Head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the First Sea Lord, has spoken today about how the Navy is supporting operations in Afghanistan and how Defence needs to think beyond Afghanistan.
Admiral Stanhope gave his speech at Chatham House, home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, today, Friday 27 November 2009.
The speech follows in full:
"It is always an honour to be invited to speak here at Chatham House and I am grateful for the opportunity. I should preface my remarks by saying that I am speaking this afternoon from my perspective as a member of the Defence Board, as well as being the First Sea Lord.
"It is important that my comments to you today are seen in the context of, firstly, the Defence needs of this nation and then how Maritime Forces support these needs, rather than the other way around.
"My theme is 'Beyond Afghanistan' and my choice of subject reflects what I see as challenging times for the UK Armed Forces.
"We in Defence are stretched, certainly, but I think we are also delivering across all of our business. The Navy's immediate, unquestionable focus remains its long-standing commitment to supporting the Joint Campaign in Afghanistan. From last October to April this year, around 3,000 members of the Naval Service provided over 30 per cent of the UK forces deployed to Helmand, including not only the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade and the Harrier jets of the Naval Strike Wing, but also Naval Air Squadron helicopters and significant numbers of logistic, engineering, medical and HQ staff.
"I pause to recognise the bravery of all those who have served and are serving in that campaign. Indeed, as I speak, one of my sailors, Medical Assistant First Class Kate Nesbitt, is at Buckingham Palace to receive the Military Cross in recognition of her outstanding courage on the field of battle.
"I also pay tribute to those killed or injured in that fight, their selfless sacrifice and the courage of their families. The Navy's commitment to Afghanistan endures today with hundreds of individual sailors and marines in theatre supporting 11 Brigade. The future deployment of 40 Commando Royal Marines in 2010 as part of Operation HERRICK and of the remainder of 3 Commando Brigade planned during 2011 underscores the Navy's commitment to, and engagement in, this campaign.
"Meanwhile, those elements of the Navy not in Afghanistan continue to undertake a vast range of other military tasks, providing the security needed to cover the UK's back while Defence focuses on Afghanistan.
"Naval ships, submarines, aircraft and personnel are currently deployed worldwide conducting national and multi-national operations which support the UK, promote its values and protect its interests and economic prosperity.
"In the last 12 months alone, the range of tasks has been huge. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full transcript fo the speech, on the MoD website.