Decision to scrap the Ark Royal and the Harrier jet fleet has undermined the armed forces, retired military figures warn
Friday 25 February 2011 08.43 GMT
|The military chiefs say that without HMS Ark Royal and its Harriers, the army and Royal Marines will have difficulty in mounting amphibious operations. Photograph: PA|
The decision to scrap the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the Harrier jump jet fleet has undermined the armed forces' ability to mount crucial operations, leading military figures have warned David Cameron.
Ten retired army and navy chiefs have written a private letter to the prime minister calling for an urgent rethink of the plans set out in the government's strategic defence and security review (SDSR), the Daily Telegraph reported.
The signatories include Field Marshal Lord Bramall, a former chief of the defence staff; Major General Julian Thompson, the Falklands war commander, and Admiral Sir Jeremy Black who commanded the carrier Invincible in the Falklands.
They argue that without the Ark Royal and the close air support provided by its Harriers, the army and Royal Marines will have difficulty in mounting amphibious operations against even a relatively weak enemy.
"This undermines support of the army and of the Royal Marines in their amphibious role. This valuable operation can no longer be attempted even against a lightly armed aggressor without considerable risk," they wrote.
The retired military chiefs called for a "rapid re-evaluation" of the SDSR, which they described as "unduly trusting in an uncertain, fast-moving and dangerous world".
Their call for the government to reopen the SDSR was echoed by the shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, who said that rapidly moving developments in the Middle East meant that the review was already looking out of date.
"The government's plans were based on strategic and international geopolitical assumptions, many of which have been shaken over the past month," he said.
"Recent dramatic events mean that the defence review must be reopened and perhaps even rethought. It would be sensible to stop and reflect again on our nation's strategic defence needs."
But the defence secretary, Liam Fox, insisted that the government intended to stick to its plans. He said that having a carrier would not have made any difference to the current operation to rescue British nationals stranded in Libya and the country could not afford to keep both the Harrier and the Tornado jet fleets.
"None of our allies have seen fit to position an aircraft carrier off the coast of Libya as this is not the tool required for this task," he said. "There is no requirement for ground attack aircraft, but even if there were we would use our extensive regional basing and over flight rights.
"Difficult decisions had to be taken to tackle the £38bn deficit left by Labour at the Ministry of Defence and the SDSR will not be reopened.
"Sustaining both Tornado and Harrier would be prohibitively expensive in this current economic climate and Tornado continues to provide vital support to the frontline in Afghanistan."
Maiores detalhes no The Guardian