A naval historian once
said to me there were two naval battles in the 20th
century which went against all the odds. One was the
Battle of Midway in 1942 where the Japanese should have
sunk the lot. The other was the Falklands conflict in
the Argentinean Junta with its four-hundred aircraft
against just twenty Sea Harriers should have sunk at
least one if not both of Admiral Sandy Woodward’s
The hundred day war as it
came to be known, I leave entirely to the impressive
mountain of books and articles already collecting dust
on the book shelves around this country.
However could we fight
this type of conflict today?
The answer would
simply be no.
So what has gone wrong in
the intervening years, when even in 1982 the Royal Navy
could just about scrape together a task
force to go down there whilst today it couldn’t
To repeat the question
what has gone wrong?
In general terms it’s
really quite simple, fifty years ago £1.6billion would
give the Royal Navy at least seventy frigates. Today it
will just buy one Guided Missile Destroyer and the next
generation such as the Zumwalt class destroyer already costing
around £5billion. It’s now clear this is unaffordable
for many nations including this one.
So do we need a Navy?
Without laboring the
point we are an Island surrounded by ocean.
So what is the solution
to the escalating costs of warships?
Let’s apply the famous
acronym KISS. (Keep It Simple Stupid.)
is a warship. HM for the
watertight with various weapons attached to it.
However, before we
look at what type of warship - we first need to look
at something mostly overlooked.
operational life of a warship which on average is around
twenty to twenty-five years.
This poses the most
important dilemma to a modern warship designer, simply
because what do you design today that could survive
against weapons ranged against it. That have yet
to be even conceived.
Lets look at two examples
of this problem.
In the Falklands we saw the County Class Destroyers
after twenty years’ service reduced to using their
primary weapon system Sea Slug to blow holes in the
runway at Port Stanley. The type 42 destroyers ten years
into their twenty five year operational life unable
to destroy Exocet or even shoot down low flying A4
So what is the
solution to stop a warship becoming obsolete in the
latter years of its operational life?