A report that the Royal Navy is so run down it is unfit to fight or mount another Falklands-type Task Force has been strongly denied by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in London. It declares: The Royal Navy's operational capability remains highly effective. The Government is committed to strong defence and the continued modernisation of Britain's Armed Forces.
The Ministry acted swiftly to reject allegations in the Daily Telegraph newspaper allegedly based upon a confidential report by the First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh, and circulated within the Ministry last year when he was Commander in Chief of the Fleet.
The Daily Telegraph declares: "The Royal Navy can barely meet its NATO (North Atlantic Treat Organisation) obligations, let alone think of mounting any campaign in Britain's interests far away ...Britain, traditionally so good at using its naval predominance to act on distant continents, is now withdrawing from the High Seas... Does anyone think that in the event of another crisis like that in the Falklands (in 1982) we would be better served by the European Reaction Force than by a powerful British Fleet?".
The Telegraph's Front Page Lead story, headlined "Cuts leave Navy unfit to fight", says spending cuts have reduced naval capacity so much that ships go to sea without enough ammunition to defend themselves and run a greater risk of being hit by an air-to-sea missile in a repetition of the destruction of the destroyer HMS Sheffield by an Argentine-launched exocet missile in the Falklands Conflict. The report says there are too few pilots, that helicopters and submarines are not working properly, and the Army has reneged on a promise to supply eight Apache attack helicopters to support the Royal Marines.
Defence spending rises; Royal Navy active world-wideThe MOD reacted swiftly to reject the allegations. It issued a statement explaining how spending on the Armed Forces is increasing and how active the Royal Navy is globally. It pointed out that "the defence budget will rise from £23 billion (32 billion dollars) last Year (2000/01) to almost £25 billion (35 billion dollars) by 2003-04".
It says: "All areas of the MoD monitor their activities and responsibilities to identify potential future problem areas that might impact on operational capability". The MOD statement says the Commander-in-Chief Fleet (at present Admiral Sir Alan West, who was Captain of the frigate HMS Ardent destroyed by Argentine bombs in 1982) "has identified a range of possible risks and he is actively and effectively managing