The recent military action taken in April against chemical weapons targets in Syria demonstrated the wider range of missile options available to the United States and French Navies for use against land targets, says a report by the Defence Committee.
By contrast, the Royal Navy has only the option of submarine-launched Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM)—an option that was not used.
The UK and France have entered into an agreement to produce a Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon which will expand the Royal Navy’s missile capability, but this is not due to enter service until the 2030s.
Harpoon, the Royal Navy’s principal heavy anti-ship missile, was due to be taken out of service in 2018, but this has been deferred until at least 2020.
According to the report:
“Consideration should be given to extending TLAM capability to the surface fleet, ahead of development of the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon System, which will not be in service until the 2030s.
The Harpoon anti-ship missile has also wisely been kept in service beyond 2018, but a decision about its future into the 2020s is still needed.”
Dr Julian Lewis, Defence Committee chairman, said:
“We hope that our report will assist in sparking debate and focusing minds on priorities that should be considered by the Modernising Defence Programme. The Secretary of State was right to remove Defence from the National Security Capability Review which would otherwise have resulted in further disastrous cuts to the Armed Forces, and we endorse his efforts to obtain a better settlement for Defence.
The Government now needs to look beyond the two per cent minimum on Defence spending, and begin moving towards a figure of three per cent, to place our defence policy on a sustainable basis to meet new threats and fill existing financial ‘black holes’. Defence is constantly described as the first duty of government. The MDP is the government’s opportunity to show that it means what it says.”