Poor equipment and botched procurement deals could hinder Britain’s ability to defend itself in the face of a serious military attack, an investigation has found.
Among the flaws found in the nation’s defences were warships that reportedly make so much noise Russian submarines can hear them from a distance of up to 100 miles.
Technical faults have also meant the army’s 54 £1.2bn Watchdog reconnaissance drones – which were announced at the height of the Iraq war in 2005 – have barely entered into service.
Britain’s Type 45 destroyers – which have been plagued by engine problems – are “as noisy as hell”, a former director of operational capability for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Rear Admiral Chris Parry told The Sunday Times.
“We used to put little wooden wedges between the hatchclips and the hatches in my destroyer to stop them rattling so we could keep the noise down,” said Adm Parry.
“We have forgotten all about it – it’s crazy. Noise suppression has been probably the biggest dirty secret since the end of the Cold War that people have been cheerfully ignoring.”
Official figures revealed in September the battleships had spent more time berthed in UK military ports than on active duty, sparking concerns that the Government would rather save money than secure the seas – a charge the MoD rejected.
The warships, which cost £1bn each, have tended to break down in warm seas.
When they were first commissioned into the fleet in 2009, they were hailed as the most revolutionary battleships in the world. A key factor in their procurement was that they would not need a refit for at least 25 years.
But each ship must now be fitted with with new diesel generators. The work will involve cutting holes in the sides of the ships, will require bespoke parts, is estimated to cost £1bn, and is predicted to take nine years.
The MoD said that because the Type 45 was an air defence battleship, stealth was not a “premium requirement”.