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UK Naval Expansion: Government Commits to 25 New Warships Amid Defence Spending Surge

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UK's defense budget increase to fund over 25 new warships, says Shapps

According to the defense secretary, 22 ships are currently in development, with an additional three confirmed for the Royal Marines, and another three under consideration.

Political journalist @alixculbertson

Tuesday, May 14, 2024, 12:

The British government has signaled that its increased defense budget will include funding for 25 new warships for the Royal Navy, with the possibility of adding an additional three ships.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps informed Sky News that the UK's armed forces are currently in the process of designing or constructing 28 new ships and submarines.

He mentioned that 22 ships are "currently operational" – however, there is some uncertainty regarding the six new warships he introduced today for the Royal Marines.

The defense secretary announced that the government plans to acquire three new "flexible" ships for the Marines, with a potential addition of three more. He added that these additional ships are currently in the design stage.

He further revealed that two of the frigates under construction, the Type 26 and Type 31, will be outfitted with land-attack missiles, enabling them to strike land-based targets.

Mr. Shapps described it as an "extremely extensive shipbuilding program, featuring numerous warships, marking a golden era of shipbuilding in this location."

He further stated, "This became feasible after our government decided last month to allocate 2.5% of our GDP to the defense sector. We believe it's crucial to deter potential aggressors by demonstrating our commitment to strong national defense."

The Labour Party has committed to allocating 2.5% of the GDP towards defense spending when the economic situation permits, whereas the Conservative Party has promised to achieve this target by the year 2030.

Under the Conservative government, which has held power for 14 years, defense budgets were cut initially and did not see increases during the invasions of Ukraine in either 2014 or 2022.

Mr. Shapps stated that the Conservative promise is distinct from that of Labour due to the Conservatives having "established a timeline."

"He mentioned that the plan for financing this primarily involves cutting back on the civil service workforce, which has significantly expanded since before the pandemic."

"We aim to reduce it to its previous size and reallocate the funds to defense spending."

"In my capacity as the defense secretary and based on all the information available to me in this position, it is my belief that the stance taken by the Labour party could pose a risk to our nation. This is because it might convey to our opponents that we are not committed to our national defense if we fail to establish a specific schedule."

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Alison McGovern, Labour’s shadow minister for work and pensions, expressed doubts about the Conservatives' explanation of financing for the increased spending.

She stated that Labour was compelled to conditionally promise the increase, timing it for when the economy stabilizes, attributing the necessity to "what the Conservative Party has inflicted on our economy." She criticized Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak for enacting "large, unfunded tax reductions."

Ms McGovern stated, "It's only logical for Rachel Reeves, in her role as the shadow chancellor, to assert that the party will outline their financial strategies once they have full disclosure of the governmental accounts, including the specifics of the Ministry of Defence expenditures."

Mr. Shapps stated that the government's previous defense spending was lower because nations like China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia did not pose as significant a threat then.

The Secretary of Defense noted, "The era we were in was distinctly different."

He mentioned that over the last few years, the government has increased the defence budget by £24 billion, making the UK the top defence spender in Europe by a significant margin and the second highest in NATO, only behind the US.

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Addressing the status of the UK's naval assets, Mr. Shapps noted that the sister ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark are scheduled for decommissioning in 2033-2034. However, the defence secretary has assured that these ships will not be decommissioned prior to those dates.

Albion and Bulwark serve as the Royal Navy's landing platform docks, facilitating the transportation of the Royal Marines.

Mr. Shapps revealed that HMS Argyll and HMS Westminster, two frigates that have collectively served for 63 years, will be decommissioned. HMS Argyll will be sold to BAE Systems, where it will be utilized to aid in the training of apprentice shipbuilders.

The latest vessels under construction encompass Type 26 and Type 31 frigates in Scotland, along with Astute and Dreadnought submarines in Barrow-in-Furness, and Fleet Solid Support ships are being assembled in Belfast and Devon.

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