The drop breaks the Government’s long standing promise to always maintain a minimum of 19 frigates – but are you worried about the UK’s defence now the Navy will be smaller than Italy’s? A former admiral called the admission “a national embarrassment and disgrace”. He warned the mistake will relegate Britain to a second division of the world’s navies.
In comparison, France has 22 frigates and destroyers and Italy has 17.
The new Type 31 frigates won’t come into service until May 2027, four years late.
Ministry of Defence (MoD) Permanent Secretary Stephen Lovegrove let the delay slip in a letter to the Commons Public Accounts Committee last month.
At the same time, the ageing generation of Type 23 frigates are still to be paid off from 2023.
This will leave a major shortfall in the British Navy’s vessels.
The number of frigates is set to fall from 13 to nine by 2027, with the number of Type 45 destroyers remaining at six.
Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West dubbed the shortfall “a national embarrassment and disgrace”.
The peer had been repeatedly assured by defence ministers that the Type 31s would be delivered on time.
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Is the UK risking safety precautions by allowing the Navy to be reduced? Are you worried about the UK’s defence now the Navy will be smaller than Italy’s?
The revelation will hike tensions further between the MoD and No10 ahead of this summer’s defence and security review.
Forces chiefs already plan to use the review as a way to plea for more money.
Last Autumn, the MoD faced international embarrassment when it was unable to protect British flagged merchant ships from being hijacked by Iran in the Straits of Hormuz.
Commons defence committee chairman Tobias Ellwood dubbed the revelation “concerning”, saying he would investigate it.
Mr Ellwood added: “The committee plans to conduct an inquiry into our surface fleet. We rightly prize our carriers but they were built without altering the overall naval budget so the surface fleet is suffering at the very time our shipping lanes are getting more dangerous.