02-17-2007, 05:10 PM
Joined: Aug 2006
Britain Heading For A Navy The Size Of Belgium's
Quote:The head of the Royal Navy has warned that Britain's fleet is shrinking to the size of Belgium's.
Sir Jonathon Band, the First Sea Lord, said if that happens, he will quit in protest at spending cuts.
The Belgian navy boasts three frigates and fewer than 2,500 personnel - compared with more than 40 major warships in the Royal Navy.
But Britain's top admiral warned that spending cuts are reducing the nation to a third-rate sea power.
He said: 'We are at a scale of operations that requires a certain amount of investment to stay at this level.
'If we drop down a scale, then we may throw the baby out with the bathwater.
'We could turn into the Belgian navy. If we do, I'm gone.'
The Admiral, who is tipped as a future head of the armed forces, warned that the Government must boost Navy spending by £1billion a year or give up trying to remain a first-rank naval power.
He said that more money was needed simply to cover day-to- day costs, such as training and spares.
Sir Jonathon called for a public debate on the kind of defence Britain wants - and is prepared to pay for.
The warnings come amid growing fears over the state of the armed services.
Senior officers have spoken out over the shocking state of military accommodation, while the overstretched forces are having to cut back on training exercises because of severe budget problems.
The number of major warships has shrunk drastically in recent years, with the Navy's fleet of frigates and destroyers cut from 31 to 25. More than a dozen remaining vessels are mothballed in dockyards to save money.
Sir Jonathon, who took over as First Sea Lord before Christmas, warned the senior service may have to restructure on a more modest scale if spending does not rise.
He said: 'When you're in a five-bedroom house and you're told you can only afford a three-bedroom house then that means changing to a different structure.'
Britain remained the U.S. navy's preferred partner on military operations because the Royal Navy still has real capability to offer, the Admiral said. But the leverage that provides in Washington was in danger of being lost.
He said the Navy's £3.1billion annual budget must rise by about a third in addition to the two aircraft carriers which are supposed to enter service five years from now, but have still not been ordered.
'Give me two carriers and just less than £1billion extra a year and I would be off your backs', Sir Jonathon said. His comments will be seen as being aimed at Gordon Brown as the next occupant of Number Ten, who is regarded as having little enthusiasm for military spending.
Tory defence spokesman Julian Lewis said: 'The fact that the First Sea Lord feels it necessary to speak out in this forthright way confirms everything we have said about the destruction of the frontline strength of the fleet. While Tony Blair increases commitments, Gordon Brown again refuses to provide the funds.'
Senior commanders are deeply concerned over plans to place up to half a dozen more warships under 'reduced readiness' - on top of 13 already confined to port to help save £250million from the defence budget this year.
The strain of fighting two simultaneous wars combined with spiralling cost over-runs on ambitious equipment projects have strained budgets.
Sir Jonathon's predecessor, Admiral Sir Alan West, said when he retired last year: 'Over time we won't have the forces available should there suddenly be a strategic shock - and by strategic shock I mean something like the Falklands, which is a classic example.'
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|Britain Heading For A Navy The Size Of Belgium's - Shinobi - 02-17-2007 05:10 PM
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