Britain unprepared for Russia's deadly new Doomsday torpedoes, former Royal Navy head warns
RUSSIA’S doomsday nuclear torpedoes – which could trigger catastrophic radioactive tsunamis – and hyper-sonic missiles capable of travelling 20 times the speed of sound are among some of the ‘niche’ threats Britain will struggle to deal with, a former head of the Royal Navy has admitted to MPs.
Admiral Sir Philip Jones, who was in charge of the Senior Service until 2019, warned the futuristic weapons – which are currently being tested – were things that UK had ‘visibility of’ but little in its arsenal to ‘effectively counter’.
His warning comes as Russia prepares to deploy its new breed of nuclear weapons to the Arctic next summer, reports suggested earlier this year.
The weapon, known as the Poseidon 2M39 missile, is an underwater nuclear torpedo designed to hit the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over thousands of miles of land, rendering it uninhabitable.
Speaking to MPs on parliament’s powerful defence select committee, the former First Sea Lord was asked by MP Stuart Anderson if Britain had any ‘glaring threats’ that it wouldn't be able to prepare for or counter against.
‘I’m reticent to say no because many strategic thinkers, admirals and politicians have thought they couldn’t see any and then found there was one because you rarely end up fighting the war you were preparing for – something tends to surprise you,’ Sir Philip replied.
'Technology is moving that debate so rapidly that you can never pause for breath and say “okay, we have done enough to counter that submarine threat, we have done enough to counter that anti-ship missile threat” – we probably haven’t because it’s constantly being evolved.
‘We have visibility of all those main areas. But some of the niche capabilities – I think in particular of what the Russians are working on: hyper-sonic missile capability, nuclear long-range torpedoes – these are not easily-counterable measures with any of the capabilities we have at the moment.’
Warnings were also given about the rising prospects of war with either China of Russia over the next two decades.
Sir Philip said both nations – which are rapidly expanding their military might and ambitions – were being ‘constrained’ by western powers and geography.
The naval leader warned that as tensions continue to grow, the risk of a ‘miscalculation’ which could spark a conflict would increase.
Speaking via a video link, Sir Philip said: ‘Both nations are constrained by geography in their ability to get out to blue water and achieve effect on a global expeditionary basis. So they have to fight against that geography in a way to achieve effect.
‘And they feel constrained each in their own way by the way Western navies bottle them up. So the question is what are they going to do about that and how will they respond to it.
‘My fear has always been because some of that geography is quite tight and constrained, there is a risk for miscalculation and potential of a trip-wire effect as they try to shout against that geographical constraint.’
The admiral’s comments comes as HMS Queen Elizabeth continues her voyage towards the Indo-Pacific.
The 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier – the largest and most powerful warship ever built for the Royal Navy – is expected to pass by contested waters of the South China Sea, in a move which has provoked outcry in Beijing.
British political and military leaders have insisted the carrier’s deployment was about forging alliances within the region as part of Britain’s ‘tilt’ towards the Indo-Pacific and not as a display of aggression.