Paddy: Royal Marines paying the price of two floating white elephants

In a typically passionate and knowledgeable intervention, ex-Royal Marine Paddy Ashdown has attacked cuts of 200 posts in his former fighting unit:

In an unpredictable age, we need forces that are fast, flexible and mobile. That’s what the Royal Marines do at a world-class level.

To cut their numbers to fill a Naval manpower black hole is not just poor reward for their service over the last years, but a folly which plays fast and loose with the nation’s defences.

The Royal Marines have carried the greatest burden in the defence of our country over the last decade – they have fought in more theatres and won more battles than any other British unit. They are also the crucial manpower pool from which we draw many of our Special Forces.

The Royal Marines are paying the price for the foolish decisions made in the last Strategic Defence Review, in which the Service Chiefs were allowed to hang on to their most prestigious equipment, even if they made little or no contribution to the nation’s strategic long-term defence needs.

We are now saddled with cuts to the Royal Marines to pay for sailors to man two huge aircraft carriers which many fear are little more than floating white elephants.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Oh dear, Paddy. You’ve lost your timesheet. The project was supported and visited by Nick Clegg and Michael Moore during the coalition and theh told us how important it was for Scotland.

  • Should be hymnsheet – predictive text.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Apr '17 - 12:28pm

    “floating white elephants”? Surely it depends on who they are fighting. As with battleships in WW1 they can be large and important targets, but they should be more than status symbols or job creation programmes. We should remember that the Defence Secretary, John Nott, advised against sending a fleet to the Falklands because of lack of air cover. He commented that the top brass went to see the Prime Minister. He said that she liked “men in uniform”. A large aircraft carrier should be surrounded by smaller ships with anti-missile defences, as the Americans do.

  • As a fellow former Royal, like Paddy I am appalled that so soon after the sacrifices of the Afghan years they are being cut back.

  • @Richard Underhill – “A large aircraft carrier should be surrounded by smaller ships with anti-missile defences, as the Americans do.”

    I would have thought that a large aircraft carrier should be launching aircraft for AEW and combat air patrols. Eventually we might have enough aircraft to do this. In the meantime the Royal Navy has a grand total of 6 Type 45 anti-aircraft Destroyers. Bearing in mind that some of these will be in dock for maintenance or being used for training, and others might need to be deployed on other missions, “surrounding” a carrier might be problematic.

  • Rosyth aircraft carriers spared from defence cuts | Politics | The Guardian › Politics › Spending review 2010
    19 Oct 2010 – Nick Clegg says safeguarding the £5.2bn contract for building HMS Queen … Tuesday 19 October 2010 10.37 EDT First published on Tuesday 19 … Two aircraft carriers being constructed in Scotland will be spared from cuts.

    So where was Jeremy John Durham Ashdown, Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, at the time ?

  • Laurence Cox 13th Apr '17 - 3:19pm

    Paddy is quite right. We have two carriers that are not interoperable with any of our allies apart from the US Marines, because they are the only one of the US Defence Forces that chose the F-35B, as they wanted a Harrier (AV-8B) replacement. A conventional CATOBAR carrier would have enabled wider interoperability and also aircraft with a greater range (1200 nmi vs 900 nmi) by allowing the UK to buy the F-35C.

    The entire procurement process for the carriers was a disaster from start to finish. It was no more than a very expensive job creation project.

  • Simon Banks 17th Apr '17 - 4:20pm

    So because the project was backed by Liberal Democrat ministers in coalition, it must be right? Or because it was backed by them, Paddy shouldn’t criticise it now?

  • @ Simon Banks You (wilfully ?) miss the point, Simon.

    The point is who on earth knows what Liberal Democrat policy is on the aircraft carriers when the then Leader (now the ex-Leader) and an even earlier ex Leader can’t even get their ducks in a row never mind sing from the same hymn sheet………….. All over the place and clear as mud.

    That is, unless you want them to be a man/men for all seasons with different policies for different place, different audiences which includes eating or not eating their hats..

    It’d called consistency.

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