Royal Navy warship numbers: falling off a cliff

Royal Navy major warship numbers 1990-2012

Click on the image to see larger version (hosted on Flickr).

As can be easily discerned from this chart, the strength of the Royal Navy has been in decline since 1990. The first big reductions coming in the early 90s as a result of the post-cold war so-called ‘peace dividend’. However David Cameron’s coalition government has already ‘achieved’ the steepest fall in numbers in a very short time. It is the work-horse frigates  and attack submarines, (arguably now the most important naval assets) that have seen the biggest reductions.Obviously it’s not just about numbers and this chart doesn’t show how capable the vessels or manpower strength, but it does give a dramatic overall illustration of what’s happened. Don’t be fooled by the nonsense often spouted by MoD spin doctors that imply that improvements in capability of individual ships can compensate for a reduction in numbers. The huge and obvious flaw in this argument is that any potential enemy has also improved their technology and capability over time. The bottom line is that the RN needs hulls in the water and for example 6 “technically advanced” Type 45 destroyers cannot do as much as 12 “obsolete” Type 42 destroyers due to simple physics – a vessel cannot be in two places at once!