Saturday, January 06, 2007

Royal Navy, contraction or expansion - confusion from the Government 

Great uproars over the future of the Royal Navy, as you will know if you glance at the Daily Telegraph reports.

The first reports that half the existing surface fleet will be mothballed as part of a MoD cost cutting exercise. This will, (supreme horrors) leave the French Navy much superior to the Royal Navy.

The second report calls into question whether the UK will proceed with the building of two new aircraft carriers. Quite apart from the cost of the carriers, each of these huge vessels needs a battle group of cruisers and destroyers to provide surface protection. So if we are to build the carriers we should need more of the kind of ships being mothballed.

One feature of the carrier deal is that

The MoD has given defence contractors a £3.6 billion budget to build the Queen
Elizabeth and Prince of Wales but the industry has insisted on a further £200 million to deliver the first ship by 2012. Further stalling has been caused by the MoD insisting on the four major companies, led by BAe Systems, effectively to unite into a single company to build the ships. Legal wrangling over this could lead to a year's delay.

This of course is the BAe Systems implicated in the Saudi Arms Deal Imbroglio. Could it be that the decision not to proceed with the bribery investigations had something to do with the need to avoid further upsetting the company in these other deals?

And where, one might ask, does the (expensive) projected replacement of the Vanguard submarines (the launch-pads for the Trident missiles) come into all this spending? Hard to say given that the spending on the Nuclear Launchpads was excluded from the last Strategic Defence Review in 1998. A tangled web here… the Navy of course regards the nuclear deterrent as a ‘Political Asset’ rather than a weapons system.

So The Navy in general, the whole Trident business, and the incredibly complex relationship between BAe Systems and HMG... looks like issues for the Party to get its teeth into... and with the longstanding defence procurement corruption threads, not issues that the Tories will necessarily be happy with.

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