'Below the Waterline': UK Gov't Report Warns Royal Navy Faces 'Significant Risk' in Upcoming Decade
Among other things, the report appeared to criticise British government plans to replace the Royal Yacht Britannia with a "national flagship" that would cost an estimated £250 million (~$330 million).
The UK's Royal Navy appears to be outdated and not funded enough to tackle the "significant risk" posed by the next decade in the "increasingly hostile" and "complex" international security environment, the House of Commons Defence Committee concluded in a new report
Despite being hailed as one of "the most capable forces in the world", the Royal Navy faces issues like old ships that are "increasingly challenging to maintain" and the government's "failure to fund the ha'porth of tar" it needs - something that "has literally spoiled the ships".
“The next ten years will prove a test for our naval fleet", said Chair of the Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood. "The UK is faced with an increasingly hostile and unpredictable international environment but the Government is still reducing funding, retiring capability and asking the Navy to rely on increasingly elderly vessels for the next five years until new ships come in".
Among the problems that the UK Navy has to address, according to the report, is the fact that too many of its ships spend too much time in maintenance.
The report particularly pointed how at one point in July 2021, only one of the six Type 45 destroyers was not undergoing maintenance, with three of the vessels being refit, one in planned maintenance, and the last one "experiencing technical issues".
"When ships do get to sea they act like porcupines - well-defended herbivores with limited offensive capabilities", the report finds.
With the budget for operations and maintenance being tight, the document estimates that in the long run, the Royal Navy will have to do more tasks with fewer resources. It is also noted that that the Navy puts too much hope in Britain's allies and has "a limited scope to act independently".
The committee also appears to have assessed the government's plans to introduce a £250 million "national flagship" replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia, but failed to reach any optimistic conclusions.
"We received no evidence of the advantage to the Royal Navy of acquiring the National Flagship", the report says. "The £200-£250 million capital cost (the cost of a Type 31 frigate), combined with running costs (expected to be £20–30 million annually along with the need to provide a ship’s company of 50–60) will be an ongoing pressure on an already constrained naval budget".
The committee warned that the Navy "cannot fulfil the full ambition" of the United Kingdom's ambitious Integrated Review - the vision of Britain's foreign
, security, and defence policy rolled out in 2021.
“Of all the Services, the Government is most ambitious for the Navy. However, if the Government does not deliver the ships and capabilities the Navy needs, that ambition will be holed below the waterline", Ellwood concluded.