The Royal Navy in the Falklands Conflict and the Gulf War: Culture and Strategy

The Royal Navy in the Falklands Conflict and the Gulf War: Culture and Strategy

The Royal Navy in the Falklands Conflict and the Gulf War: Culture and Strategy

The Royal Navy in the Falklands Conflict and the Gulf War: Culture and Strategy

Synopsis

Alastair Finlan is a Lecturer in Strategic Studies in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University. He has also lectured at the American University in Cairo, Britannia Royal Navy College, Keele University and Plymouth University.

Excerpt

It is estimated that the cost of defence procurement in Britain has been rising, in real terms, at 10 per cent per annum since 1945. One of the consequences is that the vast fleet possessed by the Royal Navy at the close of the Second World War has subsequently steadily shrunk, to the point where now it can only muster some 30 odd surface platforms.

The Thatcher government, in the 1981 Defence Review, was not, of course, the first to face these grim financial realities. The key part of the process of scaling back from a world role took place in the 1960s, exemplified not least by the cancellation of the planned major aircraft carrier CVA-01. Thatcher and her ministers were, however, the first to have the conclusions they reached immediately derailed by events, the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands. In the short term, the result was the reversal of some of the conclusions that the Nott Review had reached; indeed, if this had not occurred the war would not only have been unwinnable but also unwageable. However, as Alastair Finlan here shows, the 1982 conflict was far from shifting the general direction of British strategy in subsequent years. The Royal Navy may have possessed, from the late 1960s, the cardinal weapon of the Cold War, the nuclear missile. Otherwise, the Senior Service was allotted somewhat unheroic roles, such as keeping watch on Soviet submarines through the Iceland gap, tasks which were essential but mundane, and hardly calling for a multiplicity of platforms or capabilities.

Whilst the strategic environment in which the Royal Navy had to operate changed radically over the period after 1945, and was to change again in the 1990s with the end of the Cold War, Finlan suggests that the institutional culture of the service has, however,

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