British Forces’ ships, planes and vehicles are going at bargain prices in the country’s biggest-ever sell-off of military equipment.
Experts fear the sale agreed by top brass will reduce Britain’s ability to conduct military operations, but the money is desperately needed to plug an estimated £20 billion black hole in defence finances.
The fire sale includes a £175 million fleet of armoured troop carriers, the Royal Navy flagship – which is currently leading UK hurricane relief operations – and a fleet of Special Forces helicopters.
SEA: At least 50 ships are up for sale, including HMS Ocean, pictured, and HMS Scott, which produces maps used by the UK’s nuclear submarines. It was bought for £180m, on sale for £80m
The equipment, which is expected to be sold at a huge loss according to industry insiders, has been brought together in a Ministry of Defence sales catalogue distributed to representatives of armed forces from around the world at a recent arms fair in London.
The Warthog armoured troop carriers now on sale entered service in 2010 as an urgent operational upgrade and were immediately praised for saving the lives of UK troops in Afghanistan.
Some 17 Warthogs were blown up by Taliban roadside bombs, but not a single soldier travelling inside the vehicles was killed.
Yet just seven years later, and with no armoured troop carriers to replace them, 85 Warthogs have been made available to foreign buyers alongside thousands of British Army vehicles at an estimated cost of £500,000 per vehicle.
The Navy’s sell-off includes helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, which arrived in the Caribbean last week to lead the UK’s relief effort following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The ship’s 650 crew brought with them 60 tons of aid, including construction equipment, hygiene kits and water purification tablets.
HMS Ocean, which cost £150 million when it entered service, is also equipped with Wildcat and Merlin Mk3 helicopters.
The ship, which underwent a £65 million refit in 2014, is expected to be sold for £80 million early next year.
The Royal Navy is also selling its only ocean survey vessel, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. HMS Scott was refitted in 2015 and is today equipped with the latest sonar and hydrographic equipment, which is used to map the sea bed.
Last night, former head of the Royal Navy Admiral Lord West said: ‘I am appalled by the loss of HMS Ocean, which is bound to be sold for a knockdown price.
‘Her departure means we cannot conduct any large-scale amphibious operations and she represents quite a coup for whoever buys her.
‘I am both surprised and concerned about HMS Scott because she does a lot of oceanographic work on behalf of Britain’s nuclear [submarine] deterrent and this is a capability we need to retain.
AIR: Lightweight and agile Gazelle helicopters, pictured, are up for grabs in the sale of up to 70 aircraft, which also includes the Queen’s private jets. Bought for £5m, on sale for £110k
‘Overall, this sale represents the hollowing-out of Britain’s Armed Forces and a significant loss of capability. These aren’t efficiencies, these are cuts.
‘This is affecting us at the sharp end of what we can do on land, by sea and by air yet people still seem to be in denial about how bad the situation is.’
The RAF’s kit sell-off includes 50 Tucano T1 training aircraft, gliders used to train air cadets and executive-style jets flown by the RAF’s Royal Squadron.
VIP passengers using the BAE 146 include the Queen and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.
The RAF is also selling six C-130J transport aircraft, but these are being replaced by Airbus A400Ms.
LAND: Up to 85 Warthog troop carriers, pictured, which cost £175 million – are among 1,100 vehicles being offered on the cheap to other armies. Bought: £1.8m, on sale for £500k
Vast quantities of ammunition are also on the sales list. This follows the scaling-back of military exercises and reduction in size of the Army, down to 79,407 fully trained soldiers, according to latest figures.
The slowdown in UK military activity has also convinced Army chiefs to sell 700 support trucks, 100 pick-up trucks, 100 Vector light protected patrol vehicles, 50 Snatch Land Rovers and as yet unconfirmed numbers of Spartan, Scimitar, Samson, Sultan and Samaritan combat reconnaissance vehicles, as well as Gazelle and Lynx helicopters, which were flown by the Army Air Corps and Royal Navy.
The MoD defended the sell-off, saying: ‘The revenue generated can be reinvested to support cutting-edge technology for our Armed Forces.
‘Sales do not compromise the capabilities of our Forces and are undertaken when equipment is surplus to UK requirements.’