According to the UK Independence Party website UKIP will try to achieve the following if they gain power at the 2010 general election:
The Royal Navy is now under strength, despite manning standards being reduced on board ships. There are particular shortages in medical staff, weapons systems operators, leading hands (21% short), nuclear watch keepers, and Royal Marines.
Aircraft Carriers -The key to the effectiveness of the Navy – and indeed to the capability of the UK to operate overseas at any kind of intensity – is the possession of fairly large aircraft carriers capable of operating multi-role aircraft and helicopters. After two years’ delay the Government has announced that two carriers will be built, but they have not yet been ordered. The first was due to have been in service in 2012, and will now be years late. Meanwhile we have only the 2 light carriers that fought in the Falklands 25 years ago. The UK Independence Party would order a third aircraft carrier (with no extra JSF aircraft), to allow deployment of two carriers in emergencies (as happened during the Falklands), whilst the third is in refit.
Destroyers and Frigates – Royal Navy destroyers and frigates in service were down from 49 in 1990, to 33 in 2001 to just 25 in 2007,5 with many confined to port.
New Type 45 destroyers are large ships (over 7,000 tons) designed to operate with and support the carriers. 8 were to have been built, now reduced to 6, with only two launched to date.
Our frigates – the maids of all work for any Navy – have seen comparatively new three Type 23 frigates, the latter built in 1994, sold off, whilst there is no new frigate construction is in sight.
Submarines -These, together with Aircraft Carriers, are the ‘Strike Force’ of a modern Navy. Britain has cut its fleet from 37 in the Cold War to just 9 nuclear propelled Fleet ‘attack’ submarines (SSNs) in 2007. Nearly all are over 20 years old – still effective, but needing more maintenance to keep them going. New submarine construction – the impressive Astute Class – has nevertheless been a sorry tale of cost overruns and delays. Eight were planned, and it seems that only 6 or 7 may be built. The first will enter service in 2008.
Trident Strategic Missile Submarines (SSBNs) – The Government has said it will replace the 4 Vanguard class ‘bomber’ submarines, that carry the national nuclear strategic deterrent, with a new British class of SSBN. This is to be welcomed. It is crucially important that the new class, like the Vanguards, is armed with the latest US missiles (to carry the British warheads). A ‘co-operation’ deal with the French would lead to the usual delays and cost overruns and is likely to be taken over as an EU deterrent, with consequent loss of British independence.
Amphibious Vessels – The recently built HMS Albion and Bulwark, together with the Bay class Royal Fleet Auxiliaries, are probably adequate to land a brigade group if they are all operational at one time, which may be unlikely. However one of the amphibious ships is already under threat of mothballing. UKIP would like to see 2 decommissioned Invincible class carriers used as back-up amphibious vessels (HMS Ark Royal is already designated as a LPH amphibious ship).
Mine Warfare and Coastal Vessels – Mines are a weapon ideally suited to terrorists and to small states, and the Royal Navy used to have the world’s leading capability in dealing with them. These vessels also played a key role in fisheries protection and coastal defence (an anti-terrorist requirement just emerging over the horizon). But very few are now left, and UK mine countermeasures expertise has mostly been lost. There are 5 small patrol vessels, and 18 very small patrol boats.
The Naval Reserves and reserve ships – UKIP is in favour of the principle of Naval Reserves, but needs to be convinced of the best means of maintaining naval reserves in such a technological and specialist age. Further study of such reserves will be undertaken.
Summary. Twenty-five years ago Britain retook the Falklands from Argentina in the face of technologically advanced ships, missiles and aircraft. It is now extremely doubtful whether today’s Navy is strong enough to do this.
Britain’s international role, the UK’s greater vulnerability to energy supplies from abroad, and UKIP’s desired shift to greater global and Commonwealth trade, and the globalised nature of the terrorist threat suggest a greater role for the Royal Navy, and for Britain’s ability to project forward power. UKIP would rebuild the Navy over 10 years to:
3 large Aircraft Carriers with associated Air Group .
4 Assault ships, with troop landing helicopters, and converted carriers .
6 RFA troop landing ships, with troop landing helicopters ( not Roll on/off ) .
30 destroyers and frigates, all with multi purpose helicopters, kept operational .
4 SSBNs (Trident Strategic Missile Submarines) .
12 nuclear propelled attack Fleet submarines (SSNs) .
25 Minesweepers/Coastal Protection craft .
3 RFA Tanker / Support ships .
20 extra naval Merlin helicopters .
An increase in Royal Navy personnel by around 7,000 to 42,000 (2003 – 41,550 ) .
Safeguard all the Royal Navy ports at Plymouth, Portsmouth and Rosyth – there would be no closures of these ports under UKIP.
I would be interested to hear both positive and negative views on UK Independence Party’s Royal Navy policies in the comments below?