Saturday, January 12, 2013
That's a quote from the Bible (2 Samuel 1:27, to be precise), but it accurately sums up the parlous state of Britain's Royal Navy after years - decades! - of official penny-pinching and budget cuts to fund social programs. As Robert Kaplan pointed out in the Wall Street Journal this week, almost in passing, "The Japanese navy boasts roughly four times as many major warships as the British Royal Navy".
At the time of the Falklands War in 1982, the Royal Navy's operational warships comprised 2 aircraft carriers, 2 assault ships, 17 destroyers, 38 frigates and 26 submarines. In 2010 it had 1 aircraft carrier (in name only - it no longer has fixed-wing aircraft able to fly off it), 7 destroyers, 17 frigates and 11 submarines. Those numbers have since been further reduced. This massive reduction is due solely to reductions in defense expenditure.
In contrast, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force operates 4 helicopter carriers, 8 destroyers, 30 frigates, 6 light frigates and 21 submarines. It's likely to boost its numbers even further in response to China's growing military expansion.
A century ago, the Royal Navy was the largest and most modern fleet in the world - the service that all other navies envied and tried to emulate. Now . . . not so much.