Former Chief of the UK Armed Forces, General Sir Nick Carter, has raised serious concerns about a critical vulnerability in Britain’s defense capabilities. He emphasized that the country’s military services are severely understaffed, and the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyers are the only safeguard against a potential onslaught of missiles similar to those utilized by Russia in Ukraine.
During a session with a group of MPs tasked with assessing the preparedness of the UK’s Armed Forces, Sir Carter expressed grave apprehensions. He cautioned that if Britain were to become involved in a prolonged conflict between nations, achieving victory would be exceedingly challenging.
The former Chief of the General Staff (CGS) explicitly expressed his deep worry regarding the diminishing size of the British Armed Forces. He drew attention to the Ministry of Defence’s figures from January 2023, which revealed a total headcount of slightly over 143,560 regular personnel. He warned, “Our Armed Forces have been significantly reduced in size.”
Sir Carter’s underlying concern stemmed from the lack of resilience within the British forces. He stated with a solemn tone, “In the event of a conflict against an equal adversary, I have doubts whether we would retain any operational capability beyond the initial few months.”
Highlighting the vulnerability of the UK’s air defense system, General Sir Nick Carter emphasized its potential susceptibility to multiple missile attacks, similar to those launched by Russia against Ukraine. He stressed that this threat is real and significant for Britain. With genuine concern, he questioned, “The effectiveness of our counter-missile system is a subject of debate. Arguably, our sole defense against such a threat lies with the Type 45 destroyer.”
Furthermore, he elaborated, “We should strive for a counter-missile defense system comparable to the Patriot-type system currently deployed in Kyiv. That level of capability is what we should aim for.” In response to Russian airstrikes, Ukraine has effectively utilized the formidable Patriot missile system. This powerful defensive weapon, originally developed by the United States, has been supplied to Ukraine by three nations: the US, Netherlands, and Germany. Its primary function is to intercept and destroy incoming cruise missiles and hostile aircraft.
The acronym ‘Patriot’ stands for Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target. Each Patriot battery consists of eight launchers, each capable of firing four missiles, forming a formidable defensive barrier against airborne threats.
Meanwhile, the backbone of Britain’s naval fleet lies in its six Type 45 Destroyers. These highly advanced warships are equipped with the Sea Viper missile system. They are considered the cornerstone of the Royal Navy’s fleet and serve as the only defense against multiple missile attacks similar to those employed by Russia.
Picture this scenario: the Sea Viper system, also referred to as the Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS), takes to the skies. It represents an extraordinary advancement in modern defense technology, boasting the ability to guide a remarkable 16 missiles towards targets as far as 70 miles (113km) away. Notably, it can engage multiple targets simultaneously.
The former leader of the Armed Forces, General Sir Nick, vividly portrays his tenure and expresses concerns regarding the allocation of defense finances. He transports us back to a time when the expenses associated with maintaining a nuclear deterrent were a pressing matter. In his own words, he states, “As Chief of the Defence Staff, I was consistently grappling with a dilemma. The substantial resources dedicated to the nuclear program had the potential to diminish our conventional deterrence capabilities.”
Drawing attention to a critical aspect of our national defense strategy, the former Chief of the General Staff (CGS) warns that Russia’s capacity to manage escalation across various levels surpasses that of the Western nations. This serves as a significant consideration for the committee tasked with identifying notable gaps in the readiness of our Armed Forces. The question lingers: do the Government’s plans possess the necessary strength to address these shortcomings? The process of gathering insights for the committee’s report on the state of our nation’s defense continues, with Members of Parliament engaging with a diverse range of witnesses.