Defence 'gap' as ships axed
SLASHING four Devonport-based warships has left a gap in the nation's defences a group of MPs has warned.
An influential Commons committee said the Ministry of Defence acknowledged the loss of the Type 22 Frigates', which specialised in anti-submarine warfare and were equipped with sonar, had led to "capability gaps in maritime surveillance".
All four vessels were withdrawn from service as part of sweeping military cutbacks in a bid to fill a £38 billion black hole in the MoD budget.
Members of the Defence Select committee highlighted the importance of maritime surveillance to operations to protect UK home waters, global interests, and combat terrorism.
The MPs expressed "serious concern" about the risk to national security caused by the Government's decision to scrap the next generation of Nimrod maritime surveillance aircraft, which was cancelled in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The cross-party committee's report added: "We are aware that the capability gaps that exist in maritime surveillance are not limited to a maritime patrol aircraft, and include, for example, the withdrawal of Sentinel and the loss of the four Broadsword-class Type 22 Frigates' information and intelligence gathering capabilities and towed array sonar."
And it warned the situation was likely to get worse with the planned withdrawal of Sea King helicopters in 2016.
The MPs noted: "The MoD accepted that there were capability gaps in maritime surveillance, resulting most notably from the withdrawal of the Type 22 Frigate and the cancellation of the
In addition to substantial armaments, the vessels were also equipped with "useful sensor
The report said: "The MoD explained that the Type 22 Frigates provided the Royal Navy's only combination of systems enabling wide ranging monitoring of the frequencies and wavelengths of the Electromagnetic Spectrum from the sea."
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor view and Shadow Defence Minister, said the Government, by "rushing" the defence review, had "left the UK exposed".
Armed forces Minister Andrew Robathan said: "UK maritime surveillance is being delivered by a wide range of military assets, including our surface ships, submarines, Merlin and Sea King helicopters, Sentry and Hercules aircraft and we are also co-operating with our allies."