Breaking Defense has published an article on Penny Mordaunt’s visit to Washington.
The report quotes the Minister of State and I think puts two and two together and gets eight.
The United Kingdom is committed to a high-end battle fleet centered on two aircraft carriers, a senior Ministry of Defense official made clear yesterday. Just as important, the UK is committed to funding adequate crews to sail them — something that had been in doubt after much discussion about cutting costs by effectively mothballing the second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, once it was built.
One of the much anticipated decisions that will be finalised in SDSR 2015 is how the Royal Navy will operate both QE class carriers, there are many options, all of them being worked on no doubt, as we speak. Whether it is two in operation at the same time, one available as a spare to cover refits and contingencies, or some other combination, it would be wise for public officials to avoid pre-empting the outcome of the SDSR.
Was it a case of loose lips or journalistic misinterpretation?
The article reports her words’
The decision to have two carriers was taken prior to the SDSR, and for my money, that was absolutely the right decision. We have made certain assumptions going into the SDSR about…some of the things that we think are fundamental and we have already committed to. Manning them is very much already factored in to the Navy’s manning plan. There’s investment that’s going in, actually not a stone’s throw away from my own constituency, to enable…general maintenance to be done much more quickly. To save costs, the Queen Elizabeth class has a fewer sailors for its size than older ships but it requires additional shore support
Reading that, it does seem a little ambiguous but the ‘manning them is very much already factored in’ statement could easily be construed as meaning two carriers, manned at full strength, at the same time.
She went on to say;
There’s no point in having a capability that you can’t rely on and you need at least two carriers to be able to guarantee that you can use [one] when you need them.
What about the aircraft?
Any sort of further commitments on details… whether it’s numbers of aircraft or numbers of frigates or what have you, that will be coming out of the SDSR process. But what I would say [is that in the SDSR] there will also be a lot of radical thinking about the kinds of things we will be operating… .from the carriers, not just F-35s but other air assets, whether they’re manned or unmanned..
In the sensitive pre SDSR environment careless talk like this usually comes from former defence officials or officers as they seek to position, influence or gain traction for one decision or the other, not a Minister of State.
A Royal Navy reservist herself, Mordaunt made clear in her remarks yesterday to the Atlantic Council that the fleet was a top priority.
Is this really the kind of service centric favouritism wise, does it add value to the SDSR process?
We are a maritime nation, if those pinch points are closed, in a few days we will be in deep trouble. 90 percent of everything that we use as fuel, as goods, is brought to the UK by sea. So this is an absolute priority for us.
Please God, not the ‘we are a maritime nation’ theme.
On other surface vessels, there were a couple of other gems;
These are the most sophisticated warships in the world,” Mordaunt boasted at the Atlantic Council. They also “are probably the most expensive warships in the world,” she acknowledged, somewhat ruefully. “You can buy a frigate for half the price that the Type 26s are going to cost us,” Mordaunt said, but it wouldn’t have half the capability. Likewise, the Type 45 destroyer is much more expensive and powerful than alternative designs, she said: “We have chosen to buy billion-pound warships because it makes us relevant to the US.”
Types 45’s are expensive because we want to be relevant to the US.
Really, is that really what she said, is she auditioning for the Simple Sailor’s gig or just playing to the audience?
Words matter, especially ahead of a very sensitive SDSR process that needs total agreement from all three services.
I think there is a lesson in there about being careful with them.