Do You Understand your Prime Minister? (excerpt)
(Source: Daily Mail’s William Forbes blog; posted Aug. 31, 2012)

“Do you understand your Prime Minister?” the General asked me. "Have you seen the news from BAE Systems? It’s a picture of his new peaceship. The First Sea Lord says it’s designed for ‘humanitarian and disaster relief work around the world’, but just look at it. It’s not built for the North Atlantic, not with that hull it ain’t, look at the flare, but it’s painted North Atlantic grey to seem stealthy. If it’s to run around the world doing good as the SDSR tells us, the Prime Minister will want people to see it, won’t he? So it shouldn’t be coloured for stealth – it should be painted vividly in highly saturated fluorescent red, white and blue.”

“Yes,” I said, “but this is the Type 26, the new Global Combat Ship. It’s going to be in combat against pirates and drug runners. That’s why it’s grey. Not exactly stealth, but ‘low observability’. Look, it has a gun.”

“A gun!” he said. “You call that a gun? When I was a toddler I had a cowboy suit with a bigger gun than that. Matelots used to know how to cover their rear, but they can’t here with that, can they? A Somali in a skiff with an RPG could approach from astern and sink it.”

“Yes, if it could get near enough to use an RPG, but there’s a helicopter to look after the rear.” But only one, I thought, and that might be a Merlin even if they plan on an updated Lynx. And how often would a Merlin be serviceable in 2020?

“Five years ago, in the Gulf, HMS Cornwall had a chopper but it couldn’t even defend the cabin boy’s iPod. D’you see there are no rails? A rough sea swamping the deck and stealth will be destroyed by a trail of sailors washed overboard. No davits for the lifeboats. No lifeboats. I can see only two cells for launching missiles – perhaps there are more astern – but it really doesn’t look like a warship, does it? It' s a peaceship. What’s it actually for?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “They plan on it coming into service in 2020, so ...”

“2020!” he interrupted. “It’s a BAE Systems contract commissioned by the MoD, for heaven’s sake. And it’s for the Royal Navy, which is still governed by tradition. That means it will be years late, vastly over budget, and too expensive to fully equip. We’ve been sending ships to sea without their missiles ever since that lunatic Brown decided missiles were unnecessary so long as our ships were actually capable of putting to sea with missiles if they had any, so having no missiles because we have no money is the new tradition we must follow. Forget 2020. That was chosen for PR reasons because the first new carrier is due to go to sea then – without aircraft, of course, because we can’t afford the ones for which it was designed, and those will be tactically useless anyway.”

“Well, it’s not really that bad,” I said. “When it does eventually come into service, it will be basically a new type of destroyer. Our admirals insist on having a destroyer-frigate navy. That’s what they understand. They can cope with aircraft carriers, but they don’t really like them.”

“Yes, you’re right,” he said, “and that’s the problem. A destroyer-frigate navy. The frigates are there to defend against submarines, and the destroyers against air attacks, but the submarines the frigates once fought successfully were diesel-powered. They can’t fight nuclear subs. Only other nuclear subs can do that. Helicopters could sometimes, perhaps, but I doubt it for the future. The destroyers might do point defence against some incoming missiles, but not against crossing targets, and not against the existing supersonic surface-skimming cruise missiles – and by 2020 new hypersonic anti-ship missiles will have put this Type 26 Global Combat Ship out of business, and the carriers, too, of course.”

“Perhaps you have a point,” I admitted. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full post, on the Daily Mail website.

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