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British Navy cannot fight a war: report

By Xinhua

London : The British Royal Navy is in the most degenerated state with its fighting capability being “eroded” and it can no longer fight a major war because of years of under-funding and cutbacks, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

The fleet is “thinly stretched” “increasingly taut” and facing “significant risks” and the fleet’s ability to influence events at the strategic level are “under threat” the daily quoted a top-level ministry of defence document.

“The Royal Navy would be challenged to mount a medium-scale operation in accordance with current policy against a technologically capable adversary. A medium-scale operation is similar to the naval involvement in the Iraq War,” the daily said, quoting the leaked report.

The newspaper said the 14-page document entitled “Royal Navy Utility Today Compared with 20 Years Ago” and dated Nov 1, 2007, was drawn up by Rear-Admiral Alan Massey, the assistant chief of the naval staff and one of the services’ most influential officers.

The study was ordered by Defence Secretary Des Browne.

“A combination of age and reduced spending on maintenance has resulted in today’s ships carrying a far higher number of operational defects, which directly erode operational capacity,” the report says.

Britain’s diluted worldwide presence makes it harder to maintain influence in key areas of interest across the globe and has reduced the Royal Navy’s overall strategic effect, says the report.

The document recommends that the Navy Board, which comprises the services’ most senior officers, should note that the Navy’s “strategic effect has been adversely impacted” by a reduction in ship numbers over the past 20 years, from a fleet of 136 in 1987 to 75 at present.

The number of destroyers and frigates – the Navy’s workhorses – has been reduced from 54 to 25 and the average age of those vessels is now 17 years old, compared with 10 and 12 years old in 1997 and 1987 respectively.

The report also reveals that there has been a 66 percent reduction in the number of submarines, from 38 to 13, and that the Navy’s manpower has fallen from 66,500 sailors in 1987 to 38,860 in 2007.

The report states: “The most striking difference is in the numbers of units operating in home waters. In 1987 there were 35 destroyers, frigates and submarines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships at sea around the UK, compared with only 10 in 2007.”