At the close of the NATO summit in Wales this week David Cameron delivered the good news that the Royal Navy will be allowed to retain the second aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales. This was another U-turn, reversing one of the many mistaken decisions of Cameron’s 2010 Defence Review that stated the ship would be mothballed or sold. More
On 22nd July HMS Illustrious entered Portsmouth for the final time flying her paying off pennant and formally decommissions on 28th August after 32 years service. The passing of this ship marks a significant moment for the RN. It is always sad when a warship that has served the nation for so long is retired but it also marks the start of a ‘rock bottom’ period. 2014 – 2020 will see the RN in a deep trough of major ‘capability gaps’ mainly stemming from the decisions of the 2010 defence review.
Confusingly the majority of official naval and government PR and promotion of the project has been focused on the carriers size, the engineering achievement and the industrial and employment benefits. The carriers certainly are amazing products of British design and manufacturing and are keeping thousands employed across the country. However the whole purpose of aircraft carriers and their actual benefits to the UK have been very underplayed.
Current air operations in Afghanistan, emphasising the under-resourcing of helicopters, obscures the continuing dependency of the UK on the sea and sea-based airpower. The historic and future dependence of the UK’s economy on the maritime environment drives the long-term requirement for the UK to have a flexible and proportionate global reach. This is not currently receiving the attention it deserves. More