The collapse of the fleet deprives Britain of the status of a world power

03.09.2019

The British admirals are sounding the alarm - the country, right before their eyes, has actually lost the most important symbol of its power, the royal navy. At least, they came to such conclusions on the basis of the infamous capture of the British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for London. What happens to the British Navy and why are they critical to the very existence of the kingdom?

The British Navy has been famous for its capabilities for centuries. It was thanks to the fleet that Britain turned into an empire and deserved pompous lines: “The sun never sets on its territory; before his evening dawn leaves the peaks of Quebec, morning beams already illuminate Port Jackson, and plunging into the waters of the Upper Lake, at the same time it rises above the origins of the Ganges ”(Caledonian Mercury).

Today, the power of the British naval fist can only be spoken in the past tense. The military structure, which served as the cause of special British pride, was unable even to guarantee the safety of its tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. This fact caused a stormy reaction among European military experts.

Neither numbers nor skills

“In 1990, the British Navy numbered 171 ships. In 2018, only 77, says Felix Arteaga, an expert at Real Instituto Elcano de Estudios Internacionales y Estratégicos. - The British are trying to imagine that, theoretically, everything is not so bad: just the quantity London changes to quality. "Previously, the main component of the fleet was destroyers, frigates and other escort ships, but now the emphasis is shifted to aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines."

As for the "shift of emphasis," it sounds, of course, beautiful. Just why then Rear Admiral Alex Burton, the former commander of the British Navy, recognized the consequences of reducing the fleet as fatal: “In 2005, we had 31 frigates. Today is 19. It has affected our ability to protect our interests around the world. ”

Another former British Navy commander, Admiral Adam West, on the Guardian pages complained that the country “is shamefully short of ships because of the government’s constant line to cut costs in this sector.” In his opinion, "at least four warships accompanying British civilian vessels" should be on duty in the Persian Gulf.

Judging by the construction of phrases and the sample of data presented by him, Burton mentioned above, tried to sweeten the pill. Rear Admiral chose not to recall that in 1982, at the time of the Falkland War with Argentina, there were more than 60 destroyers and frigates in the British Navy. And of those 19 escort ships that are in the ranks of the British Navy today, 10 are under repair. The remaining nine must somehow dodge in order to have time to defend British interests around the world. And when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard captured the “Wall of Impero” on July 19, the only ship of the Royal Navy in the Persian Gulf, the frigate HMS Montrose was only an hour from the scene, but could not do anything to prevent the capture.

To the absence of escort ships is added the problem of aircraft carriers. Rather, their almost complete absence. At the moment, the British Navy has only the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in operation since 2017. The government approved the construction of another aircraft carrier, which will cost 6.2 billion pounds and will be launched in 2020.

Since 2010, the military budget has been reduced by 18%, and this has affected not only the fleet, but also the army and the air force. According to Arteaga, the term "more than the decline of the Royal Navy" does not fully reflect the state of affairs. “We must talk about the discrepancy between Britain’s desire to be a great world power and its economic resources.”

You will not lure anyone into military service

The crisis also reached the cadres: the total size of the armed forces has been declining for the ninth consecutive year. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Defense, in July there were 74,440 full-time people trained in the army, compared to 76,880 last year. For its part, the total number of RAFs amounted to 29,930 of the required 31,840, while those of the Royal Navy fell to 29,090 from 30,600. The ground forces have advanced combat units that are 40% understaffed. Up to 16 regiments are in short supply.

In 2016, the British Armed Forces to cover the shortage of manpower, it was decided to accept everyone who wants to serve - not only the British, but also the citizens of the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. The only condition was the requirement that those who were employed lived on the territory of Misty Albion for five years. But this was not enough. At the end of last year, the government was forced to amend this law. Now, the uniform of a British soldier can be worn simply by any citizen of Australia, India, Canada, Kenya and Fiji, who before had not even set foot on the island’s land.

They say Britain is a country of eternal traditions. But when the need takes by the throat, the formula "there are no traditions that could not be abandoned for the sake of survival" comes into force.

What will the Navy cost them to build?

The share of import-export in the annual British GDP ($ 2.629 trillion) is almost 25%. Most goods, both to the island and from it to the continents, are delivered, of course, by sea. The UK is largely dependent on energy imported by the sea (oil, gas, coal): in the total volume of their annual consumption, the share of imports is about 40%.

In other words, shipping by sea is critical to the very existence of the UK. And these supplies need a security guarantee, including with the help of the navy. So it’s very clear that the exclamations of the British admirals about the need to increase the quantity and quality of warships are not professional nagging, covering up the care of one’s own pocket, but really a need. The question is how much this pleasure will cost the British taxpayer.

James Rogers, an analyst at the Henry Jackson Society, said in an interview with the Spanish publication El Confidencial that “the British government must provide sufficient resources to counter the level of threat that the country is currently facing. This requires an increase in costs, in particular for the Royal Navy, as well as an increase in the mortality rate of all its weapons. ”

According to Robert Fox, editor of the military department of Evening Standard, the British defense budget for next year will not exceed £ 40 billion (about $ 50 billion), although

“Only for the purchase of essential weapons, such as aircraft carriers, Astute submarines, F35 attack aircraft, and repairs of a dozen frigates, at least £ 6 billion more is required. And this does not take into account other branches of the armed forces. ”

And one more nuance. London seriously expects that in the event of a real crisis it will be "rescued by friends in NATO and the EU." However, as the same situation with the detention of the Wall of Impero showed, neither the members of the first nor the second organization are burning with a special desire to harness for the Britons. France declared its readiness to fit into the showdown in the Strait of Hormuz, which was cautiously (in the sense more in words than in deed) supported by Italy and Denmark. The United States and Iran have their own accounts, and Washington is in no hurry to drag chestnuts out of the fire for London. Although the European Union is formally on the side of Britain, the magic word “Brexit” gives rise to a very indifferent attitude towards the problems of London in Brussels.

In other words, while the NATO allies of London (read the USA) guard the sea routes to Britain, the kingdom has nothing to worry about. But at the slightest threat to the transatlantic partnership, the very physical survival of Britain will be called into question. And that’s all because of the crisis of the navy.