Further cuts to the navy will make us laughing stock

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Now there’s a surprise. Suddenly the penny has dropped with an almighty clank among those in high places.

Chickens are coming home to roost, as this newspaper predicted right from the moment savage defence cuts were announced, particularly those meted out to the Royal Navy.

Today it is Steve Bush, the editor of the highly-respected Warship World magazine and a former naval officer.

A few weeks ago the House of Commons’s defence committee saw the light and warned that any further cuts would result in a ‘disproportionate decline’ in the armed forces’ fighting power.

As far as the navy is concerned, that happened about three years ago.

What Mr Bush says on page 12 today will come as little surprise to those in the senior service, but it might just shock those with no connection to the navy.

What he is says is that the Royal Navy of 2014 is just as stretched as it was in 2004.

Those commitments, whether troubleshooting in the world’s politically volatile hotspots, drug-busting in the Caribbean, taking humanitarian aid to places like the Philippines, or simply flying the flag for Britain around the globe, can no longer be met with the shoestring navy of today.

He says: ‘In the recent past the Royal Navy has endured a series of brutal cuts to both capability and number of warships, yet demand for these ships for worldwide operations remains undiminished.’

And, chillingly, he casts a cynical eye over what comes next. He recalls we were once promised 12 Type 45 destroyers to replace the 12 Type 42s – a figure that was pathetically reduced to just six.

‘To the government’s mind, increased capability meant each new ship was a good as two old ships, yet still missing the vital point that a single ship cannot be in two places at once,’ he adds.

He wonders, quite legitimately, if the same might now happen to the programme to replace the Type 23 frigates with the Type 26.

Should that happen, Britain will be forever relegated the role of also-ran on the world stage.