‘NAVY STRUGGLES TO TRACK PUTIN'S SUBMARINES IN BRITISH WATERS’

By John Stevens, Whitehall Editor

Daily Mail – 29 December 2016

Britain is struggling to keep track of the growing number of Russian submarines in its waters, it was warned last night. Defence experts claimed that Russian president Vladimir Putin is increasingly using his fleet to hide off the coast to test the Royal Navy's weaknesses'.

The Navy has been forced to rely on NATO patrols since it scrapped its submarine-tracking aircraft in 2010, with replacements not due for at least two more years – a so-called security gap in Britain's military power. Figures on hostile incursions in British waters are kept secret, but of ten known incidents between 2005 and 2015, eight occurred in the past three years. In June, a Russian submarine was intercepted by the Navy as it cruised towards the English Channel, where it surfaced, while in October its submarines were detected in the Irish Sea.

Dr Alan Mendoza, of the Henry Jackson Society security think-tank, said:

“Sadly, because of certain cuts, we don't have the capacity to monitor Russian activity constantly. There is a security gap and doubtless the Russians are testing our reflexes and responses. The fact is there is very little that can be done about this. We are now reliant until at least 2019 on our Nato allies to help us with the patrolling.”

Britain has not possessed its own specialist patrol aircraft to track submarines since the Ministry of Defence controversially scrapped its Nimrod spy planes in 2010 as a cost-saving measure. In November last year, Downing Street announced the purchase of a fleet of Boeing P-8 Poseidon aircraft to fill the gap, but they are not expected to enter service until 2020. Dr Mendoza said Britain has diminished its “conventional war-fighting capabilities" as it has faced the challenges of cyber warfare and terrorism.

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A Ministry of Defence spokesman said:

“The Royal Navy maintains a vigilant watch in international and territorial waters and is always ready to keep Britain safe from potential threats. We do not comment on operational detail, for obvious security reasons.”

Dr Julian Lewis, the Tory chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, said last night:

“It all comes back ultimately to whether or not a country is prepared to invest enough in defence. We should look on Russia as an adversary but not an enemy. By showing Russia that we are strong, we can ensure it decides it is not worth its while becoming our enemy.”

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‘NEW CUTS THREAT TO ARMED FORCES’

By Whitehall Editor

Daily Mail – 29 December 2016

The Armed Forces have been warned they could face more cuts unless the Government significantly boosts military spending. Last year the Government pledged to meet its NATO commitment to spend 2 per cent of national income on defence – but moves to include expenditure such as pensions in this figure, and the rising cost of military equipment because of the weaker pound, could result in a real-terms cut.

Tory MP Julian Lewis, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee, said last night:

“The last time we faced a threat of this magnitude, with both a terrorist campaign and a Russian threat, was during the 1980s, when expenditure was regularly between 4.3 and 5.1 per cent.”

Dr Alan Mendoza, of the Henry Jackson Society security think-tank, added:

“I think it's time the Government considered, in the post-Brexit environment, what kind of country it wants us to be. One of the things Britain is most respected for is its ability to project force overseas.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said:

“We spend more on defence than any other country in Europe and exceed NATO's 2 per cent target.”