UK Frigate Carried Only Four AA Missiles to Libya

Here’s an example of what big-time budget cuts do to real world military operations; the Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster apparently steamed to the fight in Libya armed with only four Sea Wolf anti-aircraft missiles. Yes, four. The ship can carry 38 Sea Wolfs plus eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Yes, you can say that there was very little threat of an airborne attack on the ship during Operation Odyssey Dawn/Ellamy/Unified Protector. Nevertheless, it’s not comforting to hear that a ship from one of the world’s premiere navies was sent into combat under-armed.

This comes just a little while after it was revealed that budget cuts forced the Royal Navy to leave the British home waters unpatrolled by a major warship for the first time in decades.

Here’s what the UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported on the matter:

Rear Admiral Chris Parry, a retired officer, said it was unbelievable that the Westminster had so few missiles on board and said ships in the Falklands and the Gulf wars were equipped to full capacity. He added: “This is yet another example of the incoherence of last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review. What if the Government’s bluff had been called? What would the Ministry of Defence be saying if the Westminster had been hit by something? They took a big risk.

“The Government needs to realise there’s only a limited amount you can cut the tail before the teeth fall out.”

Penny Mordaunt, the Conservative MP for Portsmouth North, who is a naval reservist, said: “I am absolutely convinced, and so are other warfare officers I’ve spoken to, that the Westminster would have been in danger.

“We’ve hollowed out the capability to a dangerous level.”

The Ministry of Defence accepted that the Westminster was short of missiles when it sailed to Libya and that it was not replenished at sea. But a spokesman would not confirm or deny claims that the ship had just four missiles in the war zone. Ursula Brennan, the Permanent Under Secretary at the MoD, said: “The assessment of the risk to HMS Westminster would have taken into account the other capabilities that we had in terms of submarines, aircraft and surveillance and so on. The questions will then have been asked, ‘In those circumstances, do we think that is a risk worth taking?’ “That is a judgment our operations people take on a daily basis.”

34 Comments on "UK Frigate Carried Only Four AA Missiles to Libya"

  1. no way hose. are u serious?!?!?

  2. No backup, its that bad, No more AA missiles, NO stingers?
    Scary, hope for no Falklands War 2.

  3. Looks like the RAF accomplished their mission.

  4. Won't cut it with Egypt, I'm afraid.

  5. with their history of losing ships to air attack you would think they would have a little more concern about air defense. were the planning upon relying upon the good will of other nations to protect their ships?

  6. Em, em . Lets buy em, em frigates to solve em problem.

  7. They spent too much money appeasing the terrs at home, what with no guns etc.

    Sgt K

  8. They spent too much money appeasing the terrs at home, what with no guns etc.

  9. Apparently they had four more than they needed.

  10. All it would have taken is one Exocet to cripple the Westminster, cutting corners like this is going to cost lives someday.

  11. No need to panic. We’ve just signed a deal to subcontract all our intelligence gathering to The News of the World. The money that saves should buy us loads more seawolves :-)

  12. Sequestration.

  13. o wait, explanation. sequestration means next time you yanks will have to go to libya hoping the brits still have those 4 missiles, because you wont have any.

  14. What's really bad about this is; we rely on these guys if the balloon ever really goes up. And it sounds like they just won't be able to help. All the more reason we need to be able to defend ourselves. The Brits seem to be running on empty.

  15. “you can say that there was very little threat of an airborne attack on the ship”

    SeaWolf is also an anti-missile system. Libyan navy vessels carrying Russian made anti-ship missiles were also a threat to allied warships.

    Gaddafi’s ASu capability was limited, and one might expect ships’ war-loads to be reduced according to circumstances and threats -to some extent- but this was an unnecessary risk too far for the sake of minimal cost saving.

  16. I think this can be used as a warning for what will occur in America, if Congress doesnt pass cuts to lower the federal debt in ways that dont hurt our military/veterans. If America (really the last truely capable Western military power) has to hollow out its military the West will really have no defence against anyone stronger than a 3rd world nation, if that (remember, it was reported that the EU ran out of munitions and had to get them from America).

  17. For the British to send a capital ship into a war zone with only 4 AA missiles is penny-wise and pound foolish. A full combat load will not guarantee the ultimate safety of the ship, but its certainly better to have a full load and not need it than to send a ship into dangerous waters without the ability to protect itself. A very dangerous gamble indeed: the Brits were simply lucky this time.

  18. the justification for this as i have read is that the ship wasn't operating near the coast as such, and with the sheer amount of allied shipping and air power in the region it would be very, very unlikely that any attack would be made. i also read that it is usually fired in 2 round volleys, so that if only 4 missiles were carried that's two firings (i don't know if this has been confirmed, i think it was the telegraph). saying that, missiles etc. at sea do suffer under the conditions and so it might not make sense for a ship to carry a full load at 'peacetime', the libyan adventures being somewhat hastily planned it would seem. you would assume though that replenishments would be fairly swiftly sent out once shooting started, just in case … anything to save a quid or two at the moment, and hang the consequences …

  19. Aircrafts are no threat to battleships, as any pre-world war II admiral can tell you.

  20. They did have a CA ship backing them up so they weren't exactly alone but no excuse either.

  21. ". . .[A] major warship of one of the world’s premiere navies. . ."

    A frigate? By no stretch of the imagination is a frigate a "major warship."

    Certainly none of the world's premier navies would consider it as such.

    Read more: http://defensetech.org/2011/11/23/uk-frigate-carr
    Defense.org

  22. Of course the Sailors are expendable.

    Money wins over life.

  23. What bugs me is why the meia is allowed to publish this kind of info.ever show your hand.

  24. "Brittania Rules The Waves", my Aunt Thelma's butt…this is as disgraceful a story as it is horrifying. How can any government…oh…never mind…

  25. This just shows that defense cut lead to efficiency and professionalism.

    The real difference between the RN and ours is that they won the campaign. Just contrast it with our lavishly equipped failures.

    As one commentator put it sparingly equipped professionals will always prevail over well equipped monkeys.

  26. "[O]ne of the world's premier navies," by definition , does not send a ship, even a fourth-rate ship,like a frigate, into action with partial ammunition stores.

  27. I can see it now. A anti-ship missile is headed for one of our proud carriers. One problem the Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser attached to the strike group has no Standard Missiles to meet the threat. An there's no ammo for the CIWS to engage. Yes, folks its sadly the our navy may go if we don't do anything to remove a certain guy with Big Ears.

  28. I wonder if Argentina is reading this. Maybe this is the time to reclaim the Falkland Islands?

  29. At this rate James Bond will have to trade his Aston Martin for a rail pass & his Walther for a can of Pepper Spray….

  30. Trying to imagine Tomorrow Never Dies, where they sink the Devonshire, enter the shipwreck…and there's no missiles to steal! Oh noes!

  31. Certainly NOT the Royal Navy that confronted the German High Seas Fleet!!

  32. The best answer is the one from the MOD spokesperson: I paraphrase "We have to consider all the factors. Our operational leaders do this everyday."

    Nothing, most especially warfighting, is ever optimal. It's all relative. It's all compromise. It's all risk assessment. I trust the operational people to figure it out without my uninformed hindsight…

  33. If they had fired their 4 misseles they will be screwd!!!!!

    Just like ducks in the water for Iranian and Kadaffi's to shoot them like ducks….

    RIP and Amen for the crew.

    Pathfinder22554

  34. What you have to understand is that the British government is so badly infiltrated by various foreign interests that it hasnt been operating in the interests of the British
    people since the early 1970's. In fact it operates directly against the best interests of the british people.

    Downgrading destroying and closing one institution after another against all common sense. Starting with the destruction of the education system in1972 creating a nation of cabbage heads that dont even know just how bad their education was and following it on with closure after closure.

    The nation that practically created nuclear power and DID arguably create what we now think of as western civilisation (in essence) is no longer even capable of building a single nuclear power plant. They just dont know how.

    So is it a suprise that they now destroy the armed forces – and send soldiers into battle without bullets or proper clothing, ships into war without missiles and aircraft carriers without aircraft.

    Seriously – does anyone think this is really funny?

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