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New Frigate May Sail Without Surface-to-Surface Missiles

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Tomahawk cruise missile launch (file image courtesy U.S. Navy)

By MarEx 2017-03-02 12:59:01

The Royal Navy's procurement woes continued Wednesday with revelations that the Ministry of Defense has no plans to fill up the cruise missile launchers on the new Type 26 frigates, which are specifically designed to fire a munition that Britain does not have.

Each of the eight ships will be fitted with 24 silos for the $1.6 million Tomahawk cruise missile, but the Ministry of Defense's 10-year budget does not include an allocation for buying the missiles themselves. Critics and opposition politicians described the news as a "dog's breakfast," "embarrassing," and an example of "muddled thinking" at the Ministry, but the MoD insists that the vessels will only enter service with missiles on board. 

“The Type 26 Frigate will be delivered with cutting edge weapons and sensors that build on the excellent operational record of the Type 23," an MoD spokesman told The Sun. “Backed by a rising defence budget and a £178 billion equipment plan, investment in the MK-41 launcher enables the Royal Navy the option of investing in a wide range of additional capabilities at short notice and according to the threat.”

The news adds to a long string of procurement setbacks for the Royal Navy, many of which stem from overall defense budget cuts of roughly 20 percent since 2010. The service's frigates and destroyers will lose their aging Harpoon anti-ship missiles in 2018 without a funded replacement, removing their long-range surface warfare capability for the foreseeable future; its shipborne helicopters will also lose their anti-ship missiles next year, and the heli crews will only be able to share tactical data by landing and handing off a physical USB stick; the new Type 45 destroyers have suffered from repeated turbine shutdowns in hot conditions; and all of the service's new attack submarines were recently off of patrol duty for repairs or sea trials.