Around 5,000 sailors and marines have been axed in defence cuts, leaving the UK with just 30,000 fighting mariners

The shrunken Royal Navy now has nearly twice as many admirals as surface warships. Despite destroyers and frigates being cut to a paltry 19, the Senior Service still boasts 33 admirals on £100,000 a year.Some 5,000 sailors and marines have been axed in defence cuts, leaving the UK with just 30,000 fighting mariners – and a smaller Navy than in Lord Nelson’s time.

Documents seen by the Mirror prove there are 14 more admirals than there are modern warships as defined by Parliament’s Defence Select Committee.Tonight a former officer said the savage downsizing meant “the Navy has commitments it simply cannot fill”. The dramatic reduction in destroyers and frigates from 33 in the past decade reflects a huge decline in capability. The Royal Navy was, until the Second World War, the largest on the planet.

Defence sources pointed out there are still nuclear submarines and assault ships Albion, Ocean and Bulwark. Yet at any one time, one of these troop and helicopter carriers is under repair. A military source said: “It’s fair to define destroyers and frigates as fighting ships, while Ocean, Bulwark and Albion are assault ships with little firepower."But even if you include the assault ships, it is still only 22.” According to official documents the 33 admirals even include a chaplain. The top-brass overload is revealed as the Navy retires Type-22 frigates and Type-42 destroyers earlier than planned in order to fund two new supercarriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. The cash-strapped fleet had 12 Type-42s, which gave the carriers air defence, but they have been replaced by just six Type-45s, a cut which some fear may leave carriers vulnerable to attack.

In 2011 about 500 engineers were made redundant and 5,000 Navy jobs will have been slashed by next year.Most admirals are based in London. As well as their £100,000-plus salaries, they are assigned a luxury flat and given chauffeur-driven staff cars to special events. Former Navy officer Mike Critchley, editor of magazine Warship World, said: “Manpower is the big issue as the Government can’t fill the huge gaps left by repeated defence cuts. The Navy has commitments it can’t fill.”The Ministry of Defence said: “It is wrong to say the Navy has more admirals than major warships. It has 33 major warships and a further 41 vessels.”

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