Monday, 30 December 2013

Happy New Year!

I have to do this now, for tomorrow I shall be legless by about this time. So Happy New Year to one and all. 

Two points I'd like to make are first; my equal thanks to everyone who has read the blog and left comments this year. Clearly this is what drives blogs like this onwards, and now things have calmed down a little for me away from the blog I should have more time for writing. Secondly, my thanks to other bloggers from around the web such as Think Defence and The Thin Pinstriped Line, both of whom consistently drive a lot of traffic this way, which makes the difference between this being a properly read blog vs. just some madman ranting at a keyboard.

Finally (I guess that makes it three points, so I lied to you earlier) I'd like to give a hint at what my next post is. Think Defence recently did a piece entitled "What will be the biggest threats in the next 10 years?". In the spirit of his effort to coordinate a form of joint blogosphere analysis leading up to the 2015 SDSR, I'll be sharing my mindless ramblings considered thoughts on the future of UK security, and indeed the security of the world.

Yes, I am that mad. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Monday, 16 December 2013

Joint Strike F**k-Up

Right, back to writing again. At last. And today I'm going to cover a topic that has been a hot button issue for many years, and which I suspect will remain so for many years to come; the F-35.

This is not going to be a long and exhaustive look at the program. This will not be another article to join the many, many (many!), articles and discussions online that go into the minute details of which systems are functioning and which are not, whether the aircraft can fly 500 miles with an internal payload or 550, or how many F-35's it would take to change a lightbulb etc. I just want to sit back and give my thoughts on the program overall.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Update; 13/12/13

Just to let you know, I've spent the last week busy at work trying to salvage something from somebody elses monumental f**k up, which is why I haven't posted. I do have a plan to put up a post this weekend though, so keep an eye out for that.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Victoria Cross: Bar for the Cross

This is the second part of an occasional series looking back at winners of the Victoria Cross. It seems odd that men who have won such a high award are often barely known today, so this series is designed to bring some of their exploits to light once more and celebrate them, if only on a small scale.

Today we're looking at the three men who reside in a very exclusive sub-group of Victoria Cross winners; those who have been awarded the Victoria Cross twice, for which they are awarded a bar for the ribbon on their cross.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Scotland the Brave

Last week the Scottish Global Forum released its report about the future of defence in an independent Scotland, which you can read here. Think Defence brought the issue up and since then a good debate has been drummed up, which can be found here. It was on my 'to do list' to look at this issue anyway, so I might as well do it now while the debate is simmering nicely.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A review of Army 2020

I don't know about you, but I find it quite instructive to go back and read old books and material at a later date to see what I can glean from them that I might have missed first time round. This is especially the case with military books, be they historical works, personal accounts, or studies of tactics and strategy. Often I find that subtle points - lost on the first reading as you come to grips with all the information being presented - will become apparent on a second or third reading, as your brain is now able to process a lot of the technical information and jargon in a more efficient manner, peeling back these layers to reveal the core points underneath.

There's probably a name for this process already, but personally I refer to it as (if you'll indulge a few words of the dreaded management speak, which I normally avoid) "developed understanding". In line with that I went back and had a read of the Army 2020 report that lays out the structure and purpose of the future British Army organisation.

On first reading I, like many others, was left a bit perplexed at how the numbers were all going to add up and the reasoning behind some of the decisions, like the Reaction Force/Adaptable Force split. Having gone back over it at a more leisurely pace I think it's all a bit clearer now. Indeed, it's actually a pretty good solution for the resources given.

So in todays article, I'm planning to lay out some of the stuff that I've learned. Hopefully this will help others who were as confused as I was when the paper was first released. For those who already have a firm grip of Army 2020, you probably wont learn much from this.

Monday, 11 November 2013

We Will Remember Them

Please feel free to leave any thoughts or memorials in the comments.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Quick update

Three things I'd like to mention quickly;

1) Google can go jump off a %&!$ing cliff. The reason you're having to force people to use Google+ is because nobody is interested in it. Because it's pointless and shite. Forcing us to use it will not change that fact.

2) Apologies to the anonymous commentor who wrote out a comment on the "Carry On Up The Clyde" article that didn't appear. It was sucked up by Googles spam filter which I only check every couple of days. That comment has now been approved and posted, whomever it may belong to.

3) My next article will be about Army 2020. I've almost finished that, but I'm going to wait until after Remembrance day to post it. So keep an eye out for that one on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Carry On Up The Clyde

Today I managed to slack off for a few hours... sorry, I mean I found the time for some personal professional development in a solitary and reflective environment, during which I managed to catch the defence minister Phillip Hammonds speech about the announced restructuring being undertaken by BAE in its ship building business, along with the questions that followed.

Normally watching MPs debate in the House of Commons is about as thrilling as watching paint dry, but today was... well, really no different. Though it did have some moments of interest that we'll look at.

Friday, 1 November 2013

I Reserve the right to disagree (and make up appalling titles for blog posts)

There's been a lot of talk recently about Army 2020, the reserves, the perils of letting Capita run anything more complex than a church fete, and whether the UK will meet its recruitment targets going forward. Sir Humphrey over at the Thin Pinstriped Line has recently written a piece about this very topic, offering a more positive and "glass half full" take on the current situation, which you can read by following this link.

I on the other hand, am about to do the opposite. In many regards I think the theory of making greater use of the reserves is a good idea, and considering the government has no real appetite for defence spending, reserves could end up playing a vital role in the future. But I'm not really convinced the reality is going to match the concept. This is why.

Monday, 28 October 2013

You're on my patch!

Right, time to sit down and ponder again for a bit. Today's post revolves around an ongoing debate that's come up at places like Think Defence and others on a routine basis, in a variety of forms, and one that I think is quite interesting. It often starts with calls to disband the RAF, the RAF Regiment, or similar such arguments.

What we're looking at today is the degree to which the various services overlap into each others primary areas of responsibility.

Friday, 18 October 2013

The end of the COIN wars?

The period from around 2003 till the present - at least in terms of UK defence - has been dominated by the so called "COIN Wars" (COunter-INsurgency) in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fighting has been bloody and bitter. It has cost many hundreds of British fatalities and that's even before we get into the issue of suicides among post-tour service personnel. Thousands more have been left with a variety of lasting wounds, ranging from superficial scars to lost limbs and deep mental traumas.

This has been the human legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan, alongside the widely distributed images of coffins draped in British flags being carried off of aeroplanes and then driven solemnly through the streets of towns such as Royal Wotton Basset. The financial cost has also been enormous, with some estimates putting the cost of Afghanistan alone at around £40 billion by the time we withdraw.

Against this back drop, public appetite for future COIN wars seems slim. And thus the prevailing attitude among those with an interest in military matters seems to be that Britain will never again fight such a war, or at the very least not in the near future. 

My contention today is that this might prove to be wishful thinking. Indeed, if we find ourselves unprepared, it might in fact be very dangerous thinking.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Somme, then and now

This morning I received an e-mail with a little link in it to YouTube. The link took me to what is quite possibly one of the best pieces of history filming I've seen in a long while.

I have no idea who "Tashkenk Goatman" is, other than that looking through his other videos I realised that I've already re-posted some of his work in the past (a series of videos captured at Sailsbury Plain of the British army showing off its armoured warfare capabilities).

Whoever he and his friend in this new video might be, I commend them. This really is a quality piece of work, looking back at the battlefields of the Somme and comparing footage filmed back then with the modern landscape, with the cameras seemingly sited in almost the exact same spots. For amateur work it's pretty remarkable and well worth the quarter of an hour it'll take for you to watch.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Update 04/10/13

Is it really October already? Blimey. 2014 approaches.

As for me personally I've been quiet busy again, as I'm sure most of you will have noticed, but (he says) tomorrow looks a little more open so I might have a chance to polish off something I've been working on slowly for the last couple of days.

A few bits of news I thought my be worth shedding some light on, the first being that the last sections of HMS Queen Elizabeths flight deck have been installed. Next piece; the ramp. Here's a link for more details;

Secondly, 6 squadron RAF has deployed to Sweden as part of Exercise Arctic Challenge and they've even had time to pose for this snap;

Finally, 117 British forces personnel have been recognised as part the Operational Honours and Awards list 41 (September 2012 - April 2013). The complete list includes members of all three services and can be found here;

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Victoria Cross: The Battle of Jutland

So finally I have the chance to sit down and write this!

The idea came to me a while back while brushing up on the Battle of Jutland, so that's where we're going to start today. Basically I just want to do some occasional posts looking back at some of the Victoria Cross winners. It occurred to me that in this age of TV fame and celebrity, it seems odd that the memory of some of these great men has fallen by the wayside. 

Of course there are still many who remember them, but it does seem odd and even a little embarrassing that off the top of my head I can't name many winners of this most prestigious of medals, awarded only for the most gallant acts in the face of the enemy. So this series is my modest attempt to put some of that right - if only in a small way - by highlighting some of these immense acts of bravery and self sacrifice.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Update 20/09/13

I know, I know. I said something was coming and it isn't here yet. Such is the joy of blogging in your spare time, namely that if your spare time gets consumed then the blog often falls by the wayside for a little bit. I thought I was going to have a much easier week but it turned out not to be the case. This weekend though things look a lot brighter, so hopefully I'll get that next post done. Fingers crossed.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The plan

Of sorts. So with the Syria situation bubbling on the back burner as Assad and Putin try to come up with a plan that will leave Assad in power, things have gone a little quiet. Which means I can get back to my list of articles which I want to write, a list that seems to get longer every time I look at it.

Part of the reason for that is that I keep thinking of ideas faster than I can write the articles and one that I'd like to dip into next is a new occassional series about the Victoria Cross and its various winners. It struck me that considering the exceptional level of personal courage that is represented by the award, I couldn't name more than one or two of the winners. That seems an odd state of affairs to me.

So at some point this week I shall start this new trip down memory lane, trying to highlight various winners and their deeds as we go along.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Some goings on

Aside from all the Syria news as usual, two interesting bits cropped up on twitter today. One is that the Royal Marines are happily blowing s**t up in Albania on exercise, this time turning their (simulated) wrath against a former submarine base. It's a sign of the times that some of the enemy in the scenario were listed as terrorists and other such murky, non-state/semi-state actors.

Meanwhile the RAF has been playing host to members of the Royal Saudi Air Force for a UK-Saudi version of the Green Flag exercises normally held in the US, which are generally designed to test ground attack capabilities, specifically in cooperation with ground troops. I mentioned in a post a while back that this is something I'd like to see more of, and it seems that wish has come true early.

Which leads to me a question; @Topman, is that the thing you were referring to keeping an eye out for?

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Reaction to the "No" vote on Syria

So the vote is done and now the party political battles begin. 

What's that you say? National interest? Obligations to the International Community? Sowing seeds for our children to reap later? Pfff, get out of town! Don't you know there's a (party political) war on?

As you can imagine, I'm quite annoyed about the no vote in Parliament yesterday, which I intend to explain here, using the context of a question that Think Defence asked;

"What is the short and long term impact on the UK of this vote against the following categories:

- Democratic health
- International prestige and influence
- Defence funding
- International relations with the US, Middle East and Europe,

So let's begin;

Friday, 30 August 2013

A few additional points on Syria

As a follow up to my post on Syria I thought this might be worth posting, summarising some important points. It was originally a comment I tried to post on Think Defence, but one that appears at the minute to have been eaten by the Internet goblins. It's worth keeping that in mind, as the tone and character of the post is one of responding to other comments on a forum:

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Impending Intervention in Syria

Seen as how it's the hot topic right now, I thought I'd pitch in with my own thoughts on Syria and the possibility of air strikes against the Assad regime. For additional opinions, there's two articles that have gone up recently on Think Defence which are worth checking out, one from the blog host Mr. TD himself (click here) and another from his guest contributor, Phil (click here).

Monday, 26 August 2013

The other story in the news today

It's the Bank Holiday, so this is not an article so much as a footnote.

I just found it interesting that while the situation in Syria has dominated the headlines, there has been another story making the news over the last few days that interests the UK defence community. That being the fatal crash of a Puma helicopter carrying workers out to a North Sea oil rig. It's the fifth crash involving a Puma helicopter over the last four years.

Now remind me again, which helicopter type are we pouring money into to keep flying. Oh dear...

Monday, 19 August 2013

Just call me (Dagenham) Dave

Something a little more off the cuff today. We're going to be talking second hand dealing, obviously on the military scale. Could the answer to Britain's multiple defence procurement woes come from dipping a foot into the used equipment market? Let's have a look.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Update 18/08/13

I'm working on a post related to second hand dealing. Whether it goes up today or tomorrow depends much on how Sunday dinner goes and what the delights of Sunday telly can muster.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Scratching for taxes

Build domestically from scratch, or buy "off the shelf" from abroad?

It's an age old debate. Involving a bloody big shelf. And anytime it comes around, someone will inevitably mention the issue of tax recovery. That is to say that money spent in the UK can be recovered through taxes, both corporate and private, thus essentially providing the UK with a form of discount on domestic purchases.

But just how much of a discount? I've seen figures thrown about that go as high as 40% (which I believe was once used by RUSI, but could be remembering that wrong). That seems very high to me. Unrealistically high. And so about a year ago I started to look into the subject, albeit very much on the back burner. 

Here is my current thinking on just how much of a "discount" the UK receives from buying British.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Update - 12/07/13

Sneaky post under the eyes of authority to let you know I have a post that will be going up either tomorrow or the day after.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Looking forward to SDSR 2015

We're now about two years away from the next general election, and following that it's expected a new Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) will be conducted, regardless of which party wins power. With that in mind, Think Defence has started a series gradually building up to the review, looking to attack the issue from multiple angles (the latest post can be found here).

Part of the plan was for others to pitch in with their thoughts and so I've decided to produce a post in that spirit, my own current thinking on what I'd like to see from the SDSR 2015. Keep in mind this is just my current thoughts, and as such is subject to change in the future. 

In keeping with more official documents, I've decided to number the paragraphs for this one, which should allow people commenting or referencing to point to various items in a much easier manner, though I warn you now that after revision the article takes the form of a series of paragraphs that do not always flow easily from one to the next. Some of the points raised will also be broken down and discussed in more detail at a later date.

 Let's get started.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

If I had any hair, I'd be pulling it out

Well that's a lie, I do have some hair. It's just so short I can't pull it out. The reason why I might be tempted to is because over the weekend I put in - on and off - 12 hours into my post about what I'd like to see in SDSR 2015. After 52 paragraphs (I was numbering them to make it easier to track) I realised a couple of things;

1) I was only a third of the way through what I'd planned to write,
2) Even that would have been too much to digest in one article,
3) I'd quite like to not spend another 24 hours writing before it gets published,

So, switching to plan B, time to conjour up an abridged version which will hopefully appear here tomorrow.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Update 26/07/13

So, while the sun has been burning down on our pleasant isle the last few days... I've had a bloody cold. I've also spent the last three evenings burning an old shed, and despite the best efforts of multiple showers still smell like the inside of a medieval pub. Which also explains why I haven't been up to much on the interwebs. Plan is to sit down this weekend and commit to paper my thoughts on the next SDSR. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Next Steps

A suitably bulls**t bingo way of saying "here's what I've got planned for the near future".

And that would be three things, assuming that something incredibly interesting and new doesn't pop up to distract me. First, as part of Think Defence's call to arms to fellow bloggers to weigh in on their thoughts about what they'd like to see SDSR 2015 produce, I'm going to take a look at just that and present my current musings on the subject, what I'd like to see etc.

Secondly, I've been doing some work/research off and on for about the last year on the subject of the relative value of defence spending domestically vs overseas. One of the arguments in favour of buying domestically is that it protects British jobs and that some of the money spent is clawed back through taxes etc. I'm now ready to put forward a tentative article on that subject and some of the key arguments and assumptions that underpin in it.

Finally, after producing the first of my "Devil's advocate" series I got a request for a subject matter for the next one. The subject: the dissolution of the RAF. So as soon as I've collected some more material for that, including some ideas offered up by the person interested, I'll have a crack at that one. Having learnt something from that first post on Special Forces, I'm also going to add a conclusions section to the end, to better explain my own thinking on the subject in question.

If you want to suggest an idea for a Devil's Advocate post, or indeed any subject you'd like to see covered, you can either leave a comment in the box below or you can e-mail me at;

You can also follow me on Twitter; @defencewithac, although by my own admission I don't tweet much right now.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Devil's Advocate: Special Forces

So this is to be the first of a new semi-regular series called "The Devil's Advocate". The purpose of these articles is to assume a position that I normally oppose and make an honest attempt to argue the case from the other side, both in the interests of learning and to give readers something different, especially as some readers will likely disagree with the positions that I normally support.

Today we're going to start with Special Forces. Or more precisely, the case against them as separate, dedicated units, especially in these times of squeezed budgets.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The coming days and weeks

So I'm going to lay out a bit of a sneak preview of what's coming, only in the sense of giving away a few titles. The post I'm currently working on is part of a new semi-regular series that I'm planning to do every now and again called "The Devil's Advocate", a name of such stunning originality that precisely nobody gasped in excitement. I did one of these for Think Defence once, which you can read here

The purpose, as the name suggests, is to take up the opposite side of the argument to the one I currently hold myself, and try to argue the case from that perspective. That may sound like a silly thing to do, but it's something I've found has worked quite well for me in the past in other areas. Taking up the gauntlet of the opposition compels you to look in detail at things from a different perspective and potentially see things you wouldn't otherwise see. If done honestly, it may even sway you to that argument, or it may indeed just expose flaws in it that you hadn't seen before. Either way it should make interesting reading, for those who like that sort of thing.

The first of these is going to be a post about Special Forces, and the idea that we no longer need dedicated units like the SAS and the SBS.

After that I'm going to go with Think Defence's summer of strategy idea, and put down my thoughts on what I'd like to see in the SDSR'15. Beyond that...? I have some phrases and words written down of stuff I'd like to have a shot at. The question is which ones? Time will tell.

Friday, 28 June 2013

More Askari Thunder and a sweary rant

Just another quick post today, bringing you two videos from British Forces News to round out the series on Askari Thunder, followed by a brief rant about fitness.

*WARNING* - While all of the following videos are "safe for work", some of the language used later may not be. Open and read at your own peril.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Exercise Askari Thunder

To tide you over, while I finish up work on my next piece, I thought I'd share some videos from British Forces News on Exercise Askari Thunder, taking place in Kenya. It appears they're doing a series of videos and there may yet be more to come. 

Askari Thunder is a complex infantry training exercise, which is also bringing together elements such as artillery support and observation from UAV's. The training area provided for the forces is large, varied, and combined with the intense heat it provides a challenge unlike anything available in the UK.

One of the reasons I take such an interest in things like this is because my worry is that as budgets fall, training will suffer. The withdrawl of British Forces from Germany may save money, but it's also costing the British armed forces two significant training areas. 

History has taught us that in warfare - all things being equal (or near equal) - the better trained force wins. As the armed forces shrink, the need to maintain the edge in quality becomes more and more paramount. Large exercises like Askari Thunder are vital to the British army as it moves forward into the "post-Afghanistan" era, where the next deployment for the troops involved could be anything from another peace keeping mission to a full scale battle group deployment as part of a wider force in a conventional campaign.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

UKIP... I'll take the first watch (Ba-dum tish!)

Right, apology's for the delays, but we're finally here.

Now, about three or more weeks ago I sat down with the intention of reviewing the defence policy of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). They had just done pretty well in the county council elections, were being splashed across the front pages of many newspapers, and generally causing a few political waves. Inevitably when a small party starts to rise up the polls its members and its policies will come under greater scrutiny. That was my intention.

Till things got rather hectic for me personally. A warning perhaps about the dangers of unexpected circumstances?

In that time, UKIP converted their defence policy from a downloadable document to page on a website, so if you want to read the whole thing (take you about 10-20 minutes, depending on the number of distractions you face!) then you can read it here;

Otherwise, read on for the summary version.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Erm, change of plan

I know I said scouts honour, but then I was never a scout so that doesn't count! There's been an unexpected and frankly quite frustrating delay. All will be well soon.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Sorry about the delays

Promise, cross my heart, boy scouts honour and all that, that I'll have something up tomorrow.

Honest guv.

Saturday, 8 June 2013


So apology's for the delays and absence of posting. I've been exceptionally busy over the last couple of weeks, to the extent that I've barely even had time to drop the odd comment over at Think Defence, let alone write out a full blown blog post here.

But I wanted to tell you about something interesting I saw today, down in Brightlingsea. There was some boat show/regatta/thing going on. Having spotted some exceptionally fine looking Rolls Royce's parked up near the harbour I went down to investigate. And popping round the corner to the hard itself, I noticed something odd moored at the end of the jetty.

It turned out to be MTB-102, a British Motor Torpedo Boat dating back from the second world war. Sadly I didn't have a camera on me so I have no pictures of my own, but I can assure you it was a fine sight.

MTB-102 is famous largely for the variety of distinguished guests it has hosted, though it also lays a claim to being the fastest boat to have served in the Royal Navy during world war two (48 knots). 

During Operation Dynamo (the evacuation of allied forces from the beaches at Dunkirk), MTB-102 found itself serving in the unlikely role of flagship to Rear Admiral Sir Frederic Wake-Walker, after his destroyer HMS Keith was sunk by air attack. MTB-102 was also the ship used by Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower to review the D-Day landing fleet in 1944, quite appropriate given that the anniversary of D-Day occurred just the other day.

MTB-102 also found fame later in the 1976 film The Eagle Has Landed, starring Michael Cain. It was also the only surviving ship from world war two to take an active part in the Queens Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

The ship is now maintained by a specialist trust and I had the great pleasure to meet two of her modern crew, including Richard Basey who is head of the trust. 

It's amazing just how long she is, though you can see just by looking from the outside that she's not exactly the widest of vessels. Built from a combination of Honduran Mahogany and Canadian Elm, she felt robust to the touch, and the externally mounted torpedo tubes give a truly menacing and war-like edge to what would otherwise be a sleek pleasure cruiser.

A fine vessel indeed, I've changed the background in her honour. You can also find out more about MTB-102 by visiting their website;

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Update - June 4th

Been very, very, very, very busy of late. Post is in the works. Stay tuned. Over.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The Red Line in Syria

To intervene or not to intervene? 

That is the question troubling many western states. As they watch the civil war in Syria rage on, many people wonder whether NATO will come together as it did in 2011 to end the civil war in Libya. You'll notice that many of the people who previously have called for cuts in the armed forces are the same people at the front of the queue calling for an intervention in Syria on humanitarian grounds (indeed many charities and global peace groups are quick to complain that the west sits on its hands while civil wars rage on, only to complain about the results when interventions do happen).

Today I'm going to make the case that the time for intervention is almost upon us, but not for altruistic, humanitarian reasons.

A Quick Update on Think Defence

For those that haven't seen, the website "Think Defence" is now back up and running. Link to the new site. Good to see it back in action again.

As for me, I shall be back later today with a post of my own on Syria.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

8 month tours and a two week break

Or to be more precise, more on the MoD's plans to extend some future tours for army personnel deploying to Afghanistan to 8 months, and an update about the website Think Defence for those that haven't seen or heard yet. We'll start with TD first.

Monday, 13 May 2013

We are an Island you know....

I'm going to put back one of my planned posts for a day or two, because I want to address a particular quote that came up in a recent discussion over at Think Defence. This is a quote that comes up often, normally a few weeks after it has been soundly and comprehensively addressed, when the author of the quote suspects that everyone will have forgotten about the prior discussion. 

It also appears occasionally in other places around the web on a semi-regular basis and I want to post a comprehensive response here that I and others can simply link back to in the future, to save time for myself and others in constantly having to type out the same responses over and over again.

If nothing else it allows me to have a bit of a rant, which is always good for the soul.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Your Budget, should you choose to accept it....

With the recent confirmation that the government is going ahead with its assessment into the future of the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation, with particular attention being paid to the prospect of using a Government Owned, Contractor Operated (GOCO) model going forward, I thought it might be a good time to sit down and write some musings on procurement.

Monday, 29 April 2013

A Quick Apology

To 'The Securocrat', who left a comment on the article "Change of Plan. Or Strategy". Your comment was originally eaten by the spam filter, for reasons I can't explain, especially as genuine spam often manages to find its way onto the blog with ease. I've only just checked the spam folder today and found the comment, which has now been uploaded. Sorry about that!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Filling time

Some people say Twitter is a pointless waste of time, good for nothing. I disagree. Largely on account of the fact that when my own posts get delayed, I can always fall back on the MoD, Army, Navy and RAF twitter feeds to throw up something interesting. And they've come up trumps once again.

As you probably already know, Exercise Joint Warrior is ongoing in and around Scotland right now. And 16 Air Assault Brigade has been getting in on the act, joining French airborne troops to practice a number of techniques including parachuting, a helicopter assault and follow on air landings.

Two links for you then. The first is just a picture, showing the parachute stage of the exercise. The other is a link to a more in depth news piece from the government website.

Thursday, 25 April 2013


As you can see, the background has changed. And as you can see, it's gone very sombre. That's because today is ANZAC day, a day on which we remember those from New Zealand and Australia who have fought and died on behalf of those nations, and the suffering and privation endured by those who served and survived.

Traditionally you don't hear much about ANZAC day here in the UK, but this year I wanted to stop and recognise it. Lest we forget the number of Australian and New Zealand service personnel who have fought alongside our own forces and contributed greatly to our own success in many theatres, indeed, to our very security and survival here at home, as did many of our Commonwealth partners.

We remember them.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Update 24/4/13

Nearly May already? Jesus. 

Just to let thee know (because today we art in ye olde times mode) that I'm nearly finished on the next article, which might be up as early as tonight. Or it might not. We'll see.

Till then, erm, talk amongst yourselves.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

More of an overview of Exercise Joint Warrior

Can't believe I didn't think to do this earlier, but for those who are wondering the Royal Navy site has a much more comprehensive overview of just what Exercise Joint Warrior involves and what kind of things can be practised on it. This even includes a mock media crew who put commanders through their media paces!

Friday, 19 April 2013

QE and Jam

For those who perhaps haven't seen it yet, I wrote a guest piece for Think Defence, which you can find by following this link. Something a little different, a bit of Devil's advocacy for the Carrier supporters, proposing a method to go about generating a third carrier.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A quick update about Joint Warrior

Just thought I'd follow yesterdays post about Joint Warrior by sharing a link from the Royal Navy. The Royal Marine's Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron (SRS) has done a parachute drop as part of the exercise, getting back to practising their core role as a lead element of 3 Commando Brigade, providing on the spot Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) before amphibious landings go in. The link includes some pictures of the men making the drop.

Err, link here.

On an additional note, the RAF's 1 (Fighter) Squadron has been brushing up on its Close Air Support skills in Malaysia, with RAF Regiment gunners acting as their Joint Tactical Air Controllers (JTAC). The Typhoons have also had the chance to engage in a bit of Dissimilar Air Combat Training with Malaysian F-18's and MiG-29's. 

The Typhoons will be staying in Malaysia for Exercise Bersama Shield, working with forces from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand as part of the Five Powers Defence Arrangements (FPDA). This exercise typically brings together a wide range of air, naval and land forces. For example, last year Australia deployed its Wedgetail Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) as well as fighters and Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), King Air aircraft and two frigates.

Even smaller exercises like this are an excellent chance for UK forces to work with a variety of allies and in this case with allies we don't get round to seeing as much as our more local partners. Good stuff.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Just some links for now

While I kill time between posts... I mean, while I work exceptionally hard on my next post, I thought I'd share some links. This post wont be long enough to justify a page jump, so those of you who have come to main site can stop looking for the "Read More" button now.

First, the RAF's Tranche 2 Typhoons (whatever happened to the work "batch"?) have now achieved multi-role capability as six Squadron became the first to drop Paveway bombs from the upgraded aircraft. Link to full article here.

The other three links are all related to Exercise Joint Warrior which is taking place off the coast of Northern Scotland. Joint Warrior is a major exercise involving over 12,000 personnel from various countries, with nearly half the count being made up by UK forces.

This is something that I'd like to see the UK do more of and have written about in the past; Britain taking the lead in a major International exercise, with limited American presence, which helps to develop our ability to conduct and lead operations that the US may not be so invested in.

The exercise will combine naval, air and ground assets. Link one. Link two. Link three.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

A quick video about something different

Defence blogs are replete with videos and articles about equipment, formations, strategy, tactics, technology and economics. This blog is really no different. But for one day I just want to show something different that I came across. 

As I'm sure you're all aware, wars leave behind scars. Some of these are very visible. We see soldiers returning home with legs or arms missing. We see coffins brought back on C-17s. We see the physical damage done to countries and we understand the economic damage done to them when we look at detailed reports of their economies.

One set of scars that remain hidden though, but are carried by almost every service person who has been to a warzone, are the mental scars. Luckily this is an issue which is receiving increasing amounts of attention both here in the UK and in other countries that have contributed forces to places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

To get something of a better idea of how this issue affects service personnel and what they go through, please just take 13 minutes of your time to watch the video below.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The hidden cost of cost savings?

Yesterday the Prime Minister delivered yet another hammer blow to defence in the UK by announcing that the defence budget would not be off limits if further cuts were needed after 2015. Such is the nature of coalition politics that the Conservative party must give some leeway to Liberal Democrat views, which is probably the most likely explanation as to why health and education have been ring fenced for the time being. Perfectly valid arguments about the law of diminishing returns and the danger that the Conservatives are alienating their political base (by continuing with what will hopefully be the last occurrence of coalition politics in my lifetime) have been cast aside in favour of appeasing Nick Clegg and co. 

This comes on the back of deep cuts already made in the defence budget over the course of this parliament. It's obvious then in this climate that the MoD needs to find ways to save cash, not least because the more it can save by removing wasteful expense then the less money it will have to be cut from genuinely highly capable and useful areas.

This has been the back drop to defence discourse for the last five or more years now, and so inevitably every discussion about new pieces of equipment or current formations eventually comes back around to the question of cost. And as each year passes and the treasury applies yet more pressure, the discussion surrounding cost becomes more acute and takes up more and more of our time.

But I have a new question today, one which I've been trying to ask for about the last week or two, before I kept getting pulled in other directions; is money really the main thing we should be concerned about when making decisions about defence?

Sunday, 31 March 2013

British Intervention In Syria?

Distractions are basically the bane of my life right now. Some distractions are good though and offer opportunities. One such distraction came today when I sat down to read the latest article on Syria over at Think Defence. Link here for anyone that hasn't read it yet. I think it's a worthwhile topic to stop and cover, even if it does mean my other draft article once again gets pushed to the back burner for now.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

A few links to tide you over

Otherwise known as another excuse for me to buy time while I work on my next proper post.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Update: 26/03/13

Post coming soon. Promise. Scouts honour... even though I wasn't a scout. Bah, details.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Change of plan. Or Strategy

Something new has cropped up that's worth a quick look before I turn in for the night. I was checking in on the excellent "Thin Pinstriped Line" blog, where Sir Humphrey has posted a link to the Chief of Defence Staff's recommended reading list. I followed the link and noticed that the very first book on the list, the "Book of the Month", was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt (Profile Books).

This caught my attention because I was lent this book last November by someone I know, a person who I would politely describe as a nonsensical bell end. I was informed that this book would be right up my street as it was all about strategy and told that it "really gives you a whole new horizon to scan about strategic thinking". I suspect that had the author been there and heard him use those terms to describe the book, he would have immediately grabbed the copy and bludgeoned my acquaintance to death with it.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Update: 20/03/13

Today I'm reading the Budget document that's just been released for 2013/14. That obviously puts a lot of things on hold. My next article is already started and should be done before the weekend if all goes according to plan.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Videos and links for 15/03/2013

It's that time again... for me to cop out of doing a proper article and fill space on the blog, push page views etc, by presenting this weeks videos and links. Let it begin!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Strength in numbers

So today I'm going to delve into that murky world that we often refer to as "strategy".

Strategy is a big word. Just having a conversation about what that word really means could occupy a group of interested persons for several hours. For that reason I don't really want to get into that discussion. For the sake of this article let's just assume that it means the broad goals of defence as it affects the UK.

This will not be a massively comprehensive look at UK strategy - current or potential - just one portion of it; our interaction with our allies.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Some links and videos 08/03/13

Today I'm going to try something a little bit different. I'm using a new font called "Georgia". I used this font at the end of my last post and noticed two things about it; 1) it shows up much darker on the finished page, so it should be easier to read and 2) it appears much bigger on my editing page, so I won't have to strain as much to see the screen. And on that note, let's dive into this weeks links and vids. It's a big 'un.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Just In Time... for an AMRAAM

As so often happens with this blog, I keep getting distracted from planned work by things that pop up on the fly. One of those - and the subject of today's article - is the revelation that a US Air Force cadet has figured out how to save the USAF $4.9 billion over the next five years by altering the way it purchases some of its air to air and air to surface missiles.

Friday, 22 February 2013

This weeks videos

This week I've come up with something a little different for the videos. I stumbled across one last week and it got me thinking (always a dangerous thing). As a result this weeks videos have a theme, which loosely ties in to my last post; training (yeah, bold and italics!!). Pretty much all the videos included in this post have some sort of training theme and will cover the navy, army and air force. So let us begin.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Some ramblings after St. Valentines Day.

So today I'm just going to ramble about something that I thought of last night as I was trying to get off to sleep (which probably explains why I had trouble getting  off to sleep). For that reason alone you shouldn't expect the following to be a particularly coherent or well thought out article. It's going to be much more like the kind of post I originally intended for this blog, somewhere that I could write down some of the more spurious ideas that I sometimes come up with, which are then laid open for critical evaluation by others. So let's get to it.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

See, I did it

After all, I made my promise to my own blog at about 2am on Saturday morning and now it's Sunday morning, so technically speaking I've kept my word to update my blog "tomorrow", even if we all know that wasn't the intended meaning of that post.

I do have a good excuse though in that I've spent the entire day with my nephew, which included such delights as watching about 9 hours of CBeebies, reenacting a boat race, playing horse ride, doing gorilla impressions and sword fighting. Just another normal day for me really...

But now that the little sh.. darling is in bed, and I've finished checking a back log of e-mails (given the easy and cheap access of penis enlargement materials, it's a wonder that the whole of the UK isn't walking around with 3 foot long you know whats), I have the chance to look at some links that I came across this week.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dear Blog

I promise I will update you at some point tomorrow.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Links and vids for 03/02/12

My next intention as far as blogging goes is to write a guest post for TD, because now seems like the best time for it (to slot into his F-35 series) but for now I've got some more vids and links for you to have a ganders at. And yes, that includes this new Iranian "stealth" jet.

In fact we might as well start there I guess. But before we get round to talking about the new jet or looking at any pictures, I want you to watch a video that allegedly shows the aircraft in flight. I saw the video (actually a slightly poor resolution copy of it, that was clearly a copied and edited version of the video I'm going to show you now) before reading anything about the details.

There was something about it that didn't look right, an opinion which seems to be shared by other, far more knowledgeable sources on this subject. The video contains a quick introduction, some clips of it flying, then a bunch of people talking in Farsi. Unless you speak Farsi I'd recommend stopping the video after the flying section because a) there's no more flying and b) I'm going to give you a link to a site with much better quality pictures and angles than the glimpses that you'll catch off the video.

So here it is. Have a think amongst yourselves about what's wrong with the flying portion;



To me that looked a hell of a lot like a model aeroplane. The way the aircraft wobbled around in flight and the general characteristics of it seemed very similar to a number of previous videos I've seen of model jets. It most certainly didn't look like a highly advanced, 5th generation fighter.

That view seems to be shared by the chaps over at The Aviationist, who have a fantastic article about the new jet, including a great variety of pictures taken from many angles.

The jet itself appears to be some kind of weird Airfix mashup between a Boeing Bird of Prey UAV, an F-35 and a Rafale, except that the canards appear to have control surfaces attached to them, as opposed to being all moving control surfaces in their own right.

At the back of the aircraft there is no protective nozzle for the engine exhaust which precludes the use of an afterburner, lest the entire back end of the aircraft catch fire. That, coupled with the very small top mounted intakes, suggests that this thing (if indeed it's anything more than a display model) is powered by a small engine, perhaps something like a J85 (or copy of) taken from one of their old F-5 aircraft, producing about 3,000 pounds of thrust, or about half the dry thrust of a RR Adour engine, like that used on the BAE Hawk.

It's the cockpit that is most entertaining though. If you look at the pictures on The Aviationist article it looks like the cockpit was sized for a 12 year old. The main panel, which supposedly houses displays for advanced electronics, doesn't even have a proper backing on it, unless you count the bundle of exposed cables. The dials and screens are, The Aviationist believes, suspiciously similar to what you would find in a commercial light aircraft.

As for the black horizontal control at the very top of the panel, there seems to be a furious debate erupting on twitter as to whether that is either a) the front of a CB radio, possibly from the mid 90's, or b) the cassette player from a 1985 Ford Mustang. If I had to hedge my bet, I think I'm going with the cassette player.

The claim about advanced electronics also comes into question as the nose of the aircraft is so small that the only radar that could conceivably fit in there would be the parking sensor off a modern hatchback. The finish of the paint work also appears to be a somewhat poorly applied standard gloss, as opposed to some next generation radar absorbing paint.

All in all folks, I wouldn't get too excited (or worried) about what appears to be no more than either a very stupid publicity stunt, or perhaps a very bare bones design project, presumably at the same stage of development as our Type 26 Frigate, e.g. the Powerpoint stage.

Next up some videos about the Sikorsky X-2 project. If the name doesn't ring a bell off the top of your head, it's the new helicopter design from Sikorsky that uses contra-rotating main blades and a push prop at the back end to help it travel much faster than a conventional helicopter. Their flying prototype is already (according to the company) unofficially breaking the level flight speed record for helicopters, with more improvements expected as they move further along with the design.

These videos will just give you a bit more explanation as to some of the finer points of how the helicopter works and although they repeat themselves to some degree in the early stages, they individually give an idea of some of the ways that Sikorsky expects their technology to impact various roles for helicopters.

I think they're quite interesting and also think it's just reward for Sikorsky to have as many people as possible promoting their stuff. Keep in mind that they've done a lot of the research for this off their own back (and their own money), which seems to be a rare thing in the defence industry these days. Here's you vids;

And speaking of helicopters, specifically attack helicopters, I came across this video of US Marine Corps Cobras conducting close air support and forward interdiction missions in Iraq, I think in 2003 (during the invasion).

I include this video because.... uhm.... s**t gonna get blown up!

And finally, sticking with the helicopters theme, a link this time instead of a video.

Members of 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), part of the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), have been in Norway learning about how to live, fly, fight, and maintain their equipment in harsh, Arctic climates. It may seem somewhat insignificant at times, but it's this diversity of skills that sets the UK forces apart from many others around the world. And I'm pretty sure I said that same thing the other day about an article about the Paras?

Regardless, here's your link to the article.

Now don't forget, if you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them in the comments section or e-mail me at;

Just don't expect a reply in the next 24 hours, as today (or technically tomorrow morning) it's the Super Bowl, and my team is playing in it. If the 49ers win then I'll probably go missing for the next three days, immersed in a drunken stupor of celebration. And if they lose then I'll probably go missing for the next three days, immersed in a drunken stupor of misery.

In short; go Niners!

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Update 31/01/12

Question: Have you ever had an idea, thought "that's brilliant!", then sat down to develop it further and realised "actually, that's a bit shit"? Well that's where I am right now, having originally started and written perhaps half of what was intended to be a post on shale gas, based around evidence given to the Energy and Climate change committee.

Then I started reading it back today and realised... it was a bit shit. So back to the drawing board then. Apology's for the delay. Between time constraints and writers block, this blogging thing is actually a lot harder than it looks!