The head of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key, has admitted that all six British submarines designed to hunt Russian subs were docked simultaneously in September.
The submarines, known as SSNs (hunter-killer submarines), were confined to port, leaving British waters and shipping vulnerable to potential threats from hostile states in the North Atlantic.
The six submarines, including HMS Astute, Ambush, Artful, Audacious, Anson, and Triumph, were stationed at Clyde, Devonport, and Plymouth.
Most of them were awaiting maintenance, while Anson was undergoing trials.
The entire fleet is permanently based at His Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane near Helensburgh.
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The revelation sparked concern among Members of Parliament, with some describing the situation as “embarrassing” and an “operational failure.”
Former Defence Minister Mark Francois criticised the absence of any submarines at sea, saying: “We didn’t have a single one at sea, I think for the first time in living memory. That is operational failure, isn’t it?”
Admiral Sir Ben faced scrutiny from the Commons Defence Select Committee, with Francois expressing frustration about the inability to monitor Russian submarines while the British fleet was tied up alongside.
The First Sea Lord defended the decision, stating that there was no need for the submarines to be at sea on that particular day, emphasising that meeting the required readiness profile was the priority.
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Adm Sir Ben argued: “If there are no Russian submarines in the North Atlantic, why would we need to deploy one of our own submarines? Because then we are burning up core time, we are building up sailors’ time, we’re using time that could be used more efficiently and effectively elsewhere.”
The Defence Committee is currently investigating the readiness of the armed forces for war. Admiral Sir Ben Key assured the committee that three attack submarines could be deployed immediately if required.
However, concerns remain about the overall readiness of the Royal Navy, with only eight-and-a-half of the Navy’s 11 frigates and six destroyers reported to be at “very high readiness” to sail tonight.
The situation raises questions about the UK’s ability to respond swiftly to potential threats in a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape.
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