HMS Exeter destroyer retired early amid Navy budget fears

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HMS Exeter, used to shoot down Argentina Skyhawk jets in the Falkland War in 1982, sailed back to Portsmouth harbour last month, fuelling fears the Navy is suffering from defence budget cuts.

It has reportedly been downgraded to a "lower state of readiness" several months before it was due to be taken out of service.

Although the Ministry of Defence insists the Type 42 destroyer remains an important part of the fleet, there are fears the move demonstrates the fears over cuts in the defence budgets.

Last month a report by the UK National Defence Association said the Armed Forces were all "woefully under-funded" and the defence budget needs to be increased from the current £34 billion to £50 billion over the next three years.

Defence funding has hit the lowest level since the Thirties with no increase expected despite worsening world events.

The 1998 Strategic Defence Review specified a requirement of 32 frigates and destroyers. Today, there are 25 and the planned withdrawal of HMS Exeter and HMS Southampton next year will reduce it to 23.

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