DefenceSynergia (DS) notes with increasing concern numerous recent media articles that appear to confirm MOD’s intent to sell HMS Ocean to Brazil is not merely a possibility but an active policy.
HMS Ocean’s sale price to Brazil appears to be in the region of £85 million for a ship which came out of a £65 million refit in 2014, barely 3 years ago, that should have given it, by DS assessment, a further 10 years of operational life. Whilst the indicated sale appears to represent profit of £20 million, given the original £150 million purchase price and long-term costing for maintenance and inflation-weighted depreciation, the real ‘profit’ is likely to be substantially less and might even fall into net loss. Never the less, even if we accept the paltry £20 million as in the ball park, this is less than 15% of the cost of a single F-35B Lightning II that might eventually grace the decks of the Queen Elizabeth class carriers and just a thousandth (0.1 of 1%) of the called for £20 billion defence budget cut. A huge capability cut for illusory savings.
The sale of HMS Ocean and the pitifully tiny sum to be raised by it is a travesty of common sense clouded by smoke and mirrors MOD accounting that clearly indicates the incoherence in UK defence policy and the desperate measures Ministers will go to to make defence anything but ‘The First Priority of Government’, rather a mere afterthought. Winston Churchill was once asked by a new MP what he thought an MP’s most important quality. The great man answered “Courage!”. When asked ‘why so?’, Churchill answered “It is the one that guarantees all the others”. And so it is with defence: the budget that guarantees all the others have meaning.
DS believes the real issue is not that the Defence Budget is over-spent but that it is being deliberately cut. Sale of HMS Ocean can not be described as an efficiency saving – a term so loved by Ministers and their communications staff – for it is a real and obvious budgetary and capability cut.
The nation deserves better. The Armed Forces deserve better. The government needs to do better.