British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been looking for ways to save taxpayer dollars, and his most recent target is Britain’s only aircraft carrier in the Falkland Islands and its entire fleet of Harrier jump jets. The move was criticized by several former members of the Royal Navy in an open letter in the Times of London, including two former heads of the Royal Navy, two Vice-Admirals, and a Major. “In respect of the newly valuable Falklands and their oilfields, because of these and other cuts, for the next 10 years at least, Argentina is practically invited to attempt to inflict on us a national humiliation on the scale of the loss of Singapore.” The reference to Singapore is particularly striking for the British public because it recalls what is believed one of worst defeats of the British Naval forces in Japan’s conquest of Britain in 1942. (Image available from the New York Times).
British Armed Forces Minister, Nick Harvey, rejected the retired admirals’ warning. He told the BBC, “The Falklands is a very different situation now from what it was in 1982. We're far more alert to the threat now, we've got a well-defended airfield, we've got a company of troops there, we've got submarine . . . You can launch fighter jets from the land. We have basing rights, we have overflight rights. Carrier strike is just one way of launching a fighter jet, it's not the only way.” Pr
ominent Falkland Islanders agreed with the Armed Forces Minister and denied that the removal of the aircraft carrier would greatly affect their security. The cuts mean that no planes will be able to fly from British aircraft at least until 2019 due to the time it would take to complete construction of a new aircraft carrier.
The British have maintained control over the Falkland Islands since a 1982 war with Argentina. Argentina continues to protest Britain’s occupation, but it is doubtful the Argentina would attempt to wage a military campaign to claim the islands. The sea beds around the islands likely contain rich oil reserves, but have yet to be exploited. Although, a recent oil discovery may see a greater non-miliatary dispute between Britain and Argentina over the ownership of the Falkland Islands. (Image available from the BBC).
The significance of the air craft carrier being decommissioned lies more as a signal of the waning significance of the once great British Naval Fleet. With China’s Navy growing, the U.S. continued dominance at Sea, and Japan maintaing a strong Naval fleet; the realty is setting in that the British Navy will unlikely be able to exert influence the way it did just 30 years ago. The retired British Navy admirals are likely responding to this situation as much as an actual concern of Argentina attacking the Falkland Islands.