A former Royal Navy chief has slammed the current state of the fleet – after it was revealed more than a quarter of the UK’s frigates never left port last year.
Of the 12 Type 23 frigates, three – HMS Iron Duke, HMS St Albans and HMS Sutherland – spent no time at sea over that period, according to recently released figures from the Ministry of Defence.
A fourth ship, HMS Argyll,spent just 21 days away from port.
Meanwhile, one Type 45 destroyer – HMS Daring – spent no time at sea while undergoing a refit, with HMS Dragon leaving port for just 18 days.
Now Admiral Lord West, who was Chief of the Naval Staff between 2002 and 2006, has claimed the number of ships is ‘pathetically low’ and that Britain should possess a fleet that would “make someone’s eyes water if they crossed us at sea”.
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The former First Sea Lord blamed years of defence cuts, a lack of planning and recruitment issues for the current state of the Navy.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, he said: “We do not have enough ships in our territorial waters, exclusive economic zone or to ensure, with our allies, the security of the sea lanes and that is something that is crucial to this country.
“The danger is we have forgotten that we are a maritime nation which relies on the sea.”
Lord West added that more than 90 per cent of trade to and from the UK is transported via sea and that the country relied on other underwater infrastructure including gas pipelines and cables.
The Royal Navy said its fleet “continues to meet all operational requirements”.
Three new Type 26 Frigates, HMS Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast, are due to enter service in the second half of the decade.