Despite budget cuts, Britain’s Royal Navy is modernizing with new cutting-edge destroyers, nuclear attack submarines, two new giant aircraft carriers, frigates and other systems on the way, like the short-takeoff and vertical-landing version of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 joint strike fighter.
The man steering a revived Royal Navy is Adm. Sir George Zambellas, the First Sea Lord, who has made capability and readiness his mantra and increased cooperation with the US a top priority.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to provoke its neighbors, prompting NATO to increase readiness and maritime capabilities. Last week, a Russian spy plane briefly penetrated Estonian airspace, and Moscow was accused of sending a sub into Swedish waters.
Q. Given Russia’s provocations, what should NATO’s maritime force look like and how would it shape UK priorities?
A. [We have] to be credible within NATO whichever domain you’re talking about. Clearly my interest is particularly in the maritime. You’ve got to have the right equipment and the right readiness so that you advertise some levels of capability, otherwise the construct in a whole new way doesn’t work well. What we’re doing is we’re investing more in that construct to make sure that it gives politicians what they need. So really nothing’s changed.
Q. You’re in Washington to meet with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert. What are some of the top-priority efforts you’re working to increase interoperability and capability between the UK and the US?
A. We concentrate on the two strategic responsibilities that the Royal Navy is now delivering. A few months ago, we would have focused particularly on the relationship based on our very long submarine heritage, but now as a result of [Prime Minister David Cameron’s] announcement at the end of the NATO summit, we are going to bring the second Queen Elizabeth-class carrier into operation and achieve 100 percent availability.