Something happened a few weeks ago. something actually fairly important though quiet and barely mentioned.
A royal navy warship, HMS Portland, a type 23 frigate, en route home to the UK, paused to conduct a test firing of the Sea Skua missile from the carried Lynx helicopter. Life test fires do happen, these days the fact that the royal navy actually have warships at sea is more newsworthy. But in this case it was news because it represented the LAST time this missile will be fired.
The Sea Skua missile has had a long and successful history with the Royal navy, but it can only be carried by the Lynx helicopter, and that helicopter is being retired, in fact by the time you read this it should officially have been retired though they will still be flying for a while yet.
The helicopters are being replaced by a new type, called the Wildcat, more advanced, more capable, and unable to carry the Sea Skua missile since the Wildcat was designed to carry the replacement missile and it was thought to be a waste of time and money to develop the capacity to carry the old missile on the new helicopter.
Anyone familiar with UK government defence policy or even slightly cynical will be guessing what I'm about to say by now.
The new missile, the Sea Venom, is expected to be available for use in 2020.
Which is three years from now.
If the new missile / Helicopter combo arrives on time and doesn't end up suffering from any problems which delay it.
So. 2020. A three year gap without any royal naval helicopter based anti shipping missiles.
But we still have the ships themselves.
Well. Aside from the issues with how few ships the royal navy actually has working at present, I'm sure you have heard all the stories about British warships that break down because it's too hot or have spent a year or more in dock undergoing repairs or waiting to be repaired, there is also a slight problem with the Royal Navies ship mounted missiles.
The Royal Navy uses American designed and built Harpoon anti shipping missiles, any wargamers out there may remember cold war era naval wargames called Harpoon.
Harpoon is a medium range sea skimming anti shipping missile, that is it flies close to the waves to avoid detection and this missile has represented the main US and UK ship carried missile for many years.
However it's getting on a bit these days, spares in the Royal Navy are becoming expensive and hard to find, and the performance of the missiles against any modern enemy (you know like the Russians who are going to attack us any minute, or the Chinese who are going to start a war with America any day soon) is reported to be lacking.
So the missile is being retired, to be replaced with a British designed and built replacement, go UK engineering.
Great news, a modern navy with modern missiles.
The elderly harpoons are being retired from service 2017/18 and replaced with the new, high tech British Sea Venom.
Yes, the same one as on the new helicopters.
The same one expected to be along in 2020.
So... No helicopter launched missiles AND no ship launched missiles, until 2020 at the earliest. Meaning the Royal navies only way of engaging a hostile ship is the bow mounted cannon and sending over the marines in an inflatable.
Carriers with no aircraft, ships and helicopters without missiles. Destroyers that don't work.
It's a good job we aren't likely to end up in a war with anyone dangerous over the next three years, anyone with a navy that is.
Mustering their forces on NATO's borders you say.