British Parliament warns over naval destroyer delay


Britain‘s security has been compromised by delays in receiving a £6.5 billion, ($10.7 billion) fleet of new warships operational and halving the order to six, a parliamentary committee said earlier this today.

HMS Daring, the first of the new Type 45 destroyers, will enter service at the end of the year but the Public Accounts Committee said the project was two years late and £1.5 billionover its original budget.

“What is disgraceful is that it will enter service with not one of its main anti-air missiles having been fired from the ship – and it will not be fully operational until 2011,” committee chairman Edward Leigh said, reports Reuters.

Leigh said the existing fleet of Type 42 destroyers had to be “patched up” and kept in service with worrying implications for defence capability.

“One is our having to rely for a number of years on aging vessels designed and built for the Cold War,” Leigh said.

“The other implication is that the number of new destroyer`s falls short of the 12 originally planned and the eight subsequently proposed, making it very difficult for the Ministry of Defence to meet its requirement of having five ships at sea at any one time,” he said.

Incentives should be provided for the industry to help keep five ships operational at all times, the report said.

Quentin Davies, junior defence minister, said extensive trials of the missile system had been carried out.

“In these circumstances, the use of the word `disgrace’ obviously makes no sense at all and is absurd,” Davies said.

“The Type 45 will be the largest, most powerful air defence destroyer ever built for the Royal Navy. It will set new standards in air defence, capable of defending its company from multiple attacks from the most sophisticated anti-ship missiles and aircraft,” he said.

The stealth destroyer was built by BAE Systems and VT Group VT.L. VT is in talks with BAE to finalise the sale of its 45 percent stake in their naval shipbuilding joint venture for a minimum of 380 million pounds.

Britain‘s Royal Navy has been hit severely by defence cuts in recent years as planners focus on urgent operational needs for ground-based operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defence budgets are likely to be squeezed further after a general election due by the middle of next year which the opposition centre-right Conservatives are tipped to win.

The next government will have to cut a budget deficit forecast to grow to 175 billion pounds this year.

The Type 45 programme will provide the backbone of Britain‘s naval air defences until 2040 or beyond.

It will enter service in December after completing sea trials, but well before two new aircraft carriers it was built to protect. It has the capability to shield London from missile attacks in the 2012 Olympics and protect Britain‘s fleet from multiple sea-skimming weapons.