saying it would “put us in an immeasurably better position”.

Asked how the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would find the personnel to man the new warships and whether he would like to see more manpower, Shapps (below) said: “Sure I’d like more of this, that and the other, including personnel, but actually what I really want to do is take this extra £75bn and make sure we spend it in a way that provides the ultimate and best protection for us as a country and for us to do good in the world.”

The National: Grant Shapps

He added that armed forces applications have gone “through the roof” recently and that he believes the UK has “finally got onto the right track” as far as training new recruits is concerned.

Asked whether he would be happy for British weapons to be used on Russian soil, Shapps said: “As you know, we have provided permission for weapons to be used in the territory of Ukraine, including Crimea… I won’t go beyond that in talking about tactics, but I will tell you that we will always only allow our weaponry to be used in full compliance with international humanitarian law, in Ukraine and elsewhere.”