Frigate delays branded a national disgrace

DELAYS in bringing a new breed of Royal Navy warships into service have been branded a ‘national embarrassment’ by naval chiefs.

Monday, 17th February 2020, 5:34 pm
Updated Monday, 17th February 2020, 5:34 pm

The Ministry of Defence’s permanent secretary, Stephen Lovegrove let slip that five new Type 31 frigates won’t come into service until May 2027 – four years late.

The delay will mean that by the mid 2020s the navy will have just 15 frigates and destroyers in action.

This breaks the government’s long-standing promise never to go below 19.

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Images of what the delayed Type 31 frigates might look like. Photo: Babcock/PA Wir

It means Britain’s fleet of high-end warships will be smaller than France's, which has 22 frigates and destroyers, and Italy, which has 17. At the same time, the ageing generation of Type 23 frigates are still to be paid off from 2023, leaving the major shortfall.

Admiral Lord Alan West, Britain’s former top sailor, warned the delay could relegate the UK to the second division of the world's navies.

The peer had been repeatedly assured by defence ministers that the Type 31s would be delivered on time.

Lord West said: ‘Just 15 major service ships will put us into the second tier of the world’s navies

‘Fifteen surface ships means only five on task, as a third will be in maintenance and a third will be training.

‘For a great nation like ours, just five frigates on task is a national embarrassment and disgrace.’

An MOD spokesman said it was ‘committed to ensuring’ the navy has the ships ‘required to fulfil’ defence needs.