The 1981 Defence White Paper was a major review of the United Kingdom's defence policy brought about by the Conservative government under the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The main author was the then Secretary of State for Defence, John Nott. The aim of the review was to reduce expenditure during the early 1980s recession and to focus on supporting NATO rather than out of area operations.
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This review proposed extensive cuts to the Royal Navy including the sale of the new aircraft carrier Invincible to Australia. Under the review, the Royal Navy was focussed primarily on anti-submarine warfare under the auspices of NATO. Any out-of-area amphibious operations were considered unlikely. The entire Royal Marine amphibious force was in jeopardy of being disbanded and the sale of Intrepid and Fearless was mooted.
The ice patrol ship Endurance was also due to be withdrawn from the South Atlantic. This was interpreted as a sign of weakness by the Argentine Government, encouraging the invasion of the Falkland Islands. Chatham Dockyard was also to be closed as an operational base. Feasibility studies for the Type 43 and Type 44 destroyers were also cancelled, together with the Sea Dart MkII surface-to-air missile.
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- Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins: The Battle for the Falklands, chapter 5: "Task Force": "In the previous decade, the very existence of the marines had come into question." and "both the assault ships Fearless and Intrepid were at that time threatened with sale to foreign powers"
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- "UK Defence cuts may hurt Royal Navy more than RAF" a 1981 Flight news item
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