'˜Urgent action' needed to tackle Royal Navy's manpower woes

MANPOWER and equipment shortages in the Royal Navy need '˜urgent attention', a group of senior military leaders have revealed today.

Tuesday, 1st March 2016, 6:02 am
Sailors on HMS Defender Picture: PO(Phot) Des Wade

A report by members of the Portsmouth-based military campaign group, UK National Defence Association has urged the government to take action to address the failings.

It comes after last year’s National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review, which outlined the government’s £178bn spending plan for the military for the next decade.

The study’s co-authors, including Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon and General Sir Michael Rose say, while the combined NSS and SDSR is ‘a deft and well-presented piece of work’, it is unclear whether the government is ‘willing to budget realistically for the cost of the SDSR’s aspirations’.

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The report describes the SDSR as a ‘sensible first step’ in plugging the shortages.

But it said the current fleet was ‘seriously over-worked and rapidly ageing’.

‘Replacement of, and increase in, frigates is urgent,’ it highlighted.

‘Even more serious is the manpower situation. Some existing fleet has already been placed in reserve because of shortages of key skills.’

It said the manpower enhancement announced in November’s SDSR is ‘about 10 per cent of the acknowledged manpower gap’.

The study added the nation ‘remained vulnerable to a threat regime’ as it would take time to address personnel and equipment boosts.

As well as identifying specific areas where more resources, manpower or faster delivery will be needed to meet the ambitions of SDSR 2015, the study also concludes overall defence spending will need to be boosted to meet the needs of the armed forces.

‘After being cut by eight per cent in real terms since 2010, defence spending is now due to rise by around five per cent by 2020/21 – a net loss of three per cent,’ it said.

Last month, The News revealed concerns the UK’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers may deploy without fighter jets.

The report by the UKNDA highlights further worries that the carriers would not have a full air wing of 24 F-35b Lightning IIs until 2023.

A navy spokeswoman said the force continued to meet its operational commitments while an MoD official said it remained ‘committed to the UK’s defence and security’.