End of an Era

From the Financial Times of London (29 Sep 08)

One of the last Falklands-era ships still in the Royal Navy has been withdrawn from service ahead of schedule in the latest sign of strain on defence budgets.

HMS Exeter, which shot down Argentine Skyhawk jets in the Falklands conflict 26 years ago, sailed back into Portsmouth harbour on August 5 and has been put into a “lower state of readiness” several months before it is due to be taken out of service next year, according to naval sources.

…The destroyer’s return comes amid mounting concerns over the size of the future support fleet for the navy’s two new aircraft carriers.

The 1998 Strategic Defence Review specified a requirement of 32 frigates and destroyers. Today there are 25 and the planned withdrawal of HMS Exeter and HMS Southampton next year will reduce it to 23.

The remaining Type 42 destroyers will gradually be replaced by more capable Type 45s, but the current shipbuilding plans include only six Type 45s, down from an original number of 12.

…The navy’s support fleet will eventually be boosted by the next generation Future Surface Combatant programme, which is designed to replace the smaller Type 22 and Type 23 frigates.

Lord Boyce said he was concerned about the potential fall in military capability should the navy’s supporting force drop below its current level of 25, especially as the old Type 22 and Type 23 frigates are gradually taken out of ­service. Work needed to start on the Future Surface Combatant.

I still remember Resolution 502, the Harpoon sourcebook on the Falklands War.  At the time I was in Junior High (9th grade?) and followed the Falklands War with a passion.  I knew the order of battle inside and out for both sides, and I would never let an Exocet hit one of my ships!

Farewell Exeter; another part of my youth passes into the abyss….

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