Britain’s ability to defend itself against a major military attack has been called into question after an investigation found Navy warships are so loud they can be heard 100 miles away by Russian submarines.
Rear Admiral Chris Parry, a former director of operational capability for the Ministry of Defence, said the £1 billion a piece Type 45 destroyers are “as noisy as hell” and sound like “a box of spanners” underwater.
It comes amid warnings that years of defence cuts and expensive procurement contracts with a small number of large defence firms, has the left the military with an “existential minimum” amount of equipment.
The Ministry of Defence spent £3.5bn on each of the Army’s Ajax tanks, but they are unable to fit on board transport aircraft without needing to be dismantled, according to an investigation by the Sunday Times.
A further £1.2 billion was spent on 54 Watchkeeper reconnaissance drones, which haven’t entered frontline service for 12 years.
General Sir Richard Barrons, a former commander of Joint Forces Command, has called on the Government to “re-bench” the armed forces.
He said: “You are dealing with a legacy of iterative hollowing out, which has reached a point where the frog has boiled.”
Long-rumoured problems with the Navy’s fleet of six Type 45 destroyers that left them total powerless were confirmed early this year.
The Ministry of Defence issued a statement admitting “reliability issues” had affected the ships and said that it was considering upgrades to the vessels to make them more reliable.
The warships were originally designed to work in the cool waters of the North Atlantic, but in hotter climates, the jet engines have experienced problems with heat, causing them to shut down.
Admiral Parry said: “We used to put little wooden wedges between the hatchclips and the hatches in my destroyer to stop them rattling so we could keep the noise down.”
“We have forgotten all about it — it’s crazy. Noise suppression has been probably the biggest dirty secret since the end of the Cold War that people have been cheerfully ignoring.”
The Ministry of Defence ordered 54 Watchkeeper reconnaissance drones in 2005 in an £847m deal to provide surveillance and reconnaissance for troops.
The drones can beam back high definition images as they fly up to 16,000ft above the battlefield, but technical and safety delays have meant that apart from a brief stint in Afghanistan, the aircraft will not enter full service until this year.
An MOD spokesperson said: “Britain’s defence budget is the biggest in Europe and it is growing every year, we are investing £178 billion as the UK steps up globally.
“We are focused on maintaining an affordable programme and getting the best value for the taxpayer to deliver the cutting-edge kit our Armed Forces need to keep Britain safe.”