Russian submarine activity around Britain’s coast has increased tenfold in the past six years, the new defence secretary has warned.
Numbers of submarines sent by the Kremlin to UK waters are now similar to the levels of the Cold War, Gavin Williamson said.
It comes as former senior military commanders warn that Britain’s Armed Forces are ‘close to breaking’.
Russian submarine activity around Britain’s coast has increased tenfold in the past six years. Pictured is one of the country’s nuclear ballistic missile submarines on route to St Petersburg
Yesterday, the former head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, told MPs that its anti-submarine warfare capability was ‘inadequate’ and his successor was struggling with further cuts.
The UK was forced to call upon the US and Canada to help hunt down a suspected Russian submarine just last month. Speaking about the UK’s arsenal to deal with the Russian threat, Admiral Zambellas said: ‘I think the total of the sum of those parts is in my view inadequate for the current strategic risk.’
General Sir Richard Barrons, the former commander of Joint Forces Command, was among the ex-chiefs to warn that defence cuts mean the Army is now ’20 years out of date’ and ready to ‘fall over’. He also warned there are ‘existential risks’ to the UK that the Armed Forces are unable to deal with.
Gavin Williamson said numbers of submarines sent by the Kremlin to UK waters are now similar to the levels of the Cold War
He said defence was short of £2billion a year in funding and if more money was not spent, the Government would be responsible for ‘tipping the Armed Forces into institutional failure’.
General Barrons added the Army lacked air defences, unmanned drones and cyber warfare capabilities.
Lib Dem defence spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said: ‘This scathing criticism from a top former general emphasises the increasingly fragile nature of Britain’s defence capabilities. The Government must listen to this stark warning.’
His comments came ahead of next week’s budget in which Philip Hammond is expected to ignore calls by former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon to give more money to the MoD.
An MoD spokesman said of the submarine hunt: ‘We play a leading role in Nato and work closely with our allies on security in the North Atlantic. We have robust protection in place for our vessels and are investing £3billion of our rising budget into buying nine new P8 aircraft to patrol the seas.’