83 Percent of Britain’s Problematic Type 45 Destroyers Out of Action - Only One Ship Operational

Britain’s Type 45 Class destroyer has had a troubled history, with the fleet size cut down from twelve to nine and finally only six ships which have suffered from very low availability rates, high maintenance needs and risk of breakdowns when operating in warm waters. 

The ships have been much maligned for their lack of versatility and underwhelming firepower, and despite being considerably larger they carry only half the firepower of modern U.S. and Japanese AEGIS destroyers - a fraction of the missiles of the latest Chinese Type 055 Class. 

Unlike modern ships in the U.S., Japan, South Korea, China and more recently even Russia, the Type 45 is unable to perform multiple roles and has its small missile arsenal dedicated only to air defence. Competing designs such as the American Arleigh Burke Class and Japanese Maya Class can perform ballistic missile defence, anti-shipping, anti-submarine warfare and precision cruise missile strikes.

The Type 45 Class’ issues have again made headlines as it was acknowledged by British defence procurement minister Jeremy Quin that five of the six ships are currently out of service leaving just one operational. Four ships are in various stages of maintenance or upgrade, with the fifth HMS Diamond having suffered from technical problems while escorting a Royal Navy–led carrier strike group which is set to deploy to East Asia. 

The revelation comes at a particularly embarrassing time for Britain as it seeks to project power east of the Suez Cana in a way it has not done for decades with a fleet that falls far short of requirements. 

The flagship carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, for example, relies on fighter jets which are still far from ready for even medium intensity combat, has too few fighters to operate even a single squadron forcing it to rely on U.S. Marine aircraft for its decks, and has suffered from a serious COVID-19 outbreak. Its sister ship HMS Prince of Wales recently suffered major flooding. 

The Ministry of Defence did not specify the cause of the problems with HMS Diamond which forced it to head back, but this was very likely to be related to longstanding power and propulsion reliability issues which were widely speculated by British media. 

Chairman of Britain's Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood claimed that the Type 45’s availability rates illustrated that Britain needed a bigger navy - although how the size of the fleet could be seen as a cause for poor reliability and difficult maintenance remained uncertain. 

He stated: “It’s an operational concern. HMS Defender is now our only currently operating Type 45. If that ship experiences propulsion problems, which we have seen across the Type 45 family, then the carrier strike group will be forced to lean on a NATO ally to ensure we have destroyer protection. 

That really indicates the bottom line is we need a bigger navy.” It was “not acceptable that the RN availability [of Type 45] is now reduced to a single ship,” he concluded. Facing economic decline and two very serious economic crises in 2008 and 2020, it is possible that the Type 45 will be Britain’s last destroyer class as the affordability of a replacement remains highly questionable - with an expansion of the destroyer fleet being very unlikely. 

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