THE former head of the Royal Navy has said the government needs to act immediately to refit the engines of Britain’s most advanced warships.
The calls come as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed that the £6bn fleet of six Type 45 destroyers will be fitted with new engines because the keep breaking down.
However, Admiral Lord Alan West said the reliability of the warships – which are all based in Portsmouth – had been on-going issue for the past few years and should have been dealt with sooner.
Speaking to The News today, Lord West said: ‘Clearly this is a pervasive, systemic problem that needs to be resolved as quickly, as it can,
‘These are not just teething problems.
‘It was quite clear, certainly two years ago, that this was systemic.
‘We have got 19 frigates and destroyers and if six have engine problems then we have only 13 – that’s unacceptable.’
He criticised the MoD for not taking action sooner to resolve the issue and urged the Treasury to provide cash to fund the refit programme sooner rather than later.
‘I think the MoD should have bitten the bullet and demanded the treasury give them the money,’ Lord West added.
‘It’s bad enough fighting in your ship when people are dropping bombs on it and blowing bits of equipment out and you keep it going – that’s what you’re trained to do.
‘You don’t expect suddenly to just lose all power when you are just steaming along normally.’
The MoD confirmed the six £1bn Type 45 destroyers would undergo major refits amid concern over their reliability,
The upgrades would be staggered over a number of years, with the first work set to begin in 2019 and could cost tens of millions of pounds.
Engine problems within the destroyer fleet have been an issue before.
In 2009, HMS Daring lost power in the Atlantic on her first voyage to America, while in 2014, HMS Dauntless had to abandon a training exercise amid engine troubles.
A spokesman for the MoD said: ‘The Type 45s are hugely capable ships and have consistently made a difference to our safety and security, including HMS Defender’s support to US carrier operations against Daesh in the Gulf.
‘In our defence review last year we committed to improving the Type 45’s power and propulsion systems through a series of machinery upgrades during planned maintenance, which will ensure increased availability and resilience over the life of the ships.’
A spokeswoman for BAE Systems – which builds the ships – stressed the firm was working ‘collaboratively’ with the MoD and other partners ‘to implement improvements’.
She added the Type 45s were one of the world’s ‘most capable air defence destroyers’.