It takes a profound institutional meltdown to make the Pentagon look like a tight-run ship in comparison. Leave it to the British Ministry of Defense to allow just such a catastrophe in the U.K.’s senior service. In the roughly 15 years since the end of the Cold War, the Royal Navy — once one of the leading navies — has lost all of its fighter jets, one of its three small carriers and half its submarines, destroyers and frigates.
The service hit rock bottom with the news this month that there are just five active Type 42 destroyers to perform air-defense for the entire fleet. “Three Type 42 destroyers – Exeter, Nottingham and Southampton – have been ‘parked up’ in Portsmouth at ‘reduced readiness’ up to two years before they were due to be decommissioned,” The Telegraph reports.
Meanwhile new procurement has stalled: current shipbuilding supports a long-term fleet of just six destroyers and six attack submarines (pictured) to escort two large aircraft carriers and a single amphibious assault ship (correction: plus two smaller amphibs) and perform all the other missions that reasonably should be expected of a supposed world power. There is no viable plan for replacing the current, backbone force of 17 frigates.
The U.K. will have less than $30 billion to invest in shipbuilding over the next decade. With a single new Type 45 destroyer costing some $2 billion, available funds won’t stretch far. The current front-line fleet numbers around 80 vessels; within a decade, that might shrink by half. Critics question the wisdom of investing $8 billion in new, large carriers if that means letting the rest of the fleet — and indeed the very escorts the carriers will need — sink away.
(Photo: Daily Mail)