The UK press reports that the Royal Navy is to send one of its most powerful warships to the Falkland Islands as tensions rise with Argentina over the disputed territory.
According to The Portsmouth News, HMS Dauntless (8.000 tons displacement) will deploy to the South Atlantic in late March – almost 30 years to the day that a naval Task Force left Portsmouth to reclaim the Falklands after Argentina invaded in 1982.
The South Atlantic patrol is one of the RN global commitments and a warship is sent there twice a year on six-month duty. But Portsmouth-based Dauntless will be the first of the navy’s new £1bn Type 45 destroyers to go to the area.
The London media speculates the deployment comes after a period of increased rhetoric between London and Buenos Aires about who has the sovereignty dispute over the Islands.
A RN source said: “HMS Dauntless is an elite warship. She is one of six Type 45s built for the navy as the most advanced fighting ships in the world”.
“She is going to the Falklands on a routine deployment, but the fact the navy is sending her there and not one of the older warships is significant”.
The Falklands patrol will be HMS Dauntless’s first operational deployment.
It comes after her sister ship HMS Daring left for her first mission to the Gulf at a time of worsening relations with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
However it must also be taken into consideration that the UK is very much interested in a share of a Brazilian program to revamp its surface fleet, demanding an investment of over 3.6 billion dollars.
The Program for Surface Means, Prosuper, includes the acquisition of five state of the art frigates or escort vessels (6.000 tons displacement) five ocean patrol vessels (1.800 tons) and a logistics support vessel of 12.000 tons displacement.
Only a few weeks ago BAE Systems signed a deal with the Brazilian Navy to supply it with ocean patrol vessels, already built originally ordered by the government of Trinidad and Tobago in a contract which was terminated in 2010. Two of the boats were constructed on the Clyde and the other at Portsmouth.
The new agreement with Brazil will allow vessels of the same class to be made under licence there. It came 16 months after the Caribbean deal went sour. The purchase price agreed with the Brazilian Navy is £17m less than the original contract was worth, but BAE Systems said the price was a good one with which the defence giant was “comfortable”.
The contract is also significant for agreeing to licence the design for building another five of the vessels in Brazil, each displacing 2,200 tons and capable of 25 knots. The Brasilia government has also invited by BAE Systems to be a partner in developing the next generation of its frigates.
Admiral Lord West, a former First Sea Lord and Falklands veteran who was in command of HMS Ardent when she was sunk by Argentina with the loss of 22 men, said: ‘The Type 45s are becoming a key part of our modern force.
‘The thing that is fascinating about them is they’ve got the most amazing anti-air warfare capability.
‘Should there be any foolish nonsense from Argentina, Dauntless can sit just off the airfield and take down any aircraft coming in. It’s a game-changing capability.’
The deployment of HMS Dauntless to the Falklands follows criticism of the government’s decision to axe the navy’s Harrier jump jets and HMS Ark Royal – leaving Britain without an aircraft carrier until at least 2020.
Military strategy expert, Commodore Steve Jermy, who served in the Falklands War, said: ‘We have a critical lack of carriers so the Falklands is much more vulnerable than it’s been for many years. Sending Dauntless down there, while it doesn’t make up for the carrier gap, shows resolve.
“It’s a very prudent deployment”.
At the weekend, former Army chief General Sir Michael Jackson warned it would be ‘impossible’ to reclaim the Falklands if it was invaded today.
Brigadier Bill Aldridge, commander of British forces in the South Atlantic, responded by saying: I am entirely confident that I can do the job that is required of me, he said. Yes, we're a long way from the UK and I certainly have no desire to be complacent. But we're in an extremely different position form 1982”.
I am not expecting to hand the Islands over to anybody and therefore put us in a position where we would have to re-take the Islands. It would be foolish to discount any particular scenario, but I do not see any position where the type of eventuality that some people are speculating about is going to happen.”