Tensions between North and South Korea show the Government's decision to leave the country without jets to fly from its aircraft carrier is "short-sighted", a former naval chief has warned.
Admiral Lord West of Spithead said that in the event of hostilities on the Korean peninsula Britain must be able to stand side by side with the United States.
His comments came the day after a Harrier jump jet took off for the last time from a British aircraft carrier.
In a letter to The Times, Lord West - a former Labour security minister - said it was unclear what the country's commitments would be if hostilities were to recommence.
He wrote: "What is certain is that to fail to stand by the United States, when they have supported us in Europe over some 70 years, would be a mistake. The dispatch of a carrier, its small air wing and a Tactom-armed nuclear submarine, should any such crisis escalate, is just the sort of commitment an ally such as the United States requires. Nothing else in our military inventory has similar flexibility and 'adaptability'.
"What will be the next strategic shock? I cannot predict it - nor can the Government. To lose our maritime strike capability in such dangerous times is short-sighted."
The cost-cutting decision to scrap Britain's fixed-wing capability from aircraft carriers means Britain will have to wait until 2019 before a new carrier equipped with aircraft comes into service.
On Wednesday, four Harrier GR9 pilots took off from the deck of HMS Ark Royal for the last time. The ship was sailing from North Shields, North Tyneside, across the North Sea to Hamburg, Germany. The Harriers were heading 150 miles back to RAF Cottesmore, Lincolnshire, ahead of decommissioning next year.
The Ark Royal, the Navy's fleet flagship, will eventually head back to its Portsmouth base on December 3, where it will end its active life three years before it was planned and 25 years after being built on Tyneside.
This version is the fifth Ark Royal. The first saw battle in 1588 and smashed the Spanish Armada. The latest, and possibly last, saw active service in the Balkans and the second Gulf War. It will be replaced by the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carrier, which will not come into service until the end of the decade.