THE Navy is finding it “increasingly difficult” to deploy a nuclear hunter-killer submarine to patrol British waters around the Falkland Islands.
Submarines proved their effectiveness in the Falklands War when HMS Conqueror sank the General Belgrano. However, the Conqueror was decommissioned in 1990 and the hunter-killer fleet is “now well beyond its sell-by date”.
I have always argued that we need to have a submarine on permanent deployment in the South Atlantic but this was reduced to occasional deployment. Now we seem not able to do that, either.
Admiral Sandy Woodward
Hunter-killer submarines are needed to carry out vital duties, including protecting Britain’s Trident missile-carrying Vanguard submarines which patrol the North Atlantic.
However, HMS Torbay is undergoing maintenance, HMS Trenchant will need servicing after its deployment in the Middle East, HMS Talent is awaiting decommissioning and HMS Triumph, which should have been decommissioned last year, is being used for training .
HMS Astute, the first of our new £1.2billion Astute class submarines, is still not fully operational.
Tireless, dubbed HMS Tired, was forced to return to base last month due to a coolant leak in its nuclear reactor. Sources suggest it could be out of action for 10 months.
Last night naval sources suggested the likelihood of an Argentine seaborne invasion was “almost non-existent”. However, submarines have long been regarded as the “secret weapon of ultimate deterrence” against Argentine aggression.
Details of their deployment are never made public but last year Navy sources let it be known when HMS Talent was sent to the islands to put a lid on any threat of Argentine aggression during the 30th anniversary of the conflict.
The Navy aims to send a hunter-killer nuclear submarine to South Atlantic waters at least twice in 12 months.
Last night former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West said Britain is “now paying the price” for the 10-year delay in ordering the Astute-class replacements.
“Even when they come on line fully, we will not have the eight submarines which, I believe, is the minimum number we should have in our locker to undertake the tasks required.”
Last night a Ministry of Defence spokesman said there were contingency plans to increase the military footprint in the South Atlantic if required but there was no suggestion of any need to do this at present.
Source – The Express