The UK Royal Navy’s warships are unprepared to fulfil operations within the Arctic Circle, according to a report drawn up by the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office.

The Telegraph quoted the leaked report, entitled ‘Arctic Strategic Implications for the UK’, as saying that the ‘new territorial front’ created by expanding seas will begin a new era of territorial disputes and piracy.

The report warned that the UK would be required to display an increased role in maritime power as the Arctic represented a water-based theatre.

“Balancing this however are concerns at how this capability may also be seen as a burden, placing further resource demands on defence,” the report stated.

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UK Navy sources have indicated that the existing warships, including the new £1bn Type 45 destroyers, were not equipped to sustain the Arctic’s cold weather.

The cuts proposed by the UK Strategic Defence Security Review 2010 has already halved the navy’s surface fleet to 19 frigates and destroyers, as well as scrapping outdated aircraft carriers.

A UK MoD spokesman said, “The Royal Navy maintains the capability to operate in the Arctic using our submarine fleet, survey vessels and the ice patrol ship HMS Protector.”