Super expensive British warships are breaking down in the Persian Gulf because they are not designed for the heat, according to media reports Thursday.
As the Daily Mail reports, contractors claim the Ministry of Defence did not tell them the 8,000-ton Type 45 Destroyers would be spending a long time in warm waters.
The paper says as many as six warships have an engine which keeps cutting out in the middle of the sea, leaving servicemen stranded for hours in total darkness.
Headlines reading ‘British warships sea too hot’ yesterday raised fears that Britain’s key naval assets – designed to shield the rest of the fleet from air or missile attacks – have become ‘sitting ducks’.
There were also warnings that troops could be killed as the ships are deployed near combat zones in the Middle East.
As the Mail points out, four of the guided-missile ships are currently at sea, with one outside Europe and the others in UK waters. Described as the backbone of the Royal Navy, they are fitted with a pioneering new system designed to cut costs and be more fuel efficient.
During the Defence Committee hearing on Tuesday, MPs questioned company executives about the warship failures.
Tomas Leahy of Rolls-Royce, which made the engine, told the defence select committee that the company had responded to a specific set of specifications.
“The equipment is having to operate in far more arduous conditions that were initially required,” Leahy said.
Managing director of BAE Systems Maritime, John Hudson, supported Leahy’s comments, adding: “The operating profile at the time was that there would not be repeated or continuous operations in the Gulf.”
Leahy told MPs that turbines do not generate as much power when they run in a hot environment, which is not recognized by the system.
“This is when you get your total electrical failure,” Leahy explained.
“Suddenly, you have lost your main generator on your system and you are plunged into darkness.”
However, a spokesperson from Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) denied this, telling CNN: “The Type 45 was designed for world-wide operations, from sub-Arctic to extreme tropical environments, and continues to operate effectively in the Gulf and the South Atlantic all year round.”
MPs were shocked when they heard about the failures.
“I’m just absolutely stunned,” said Douglas Chapman from the Scottish National Party.
“It’s a £1bn asset that you’re putting into a war zone, and we don’t know if these people will go in there and come back out alive because there might be a problem with the power system on the ship. I’m just astounded.”