Defence chief says scrapping warships has created 'ridiculous situation'
BRITAIN'S defence chief has raised concerns over the shortage of warships and the impact this has on operations in the wake of cutbacks which saw Devonport-based frigates scrapped.
General Sir David Richards has warned the lack of ships had led to the 'ridiculous' situation where the Navy was forced to use its most advanced vessels for basic tasks such as tackling Somali pirates in small dhows armed with rocket propelled grenades.
This had to be sorted out he said.
In a speech Sir David also said ministers had made military cutbacks without reducing operational demands, and indicated this could not continue.
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"If you reduce your Armed Forces, there is going to be a give – something gives," he said.
Sir David also criticised the failure to find a "political resolution" in Afghanistan despite the opportunities provided by the military.
In addition to slashing 5,000 jobs in the Navy, all four of Plymouth's Type 22 frigates have been scrapped, and one of Devonport's amphibious assault ships mothballed, as part of the biggest round of defence cuts since the end of the Cold War.
In a lecture at Oxford University, Sir David said: "One of my biggest concerns is the number of frigates and destroyers the Navy has."
A shortage of ships meant using hi-tech warships to tackle piracy in the Indian Ocean.
He said: "you get this ridiculous situation where in Operation Atalanta off the Somali coast, we have £1 billion destroyers trying to sort out pirates in a little dhow with RPGs costing $50, with an outboard motor costing $100.
"That can't be good. We've got to sort it out."
Sir David also said ministers' demands had not changed to meet the reduced size of the military.
He said: "We have a whole load of tasks expected of us. Our political masters are quite happy to reduce the size of the Armed Forces, but their appetite to exercise influence on the world stage is, quite understandably, the same as it has always been.
"Often politicians say to me, 'can you go and do this?' I say to them, 'with what?'."
Sir David added: "If you reduce your Armed Forces, there is going to be a give – something gives."
Tory MP for South West Devon Gary Streeter agreed with Sir David's comments.
He said; "I think we will live to regret the scale of the cutting back of our armed forces.
"You have only to watch the news to see we are heading into uncertain waters, be it the Middle East or turbulence in parts of Europe.
"This is not the time to be let down our guard.
"I still think our defence budget should be increased."
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View and Shadow Defence Minister, said: "General Richards in his comments was voicing concerns that I have been hearing for quite some time.
"The problems in my view have arisen in my view as a result of the rushed Strategic Defence and Security Review.
"We really do need to consider very carefully what we as a nation want to do with our armed forces, and once that decision is made ensure that we have the people and kit in order to be able to meet those demands."
In a statement issued in the wake of his lecture last week, Sir David insisted that the military capability required under the defence review could be achieved with the resources available, but said: "It is right that candid military analysis keeps the Government aware of constraints while the Government, rightly, seeks to achieve the maximum effect with the assets available."