John Dunbar argues a re-branded Royal Navy Home Fleet would be understood both politically and publicly and would provide a much stronger basis to argue for the necessary resources to bolster protection of UK waters and economic interests.
On 22nd January the Sunday Times revealed that a routine Trident missile test conducted by HMS Vengeance off the US coast in June 2016 had been a failure. A telemetry problem had caused the unarmed missile to be destroyed in flight. Previous test-firings have been announced to the media but this test had remained secret. Government stands accused of hiding a politically inconvenient fact close to the time when Parliament was due to approve the Trident renewal program.
The F-35 Lightning II has proved highly controversial since the program’s conception in the 1990s. There are still those in the UK who would be happy to see the back of it, but the arguments in favour of the aircraft that is an essential part of the RN’s future are overwhelming.
On New Years Day the Ministry of Defence stated: “2017 is the year of the navy”. The Defence Secretary said, “2017 is the start of a new era of maritime power, projecting Britain’s influence globally and delivering security at home.” There is no doubt that there will be some very significant milestones in the program to deliver new equipment to the RN and there are many reasons to be positive. But this is just one side of the story. While it is very heartening to see new vessels arrive, this must be seen in the context of the size and strength of the fleet as a whole.