Royal Navy chiefs launch scathing attack on the government for Britain's 'anorexic' fleet of warships

TWO retired military chiefs have blasted the government over the ‘anorexic’ state of the Royal Navy and its fleet.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 11:52 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd January 2020, 11:39 am

Former chief of defence staff, Admiral Lord Michael Boyce, and Britain’s ex-top sailor, Admiral Lord Alan West, launched a vicious attack on the Senior Service during a House of Lords debate.

The naval duo slated Whitehall for the historic reduction in the navy’s surface fleet of 13 frigates and six destroyers.

The former naval top brass issued fresh warnings over the £1bn-a-piece Type 45 destroyers, which have been plagued by engine troubles.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Admiral Lord Michael Boyce has blasted the government for the state of the Royal Navy's fleet. Photo: Chris Fletcher/Royal Navy/PA Wire

They also voiced fears about the rate that the ageing Type 23 frigates were being replaced.

Speaking at Westminster, Lord Boyce said: ‘Our number of frigates and destroyers are anorexic, and this has been exacerbated by the Type 45 problem.

‘We embarked upon an eight-ship, Type 26 frigate building programme in 2017, but the first ship, Glasgow, won’t be commissioned until 2027.

Royal Navy ships are pictured docked in Her Majesty's Naval Base, Portsmouth. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

‘Thereafter, a ship appears after every two years.’

Read More

Read More
Politicians and business leaders hail booming economic growth as 'validating' th...

The Type 26, City-class frigates will not take to the seas for years. They will be based in Plymouth.

Lord Boyce raged that the timetable for the new vessels was ‘completely unacceptable and is a black mark against the government and our shipbuilding industry’.

Royal Navy warship HMS Diamond sailing from Portsmouth for a deployment. Photo: LPhot Kyle Heller

Pressing the government on the engine problems faced by the Type 45 vessels, Lord West hit out at ‘an appalling state of affairs’.

The former navy boss told peers: ‘We have six anti-air warfare ships, we knew eight years ago that they had a problem – that sometimes there would be a total lack of power, which would suddenly happen unexpectedly.

‘If that happened, she had no ability whatsoever to defend herself, to use her weapons or missile systems.

‘We knew how to rectify that four years ago.’

Defence minister Baroness Goldie rejected the ‘gloomy and very pessimistic picture’.

In a written response, revealed today, she added the government intended to boost the number of Royal Navy warships.

She said a cheaper frigate, the Type 31 – which is expected to be based in Portsmouth – would be key to this.

Baroness Goldie added: ‘The intent remains to grow the destroyer and frigate force by the 2030s, and the Type 31 frigates will provide the opportunity to do this. It is not uncommon to have planned, temporary, small fluctuations in overall numbers during the transition from any class of ship or submarine to another.’