Leadership: July 6, 2001


Last November, British Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh (then the Commander in Chief Fleet and now the First Sea Lord) prepared a secret report to the government which listed numerous concerns over the status of the Royal Navy. This document has now leaked, and its findings are startling. 

@ The Royal Navy is stretched thin, with too many missions and not nearly enough money or warships. At the same time, the budget has been cut and the spare parts and ammunition accounts raided to support peacekeeping missions. 

@ Pilot shortages are a serious problem, but particularly so for Harrier FA2 pilots. There is currently a danger that the RN could not field two complete squadrons, and Harrier pilots are leaving the service voluntarily at an increasing rate. The upgrade of Harrier FA2 fighters to the superior type-1161 engine has yet to be completed and without the new engines the aircraft are not fully capable.

@ There are serious concerns over anti-submarine capabilities. The Royal Navy does not have adequate abilities to detect or attack enemy submarines, or to protect its ships from submarine attack.

@ The Merlin-HM1 helicopter is requiring much more maintenance than expected, and cannot operate its dipping sonar at night.

@ Rotor head problems have reduced the available Lynx helicopters to the point some warships have been without their assigned helicopters for three months.

@ Nuclear submarines are suffering several problems (major repairs are needed to their reactors) and there is a major danger that the government might need a submarine to fire Tomahawk missiles for some major operation at a time when the Fleet has too few submarines available.

@ The Royal Fleet Auxiliary force has not been kept up to date as the current administration has continued to hold down military spending. New ship types have been delayed, and there is poor logistical support due to budget problems. Restricted defense budgets have meant that the spare parts bins are empty, without even war reserve stocks to support a major deployment.

@ The Sea Dart and Sea Wolf air defense missiles have not been upgraded to meet new threats.

@ The limited range of the Sea King helicopters limits resupply operations.

@ Helicopter delivery of ammunition to Marine landing forces cannot be adequately done under safety rules. Wartime operations would require the Defense Minister to waive these rules, but this is not done for peacetime exercises, limiting the Fleet's ability to project power.--Stephen V Cole


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