Navy sails into battle over future of forces

(, 24 February 2010 20.00 GMT) The head of the navy tonight stoked up an increasingly intense debate about the future shape of Britain's armed forces, defiantly rejecting claims that the age of large fleets and aircraft carriers is over.

In an unashamed defence of the navy against thinly disguised criticism from the army in particular, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said that when crises erupted maritime forces were usually the first to arrive and the last to leave.

The navy, he added, had a "vital role to play in delivering this country's defence and security into the future, in delivering choices for the government, as much as in delivering firepower when required".

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