An RAF Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon takes off March 22, 2011, in support of a U.N. coalition against Libya strongman Moammar Gadhafi's forces. A committee has questioned whether the U.K. will have the ability to conduct operations on the same scale as the Libya campaign after defense cuts are fully implemented. (Giuseppe Bellini / Getty Images)
LONDON — A parliamentary defense committee has questioned if Britain will still have the ability to conduct future operations on the scale of the Libya campaign after the strategic defense and security review has been fully implemented.
A report due to be published by the committee Feb. 8 on last year’s operations against Col. Moammar Gadhifi’s regime said that although the U.K. was able to satisfy requirements for the Libyan operation and other commitments, the government needed to urgently review the ability of its armed forces to conduct concurrent threats.
“The Libyan operation raises important questions as to the extent of the U.K. national contingent capability. The government needs to review our capacity to respond to concurrent threats,” said the report.
Once the defense review has been fully implemented with capability and personnel cuts, the government will need to make difficult decisions on prioritization if it embarks on missions similar to Libya, the parliamentarians warned.
James Arbuthnot, the committee chairman, said in a statement that the “real test is whether the success of this mission was a one-off or whether the lessons it has highlighted mean that future such missions can be successfully undertaken whilst maintaining the U.K.’s capability to protect its interests elsewhere.”
The report comes as a war of words with Argentina over ownership of the Falklands continues to warm up.
Senior British ex-military officers claim Britain could not mount an operation to recover the islands if they were captured again. The warning comes as Britain is preparing to exit combat troops from Afghanistan.
Royal Navy frigate and destroyer numbers have already been cut to the point that the Navy has to reduce important tasks, such as counter-drug operations and fleet-ready escort operations, during the Libyan mission. said the report.
The Type 22 frigate, HMS Cumberland, which rescued civilians from Benghazi and then helped enforce the arms embargo, was scheduled to be decommissioned early under the defense review when it was diverted to take part in the operation.
The committee said that with the continued high level of maritime commitments, more risk-taking would be necessary.
Other highlights in the report include:
A demand that the MoD tell the committee whether it still intends to cut the highly valued Sentinel battlefield surveillance aircraft from its ISTAR assets on completion of the Afghanistan campaign.
Urging NATO to look at its over-reliance on the U.S. for assets such as unmanned aircraft, intelligence and air tanking assets, particularly as Washington’s focus moves to the Pacific.
In the wake of reports about shortages of munitions, encouraging the government to outline its contingency measures and whether it has plans to review them.
A call for the government to give a much higher priority to developing ISTAR capabilities in advance of the next defense review, scheduled for 2015.