British Sea Power
At the launch of the gigantic HMS Queen Elizabeth back in July there was much talk about being an “Island Nation” and “Projecting Power” across the globe.
Gavin Williamson, the (brand-new) Defence Secretary, said: “Today marks the start of a hugely significant chapter for the Royal Navy, and indeed the nation, as the future flagship is commissioned into Her Majesty’s fleet. Our new aircraft carrier is the epitome of British design and dexterity, at the core of our efforts to build an Armed Forces fit for the future. For the next half a century both carriers will advance our interests around the globe.”
Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said:
“In hoisting the White Ensign from HMS Queen Elizabeth today, Britain has confirmed her place among the world’s great maritime powers in the most majestic and muscular terms. The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers will sit at the heart of a modernised and emboldened Royal Navy, capable of projecting power and influence at sea, in the air, over the land and in cyberspace, and offering our nation military and political choice in an uncertain world.”
The aircraft carrier and her yet-to-be-completed sister, HMS Prince of Wales, are the largest ships ever built for the Royal Navy, costing an eye-watering £6.2bn.
The famously aircraft-free carrier has had a troublesome launch, and the £6.2 billion ignores the costs of ‘arming’ the ships.
The UK has begun a £9.1bn programme to buy 48 of the F-35s by 2025 from US giant Lockheed Martin.
But the Commons defence select committee said there had been an “unacceptable lack of transparency” over the jets, with one estimate suggesting each plane would cost more than £150m.
Yet as there’s much chuckling about the leaky boat we should be also asking ourselves: what exactly are ‘our interests around the globe’?
The reality is they are designed to give support for more British wars.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will be deployed in the Middle East and the Pacific Ocean, where they will facilitate possible intervention in Iran, North Korea and Syria in tandem with the USA, with whom there has been extensive ‘joint operations’.
Aside from the crippling costs and designs flaw and lack of fixed-wing fighter planes, these giant ships emerge at a time when British foreign policy still hasn’t recovered from the moral shambles of the Iraq war and allying ourselves with a sociopathic American leader who couldn’t say “Special Relationship” without drinking from his Sippy Cup is criminally stupid.
But it gets worse – amongst all the pomp and ceremony – the ingratiating and endless Royal cap-doffing – this is little more than 21C Gunship Diplomacy, presumably to support the burgeoning jam exports.
More than that ‘our’ (sic) obsession with Imperial Power speaks to failure, not strength.
Even Max Hastings, here fulminating over at the Daily Mail thunders: “HMS QE and its half-built sister, Prince of Wales, are giant embarrassments. They are symbols of almost everything that is wrong with British defence policy.”
He continues: “Some of us said from the outset that the new carriers reflected delusions of grandeur, and that the F-35s looked like becoming much too pricey for Britain’s status as a medium-sized nation. How much smarter it would have been to build a couple of cheap ’n’ cheerful naval platforms from which to launch drones and low-tech aircraft. For that, one could almost have welded steel plates on top of tanker hulls, to create acceptable flight decks. What the Navy urgently needed was a large flotilla of small, simple ships to guard our shoreline and look after our interests overseas in regard to piracy, illegal immigration, terrorism and so on.”
I don’t think that would have quite the same effect.
So who is to blame for the shambles?
Max is in no doubt: “There were still enough sensible people in the Ministry of Defence to prevent this lunacy coming to pass, but for one misfortune: in 2007, Gordon Brown became Labour prime minister. In case you failed to notice, he was, and remains, a Scot.”
I might have known the bloody Scots would be to blame.
“Because of ballooning costs, her sister carrier, Prince of Wales, would almost certainly have been cancelled, but the canny Scots ensured that penalty clauses meant it would cost less to complete than abandon the ship.”
Still, it gets worse.
The Times reports today: “Britain has no major warships on operations anywhere in the world for the first time in living memory.”
Oh? What happened to “majestic and muscular”? terms. Whatever happened to “projecting power and influence at sea, in the air, over the land”?
The Times explains “the absence of any of the Royal Navy’s 19 frigates and destroyers overseas was a “strategic embarrassment for the country and a strategic embarrassment for defence”, according to a senior serving military officer.
All six Type 45 destroyers are in Portsmouth because of a combination of mechanical problems, routine maintenance, a shortage of manpower and the need to give sailors leave over Christmas.
In fact as the Financial Times reports that the armed focus are facing a serious staffing crisis as result of a chronic misjudgement of the requirements to crew these ships whilst at sea:
“The navy is struggling to find sailors to crew many of its latest vessels — including its two new £6.2bn aircraft carriers, the biggest ships it has built. Navy officials say the two carriers are placing serious strain on personnel resources. The 70,000-ton Queen Elizabeth, which will be the navy’s new flagship, is due to be commissioned for service this year, though the date has been repeatedly pushed back. It is expected to have about 700 crew, though it has berths for more than double that number. There are still not enough sailors to crew the second of the two carriers, the Prince of Wales, which is due to be fully commissioned in 2020. Specialist crew are also urgently needed for the new fleet of Astute-class submarines.”
Needless to say this vainglorious and extortionate exercise in self-delusion is an obscenity without a purpose as people die of cold homeless on the streets of Britain.