Up to five Royal Navy frigates and the only two amphibious assault ships could be put up for sale amidst a funding crisis for the UK Military.
Two out of a 13-strong fleet of frigates could become available for sale as early as next year, with a further three by 2023, according to Jane’s Navy International, a specialist publication.
According to The Times report, British military chiefs met up with the navies of Brazil and Chile yesterday to discuss sale of “a number” of Type 23 frigates and two assault ships, as they grapple with a gap in funding of £20 billion to £30 billion over the next decade.
The Navy’s two amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark were scrapped last month, according to Jane's publication.
However, the Ministry of Defence denied any “engagement” with Brazil or Chile and insisted that the total number of frigates would not be allowed to fall below 13. Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, told a committee of MPs yesterday that the national security capability review was being carried out because of increased threats to Britain as opposed to affordability. “We are looking now at strengthening our defence in cyber, space and hybrid and in how to deal with global threats from ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear] and information warfare,” he said. All reports of possible cuts were speculative, he added.
An MoD spokesman said: “We can categorically confirm that there has been no engagement with either Chile or Brazil in respect of Type 23 frigates or the two LPD [landing platform docks].”
But the report says the cost of keeping them running is forcing the navy to consider the idea of an early sale, one military officer said, adding: “Some have been laid up in order to be disposed”.
Four Type 23s are moored at a naval base in Devonport, Plymouth, including two that are undergoing a period of maintenance, the MoD said. A second source said: “There are options developed to get rid of several Type 23s, but only options. It will be interesting whether they can be sold. Some of the Type 23s are so worn that a huge amount needs to be spent to keep them running”.
The heads of the military convened yesterday for a monthly armed forces committee meeting at the MoD’s main building in Whitehall to reportedly discuss a range of options to reduce costs as part of annual budgeting and a concurrent small-scale defence review.
Options include possible cuts in the number of soldiers and Royal Marines as well as the axing or delaying of equipment programmes, including the scrapping of HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion, the two amphibious assault ships, the report added.