Carrier cuts 'risk Falklands humiliation'

At risk? Admirals rock the boat over the Falklands
At risk? Admirals rock the boat over the Falklands

By Alex Stevenson

Ex-admirals have hit out against planned cuts to the Navy by warning Argentina has been "practically invited" to invade the Falkland Islands.

Five senior former Royal Navy figures highlighted their concerns at decisions taken in last month's strategic defence and security review in a letter to the Times newspaper.

They argued the decision to scrap HMS Ark Royal and its Harrier jets was mistaken. They will be replaced with the new Queen Elizabeth II class carrier and its joint strike fighters.

Defence officials argue the carrier replacement is vastly superior to the Ark Royal-Harrier capability.

Britain will mothball one of its two carriers and rely on France's aircraft carrier when its other is in port for refitting and maintenance, however. The QEII carrier will only be operational from 2020.

"The government has, in effect, declared a new 'ten-year rule' that assumes Britain will have warning time to rebuild to face a threat," the admirals wrote.

"The last Treasury-driven 'ten-year rule' in the 1930s nearly cost us our freedom, faced with Hitler."

Among the signatories were two former first lords of the Admiralty, Alan West and Sir Julian Oswald.

They added: "In respect of the newly valuable Falklands and their oilfields, because of these and other cuts, for the next ten years at least, Argentina is practically invited to attempt to inflict on us a national humiliation on the scale of the loss of Singapore.

"One from which British prestige, let alone the administration in power at the time, might never recover."

Defence secretary Liam Fox repeated the government's argument that its airfield in the Falklands would continue to deter Argentinean aggression, however.

"It is simply not the case that decommissioning the Harrier would impact upon our ability to defend territories in the South Atlantic," he told the Times.

"We maintain a wide range of assets, not least a well-defended airfield to ensure the defence of the Falkland Islands."


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