Monday, 31 December 2012

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

A good question, but one not entirely relevant to defence issues. Thus it means that yes, I've run out of time before fully forming the article that I was planning to post just ahead of the New Year. Which means it'll just come out in a day or two.

Till then, thanks everyone for making the start of this blog a good 'un. I hope 2013 will prove just as good for 'defence with a "C"' as 2012 was. Thanks for all the comments and e-mails, links to and twitter re-tweets.

On a quick note, if you see comments that were deleted by me, that's spam. As any Internet site with a comments function grows it naturally starts to attract fake comments with embedded links, which have to be removed on occasion. My personal goal is to never have to delete genuine comments, unless they're clearly just offensive or blatant trolling.

And on that note I'm off down the pub in a bit to spam the land lord with requests for "three pints of Carlsberg please mate".

Happy New Year everyone, thanks again for stopping by, and I'll see you in 2013!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Annnnnnd back

Well, for now. Till Tuesday brings a new year and a new hang over.

I hope you all had a good Christmas and got everything you wanted from Father Christmas (not Santa). Would you believe it, he brought me a copy of "Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket, (2001)" by the late Richard Holmes, CBE. It's almost like I ordered it off Amazon myself...

I've been diving into that book recently so my apology's for coming back to the blog "late", but a lot of my free time has been consumed on this wonderful book. It's the sort of work where just reading the introduction has you captivated already, and the rest of the book hasn't disappointed (so far).

If you've never read a book by Richard Holmes then shame on you! If you're here, reading this, then it means you have some interest in the military and likely military history. Thus it is almost incumbent upon you to own a Richard Holmes book. I can highly recommend Redcoat, or if you want something a little more up to date then perhaps look at something like Dusty Warriors, which follows the fortunes of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment in Iraq, 2004.

As for me, I'm hoping to sneak out one more complete article before the new year comes. As for next year? Who knows, but it looks like it's going to be another busy one.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Jinge Bells

Merry Christmas.

Hope you all have a good time and get everything that you wanted this Christmas. Enjoy the tree too.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

General Sir Peter Wall - Evidence to the Defence Select Committee

So here we are, at last. 

This is basically a run down of some of the evidence that General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff, gave to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on December 5th, 2012, with regards to the Future Army 2020 concept. As always with these things it should be pointed out that quotes provided are taken from the uncorrected transcript of oral evidence, which means this is not the final, approved version, and that neither the witness nor the members have had an opportunity to correct the record where errors exist. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Update 17/12/12

While I finish up my next post, I need a temporary distraction to keep people busy.

Afghan style.

Cue the members of 21 Regiment, Royal Engineers, who will be in Afghanistan over Christmas as part of the Herrick 17 deployment.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Update 14/12/12

I'm currently working on a post based around the evidence given to the House of Commons defence committee by General Sir Peter Wall, so that should be finished some time soon.

For now, I'll just share an interesting link with you from the BBC about a new foam that the Americans are working on for sealing internal injuries on the battlefield. Link here.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Robbing Sketchers to pay Autoglass

Today I want to meander off into a slightly odd region of defence procurement and talk about a chap called Frederic Bastiat, a 19th Century French political economist and classical liberal, who did much work on the subject of Opportunity Cost (The relative value of one course of action over other alternatives), which led to his 1850 essay "That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen", which included a section that has since become known as "the parable of the broken window".

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Update 04/12/12

Blimey. Hello December!

I'm currently working on a post that should be done either later tonight or tomorrow. I think it's a goody.

But then I would say that. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Videos and Links for November 28th

Blimey. The big "C" word isn't far away now. Get your calendars out and get ready to start munching on some chocolate. Anyway, for now I can't dazzle you with brilliance so I'm going to baffle you with some bullsh... yeah. Videos and links that caught my eye recently.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Defence Select Committee takes evidence on DE&S

The other day an e-mail notification dropped into my inbox ( if you have any questions or suggestions). It was a link to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee session on November 13th, when the committee took evidence from; Philip Dunne MP, the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology; Bernard Gray, Chief of Defence Materiel and; Air Marshal Hillier, the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Military Capability).

I spent into the wee hours of the morning having a read and thought there was some interesting points that were worth a closer look. So that's what this article is all about. If you want to read the original copy of the session report it can be found here, though it should be noted that this is the uncorrected copy which means that neither the witnesses nor the committee have had the opportunity to correct any errors in the record, nor is this the final, approved, formal record of the proceedings.

I've also upped the size of the text a little, so you don't have to squint anymore to read it!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Just for the moment

I am just about to sit down and write what I expect to be a reasonably lengthy post about some of the evidence that was given to the defence select committee on November 13th by Philip Dunne MP, Bernard Gray and Air Marshall Hillier. I suspect this may take quite some time and as usual I have a host of other things to do lurking in the background, so I'm not entirely sure when this will be finished.

In the interim then, I'd like to give you another video if I may? This is from British Forces News and reports on the recent improvements in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand, where Afghan security forces are taking on a much greater lead as UK forces transition to a supporting role. The images of a bazaar in full flow would seem to suggest that the security mission is going very well in this part of the country, and it's nice to finally see some good news about Afghanistan for a change;

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Videos - 20/11/12

Is it really nearing the end of November already? Jesus. Anyway, videos time.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Future Reserves 2020

So the Secretary of State for Defence - Philip Hammond, MP - has been in the news of late talking about the future of the Territorial Army. The BBC has a fairly good run down of his latest statements. If you've any interest in the UK armed forces (which I suspect you do, being as you're here), then you'll know that the UK is planning to double the number of territorial forces available and spend around £1.8 billion on new equipment to bring them closer in line with their regular counter parts. There are also plans afoot to make more use of these forces to support the regulars in larger numbers and on a more regular basis.

There has since been a plethora of articles on the subject. For a good run down of some of the proposed plans you can check out the pdf format of the governments consultation paper called "Future Reserves 2020: Delivering the Nation's Security Together". Optionally, if you don't wish to read the whole thing, you can find chunks of it liberally copied and pasted verbatim (and claimed as own, original work) on certain defence blogs (cough *ukarmedforcescommentary*).

Next year the government is due to produce a white paper on this subject and so today I'm going to throw a few thoughts into the arena. That's why - in case you were wondering - I've changed the background image to that of TA medic Private Robert Willis, on deployment in Afghanistan. The original photo can be found on the army website here.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Day

First, I'm aware that not everyone who logs on to the site can see the background, so suffice it to say that for those whose cannot, it's a poppy today. As if would be anything else.

Secondly I just want to post two poems, in their entirety. The first is Recessional by Rudyard Kipling. It's believed that from this poem that we derive the phrase "Lest we forget". The rest of it is rather moving to. The second poem is For The Fallen, by Laurence Binyon, which contains the now famous paragraph associated with Remembrance Day ending in "we will remember them".

Rescessional - Rudyard Kipling

God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard—
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

For The Fallen - Laurence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

And we will keep that promise. We will remember them.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Goldwater-Nichols Act

See? I told you I'd finish this eventually. Congratulations by the way to President Obama. Commiserations to Willard "Mitt" Romney (yes, his real name is Willard... I laughed too).

With the presidential race dominating the news lately I thought it would be interesting to look at a piece of legislation related to defense with an "S" for a change; the Goldwater-Nichols Act (1986). This will be related back to the UK at the end, I promise.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Honest Guv

I am working on the next post. I've spent most of the weekend either working or hungover in equal measure and just seem to face a stream of constant interruptions.

And then there is American Football. Which takes precedence over everything except emergencies. And even those have to be real emergencies.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A few videos

Just to tide things over while I finish up work on my next piece, a few videos for your perusal.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The "Regional Bomber" Concept

So today I want to take a look at the concept of a "regional bomber" for the RAF. The idea has been kicking around for a while in one form or another, though mostly it is an invention of the Internet as opposed to a serious plan considered by the armed forces. Or at least, that we know of.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Update 19/10/12

I'm quite busy at the moment, but the fabled post about the concept of a regional bomber is on its way.


In fact you probably could have built a prototype by now.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

On time and on budget

Today I want to look at some of the problems we have here in the UK with defence procurement. I've been flicking through some old National Audit Office (NAO) reports lately about various programs and the conclusions they make seem to be fairly consistent, cropping up time and again. It's also obvious that politics and unforeseen circumstances have more than a little to do with many of the issues that we encounter. This is not intended as any kind of comprehensive review of procurement, just a starting point hopefully for a wider discussion.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Hit and Miss

Defence companies make me laugh. On the one hand, they're very good at telling people that their defensive systems are flawless and will stop any attack. On the other, they're also very good at telling people that their offensive systems are flawless and can evade any defence. What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? See for yourself. Below are two videos from DCNS, see if you can spot the irregularity.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Exercise Cougar 12

HMS Illustrious and the rest of the Royal Navies Response Force Task Group (RFTG) is setting sail for a three month exercise, Cougar 12, in the Mediterranean. This is a fantastic opportunity for the men and women involved and it's a superb demonstration of the capability of the Royal Navy, despite the recent cuts and the negativity that you often read about in the press, and in the comments section of various online newspaper articles.
I could give a more detailed description, but frankly Sir Humphrey over at the Thin Pinstriped Line has covered it to a degree that would be difficult to match, so it makes sense to simply guide you in the direction of his piece, for those that haven't seen it already.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

A Strange Love?

The future of Britain's nuclear weapons have been in the news recently. It's an old debate, but now seems like as good time as any to write about it. The informal debate over at Think Defence has certainly been going strong of late (Edit; and I've just noticed that TD has his Trident article up here, which can be found here).
The primary question is whether we still need nuclear weapons (and can we really afford them)? There was a time when I would have absolutely said "yes" and not even considered an alternate view to that. I was adamantly pro-nuclear. Now? Hmm, I'm not so sure. I guess that in a sense I still support nuclear weapons, I'm just not sure the current system is the right one.
At the minute the UK employs a Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD) provided by the Royal Navy. This takes the form of four Vanguard-class submarines, each capable of carrying 16 Trident ballistic missiles. Each missile is capable of carrying multiple warheads out to ranges believed to be around 7,000 miles, but with no more than 48 live warheads being carried on any one ship. The vessels currently take turns to rotate through periods of patrol, maintenance and training, but always with one armed vessel patrolling deep beneath the waves of the Atlantic.
The Vanguards, however, are getting old. The Trident missiles themselves are getting old. Even the warheads need a bit of tender loving care. The system needs replacing and at the minute the current government estimates run to around £20 billion to build a new class of submarines, to upgrade the missiles, refurbish the warheads, and build the necessary infrastructure to support the continued operations. Then maybe another £1-1.5 billion on top per year to maintain the system.
One word of caution here though; that's the governments initial estimate. If history has taught us anything it's that the government is - if you'll pardon my French - shite, at estimating the costs of military projects, with large cost over runs not uncommon.
This situation is made worse by the fact that the costs will have to be met out of the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) own budget, as opposed to being centrally funded by the treasury. That is basically guaranteed to put a massive strain on the conventional military forces, not longer after they've suffered severe cuts to all three services.
That brings the question of affordability up on to a par with that of whether we need the weapons in the first place. So do we?
Britain has sought after nuclear weapons since the very first detonation produced by the Manhattan Project. Indeed, UK scientists were involved in that program and as a result it was almost assumed that the United States would share the full details of all of its work with the UK after the end of the Second World War.
Things didn't quite work out like that. It wasn't until the UK was able to demonstrate the ability to independently develop and test weapons that the US came around to the idea of sharing secrets and technology that lead to a much more rapid growth in the UK's nuclear capabilities.
The rational behind possessing these weapons, despite the massive size of the allied US nuclear arsenal, was the guarantee of retaliation against the Soviet Union in the event of a future war. Based on experience gained during the second world war it became clear that the US could not always be relied upon to act in the best interests of the UK, such as diverting resources to stop the V-weapon attacks.
In a nuclear stand off/war it was believed that the US would prioritise defence of its own cities over actions that could potentially save UK cities. Which if we're honest isn't really that unreasonable. But nor was it considered acceptable and as such the UK has retained a nuclear arsenal (albeit a small one) of its own, capable of being independently targeted without authorisation from Washington.
Of course the number of scenarios in which the UK could find itself preparing to use nuclear weapons against modern Russia, independent of the US, are few and far between. Indeed the whole spectre of Russian aggression has largely faded.
While Russia manages to impress many a blogger, journalist and military analyst with its latest designs for military equipment (and some of them are very impressive), it fails to turn that hype into reality. The numbers of new aircraft, ships, tanks etc that actually find their way into frontline service with Russian forces is quite small. Much of their equipment is simply out dated and in a poor state of repair.
On top of this it's estimated for example that the average Russian pilot of a "tactical" aircraft gets just 20 hours of flying time... per year. By comparison, pilots of the RAF have to put in almost that many hours a month just to retain their flying currency.
At this rate it'd be a miracle if Russia could even invade Poland, what with the German, French, Danish, Dutch, Belgian and Italian forces behind them. If some reports are true, the Russian armoured columns would be doing well if they could just find Poland.
The reality is that Russia is not going to be rolling down the great northern plain any time soon and nor does it really have cause to. Western forces are drawing down from their old cold war bases and frankly Russia needs the money to be made from greater economic ties to the West.
The great games of geopolitical strategy are by no means over, but the stakes are a little lower now, the urgency is lacking, and generally things have gotten a lot more peaceful and cordial. Relatively speaking, at least.
The need then to retain something like Trident is a lot more questionable in this modern era. Even if we argue that the future is a murky thing, difficult to predict (which it is), do we really need a safeguard on the level of Trident? Personally I no longer think so.
£20 billion is a lot of money to be sucked out of the budget. I think we have alternative options, that should prove cheaper, and in the long run I think would be more suitable for the UK. The first of these centre's around the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM).
TLAM is designed to carry a conventional explosive warhead up to 1000 miles, striking at high value targets. It already comes in a variant with a nuclear warhead, capable of delivering a blast effect of around 200 kilotons, or about 13 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, during world war two.
A TLAM-N is not without its problems though. The three main identifiable ones would be 1) range, 2) survivability and 3) the possibility of mistaking a conventional TLAM for a TLAM-N.
The first of these is not insignificant. The immense range of Trident means that a Vanguard submarine can hit most targets around the world with very little in the way of prior movement before launch. A submarine carrying a TLAM-N would have to get much closer to the Russian main land in order to get off a shot.
In order to hit Moscow a submarine carrying TLAM-N would have to slip into either the Black Sea or Baltic sea, which is understandably quite a risky proposal, sailing into the enemies back yard and into relatively confined waters. Hitting a target like St. Petersburg though is a little less problematic being within range of the North Sea, although the Danish, Swedish and Estonians might be a bit miffed at having nuclear tipped cruise missiles soaring over their heads.
Again though, we have to come back to the underlying theory of the nuclear weapon. It's designed as a deterrent, to guarantee that any aggressive action could be countered. And in all likely hood it's conceivable that a submarine carrying a TLAM-N would be able to get close enough to get off a shot.
If it does, would the shot survive though? I hear a lot about how vulnerable TLAM's are, given their low cruising speed (around 550mph) compared to a ballistic missile. But I'm not sure if I really buy that argument. TLAM's have been fired in the hundreds now and recorded cases of shoot downs are quite low.
Yes the TLAM is slow and takes a while to reach the target. But at the same time it's quite small, reasonably quiet, and flies at very low level. The Soviets were so concerned about US ground launched TLAM-N's deployed in Europe during the late 80's that they practically rushed to sign a treaty banning them and gave up significant chunks of their missile inventory to secure this deal.
It's not like every single one of the TLAM have to make it through. Just one shot creates a bloody great bang and one great bang is enough to kill a significant number of people.
The third issue, that of mistaken identity, is a red herring to me. The US has nuclear bombs in the very literal sense, such as the B61 and B83 free fall bombs, as well as Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCM). They even have specialist vehicles to carry these on, such as the B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress bombers.
The B-2 in particular was designed from the ground up to penetrate Soviet air defences undetected and deliver nuclear bombs onto targets deep in enemy territory. Yet when the B-2 takes to the skies on a fairly routine basis it doesn't seem to trigger world war three.
The US has pounded various nations with bombs from all three of the above mentioned platforms, fired ALCM's at them, Tomahawks, and dropped tons of bombs from other aircraft such as the F-15, F-18, F-111, A-4 Skyhawk, A-6 Intruder and other aircraft that are also capable of deploying nuclear weapons.
Simply put, unless you're dropping bombs directly on a nuclear capable nation then the risk of someone getting the wrong end of the stick is limited. Even the Russians tempt fate themselves, sending large "Badger" bombers to probe western air defences, despite the Badger being rated to carry nuclear weapons. I can't remember us or the Americans getting all excited and launching a massive pre-emptive strike in response, can you?
Providing we don't go randomly shooting off TLAM's in the general direction of the Russians or Chinese (or the French for that matter) we shouldn't have too many issues.
So what are the advantages of TLAM-N?
Well for start it should be a lot cheaper. Not free, but cheaper. You need warheads, of which the US has some pre-built but currently in storage, or you can cough up the cash to put modified UK warheads into current TLAM.
As for the launch platform, the obvious candidate is the new Astute submarine. Capable of carrying close to 40 weapons in a mix of torpedoes and TLAM, Astute could take over the nuclear role with minimal re-design work needed. Additional vessels could be added on to the end of the current production run to raise the size of the fleet and this would permit you to put some boats to sea on other, more general duties, while still preserving a small number to operate the new deterrent.
Or you could go a step further in reducing the cost and capability of the deterrent, along with a little increase in risk. This would mean learning to love the bomb once more. And by that I mean the free fall variety.
In other words, what is the feasibility of going back to airborne weapons like the American B61 and B83? The B61 in particular is intriguing as it is being redesigned to fit the bomb bay of the new F-35 Lightning.
Such a deterrent would work in the same manner that Frances air launched deterrent does (another possibility there for you in the ASMP missile) in that it would be designed first and fore most as a warning shot against an aggressor force, with the credible potential of an attack being launched against land targets.
A fully tanked Typhoon fighter could make the dash to Russia for a strike. Whether it made it back is another matter entirely. Likely following this path would mean doing a bit of work to build a longer ranged air launched weapon. Something like Storm Shadow, but redesigned to reverse the current trade off of range for speed.
Of course the next logical step from there is towards a life without any bomb. Well, almost.
The warheads could be kept in storage, like a pile of cash stuffed under a mattress for a rainy day. Some could be converted to peaceful means maybe. In theory you'd still possess a deterrent effect. It might not be immediate, but the potential would still exist to enact the ultimate retaliation at some unspecified point in the future. If world events changed, so could the countries stance, bringing the warheads out of retirement in response to an increasingly escalating geopolitical situation.
And if I'm honest, over the course of writing this article I think I've just convinced myself that the UK probably could disarm, going with that final option laid on the table of putting some of the warheads into storage while finding other uses for the rest of it.
The world is a different place now than it was 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. Yes, Trident is a very powerful defensive tool. Yes, it represents the ultimate guarantee against an attack on sovereign soil. But such an attack is extremely unlikely. To the point of being vanishingly unlikely.
The prospect of finding another £20 billion out of the defence budget, plus another £1 billion a year to sustain the whole thing is not unlikely. It's a solid reality. And I think maybe the time has come to let go of the bomb. It's served us well so far, but the time has probably come to allow Trident to quietly retire as the Vanguards naturally wind down from service.
But what do you think?
Next up on my list is to look at the concept of a "regional bomber" that seems to be all the rage at the minute. Then I had something else on my list that I was quite eager about, but I'll be buggered if I can remember what it was now.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Some moving pictures. No, I mean as in video.

Just a couple of quick links to some YouTube videos for you, then my next plan is to discuss nuclear weapons; such a cheerful topic.

So the first video is about the RAF taking on its first batch of airline pilots as part of the Voyager tanker program;

And the second one is a bit more about Hercules operations in Afghanistan, which seems rather fitting after the recent discussion of transport aircraft;

Friday, 21 September 2012

Off the beaten track. For one day at least.

Today I want to look at something completely different. It's not even essentially tied to military matters, though politics does affect the military.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Why am I still up at 4am?

What an inspiring title, I know. But I have a few things to share with you, two from around the web and two related back to the post I did on the A400M/Atlas. So lets get started;

Friday, 14 September 2012

Lifting up the Heavens

Sooooo, having finally squeezed in the time to sit down and finish this off, I present to you my assembled ramblings about the A400M, or Atlas C.1 in RAF service. You can have a point if you got the title without having to check.

Another Update

You have. No idea. None. How boring. My day was. Just, trust me. If I hear one more word about bloody KPI's I will go spare. Not least because KPI is supposed to stand for "Key Performance Indicator", not "Statistics That Have Been Selected Because They're Easy To Monitor". Or "STHBSBTETM" as I like to call it.

That mild rant out of the way, my hope is to finish up my dissenting post to TD about the A400M sometime tomorrow, as I relax and allow modern KPI's to go where they belong - in the garbage, with all the other pointless trash.

Monday, 10 September 2012


5am. Mmmmm, sleep.

It's American Football season again which means I disappear off the radar every Sunday. I have a post planned, related to the series that Think Defence is writing about the A400M. Will write/post it as soon as I can.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Jack Of All Trades, Master Of Fuc...

Over at Think Defence the admin has produced a very comprehensive post on the possible features of the future Type 26 frigate. From experience I can tell you that such an article takes an astounding amount of time to put together, predominantly because of the demands for accurate research followed by the difficulty in finding the right words to express your opinion. Even the process of typing itself is laborious; this paragraph alone has taken me nearly five minutes to type, even with a 50-60 word per minute typing speed, partly due to the need to go back and edit mistakes and re-write sentences till they make the most sense.

So on that note I take my hat off to him. I however, wish to take this debate down a slightly different path.

Saturday, 25 August 2012


Are in order. I've been quite busy of late and simply haven't had the time to sit down and write. I do promise that I should have some more free time available soon for writing.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

"Right mate, I'll have a half ton of Chicken, same again for potatoes..."

Apology's for a lack of activity, I've been somewhat busy. Couple of things that caught my eye over the last few days;

-- The latest design for the Type 26 frigate has been released. Think Defence covered it in about as much detail as anyone could hope (especially if you go through the comments) so I'll just link back to that article. My only issue looking at the design is that the rear ramp for launching small craft appears to have gone missing.

As I understood it the restrictions on launching of small craft (at high speeds, in rough sea states, the time taken etc) was one of the main flaws highlighted with current RN escorts that was supposed to be solved by this new design, so I find the omission of this capability a little odd.

Other than that though it looks like a good design. One wonders if in the future this design might be adapted as an all purpose escort, in the same way that current fighter aircraft are touted as multi-role? That mast looks like it could hold a Sampson from the Type 45 and with the addition of some more missile silos could be adapted to the AAW role in the future? Intriguing.

-- Sir Humphrey, over at the Thin Pinstriped Line, has two good articles. The first highlights how difficult it would be now to build two additional Type 45's. I fear there was a chance for this to happen at an earlier stage, but now the opportunity is lost. The second explains why much of the press storm surrounding cuts to the senior staff in the armed forces isn't quite what it would seem at first glance. Both good stuff.

-- And lastly for now we come to the bizarre title of this post, courtesy of two pieces from British Forces News that I thought were quite interesting. The first relates to the Forward Feeding Team at Camp Bastion, responsible for ordering in and then distributing the food for front line forces;

Next is a video about how that food is then turned into tasty grub at the sharp end, with chefs devising ever more inventive ways of taking standard ration allocations and making them into delicious, interesting and varied meals. The reason this struck a chord with me was due to something I'd read a very long time ago, about how valuable a good chef was to the morale of military units operating away from large, organised kitchens.

Variety in the meals was mentioned in particular as a desirable trait, especially as cooked meals are less regular as you move ever closer towards the front lines and they become more and more of a treat, in the same manner that letters and packages from home become more infrequent and more and more valuable as their scarcity rises.

I'm fairly certain the improvised oven used in the next video is a bin, resting on grates that are raised up by sitting them on empty ammunition boxes, but I could be wrong. If nothing else then we should take away the lesson from this to never under estimate the value of human ingenuity when applied to problem solving in warfare!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Royal Navy Deployment Cycles

Just the other day I was involved in a discussion over at Think Defence about patrol ships replacing frigates and destroyers for some Royal Navy tasks. In order to help land lubbers such as myself better understand the number of frigates or destroyers needed to generate a given task, I asked a serving Royal Navy officer just that question; how many ships do you need to cover a given task, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year?

Monday, 13 August 2012

I can't see my house from up here?

Today I thought I'd rustle up something cool that also has an important point or two behind it.

I remember a discussion over at Think Defence from a while back involving an ex-cavalry officer. Said officer was talking about air support and the difference between close air support provided by A-10's versus other types. Added to this is the general mixed reaction that some ground forces seem to have towards air support. While it's difficult to find people who have served in combat who don't speak very highly of air support, there does seem to be a slight degree of apprehension, a perfectly natural response given the well publicised and high profile (if statistically seldom) cases of aircraft dropping ordinance on friendly forces.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Lessons from Operation Iraqi Freedom

So a while back I sort of stumbled on an online document from the US Army, evaluating some of the personal equipment used in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) (I'll include a link at the end). There's nothing especially ground breaking in it but I thought it would be interesting to look at briefly because - if nothing else - it reminds us that sometimes fancy gadgets and things that look impressive on paper don't stand up as well as was expected to the foibles of war.

The study was conducted in July '03 by the United States Army Infantry Center's Directorate for Combat Developments - Small Arms Division, and interviewed over 1000 US soldiers from a broad range of units.

In the works

As I said a few days back, I stumbled across a "lessons learned" document from the US armies experiences in Iraq, specifically relating to some of the equipment they were issued with. My intention is to produce a post centred around this tomorrow.

Just to keep you in the loop.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Indian Summer

Just a quick one for today and for a change something not particularly related to defence. While the main thrust of this blog will remain defence, I do want to pick up some non-defence issues now and again, like economics and politics, and one of those has cropped up unexpectedly in India.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Trouble in Timbuktu

Well, I was going to sit down and write one of the articles off my list until I noticed something quite interesting that might be worth looking at just briefly. Many news agencies are reporting that Spain has evacuated most of its aid workers, along with aid workers of some other countries, from Western Algeria. This has been caused by increasing violence and kidnappings aimed at aid workers working in refugee camps who are handling those fleeing from fighting and famine in Northern Mali.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Coming soon... ish.

Just to keep everyone updated, this is the list of stuff that I have planned, though not necessarily in this order;

Project Management - I wrote this down on my list... then immediately forgot what it was that had triggered the idea. Still, I have a number of thoughts on this and eventually I will cram them together into one place.

Lessons Learned - I stumbled across an open source document a while back from the US, basically containing some of the lessons learned from operations in Iraq. Thought that might be interesting to go over, especially as it covers equipment and its associated problems from the perspective of how people actually use it in the field, as opposed to looking at it from a "Top Trumps" wikipedia aspect.

Desert Ninjas - Although we don't know much about what the SAS got up to Iraq (not yet anyway), we do know a little and I have a question about it.

Comparisons - To other nations basically, taking a look at how they organise and structure their armed forces. This will be a somewhat random series that will crop up here and there.

CVF; likes and dislikes - Guaranteed to start a war no doubt, but at some point I'd like to assess the CVF program and what I like and dislike about it.

Why Africa? - Indeed. In my first proper post I honed in on Africa at the end. But why? Well, eventually I'll explain.

Regional Bomber - There's often calls for the RAF to invest in one but for someone who often gets accused (like Think Defence) of being a shill for the RAF, I'm not so sure. I'll explain why.

Cold War Russia - Or more specifically, how Russia's over arching cold war strategy often differed greatly from the Americans, but in some ways the two mirrored each other. And how much fun they had pulling America across the globe.

High/Low Fighter Mix - Examining briefly the nature of high/low fighter aircraft mixes.

At some point I'm also going to try and do something about how bloody faint the text appears. I'm not sure what though. So if you see colour changes and the like in the coming days, you'll know why.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Influence of Influence

Find any blog, any forum, any news article or any ministerial speech related to defence these days, and I practically guarantee you that you will see the word “influence” crop up at some point. This is especially the case with the United Kingdom, as we seek to maintain our “influence” on world affairs despite a declining budget and the rising cost of military equipment.

The problem I have with this is how easily the term “influence” is thrown around nowadays. It almost seems like “influence” is the new “effects”, “warrior”, or “war fighting”. At every turn the word “influence” pops up and is bandied around like it were some quantifiable item, like money or gold, that can be easily measured and then valued.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The First Post

So this is it. I have my own blog to fill with mindless waffle about UK defence and the associated disciplines that affect it.

Yes. I know it looks naff. Welcome to the world of free blogging my friends! My techno savvy runs about as far as being able to add things to my favourites bar so this is probably as good as it will get for now. I'm happy with it. It's the content that will hopefully make the difference, in time.

For now though.... I have nothing. I've literally only been live for a few minutes. So come back later, when I've had time to write something much deeper and informative.

Go on, shoo!

P.S. On a quick side note, amen to Bloggers spell check function, which doesn't recognise the words "Blog" or "Blogging". I can see we're going to get along handsomely.