The Phoenix Think Tank is an open platform for authors to publish ideas, papers and reports on modern - or historical - maritime and naval affairs. Our purpose is to provide a platform and supporting framework for independent authors addressing these areas of key importance. We actively encourage academic contributions on, and seek to maintain rigorous standards of critical debate and thinking on - Britain's maritime context.

Introducing the Phoenix Think Tank

In late 2009, a group of retired Royal Navy and Royal Marines officers sharing a common concern that there was a critical lack of public understanding of Britain’s place in the world and how our national defence policy should relate to it, came together. With a new Government pending, the pressures to inform the public were increased.

Without a clear defence strategy the three armed services would be left to argue their individual cases for equipment and funding. With the disappearance of the Cold War's 'Central Front', and limited advances in strategic planning thereafter, a key mission of the Phoenix Think Tank was to address this worrying lack of rigorous debate and development.

The Phoenix Think Tank has developed fast since its foundation. Today, it enjoys the help of an increasing number of military professionals, most of whom have had considerable joint operational experience, and a growing number of academics.

With the approach of 2010's Strategic Defence and Security Review, of immediate concern were the increasing public claims by individual Services fighting their corners. To combat this harmful and misguiding inter-service quarrelling, the Phoenix Think Tank maintains meticulous standards for its academic and strategic contributions.

We hold, however, that the most pressing challenge in the UK defence debate is the marked lack of public understanding of the roles of the Merchant and Naval Services (The Royal Navy and Royal Marines with their Reserves, The Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Queen Anne’s Royal Naval Nursing Service).

Whether over their roles in both promoting Britain's prosperity, or in the defence of the Realm and its overseas interests, we argue the Merchant and Naval Services remain pivotal. The UK, as ever, remains an island almost totally dependent on the sea for its survival. Despite British 'Sea Blindness', any interruption of overseas supply would have immediate, painful implications for our daily lives and our wider economy.

Today, however, the Phoenix Think Tank boasts a growing list of contributors, either involved day to day or submitting thoughts, comments or insights. We hope that, through your continued interest and support, we can successfully pursue our key mission.


Feel free to get in touch with the Phoenix Think Tank. We will endeavor to respond within 48 hours.

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Press enquiries: please see the Press page.

Note: views expressed by authors on the Phoenix Think Tank website are their own; the organisation assumes no responsibility for authors' works or their affairs. The Phoenix Think Tank is an independent, private organisation that neither has contact with, nor answers to, the Naval Staff.




Capt. Michael Clapp CB RN

Director and Chief Co-ordinator

First saw active service off Korea. He was involved in the start of the Cyprus insurrection and was then pressed as an observer onto the first ‘long course’ gaining experience in ASW and ELINT.

For two years he flew in 849 Naval Air Squadron on Airborne Early Warning (AEW) duties. He completed the RAF Staff Navigator’s Course, qualified on Sea Venoms in All Weather Fighting (AWF) and trialled the Buccaneer Mk1 and then served as the Senior Observer in 801, the first operational Buccaneer Mk1 Squadron. He then commanded 801 NAS, the first operational Buccaneer Mk2 squadron.

He commanded three ships, one of which was during the Indonesian Confrontation when he was mentioned in despatches. He served twice on the Naval Staff and twice in Joint training jobs, the second as the Naval Director of the Joint Maritime Operational Training Staff (JMOTS) and then, in 1982, he commanded the Falkland’s Amphibious Task Group.


Dr. Alexander Clarke

Principal Researcher

The academic portion of his defence studies started in 2005, when he joined the BA History Programme at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham. He had the great honour of writing a Julian Corbett Prize Entry in 2006, and two Dissertations in 2008 all under the guidance of late Dr Michael Partridge.

After St Mary’s he moved to Kingston University to study for his MSc in International Conflict, which he achieved with Merit after submitting a dissertation focusing on Sea Basing as a concept for future international operations.

Currently he is studying for his PhD in the War Studies at King’s College, London. He has also enjoyed developing his writing in directions other than academia and is a regular contributor to the magazine Warships International Fleet Review, writing articles such as ‘In Praise of the General-Purpose Destroyer’ (January 2010, pp.23-4) and ‘What kind of carrier does a UCAV need?’ (July 2010, pp.18-20). His current research fields are naval warfare, sea basing, conflict intervention, defence procurement and the full spectrum of Unmanned Vehicles.


Colum Hawken

Principal Administrator

Colum Hawken, originally from Plymouth, is a War Studies undergraduate at the University of Birmingham.

His chief research interests include amphibious operations, insurgencies, geopolitics and grand strategy. He is currently working on a dissertation concerning Geostrategy and the British retreat from Empire.

He began working with the Phoenix Think Tank in 2016 and has been published in the Defence Management Review.


Jonathan Noy


Educated on the South Coast, he undertook both under- and post-graduate degrees within the Department of War Studies, King's College London, focussing dually on naval history (particularly the 1880s to the conclusion of Cold War) and the Rhodesian Bush War.

Publications include an extended article in Arquebusier Volume XXXII/II, a critique of the Royal Navy's response to the Jeune École, an essay on the origins and evolution of the NID, and an operational simulation of the final years of the Rhodesian Bush War.

Completing his studies at the end of 2014, he now works for the UK importer and distributor of a low-volume car marque.

Maintaining a keen interest in measured debate around the United Kingdom's force structure and foreign policy objectives, he is responsible for the development and upkeep of the Phoenix Think Tank website.

Damen Cook

Research Intern

Damen graduated from the University of Washington in June 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, with a focus in international security.

He began working for the Hudson Institute as a political-military analysis intern one week later. Damen recently moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a career in international security analysis and foreign policy research.

Damen is interested in military history, asymmetric and modern warfare, and international balances of power and threat. He assists the Phoenix Think Tank with the research and analysis of complex naval warfare and maritime security issues.

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