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First Sea Lord warns the Royal Navy faces “the fight of our generation”

Tuesday, February 11th 2014 - 23:59 UTC
Full article 33 comments
“Make the Royal Navy ‘un-credible’, and we cease to be a first division player”, warned Admiral Sir George Zambellas “Make the Royal Navy ‘un-credible’, and we cease to be a first division player”, warned Admiral Sir George Zambellas

Britain must commit to operating both its new aircraft carriers and replacing its nuclear deterrent if it is to remain a first division military power, the head of the Royal Navy has warned. Admiral Sir George Zambellas, the First Sea Lord, said the service faced “the fight of our generation” if it was to remain a credible force in the years ahead.

 His comments - reported in The Times - were made in a speech last week to a closed audience of naval personnel and defense ministers. Admiral Zambellas, who spoke out as military chiefs prepare for next year’s strategic defense and security review (SDSR), said the Navy needed to retain a a mix of warships, submarines, fighter jets, Royal Marine vessels and surveillance aircraft at a “sensible and credible level of scale”.

“Make the Royal Navy ‘un-credible’, and we cease to be a first division player. Our responsibility to the Navy we command and lead, our responsibility to defense, and our responsibility to the nation we serve, is to fight to deliver a credible Navy,” he was quoted as saying.

His intervention comes after the Chief of the Defense Staff, General Sir Nicholas Houghton, warned last year that defense cuts had left the Navy “perilously close to its critical mass” in terms of manpower. In his speech, Admiral Zambellas argued that the Navy needed both the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers currently under construction. Under current plans, one vessel could be mothballed or sold off.

He also voiced support for a like-for-like replacement of the submarine fleet which carries the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent, maintaining the continuous-at-sea-deterrent, a position strongly supported by the Conservatives, although the Liberal Democrats favour a cheaper, scaled-back alternative.

“Our strategic direction will be re-defined as our nation emerges from recession, blinking into the sunlight of global opportunity. We must argue relentlessly that if we want to be a credible nation, then we need a credible Navy,” he said.

A Ministry of Defense spokesman said: “The Defense Secretary has made clear that he views the nuclear deterrent as the ultimate safeguard of the UK’s national security and that the Government will progress with its commitment to a like for like replacement.

“A decision on the future of the second Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier will be made as part of the next SDSR but the Defense Secretary has already made clear that he supports the idea of it entering service with the Royal Navy”.

Categories: Politics, International.

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  • Justthefacts

    He is right. Whatever anyone says, the Falklands are vulnerable. Any defence strategy that hinges entirely on defending and holding a single runway long enough for reinforcements to arrive from half the world away (if the weather permits) is risky no matter how good the on-site defences and personnel. The only true deterrent is having the ability to easily take the islands back again if required, something the British military only just achieved in 82 and could not do now without air cover. Both QE carriers are definitely required. Did the UK gov learn nothing in 82?

    Feb 12th, 2014 - 02:42 am 0
  • LEPRecon

    @1 Justthefacts

    The Falklands aren't as vulnerable as you think they are. Argentina's military is no threat presently, and even IF the next Argentine government poured in money to rearm and reequip their military it would take them at least 20 years to get up to scratch.

    By then the UK's new carriers would be in service.

    I also believe the the UK has learned from 1982. In 1982, for political purposes, the UK refrained from bombing Argentina. Because we didn't achieve complete air superiority we lost ships and more importantly men.

    Current military doctrine has learned from that mistake. Should Argentina be stupid enough to try and invade again, the UK would attack viable military target in Argentina, mainly their airbases, air defences and their ports, thus denying them air superiority. Without that they couldn't take or hold the Falklands at all.

    However, I do agree with the 1st Sea Lord. The UK needs to modernise it's defences and keep them strong, and the Falklands aren't the reason behind it. The reason is that no one can predict the future. No one knows when the next Hitler type dictator will emerge throwing the world into another major war.

    We don't want to make the same mistakes we did after the First World War, when everyone said that there wouldn't be another war, and Britain's defences stagnated leaving us vulnerable and scrambling to catch up when Hitler decided to invade Czechoslovakia, Poland and Western Europe.

    We should never allow our selves to be in that situation again.

    As for Trident, I definitely believe that we should replace this like for like. We need our nuclear deterrent because we can only truly count upon ourselves in the event of someone attacking us. I certainly wouldn't trust the rest of Europe to come to our assistance, despite the fact that we've come to their assistance twice now.

    The US probably would help eventually, but as Churchill once said: 'Americans always do the right thing, after they've tried everything else.'

    Feb 12th, 2014 - 06:40 am 0
  • Justthefacts

    I hope you are right @2. I am well aware of the differences in capability of both sides but also think that a combination of surprise, greater numbers, willingness to take heavy losses, coordination with bad flying weather and a bit of dumb luck could put the islands in Argentina hands. They are reaching the point, as in 82, where things are desperate enough to try something as a means to prolong a failing government. And such is the fanaticism and therefore value they place on this that I doubt the threat of cruise missiles launched against Argentina is actually a deterrent. They would simply accept the losses and casualties as worth it to invade and occupy the islands. So my question remains, if the unthinkable happens, what is plan B? The UK simply does not have one without those carriers. I am happy to be proven wrong on all of the above but don't mind taking a bit of flak for my views. The first step to losing any battle is complacency. And btw, if the UK learnt from 82, then why does this 10 year or more carrier capability gap even exist?

    Feb 12th, 2014 - 07:53 am 0
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