In February 2018, The Royal Navy was criticised by the local press after a patrol ship rather than a frigate was deployed to escort a group of Russian ships passing through the English Channel. Several experts believe that such a decision casts doubt on the ability of the British Navy to respond to potential threats, particularly due to funding cuts, wrote The Telegraph.
A Scottish politician Luke Skipper noted that patrol vessels were found unsuitable for such missions a few years ago.
Another British newspaper, The Sunday Times, found out that due to dubious deals for purchasing weapons, Great Britain may not be ready to defend its territory in the event of an armed conflict. In particular, information surfaced that Type 45 destroyers were making too much noise, the Type 26 frigate project was overstated, and the new Ajax-class combat vehicles did not fit into the main British Air Force transport aircraft without partial disassembly.
Britain needs a larger navy
According to a report on 14 December 2021 by the House of Commons Defense Committee titled “We’re going to need a bigger Navy,” the Royal navy has a too small number of surface ships and submarines.” But the parliamentarians’ claims relate not only to the number of ships. It is noted that the old ships are gradually being withdrawn from the fleet, but there are no plans to replace them. The existing ships are serviced untimely and poorly, and their offensive capabilities are severely limited. The ships are armed with anti-ship missiles “Harpoon”, but soon they will become completely obsolete and will be disposed of.
The Royal Navy cannot independently conduct military operations at sea and is highly dependent on the allies. “The British government is obliged to provide funding to finally stop this enchanting spectacle – powerful warships used to transport exclusively air,” summed up the authors of the report. “Among other things, the Department of Defense should examine the threats and opportunities posed by hypersonic missiles.”
As a solution, the report wants Royal Navy to double the escort fleet ‘by acquiring more low-end capability to carry out low-end tasks’ and to increase the size of the Submarine attack fleet.
“The next ten years will prove a test for our naval fleet. The UK is faced with an increasingly hostile and unpredictable international environment but the Government is still reducing funding, retiring capability and asking the Navy to rely on increasingly elderly vessels for the next five years until new ships come in.
“The timely delivery of these new ships is crucial to plug the hole in our naval capabilities. However, the Ministry of Defence has a poor track record projects like this. We need a firm hand on the tiller to navigate us through the next decade,” writes Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood MP.
As per the report, in 2027-28, the Royal Navy plans to induct three new vessel classes, including Type 26 frigate, Type 31 frigate and Fleet Solid Support ships, simultaneously. But the report worries that the projects may not materialise as per schedule due to budgetary restrictions placed on the Navy, structural and project-specific risks, and the Ministry of Defence’s track record on delivery ‘is far from good’.