British Navy ‘sinks behind France’
LONDON, Jan 6 (AFP) - Cuts in British defence spending are about to leave the Royal Navy with fewer surface warships than its historic enemy, France, for the first time in 400 years, the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
Four destroyers will be mothballed within three months as part of a series of cuts imposed by the ministry of finance, the paper said.
This “deeply demoralising blow for the Navy” would reduce the number of its escort ships to 28, compared with France’s 32, and leave it unable “to mount major operations unless it is fighting alongside the Americans or the French,” it said.
“What would Nelson have said?” the Telegraph’s editorialist asked, referring to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died a national hero at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1815 after annihilating the French fleet and confirming Britain’s naval supremacy for the ensuing century.
The four destroyers are Type-42 ships armed with Sea Dart missiles which play “a vital role in escorting and protecting the (aircraft) carriers and amphibious fleet,” the paper said. It noted that Type-45 destroyers are not due to enter service until 2007.
“The maximum number of destroyers and frigates the Navy could keep at sea, at a time when the war on terror is dramatically increasing its workload, is 23,” it said, adding that keeping 26 such warships at sea was “the absolute minimum” necessary to carry out essential peacetime duties.
The editorial asked why, if sea power was obsolete, the United States put so much importance on it and why Japan maintained a larger fleet than Britain merely for coastal defence.
“In a dangerous, uncertain world, sea power remains an indispensable method of projecting force, deterring aggression and protecting sea lanes,” it concluded.
Subject: France news