British Royal Navy to mothball half of fleet

LONDON, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Almost half of the British Royal Navy's 44 warships are to be mothballed as part of cost-cutting measures by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), London's Daily Telegraph reported on Friday. The British government has said that 13 warships are in a state of "reduced readiness," putting them around 18 months away from active service, according to the report, which added that a further six destroyers and frigates were being proposed for cuts.

The report said a need to cut the defense budget by 250 million pounds (around 486 million U.S. dollars) this year to meet spending requirements had forced ministers to look at drastic measures. Senior officials said the plan would turn Britain's Navy into nothing more than a coastal defense force. "What this means is that we are now no better than a coastal defense force or a fleet of dug-out canoes." said a senior official.

MoD sources admitted it was possible that the Royal Navy would discontinue one of its major commitments around the world, the report said. It is likely that the six destroyers and frigates to be mothballed will eventually be sold or scrapped. There are also fears that two new aircraft carriers promised in 1998 might never be built, the report added. Recently, the MoD has been criticized for not giving proper backing to troops which has dogged operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 The MoD said it had no plans to cut the destroyer and frigate fleet but it "routinely reviewed" defense capabilities "to ensure resources are directed where our front line armed forces need them most." "We are some way from any decisions and just because a proposal is looked at does not mean that it will be implemented," a spokesman said.