Hovering British defense cutting ax comes down on Royal Navy

Sweeping new defense cuts will deprive the Royal Navy of nearly one-third of its surface fleet and place much of the burden of protecting the Atlantic approach to the British Isles on hunter-killer submarines.

A plan streamlining and reshaping Britain's defenses for he next decade was presented to Parliament by Defense Secretary John Nott amid bitter criticism from government and opposition politicians.

Nott's defense review:

* Cuts the number of Royal Navy destroyers and frigates from 59 to 50.

* Takes out of service one large fleet carrier and leaves the future of another undecided.

* Retires or sidelines many ancillary vessels.

* Closes the Chatham naval dockyard and sharply contracts the historic Portsmouth yard.

* Cuts defense manpower by nearly 20,000.

* Sustains Britain's Rhine Army commitment in Europe.

* Confirms the decision to build a new nuclear submarine deterrent equipped with Trident missiles.

Some Conservative members of Parliament expressed misgivings about cuts in the Navy's surface fleet. Labour leaders attacked Nott's refusal to abandon or modify the Trident deterrent plan.

Nott, a cool bespectacled intellectual, said the swing toward reliance on hunter-killer subs for defending the North Atlantic against Soviet subs would not endanger Britain's security or weaken NATO.

Last month Navy Minister Keith Speed was sacked for launching a public attack on the Nott plan. He says running down the Royal Navy endangers the defense of Britain and its European allies.

But Nott stoutly defended his policy in Parliament, claiming a combination of hunter-killers, maritime aircraft, and lightly clad escort ships will k eep the Atlantic secure.

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