HMS Cumberland waiting off Libyan Coast

from http://www.dtic.mil/jointvision/graphics/...

HMS Cumberland (Image via Wikipedia)

According to news reports the Royal Navy Frigate HMS Cumberland has been ordered to halt her voyage home from the Gulf in order to standby off Libya. Regular readers will recall that Cumberland and her Type 22 sister ships are to be decommissioned later this year. A reminder, if any is needed, that British interests and the safety of British national is being imperilled by defence cuts.

I’m not entirely sure what use a Frigate would be for evacuating the 500-odd British nationals living in Libya. Unlike an aircraft carrier or an assault ship, a Frigate does not have large hangars or vehicle decks in which to accomodate people. And a ship the size of the Type 22 has a crew of around only 200 in the first place – how would such a ship cope with a few more hundreds mouths to feed, one wonders? And Libya is a lot further from the UK than the north Spanish coast was during the Volcanic Ash Cloud rescue effort last year, meaning a longer sea journey.

This is yet another hollow commitment from the Government. In order to be seen to be doing something, regardless of whethers its worthwhile or not, a soon-to-be-decommissioned Frigate is sent to await a task for which it is wholly unsuited. And its another indication of how short-sighted our defence planning is – politicians want warships off the balance sheet, but when the proverbial hits the fan they are only too happy to commit them to action.

I’m reminded of the Israeli-Lebanon conflict several years ago. The then Foreign Secretary eagerly promised a British Frigate to patrol off the coast for illegal arms shipments. Apparently it was quietly pointed out that no Frigates were available, and that if the Foreign Secretary wanted one, then he had better make one magically appear from nowhere.

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41 Comments

Filed under defence, Navy, News, politics

41 responses to “HMS Cumberland waiting off Libyan Coast

  1. The wole episode sjows what a disaster the SDSR was. Unexpected things happen – unexpectedly – who would have thought it?

    • James Daly

      Defence Reviews are always followed by events that completely bamboozle them – for Nott (1981) read Falklands, for Blair etc (1998) read 9/11. And I can’t help thinking the growing unrest in North Africa/Middle East might provoke a bit of a seachange where geo-defence is concerned…

  2. John Erickson

    There IS the possibility of HMS Cumberland doing quick ferry runs to Malta. Italian ports aren’t really an option, compliments of the flood of refugees that have already fled Tunisia. The Italians are overwhelmed with them – what happens when the Libyans decide to bale out?
    You guys are right, though, it’s a token presence – and doing better than the US is. Our closest carrier is off Pakistan, we DO have a landing ship that can launch helos but no fixed-wing for a no-fly zone, and we haven’t even approached NATO or the UN about using European bases.
    See? It ain’t just British governments that can cock up defence! ;)

  3. John Erickson

    Quotes from the “Defense Industry Daily”, a US defence report: “Britain’s Tornado GR4 strike aircraft fleet looks like it might exit service almost immediately, as the UK MoD looks to find more savings. At the same time, Britain plans to keep all four of its current Vanguard-class SSBNs, says Defense Secretary Liam Fox.”
    I can get links if you want – they’re long and messy. Thought you’d be interested by this, even if you’d rather not see it! ;)

  4. James

    Liam Fox is said to want to reopen the SDSR – which I don’t think he was happy with to start.

    John

    Doesn’t the Sixth Fleet have a carrier?

    As regards the Tornado GR4, one of the arguments for its retention at the expense of Harrier was that it had a larger fleet, therefore it could support an ongoing deployment in Afghanistan and still have aircraft to have the means to react to a crisis – ignoring the fact that whilst commited to Afghanistan, the Harrier force did do other exercises including carrier deployments.

    So either:

    -They got the numbers wrong
    -It was a political decision to wrong foot the Navy

    My opinion is that it was a mix of the two.

    • John Erickson

      I think it’s the 6th fleet one that’s currently off Pakistan. I’d have to check on that, though. It’ll take a bit of time – they’re promising a Discovery launch in about 25 minutes. Plus the DOD is supposed to announce the result of the Great Tanker Debacle, so I’m waiting to see which company will be filing the first lawsuit! :)

    • John Erickson

      WEBF- USS Carl Vinson is in the Arabian Sea as of 17-Feb. USS Enterprise (original series or The Next Generation? :D) was in the Gulf of Aden as of 19-Feb, coming in from the Red Sea where she worked with USS Kearsarge. USS Lincoln is off with 7th Fleet in the South China Sea. Of course, as the big dummy I am, I deleted the newsletter that stated which one of the CVs was off Pakistan, and now can’t find the online copy. (Sigh.) It sucks getting old! ;)
      Discovery is flying, the SRBs have been dumped. Pity it’s her last flight. Now THERE is a penny-wise pound-foolish story of EPIC proportions!

    • John Erickson

      Holy Cow, the USAF gave the tanker contract to Boeing. All the insiders were saying EADS/Airbus was a shoe-in. So, when do the lawsuits drop into Federal Court? What – you thought THIS was the final round in this farce? This is going to be the only Request for Purchase issued where the GRANDSONS of the issuers will get the product!

      • James Daly

        That wont be good for EADS. My Dad works for their space arm, Astrium. Is that decision anything to do with the fact that EADS is European and Boeing is American? I can’t imagine many on Capitol Hill being happy about a lucrative contract leaving the states.

        • John Erickson

          It helps to go back and re-read entries, you’d be surprised what you missed! :) Your dad should be OK, James. With America all but abandoning heavy lift into orbit, and with the Russians creaking along with very little consistency, ARIANE will be the big (if not the only) player in town, which should give Astrium (I know Astrium and ARIANE are not related) a nice inside track via the ESA, and maybe through NASA, depending on how our Delta system develops.

          • James Daly

            By all accounts EADS and Astrium have got a very healthy order book. Europe is funding Space very healthily, and they are doing a lot of contract work for foreign agencies, such as the various satellite TV companies. I went to watch a live feed of a satellite launch once, very interesting. And they put on a good spread! :P

      • John Erickson

        Well…. that depends on who you ask. SUPPOSEDLY – The deal was supposed to go to the best price. (Yes, we always buy the cheapest option – not necessarily the best one.) Boeing won, and EADS screamed “favoritism”. (Probably; wouldn’t a Briton rather have a British product?) Things went through the World Court, both sides claiming the other got subsidies. (They BOTH do, of course, but each claimed victim status.) The USAF re-did the study, and EADS won and Boeing screamed. Meanwhile, after the second pass, the World Trade Organisation claimed BOTH parties got subsidies – each company claimed they were less subsidised than the other, though overall, Boeing DID receive less money. Now we’re on the third try – expect both companies to scream. This is a legal issue that could keep hundreds of lawyers employed for decades. The American public is at the “shut up and build the damn thing” stage. Will Boeing create more jobs? Much of the conversion work of the A330 will be done here in the States, so Boeing’s claimed surplus of jobs is inflated. Which is better? Boeing went for the smaller end of the scale, figuring smaller is cheaper. EADS went after the A330, already being used as a tanker in several countries around the world. The A330 is bigger, and does use more fuel and parking space than the 767-derived tanker, but can deliver more fuel and/or cargo further. At this point, it’s a wash – most of our tankers are 707-based from the 1960s. ANYTHING would be better, and would allow retirement of the DC-10 based tanker as well (which Boeing would love, since they absorbed McDonnell Douglas and like to believe they never existed). Yeah, I’m both a Yank and a Chicagoan (Boeing’s HQ), so I’d prefer Boeing, but right now, I’m so disgusted by the playground antics, I really don’t care.
        Now – if you want the LONG answer…… ;)

    • James Daly

      The Defence Review wasn’t even MOD driven, it seems to have been pretty much authored by the Prime Minister’s National Security Advisor. No wonder Fox, who is no-ones mug, wants it re-done. SDSR hasn’t even lasted 6 months before its been proven a pointless exercise.

  5. John Erickson

    By the by – “a Royal Navy Frigate” picked up a bunch of refugees from Libya, including Yanks, and is hauling them off to Malta. I assume there is only one RN frigate in the area – though the Beeb ain’t saying! ;)

    • James Daly

      According to reports cumberland picked up in the region of 200 people – that’s as many as her crew! I dread to think how packed she is, no big hangars or flight decks remember. Lord West makes the point in today’s Portsmouth news that a year ago we could have moved in amphibs and flat tops – not so now.

    • x

      At one time according to Sky (read Fox for you) the UK was sending a warship and a frigate……

    • John Erickson

      Um… this may be “stupid Yank question” time, but ain’t a frigate a warship? Or do you guys ALWAYS use frigates for passenger cruises? :D
      The Beeb interviewed an American boarding HMS Cumberland, who stated “I never thought I’d be glad to see the Union Jack”. On behalf of the precious few REASONABLE Americans left, I would look upon the Union Jack just as happily as the Stars and Stripes. Especially if it’s getting my BUTT outta the line of live fire! But then again, I am just a TEENY bit biased… ;)

      • x

        Exactly. It just annoys me that reporters don’t have a working knowledge of this stuff. I don’t think the argument that it is to esoteric holds water. The news today has had a caption saying “the HMS Cumberland” running all day. And then there was the caption that went along reporting the death of the sailor in HMS Cornwall, that said he served “with” and not “in.” It is just sloppy.

  6. John Erickson

    The Beeb just stated that the RN was sending “a destroyer” to retrieve oil workers stranded in Libya. Any idea who drew the short straw?

  7. HMS YORK – supposedly en route to the South Atlantic.

    • James Daly

      Another ship due for the chop in the next few years – notice a pattern at all? And what poor ship is in the south Atlantic while York is diverted?

  8. James Daly

    There was an interesting article in the Portsmouth News the other day based on an interview with the former First Sea Lord Alan West. His argument was that in 6 months to a year we would have NO ships available, and the ones that we do have now are due for the chop soon. A ship like Largs Bay would have been ideal, but shes being flogged to the Aussies. Madness – the best value ships the UK has in terms of what they cost and what they give, and perfect for disaster relief and evacuations. AN Unpredictable world needs flexibile responses and assets.

    • x

      Today’s You and Your’s on Radio 4 discussed the international aid fund. One caller stated we should only buy equipment and manage projects and that Third World governments and NGOs shouldn’t see any money. This is a view I share. And then I watched the Channel 5 on Manchester in the Caribbean; this episode covered hurricane relief. Now I now a handful of Jacks and Jills can work wonders. But when you see the damage I can’t see a few tens of matelots making that much of a difference. Again this wasn’t a shock to me as sending a destroyer to do this work is a bit like using a sports car to plough a field. My point is that a Bay with a squadron of RE could would be more use; easily this could be funded out of the IDF which matches (exceeds?) the RN’s entire budget.

      PS: It was amusing to hear the Beeb describe the IDF as a small amount of money in the overall scheme of government funding. Yet running Trident a much smaller amount that IDF is prohibitively expensive.

      • James Daly

        I was astounded to read that apparently the UK is going to cease paying international aid to several countries, among them Russia. Come again? How long had that been going on for? For too long we have been handing out cash to countries who in many ways are better off than we are. And I agree regarding IDF, support we give should be ‘in-kind’ rather than blank cheques. It makes me want to weep thinking how much of our international aid has gone on funding leather swivel chairs for tinpot dictators…

        • x

          Being a follower of international relations where IDF went wasn’t much of a shock.

          It is fun to consider though we scrap Nimrod to save about as much as we send India in aid. And India is about to spend $billion to buy Boeing P8 MPAs. You couldn’t make it up….

      • John Erickson

        Hey, the same US Congressmen screaming about building up American industry are the ones voting for spending bills that include grants to China and Indonesia, as well as Russia! Not mention the monies we’ve routed to such staunch supporters of democracy as Libya, Iraq (before we took over), Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia (yeah, the same guys we buy most of our oil from) …..

  9. Don’t tell us, tell the inhabitants of Nos 10 and 11 Downing Street…

  10. John Erickson

    Okay, dumb Yank question time. Is Malta fully independent of the UK, or do you folk provide for any of its’ defence? The US is (rather slowly) mulling over ideas for Libya without getting “involved”. My thought was, if there is any availability of RAF services out of Malta, we can provide fuel, weapons, AEW, sea-based AA, and whatever else, while the RAF could provide the planes and pilots for no-fly-zone enforcement. At least you guys can get up off your arses and get something done! We’re still having meetings to appoint task forces to determine if we should have meetings! Anybody want to adopt a 48-year old medically-disabled Yank and his wife? :D

    • James Daly

      Malta is completely independent from the UK, and whats more has a strong neutrality approach to geopolitics and defence. A stark contrast from the Second World War when Malta was the lynchpin of the British fight in the Med.

      • John Erickson

        Thanks for that, James. I really didn’t want to wade through the tripe that passes for a Wiki entry, and I figured you’d throw a little political opinion in. And you didn’t fail me! ;) I appreciate it.

        • x

          I sometimes wonder how the Malta’s and Ireland’s of this world can be “neutral” and yet be part of a supranational organization keen to promote its own “foreign” and “defence” policy…………

        • John Erickson

          The same way Sweden was in WW2? Sell to EVERYBODY? :D

  11. John Erickson

    Amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and amphibious transport ship USS Ponce are headed through the Suez into the Med. Sorry, folks, no carriers – we gotta keep them handy for Iraq/A-stan. But since Kearsarge is part of a group, at least we won’t have to rely on YOU guys to pick up whatever American nationals are left – if any. We’ll have our own destroyers and frigates available, and only 5 or 6 days late! Wow – way to go, US Navy. (No, I’m serious, X, WEBF, James, and whoever else – any of you want to adopt a 48-year old Anglophile and his wife? PLEASE?!?)

    • John Erickson

      Veddy interestink. The Enterprise is now going boldly where SO many have gone before – into the Suez, headed for the Med. Despite commentary from the DOD that we would NOT move any carriers into the Med. Perchance, has the USN sprouted a backbone? Has Obama finally gotten off his hemorrhoids? Will the US military make a decision without requiring 16 months’ worth of “study”? For the answers to these and many more, tune in tomorrow, same BAT time, same BAT channel! :D

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  14. She’s been scrapped now.

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