sexta-feira, 30 de maio de 2008

UK Nuclear Submarines Understaffed

  1. Britain's nuclear deterrent submarines are starting to feel the manpower shortage that's affecting the UK's armed forces.

    One in six submarine jobs vacant
    One in six submarine jobs vacant

    Sky News has learned that the boats including those carrying the country's Trident missiles are putting to sea with as little as 85% of their intended crew complement.

    Forty years ago next month the Royal Navy took over the task of carrying the country's ultimate threat.

    At least one 17,000 tonne "Vanguard" class submarine is always somewhere at sea, ready to launch a devastating missile strike.

    Despite a recent pay bonus, making submariners Britain's highest-earning sailors, a manning shortage means that across the undersea fleet more than one job in six is vacant.

    There are not enough volunteers to fill the ranks, so seamen are drafted in from surface vessels to make up the minimum numbers.

    Sonar operators are having to cover two jobs, and time ashore and in training has been curtailed.

    Sky News's defence correspondent Geoff Meade has been aboard HMS Trenchant, a nuclear-powered patrol boat where student captains were briefed that manpower levels were the main concern.

    Some staff have to cover two jobs
    Some staff have to cover two jobs

    It's particular acute among nuclear watch keepers who monitor the performance of the boat's reactor. In the engine room, supervised trainees were being used to cover for qualified technicians.

    The revival of Britain's civil atom power programme is expected to worsen the scarcity as experienced operators are tempted by higher salaries and regular home life of jobs ashore.

    In the week that it emerged that a British submarine had been forced to surface after colliding with a rock outcrop under the Red Sea, the Navy insists the shortages have not reached a level where they compromise operational safety.

    Not enough volunteers to fill jobs
    Not enough volunteers to fill jobs

    The Australian and Norwegian navies have solved their manning crisis by opening up submarine service to women.

    Whilst female recruiting fills the ranks of the Royal Navy's surface fleet, submarines, for now, remain single-sex.

    In only one area there is no shortage of volunteers.

    Twice a year the service's best officers compete in arguably the toughest test anywhere of military leadership.

    Over four months they are subjected to intense pressure, culminating in four weeks at sea when they command a boat in realistic war games.

    The ultimate prize for those who qualify is the captaincy of a submarine.

    Failure means an abrupt end to an undersea career. The 40% on average who do not make the grade are instantly put ashore. They will never again serve aboard submarines.

    No wonder the Navy calls it "The Perished".

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