With an "under-resourced" fleet composed of "ageing and operationally defective ships", the Navy would struggle even to repeat its role in the Iraq war and is now "far more vulnerable to unexpected shocks", the top-level Ministry of Defence document says.
The report was ordered by Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, who had intended to use it to "counter criticism" on the state of the Navy in the media and from opposition parties.
But in a damning conclusion, the report states: "The current material state of the fleet is not good; the Royal Navy would be challenged to mount a medium-scale operation in accordance with current policy against a technologically capable adversary." A medium-scale operation is similar to the naval involvement in the Iraq War.
The document adds that the Navy is too "thinly stretched", its fighting capability is being "eroded" and the fleet's ability to influence events at the strategic level is "under threat".
Underfunding and all that, but is it really the best use of naval funds to be splashing £4 billion?l out on the two new aircraft carriers. Their role is to be "power projection" or as it is normally known "willy waving". They will be too big and too valuable to be allowed near any conflict as a beardie in an inflatable with a "special" suitcase can disable them. We need the money spent on small agile adaptable kit, the sort of stuff that can be used for regime change, the sort of stuff that can sail up rivers and park outside Parliament buildings.....