The Daily Telegraph

Anti-submarine ships could be cut to just eight

- By Danielle Sheridan Political correspond­ent

ANTI-SUBMARINE warships could be cut down to single figures following the Integrated Defence Review, naval sources have warned, in an act deemed a “national embarrassm­ent” for a maritime nation.

The Daily Telegraph understand­s that the UK’S existing fleet of frigates could be reduced from 13 to just eight ahead of the highly anticipate­d review, as replacing them with newer models has proven costly.

“The UK could fall into single number frigates,” a naval source warned. “We could have less than 10 warships because new-build stuff is in the firing line.”

The Ministry of Defence has requested three Type 26 frigates and five of the Type 31s, in order to replace the ageing Type 23s, which have been functionin­g since the early Nineties and are likely to retire by 2025.

The source added that the Government “probably won’t order more”.

The Government has previously said that it aims to have the first Type 31 launched in 2023, with five ships delivered by the end of 2028. However, a defence industry source warned that they had heard one possibilit­y was to “cut the existing frigates early to save money and delay the order and introducti­on of the new frigates, which would leave a gaping chasm”.

“This is just staggering,” they said. “It is a very dangerous situation.

“You might as well start claiming that you are going to defend Great Britain with a bunch of dug out canoes.”

Lord West, the former first sea lord, said that while the “first responsibi­lity” for a such a review should be the defence and security of “our islands and people”, the current review “is being driven by the requiremen­t to find savings rather than the threats that need to be countered”.

“It’s a national embarrassm­ent for a great maritime nation to have a pitiful small number of frigates.”

An MOD spokesman said: “With every review, it is always the case that people draw early and false conclusion­s from leaks. We advise against making assumption­s based on partial informatio­n. The guiding principle of the review is to ask ourselves what the threat is, and whether we have the capability to meet it.”

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