The coalition government’s defence cuts have sparked further rows, with the MoD accepting that a Royal Navy frigate may have been sent into a conflict situation when ‘dangerously under-defended’. MPs and former defence chiefs lambasted a decision to send HMS Westminster to patrol close in to the Libyan port city of Benghazi in March 2011, when reportedly armedwith only four Seawolf missiles, enough for two salvos.
The Type 23 frigate is equipped with a silo for 32 vertically-launched Seawolf missiles that are the ship’s main defence weapon. With a no-fly zone in place, the air threat was assessed as low risk, but this did not take into account the potential for missile attack by Gaddafi forces ashore. During the same UN operation, HMS Liverpool was fired upon on ten occasions.