The end of the Royal Navy?

Posted by: Phineas on October 8, 2010 at 1:00 pm
The Royal Navy's "White Ensign"

The White Ensign of the Royal Navy

This is sad news. Because of the budgetary crisis brought on by profligate government spending and the recent recession, the Royal Navy has offered to reduce itself to its smallest size in over 450 years, when Henry VIII was King:

The Navy is set to be reduced to the smallest size in its history after admirals yesterday offered drastic reductions in the fleet in order to save two new aircraft carriers from defence cuts.

Under the plans, the number of warships would be cut by almost half to just 25, with frigates, destroyers, submarines, minesweepers and all amphibious craft scrapped.


It is understood that the Navy has offered to slim down to as few as 12 surface ships, leaving it with six Type 45 destroyers and six Type 23 frigates. In addition, its submarine fleet would reduce to seven Astute hunter-killers plus the four Trident nuclear deterrent boats. With the two carriers, this would reduce the fleet by half from its current total of 42 ships.

“If we want the two carriers it means we have to mortgage everything and by that I mean reducing the fleet by almost a half,” said a senior Navy source.

Navy analysts warned that the cuts would mean Britain reducing its fleet to the size of the Italian navy and almost half the size of the French.

Emphasis added. This is what the heirs of the victors of Trafalgar are reduced to? Oh, the shame.

The Admiralty apparently is offering to make these cuts because they want to complete the construction of two new aircraft carriers, which they claim is essential to maintaining Britain’s status as a world power. Perhaps so, but I’m not sure what good carriers are if you don’t have enough other ships to protect them. Besides, as the article points out, Her Majesty’s Government may not even be able to afford to put any planes on them.

So, they’re gutting the Royal Navy to build floating planter boxes?

It’s a depressing turn for what was once one of the greatest naval forces to ever sail the oceans. Along with its great battle victories, the Royal Navy essentially ended the transatlantic slave trade and guaranteed freedom of the seas, until we took over that latter role. Indeed, the US Navy took many of its traditions from the Royal Navy, and for the last 100 years the two have fought side-by-side against the deadly enemies of both nations.

And now it’s come to this: just 25 ships, a fleet that’s little better than a coastal defense force. Great Britain thus leaves itself reliant on the EU and soft power for its security.

Nelson and Churchill weep.

LINKS: This possibility was first discussed roughy three years ago; I wrote about it then, too, and the observations I made then seem just as true today.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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6 Responses to “The end of the Royal Navy?”


  1. Carlos says:

    No, Phineas, this is what the heirs to socialism are reduced to.

    Take note, all you Democraps, jackasses, liberals, socialists, neo-leninists, stalinists, communists and pretty much anyone who refuses to pay attention to reality.

    I’m sure the muslims of the world already have.

  2. Old Goat says:

    With the advent of other forces, especially Air Forces, it reduces the importance of the Navy. While there is still a need for a strong Navy, if only to have supplies and a portable flight deck, the days of Navy battles are declining.

    I don’t think they will go away, but the roles have been reducing for a long time.

    It is still a result of economic woes and could hurt England’s standing in the world, but failed policies have their cost.

  3. Old Bull says:

    They no longer have anything they want to defend, so what’s the point. The funniest line was that they want the aircraft carriers in order to maintain their status as a “world power.” Whom are they trying to kid?? They are content to hide behind the U.S., just like the rest of Europe has since 1945. Frees up more money for their failed socialized societies. If I were in the Royal Navy, I would resign and find a real job with a future. Maybe providing security at a local mosque?

  4. Tango says:

    This is not really news (I recall writing and posting about the demise of the RN at least a couple of years ago). As bad as the (current story here) is – the likelihood that those two new Brit carriers will actually be built – even with the gutting of the so many other ships in “exchange” – is very small. The Brit government has been negotiating with the EU for some sort of mutual protection pact. The writing has been on the wall for a very long time now. It is just that the realities are finally beginning to manifest themselves in a very real way.

    I do not believe for a nano-second that a nation’s air force (in the current era) is a substitute for a reliable navy. Only a strong Navy can guarantee safe passage for ships at sea. History proves this time and again. A “coastal defense force” -especially for the likes of Great Britain, with its enormous coastlines, will be about as useful to them overall as a neutered Chihuahua.

    There is an old axiom in the United States. Almost every time in the past 75 years (or so) when an international crisis has erupted, among the very first words out of official Washington is, “where are our carriers?”

  5. Steve Skubinna says:

    I’ve been expecting this for a long time. The RN is currently procuring three major ship classes – the carriers, the Daring class DDGs, and the Astute class SSNs. No way can they afford all three systems in reasonable numbers, and it isn’t a question of finances but of political will. None of the social democracies consider defense a major priority and all of them would rather spend the money on social projects.

    It’s worth considering that the Argentines made two major miscalculations in invading the Falklands. First, they misjudged the amount of steel in Margaret Thatcher’s spine. Second, the RN’s amphibious capability was on the auction block, as was HMS Hermes (their last conventional carrier) and HMS Invincible (the first of their Harrier carriers). Had they waited two years the Brits would have been unable to get to the Falklands, let alone take them back, regardless of how much grit Thatcher had.

    Now consider that Obama has thrown the Brits under the bus again, by telling them they should negotiate with Argentina over the Falklands (why? should we negotiate with Spain over Texas?). The British residents of the Falklands may as well abandon their land and relocate to the UK. Either that or learn Spanish.

    And Old Goat, a reason there’s little prospect of a major sea battle is that nobody is in the same league as we are. There are no big deck carrier battle groups anywhere in the world outside the USN. That doesn’t mean sea forces are now irrelevant. A carrier can operate aircraft anywhere in international waters without anyone’s permission, as the Libyans can attest. Marines can come come ashore on nearly any coastline. And ask the Somali pirates how much the world’s armies and air forces concern them.

  6. Phineas says:


    None of the social democracies consider defense a major priority and all of them would rather spend the money on social projects.

    An excellent point*. After WW2, the mostly Center-Left parties that came to power in Western Europe decided, in the wake of two disastrous wars in less than 30 years, that the only way to intra-European peace was to buy it with heavy social spending. The military budgets were easy targets for cutting under this program, both as a source of funds and because they knew they we’d come running in the event of a crisis. Hence European defense budgets are almost below maintenance levels, less than 2% of GDP in many cases.

    And this has bearing on our own situation, because, under Obama and the (Social) Democrats, we’re seeing the first signs of the same kind of pressure on military budgets to pay for EU-like domestic programs here. Trouble is, who’ll come running when we find ourselves in a crisis?

    *(Which I had meant to make in the original post, but forgot to. D’oh! #-o )