Latest threats to maritime power: The targets set in Options for Change are clearly not final. Christopher Bellamy reports
Saturday 03 April 1993
The Navy also faces the loss of a vital component of British maritime power, which could never be replaced, according to senior officers. Proposals to sell the four newest Upholder-class conventional (diesel-electric) submarines to Canada were leaked earlier this year, and these - the Navy's only non-nuclear-powered submarines - remain at risk after the reprieve of the new commando helicopter carrier, announced on Monday.
Nuclear-powered submarines can remain submerged for much longer than conventional ones. But the latter are quieter and smaller, and have advantages in shallow water and for Special Boat Service commandos.
The Options for Change plans envisage a force of four Trident ballistic-missile firing submarines, 12 nuclear-powered attack submarines and four conventional submarines. Naval sources are adamant that a four- boat conventional submarine force is the absolute minimum. Meanwhile, 70 countries have conventional submarines and Iran has just acquired a Russian Kilo-class boat.
The Army and RAF could also face cuts beyond the Options 1995 threshold. Army strength, due to be reduced to 116,000, is now being held at 119,000, but after 1997, when Hong Kong is handed to China, the number of battalions might be further cut.
The RAF is to be reduced from a 1990 strength of 89,000 to 75,000 by 1995. Yesterday, the MoD rejected speculation that there could be a further reduction to below 70,000. 'So far the Government has only announced 75,000,' an RAF spokesman said.
Clearly, Options targets are not final. 'It's a continuing reassessment of the manpower requirements', an MoD Navy department official said. 'There are no operational implications.'
There are operational implications, however, of cuts to big equipment programmes, which are necessary to shave pounds 1bn off the defence budget over the next two years.
The reprieve of the Navy's new pounds 170m commando carrier, the landing platform helicopter, guarantees 1,500 civilian shipyard jobs for four years and safeguards what is probably the Navy's most immediately useful weapon. It can put 500 highly trained Marines ashore anywhere in the world - but it will have to be paid for.
The Royal Naval Reserve is due to be reduced from 5,900 to 4,700. Fears have been expressed that the RNR might be abolished, but MoD sources yesterday ruled that out.
'There is a study into the future structure of the RNR, and that could mean further cuts', a source said, 'but total wind- down is not a runner'.
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Superb opportunity for a BUYING...
£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers personalise...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...
£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...