Sunday, October 7, 2007
Since the article says this will happen tomorrow, guess we will all find out.
The RAF and the Royal Navy face substantial cuts in frontline strength in the Comprehensive Spending Review announcement to be made in parliament tomorrow.
The £4bn cost of the Navy's two new aircraft carriers and the start of the Trident nuclear submarine replacement programme will more than cancel out the 1.5% above-inflation rise in defence spending allocated to the forces in July.
Whitehall sources say that while the Army will be given priority in fiscal matters because of the urgent needs of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the other two services will have to scrap ships and aircraft to stay within budget.
This will mean probable disbandment of two Tornado GR4 strike squadrons, including one of the three based at Lossiemouth in Scotland, and decommissioning of at least five major surface warships from next April.
The RAF cuts would mean reducing the number of fighter-bomber squadrons from eight to six at a time when battlefield support is at a premium, and British troops in Afghanistan have to rely on US and other Nato pilots for lifesaving aerial cover.
The Navy stands to lose four Type 22 frigates and a destroyer as the trade-off for the deal on the 65,000-tonne carriers, with other ships and operational capability under longer-term threat.
The move would cut the frontline surface fleet to a point where naval insiders say it would leave the RN "capable of only one small-scale operation" unless supported by more powerful allies such as the US.
We have all seen this show before. There will be an announcement saying the government needs to cut 5 ships. At that point the game will be played, and ultimately Parliament will step in and cut only the Type 22s, saving the 1 destroyer and claiming themselves as champions of defense.
This was the same game that has been played with the Royal Navy only a few years ago with the Type 23s now in operation in Chile. I wonder who is still doubting that Times story too many were crying political foul over last week. I guess we will all see tomorrow.
This effects the current fleet, so I consider it part of the noise, but not the main problem. As for me, I follow build rates, because it is outside the subjective nature of politics. Royal Navy surface combatants are built with service lives of only 25 years. Between 1998-2014, the Royal Navy will have built 3 Type 23s and 6 Type 45s, or 9 ships in 17 years. If the Royal Navy builds 1 ship every year for the decade between 2015-2024, which right now is asking a lot, the Royal Navy will only have 19 surface combatants plus that little corvette in the Falklands by 2025.
No matter how the ships ultimately get cut from the fleet, the Royal Navy is on pace to be fewer than 20 destroyers and frigates by 2025. The Times said 17, considering that means there will be 8 ships built in the 10 years between 2015-2024, I'd say that is optimistic until we see otherwise.