In the last few days, the British press and social media have been rife with reports that the Royal Marines are to be reduced by 1000 from their present establishment of 6500. In addition, the amphibious fleet may be similarly reduced with the decommissioning of the landing platform dock (LPD) that is the core of the British ready capability and the possible disposal of both that ship and a sister unit held in reserve. This scheme is one option being considered as part of a ‘mini defence review’ underway in the UK.
That the Royal Navy should be considering such a desperate step is the result of two problems.
One is lack of money, the main cause of the ‘mini’ review. The government has put some new funding into the defence portfolio, but one of the most serious early consequences of Brexit has been the depreciation of Sterling against the US dollar. Among other planned purchases, this has made the new F-35 strike fighter, central to both the aircraft carrier program and the modernisation of the Royal Air Force, very much more expensive at a time when acquisition of the new fighter is just getting into stride.
Even without this new stress, however, it has been clear for many years that the entire British defence portfolio is chronically under-resourced when compared with both operational commitments and planned acquisitions. A series of defence reviews and efficiency drives have failed to provide a solution. The Royal Navy is in a particularly bad position, with a shortfall in the region of $A1 billion annually.
Second, there is an urgent need to free up human resources for the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers, the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, and its surface combatant force. (end of excerpt)
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