New Cruisers and the Shrinking Fleet
The following article from the UK is an example of how our building priorities are greatly skewed, out of all reality, from the type of conflicts we are currently engaged in. I was enjoying the first hand account of the new sea warfare in the Gulf with what we dub the “new cruisers”, of hardworking sailors in their little ships when the politicians threw cold water on our hopes. From UK Defence Forum, here is Gisela Stuart MP with other members of Parliament on the mine hunter HMS Grimsby in the Persian Gulf:
We are here to keep sea lines of communication open, to counter terrorist related activities, such as narcotics, alcohol and people-smuggling – all of which to some degree fund terrorist activities – and we play our part in the Global Maritime Partnership On Counter Piracy. The UK is a maritime trading nation and much of our oil and gas comes from this part of the world…
All well so far. The sailors are doing a magnificent job there:
We are picked up by HMS Kent. Launched in 1998, she cost £140 million to build and £14-16 million a year to run. She carries an array of weapons, from Harpoon anti-ship missiles, to Stingray torpedoes and vertical launched Seawolf anti-air missiles, as well as a helicopter.
Perhaps a bit over-kill for fighting pirates in speedboats and motorized skiffs, but what else is the RN allowed these days?
Piracy is back and it’s big business. Modern container ships are huge and there are only about 600 of them. Capturing one means a huge bounty for the pirates, usually big ransom payments by some company or other and increased insurance premiums for all of us.
International law is difficult to enforce. Bringing the pirates to justice is far from easy and the solution to the problem has to be found in Somalia and not the high seas.
If so, what is the Navy doing there? Getting a little frustrated, but not at the sailors.
I now understand what they mean by floating platforms. Lyme Bay, a class of ship which replaced the Sir Galahad Class, can carry military forces of up to 356 Royal Marines and all they need, as well as vehicles, battle tanks and, above all, fuel. These are massive floating petrol stations. Access to the ship is either by helicopter, the extending side ramp or via a floodable stern dock.
Yeah, mothership capability! Now this is nearer the Influence Squadrons we often advocate here. Looks like the RN is on the right track. More on the Grimsby:
HMS Grimsby is a mine hunter which can fight back if it needs to, but its main function is defensive. It works with local communities but first and foremost they look for mines and dispose of them.
But then, the MP veers off into discussing Trident, which sounds like political posturing, but the worse is next to come:
Talk of saving money by cutting back on aircraft carriers is not just misguided, but it’s dangerous. We are an island, and we must have a properly equipped Navy.
The finale is mind-boggling, having nothing to do with the “small boys”, the little frigates and minehunters and motherships, the New Cruisers like their far-flung namesakes of the old British Empire that kept the Freedom of the Seas in the 19th Century. These aging ships with little prospect of replacement anytime soon must soldier on in their thankless but essential task holding back the enemies of Civilization, while larger, more expensive and less needed supercarriers get the bulk of the funding. So we take it the politicians learned nothing from their all-expense-paid-by-the-taxpayers sojourn in the Gulf? Too bad.
More on the subject of getting defense priorities straight the first of the week.