MoD tight-lipped over speculation around Royal Navy frigates being axed

THE government is remaining tight-lipped amid speculation that Royal Navy ships and infantry battalions could soon be axed.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 7:00 am

Earlier today, the government published a document called Global Britain in a competitive age – which outlined plans to increase national defence spending.

But following a leak to national media, there are rumours circling that Type 23 frigates HMS Montrose and HMS Monmouth could be axed, along with the navy’s ageing fleet of minehunters.

The document, however, makes no reference to either frigates, the minehunters or the Prince of Wales Royal Regiment – a Portsmouth-based infantry battalion that is also facing the chop.

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HMS Montrose is one of the frigates that could be axed. Picture: LPhot Rory Arnold

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A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: ‘Last November, the prime minister announced the biggest increase to defence spending since the Cold War. This will underpin the modernisation of the armed forces following the conclusions of the Integrated Review.

‘As threats change our armed forces must change and they are being redesigned to confront future threats, not re-fight old wars.

‘The armed forces will be fully staffed and equipped to confront those threats but any such reporting is merely speculation at this stage.’

The document does commit to a £6.6bn investement into defence, to establish a new Space Command and progress the capabilities of the Carrier Strike Group, with at least 48 F-35s by 2025.

Last month, defence chiefs announced that the 64,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth had achieved operating capability, and that the strike group will reach full operational capability by December 2023.

Also part of this investment is a development of the Future Combat Air System for the RAF, along with upgraded Typhoon radars, and reseach into AI and other ‘battle-winning’ technology.

Admiral Lord Alan West belives the investment must be followed up with sufficient manpower, in order for targets to be met.

He said: ‘The number of maritime commitments are large.

‘I will be interested to see the force level provided to meet them.’

On Monday, March 22, the Defence Command Paper will be published by the government.

The MoD says that this will provide answers to the speculation, with further details on what will be done to the armed forces moving forward.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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