The Hollow Fleet


Categorie: Air, Alliances, Naval, Reality Check |


The U.S. Navy is struggling to balance surging worldwide operations with a pressing need for more ships, more fighter jets and a wider range of shallow-water, dirty-war, sometimes-less-than-lethal force requirements — all in a bleak fiscal environment. There are encouraging signs that the American sea service is going to emerge from these tribulations healthy and ready for future challenges. But we’re not in the clear yet, and it’s worth considering the consequences if the U.S. fleet does slip into institutional and material free-fall. For a preview of the worst case, we need only glance at our cousins across the Atlantic.

As has been mentioned many times on this blog, the Royal Navy is a wreck. A decade of neglect has resulted in a fleet with too few ships — and ships that sail without key weapon systems and virtually no air cover. The latest bad news: the Royal Navy’s flagship, the small aircraft carrier Illustrious, sailed to the Middle East last month with just four Harrier ground-attack jets aboard, instead of the dozen or more she was designed to carry. Four jets!

“Because the U.K.’s Harrier force is so heavily committed at the moment to Afghanistan, we were unable to embark a full squadron,” Captain Steve Chick, the skipper, told Jane’s. But never fear, Chick advised: “With the numbers that we had, however, the Royal Navy was able to prove the ‘firing chain’” to visiting Omani officers. That’s “everything from logistics support from the U.K., to our accompanying auxiliaries, right through to actually launching the jets, providing the targeting information and delivering the munitions.”

That’s supposed to be comforting? Sure, we couldn’t fight a war or even defend ourselves properly, but we can show off to our guests!

Britons should be outraged. And afraid.

(Photo: via Flickr)


13 Responses to “The Hollow Fleet”

  1. Total says:

    Ohmigod, and if we get down to the level of Madagascar, things will really _suck_!

    I.E., total U.S. fleet tonnage is about 3 million. Rest of the world, about 3 million. Stop hyperventilating.

  2. ant says:

    The issue in this post is not perhaps the USN, but the RN. The RN is downsizing radically, but by stealth, and to be honest, we are having to cut our cloth to match our purse. The UK has been fighting two wars hard for six years, on a peacetime budget. We simply cannot afford to do that and maintain a world class interventionist navy.
    We ought to have had an open and honest debate, but we didn’t (democracy is pretty borked here too) so instead we maintain bluster and bull and run the shell of a fleet into the ground.
    We are meant to be getting new carriers, but unless we have concommitent investment in logistical support, escorts, defensive systems and airgroups there’s very little point and they will be expensive white elephants.

  3. ant says:

    Oh year, and the worse hole right now is in exercises and training- which is the single most important thing for an armed force to invest in. This hollow fleet cannot fight.

  4. Jonathan says:

    As a senior RN officer remarked on a Radio 4 documentary sometime last year, the RN is no longer fit for purpose. Our submarines are routinely breaking down, there aren’t spare parts for most of the electronics in the fleet, it’s a total joke.

  5. James says:

    Nelson has rolled over and presented his arse.

  6. [...] Excellent choices, all. To these I would add: * The accelerating decline of the Royal Navy. [...]

  7. [...] The Royal Navy is already too small. Consider that, in order to send a ship to patrol for Somali pirates as part of the E.U. naval force, London had to pull a frigate from the regular South Atlantic station. There is no “flex” in the fleet as it stands. With further cuts, core missions will inevitably drop away. [...]

  8. [...] Related: Royal Navy Still Sinking: Eight More Warships to Go The Hollow Fleet Royal Navy: Sunk! Sea Harrier Myth Shot Down No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]

  9. callum hulme says:

    basically, the royal navy is way too small. There aren’t enough ships to fulfill our obligations. I blame a dying labour government and their ignorance for such a problem, and hopefully the conservatives will see what has gone wrong and actually try to fund a massive naval re-armament, or risk the UK being open to invasion from the sea.

  10. Jowann says:

    Why on earth does this country need to maintain a navy at all ? The days of it are fast waning as the cutbacks bring about its demise thank God. let us hope the RAF and army are heavily cut back as wella nd the savings spent of more beneficial things like education and health. Cut backs are a cause for rejoicing !

  11. [...] the Air Force, since over the past decade, modernization has wained in the fleet to bring it to its lowest point in centuries. Part of this is because of the ongoing Middle East Wars where the British Army has [...]

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