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It was widely reported this week that Royal Navy ships will be left without ASuW missiles and  forced to rely on naval guns. The Navy’s Harpoon missiles will retire from the fleet’s frigates and destroyers in 2018 without a replacement, while there will also be a two year gap without helicopter-launched anti-shipping missiles.

Harpoon missiles are unlikely to be replaced for up to a decade, naval sources said, leaving warships armed only with their 4.5in Mk 8 guns for anti-ship warfare. Helicopter-launched Sea Skua missiles are also going out of service next year and the replacement Sea Venom missile to be carried by Wildcat helicopters will not arrive until late 2020.

A Naval  source said the new helicopter-launched Sea Venom missile will have a shorter range than the Harpoon and helicopters are also vulnerable to bad weather and being shot down. Rear-Adml Chris Parry, said: "It's a significant capability gap and the Government is being irresponsible. It just shows that our warships are for the shop window and not for fighting." Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord, said: “This is just another example of where the lack of money is squeezing and making the nation less safe. We will have this gap of several years without missiles. Well, that’s fine if you don’t have to fight anybody in the meantime.”

A naval expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said Britain was cutting its anti-ship missiles just as America had decided they were becoming more critical to maritime fighting.

“It must be a great concern that this capability is going to be removed without immediate or direct replacement because we are moving into an era of concern about a more contested maritime environment,” he said.

A spokesman for the Navy said: “All Royal Navy ships carry a range of offensive and defensive weapons systems.  Backed by a rising defence budget and a £178 billion equipment plan, upgrade options to all our weapons are kept under constant review.”

This latest news, along with the gapping of fixed wing aircraft capability until HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and her F-35B squadron(s) become operational, with 13 Duke Class Type 23 frigates to be replaced with 8 Type 26s and an, as yet, unknown number of the unconfirmed Type 31 General Purpose Frigates planned for the indeterminate future is, of course, worrying.

Can we afford the Navy UK needs, or must UK settle for the Navy it can afford?


  • Ian Annand

    This is unbelievable, is this retiring of Harpoon just a cost saving measure? How long could Harpoon still be fit for purpose? Surely this leaves the Type 23's for example significantly at risk as surface warfare vessels?

  • Toby Elliott

    Sub-Harpoon has not been mentioned but I assume this capability will go at the same time. This news is quite shocking and makes it very difficult for people to believe that the need for a seriously capable war-fighting Fleet is understood by our political masters.

    It is hardly surprising that we are having trouble recruiting, let alone sustaining the trained strength.

  • Nick Owen

    In the 28 years since 1988, there have been ten Chiefs of the Defence Staff, only one of whom has been an RN Officer, which could explain why mismanagement of defence planning and procurement has had such a catastrophic effect on the Royal Navy's ability to fulfil its commitments to NATO or even to the defence of the Untied Kingdom, an island state with a 13,915 mile coastline which conducts 95% of its overseas trade by sea.


    Please see the 'standard party line' from George Hollingbery after I wrote to him about this subject. The government have not got a clue they just keep blaming the Labour party and cutting the budget deficit, not much good if the Russians or China launch a concerted attack on the UK.

    Dear Mr Lester

    Thank you for contacting me about defence spending. I appreciate that you feel strongly on this issue.

    I am sure you will appreciate that in 2010, difficult decisions had to be made. The £38 billion black hole the previous Government left in the defence budget was bigger than the entire defence budget in that year, and it would have been irresponsible and unsustainable to do nothing to fix that. The UK Government has balanced the books to the point that we can now invest again in our national security. This is vital at a time when the threats to our country are growing.

    In addition to meeting the 2 per cent NATO target, the Government has set out its plans to spend £178 billion on new equipment over the coming decade. The investment programme laid out will provide new strike fighters, more surveillance aircraft, hunter killer submarines, two new aircraft carriers, the A400Ms transport aircraft and the most advanced armoured vehicles - all of which will keep Britain safe.

    I believe firmly that in order to counter the world's security threats it is important that we continue to invest in defence. Current defence spending gives the UK the second largest defence budget in NATO and the largest in the European Union. I welcome the Government's commitment that the UK defence budget will grow every year, and that we will meet the NATO pledge of 2 per cent of our national income for the rest of this decade.

    This will ensure that Britain's defence budget, already one of the largest in the world, continues to support world-class armed forces, with the equipment and capabilities needed to deliver security for Britain in an unstable world.

    Our Armed Forces are admired and respected around the world, and rightly so. I believe firmly that the first duty of Government is to make sure that its citizens are safe and that our interests are secure. As such, it is vital that we invest in strong defences.

    It is with great regret that redundancies had to be made to deliver the reduction in the size of the Armed Forces, but unfortunately they were unavoidable due to the size of the Defence deficit that the Government inherited. Since 2010, the Government has restored economic security and balanced the defence budget, allowing us to continue to invest in defence. I welcomed the announcement in the recent Strategic Defence and Security Review, that the Government would maintain the size of the regular Armed Forces, not reduce the Army to below 82,000, and increase the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force by a total of 700 personnel.

    The reforms will ensure that the Armed Forces are able to tackle a wider range of more sophisticated potential adversaries. They will be able to deploy more quickly and for longer periods, and make best use of new technology. The Government will develop a new Joint Force 2025 to do this, building on Future Force 2020, to increase our Armed Forces' ability to work with the rest of government and internationally.

    I also think it is important to remember that we face some very different threats today than in the past, such as from cyber-attack.

    cyber-crime is a serious threat to the UK and undermines confidence in our communications technology and online economy. Global cyber-crime can undermine and disrupt online systems which are essential to the UK's economy and prosperity. The estimated cost of organised crime in this country runs to the billions, and I can assure you that the Government is continuing to take action to tackle it.

    One clear example of action the Government is taking can be seen in the decision to double investment in cyber to £1.9 billion, as well as creating a National Cyber Centre to help keep us safe. It is a bold, comprehensive programme that will give Britain the next generation of cyber security, and make Britain one of the safest places to do business on line. It will give citizens as well as companies the confidence that their cyber-safety is being properly protected, and will ensure that Britain remains at the cutting edge of the global cyber economy.

    By establishing the National Crime Agency, the last Government ensured that cyber criminals are pursued relentlessly. The National Cyber Crime Unit of the NCA leads on the law enforcement investigation of cyber-crime. It aims to identify and prosecute people engaged in cyber-attacks in this country. It also supports investigations into cyber-enabled crimes, providing technical support where that is necessary. A new Computer Emergency Response Team has been established to improve the way the UK responds to major cyber-attacks.

    Now, as to the aid budget. The Government will continue to honour its manifesto commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI on Official Development Assistance, but is determined to make sure that our aid is spent where it is most needed and all spending is rigorously checked as programmes progress. The aid budget is taxpayers' money and we politicians have a duty to spend it well.

    Since 2010, the Government has been working hard to make sure that British aid ends up where it should. It has taken steps to make our aid spending more accountable and focused, by reforming the UK's aid strategy, cutting wasteful programmes and making sure spending is firmly in the UK's national interest. However, more improvements can still be made and I am assured that the new Secretary of State is dedicated to making sure the aid budget serves the world's poorest people, but also the taxpayers.

    The British people are incredibly generous and at its best the global aid system does fantastic lifesaving work, from supporting Syrian refugees, to fighting Ebola and vaccinating children against preventable diseases. These achievements also make us safer: disasters, conflicts and diseases don't pay attention to national borders, so action needs to be taken before problems grow and threaten the UK.

    I hope this is of some help.

    Yours sincerely


    George Hollingbery MP
    Member of Parliament for Meon Valley
    Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
    House of Commons

  • Ray Lindores

    Following countless debacles, scrapping the harriers, scrapping our carrier's, building new carrier's and not having sufficient destroyers and frigates to operate as the carrier support group, not to mention any aircraft to equip the new carriers. Let's face it this list barely scratches the surface What can you say. Irresponsible, idiotic!!!!
    Surely these people cannot be p**swise!!!!! Although I suppose we could issue peashooters instead of the missiles ...,,, in hindsight they'd say we couldn't have any pea's.
    Even worse than their socialist predecessors

  • Andrew Franks

    This is a disaster. The Type 23 will only be left with its main gun against surface threats. Harpoon is critical. We must petition the government to reconsider. Has a petition been started?

  • Michael lewis

    This is unbelievable. If this lunacy is carried out, The RN's surface fleet will lack any stand off offensive capability. The only British warships having the capability to sink a hostile capital ship will be the fleets 7 SSN's. With only a 4.5 deck gun, the fleets 17 destroyers and frigates will be irrelevant. The American task force commanders would rightly discount UK warships from being part of anybody combined battle force, especially such a force where carriers would be at the fore. I do truly hope that enough MP's wake up to stop this madness.

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