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.

1. The last SDSR called for cut backs in defence as part of the governments plan for cutting the government deficit. These cut backs have been increased since then due to an inability to reduce the deficit quick enough, while other government departments have been protected from cuts. This time around I would like the next government to acknowledge that defence has more than played its part, cutting back significantly in all three services. 

2. It is unacceptable for this to continue. At the very minimum I would like the next government to commit to keeping the defence budget flat in real terms (i.e. taking inflation into account), though ideally defence would be rewarded with a slight increase in order to acquire certain systems that are important for defence and have been neglected on the altar of savings, such as the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) capability, and Crowsnest for the Royal Navy.

3. A major challenge for the armed forces following Afghanistan is getting back to training for their primary war time roles, while being careful not to assume that they've seen the back of COIN warfare for all time. For that reason I'd like to see the government take strong measures to ensure that the lessons learned from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are identified and collected now while the operations are fresh in the mind, and are then embedded into future teaching on the subject of COIN warfare.

4. In the realm of procurement, the list of mishaps in defence is long and varied, with the bill of associated increased costs running into the tens of billions over the last two decades alone. The current government has stated that as part of its plan it will be assessing whether a Government Owned, Contractor Operated (GOCO) model for the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) agency would produce better results.

5. From what I have seen and heard, I am not convinced that the government is investigating this matter in good faith. All signs seem to point to the government having already made the decision to switch to a GOCO model, regardless of whether this would be the best approach or not. I would hope that the next government - under pressure from the Commons Defence Select Committee - would resolve to conduct a completely fair and impartial assessment of the merits of GOCO versus other potential systems, not just legacy procurement and support setups, and measure not just the cost of the organisation to the government but also an assessment of its likely effectiveness at delivering future procurement projects on time and on budget.

6. In particular I would like to see a review of the large number of military personnel involved in procurement, which appears to make little sense. The bulk of officer candidates entering the armed forces are going to be University graduates who - by the time they enter the procurement system - will have lots of military experience, but very little (if any) commercial experience.

7. The input of some military personnel, especially those who have been recent operational users of legacy equipment that is to be replaced, is clearly vital to ensuring that the right equipment is purchased and that it meets the needs of the armed forces. But in 2010 the DE&S organisation employed over 1,780 commissioned officers from the three services, along with over 3,000 other ranks. A significant trimming of the numbers would help immensely to reduce costs. A shift to generally smaller teams would also ease the funding pressure and likely speed up some of the decision making, while providing less opportunities for disparate voices to throw their weight into the mix and drag otherwise suitable programs off track.

8. The Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) system should also be revised. The word "Urgent" is generally taken to mean "as soon as humanly possible". Many of the UOR's ordered for Afghanistan and Iraq did not arrive until years after the UOR's for them had been issued. The inadequacy of vehicles like the Snatch Land Rover had been recognised early on and the plethora of mine resistant vehicles on the market prior to 2003 should have made finding a replacement relatively simple.

9. The UOR system thus needs to be adjusted, understanding fully the fact that UOR's might involve spending more money than is normal for a project (for example bringing examples of vehicles together quickly for an expedited testing phase) and that sometimes a solution might have to be purchased that meets all of the immediate main criteria (such as protection), but still needs ongoing development in some other areas that are less immediately critical, such as ergonomics.

10. Further, to aid future procurement programs the MoD should invest in a small historical staff. This small team, likely no more than 3 or 4 strong and probably consisting mainly of part time staff, should be tasked with reviewing past procurement projects both in the UK and abroad, in order to build up a base of knowledge of both good and bad procurement projects that could be used to inform and aid decision making going forwards.

11. Recent operational experience has shown the mutual value that could arise from closer cooperation with smaller allies. Although fundamentally the United States is Britain's largest ally (as indeed it is to many nations) and future British operations beyond the smallest scales are likely to be intimately tied to US military action, opportunities also exist to partner with and mutually "back scratch" smaller allies on a larger scale than at present.

12. Many nations with much smaller militaries than the UK have demonstrated a continued willingness to engage in military action as a sign of their commitment and value to their allies. Countries such as Canada, Australia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands have repeatedly made efforts to overcome the limited size of their forces in order to contribute to International operations, such as those in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

13. The main problem facing these militaries is that their small size often precludes them from engaging in certain larger operations because they lack the mass, support and higher command functions to find a role on their own. It is here that the UK could afford these nations an opportunity by integrating them into larger formations.

14. A Danish tank battalion on its own would find difficulty demonstrating its usefulness to a large, American led operation. As a reinforcement in a British armoured brigade that same tank battalion would be afforded a much greater opportunity to contribute and see action. Integrating a Dutch Destroyer into a Royal Navy task group would give the Dutch Navy a chance to take part in larger operations than its individual ships might otherwise be expected to take on. Early integration into an RAF expeditionary wing could allow an Omani Typhoon squadron a much greater chance to get into the thick of the action than if it was simply presented on its own as an extra squadron to a US Air Force operation.

15. Developing these closer ties requires hard work. It would mean identifying those allies with whom the most mutual benefit can be achieved, those who are most likely to take part in International military operations, and then giving these allies priorities for cooperation and training. At the minute the UK is developing closer ties with France. While this has many benefits, I would like to see the UK invest a similar amount of time and money in other, smaller allies as well.

16. I would also like to see the government do more to prepare armed forces members for their lives after service. One of the recruiting tools used by the armed forces is to emphasise to young entrants all the valuable skills they will acquire that can be carried over into civilian life. While those with technical skills of some form may be able to walk out of the forces and straight into civilian jobs, often having acquired a civilian recognised qualification during their service, many are reporting that they struggle to find work on leaving the forces. 

17. Employers know all too well that phrases like "self-disciplined", "motivated" and "leadership skills" are good, but not enough on their own for many businesses. Those finding the most difficulty seem to stem from certain trades, such as army infantrymen. The MoD should acknowledge this and offer more support during the last year of peoples service. There are lots of relatively simple things that could be done, from offering temporary placements at careers offices to give people customer service skills (and importantly, something customer facing to put on their CV), to working with large employers like the police, fire service, Royal Mail, large security firms and others to organise career days. 

18. With the potential to do group meetings where soldiers, sailors and airmen could be interviewed, tested and fill out paperwork, such that when their service expired they could walk practically straight out of the gates and into guaranteed civilian employment, these prospective employers might even be encouraged to take on some of the men and women as reserves.

19. The last round of  cuts in the army caused a lot of consternation, as they always do, about which cap badges would go. At times we seem to enter into a bizarre parallel universe, where the cutting of cap badges dominates the news headlines and parliamentary discussions more so than the loss of the men and women who wear them. The government was supposed to have fixed this a long time ago with the creation of the "large, large/small" regimental system that produced units like the Royal Regiment of Scotland. 

20. Even that was a half hearted effort, as the RRS retained all of its old names in the individual battalion titles, largely defeating the point of the effort, which was amply demonstrated by the furore that attended the proposal to disband the 5th Battalion (The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders). The government needs to be bold and to try and solve this problem once and for all, or at least significantly mitigate its future impact.

21. The new proposal would be to replace the major county/region battalion identities with a system that shares much with that of the cavalry, by using largely non-county/region specific titles that still carry some historical weight behind them. In addition to providing large regiments that can easily be expanded or contracted in the future without having to lose further badges, the new system would also ease some of the recruitment pressures by allowing the army to distribute new recruits to those units that needed the extra numbers the most, without deflating recruits expectations about joining a "regional" unit.

22. The old county/regional regiments and affiliations would not be lost forever though. They and their colours would be preserved in the army reserve, where regional ties are very much at the heart of the reserve structure. How the regular infantry battalions would be re-named is a detail probably best left for others to fight over, but the options are plentiful; The Black Watch, The Rifles, The Fusiliers, The Duke of Wellingtons Regiment, The Buffs etc. Kings, Queens and Prince of Wales Own versions add further depth. The new regiments should ideally be deep (5 battalions as the norm) and typically non-geographic in title (I'm sure few people will associate the Duke of Wellington with the town, as opposed to the famous General).

23. Looking at the reserves structure announced earlier this year, I am disappointed. I do not think the proposal to significantly increase the number of reserves is particularly realistic, especially not with the new terms of service and revised conditions for call ups. The fact that senior army officers have told the defence select committee that they have no "Plan B" (to the extent of almost literally telling the committee that it will work because it must) is a cause for grave concern.

24. The extra money expected to be invested in the reserves is welcome news, but over the course of time applied and given the expected numbers, the dilution of these funds means that it is difficult to see how much will ultimately be gained. It also fails to address the lack of faith some have in the reserves. The new expectation that the reserves will be called up on a far more regular basis and to perform roles that might include "forward engagement", is a real blow for their employability. 

25. I would therefore like to see the government restrict reserve mobilisation to only those operations that truly need it. Using the mandatory mobilisation of reserves to fill in holes on regular non-combat peace support and "engagement" tasks is not acceptable, and breaches the unwritten agreement of trust between the government and both its reserves and their employers, that reserves will only be called into action when a firm need exists.

26. I would also ask the government to rethink its proposal for making the use of the reserves (and indeed the wider army) a regular part of what it's now calling "Homeland resiliency". The simple use of the phrase "Homeland Resiliency" should be banned for a start. The use of the armed forces for responding to domestic incidents should be reserved for an ad hoc basis (outside of certain very specific cases like CRBN and counter terrorism response) and not something that councils plan on having at their disposal all the time, as this will naturally lead to underfunding and an attitude of "we can always get the army/navy/air force to do xyz".

27. Further, the reserve capability should be strengthened at its core by investing proper time and money in leadership, both commissioned and non-commissioned. Full courses should be offered for NCO's, identical to those given to their regular counterparts, in exchange for fixed (contracted) minimum service periods (in years). 

28. Officers should i) be required to take the full Sandhurst course, as well as their full special to arm training, the same as their regular counter parts, ii) subsequently be required to commit to a minimum service term, as well as being required to put in more official days per year than non-officers, and iii) receive a much closer degree of integration and support with their regular counterparts (where they can make up the extra days required of them), such as attending certain planning meetings with regular units.

29. In addition, regular officers should be given the opportunity to take career breaks from their regular roles by joining the reserve, where they would be transferred to a suitable reserve unit to serve for a couple of years, during which they could pursue civilian employment, further education, or simply spend more time with their family, potentially with a fresh commitment to return in a promoted role afterwards. Indeed these conditions and opportunities could be rolled out across the entire armed forces.

30. In the Naval sphere, there are a number of pressing problems that the next government should address. The need to remove Trident from the MoD budget and return it to a separate funding line should be foremost among these considerations. It is a truly insidious move by the government to force budget cuts on the conventional armed forces by making them account for both the purchase and then sustainment of the nuclear deterrent. Such a system should be considered a truly national asset and as such funded from its own pot.

31. I'd also like to see the government invest just a small amount to secure a significant capability for the Navy. This would be a greater investment in Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) as used on the Royal Navy's attack submarines, and slated for use on the Type 26. Such weapons form an integral part of the initial stages of most modern operations, and to scrimp on this capability seems to be short sighted given the significant investment made in submarines such as the Astute class.

32. With regards to the two new Queen Elizabeth class carriers, the situation remains deeply troubling in many regards. I fail to see why the government has not given greater priority to the Crowsnest system, that will provide the future of maritime Airborne Early Warning (AEW). This was one of the most critical aspects in which the Royal Navy was found to be deficient during the Falklands War, and the dragging of heels over the replacement for the current Sea King based system seems absurd in that light. I would go as far as to say that AEW is more important to the future fleet than even the jet aircraft that will go on the carriers.

33. Regarding the future of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the continued delays, problems and downgrades of performance are beginning to throw insurmountable question marks over the "B" Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) version. Performance limits have been reduced down to the point that the aircraft is now reasonably considered by some to be unsurvivable in certain situations, such as close quarters "dogfighting" and defending against a Surface to Air Missile (SAM) launch.

34. The cost increases of the program, driven by additional delays and the withdrawal from the program by some of the original potential customers, is gradually pushing the F-35 onto a path which is financially unsustainable going forward. The fact that the B version is the only STOVL aircraft with a realistic life beyond 2020 is subsequently making the current configuration of the UK's CVF carriers difficult to justify.

35. The cost of converting the future HMS Queen Elizabeth to a Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Landing (CATOBAR) configuration has been estimated at £2 billion. Given the extensive predicted service life of the carriers (which admittedly may or may not actually be met), the greater flexibility and performance of CATOBAR aircraft (including the greater choice for a fall back plan if things go wrong with the original choice) and the greater scope for cross decking aircraft with key allies, the investment of a further £2billion seems more and more justified with each passing week.

36. The next government also needs to begin thinking about a replacement for the current generation of helicopter carriers, with HMS Illustrious retiring in 2014 and HMS Ocean probably not too long lived after her. It may be that if the current budget squeeze continues then the two Albion-class assault ships may have to be run simultaneously, but this is still not an entirely adequate replacement. Serious consideration should be given to beginning work on a proper successor to Ocean.

37. I would also like to see the government reaffirm its plans to replace the Type 23 frigates on a one for one basis with the Type 26, and to see a little more substantial information about the final size, shape and capability of the Type 26. It's due in service in 2020, which means that by 2015 the design (and cost) really ought to be almost completely nailed down.

38. In keeping with the theme of greater cooperation with small allies, I'd like to see Exercise Joint Warrior, currently run twice a year, be extended in some form to a three times a year event.

39. Regarding the Royal Air Force, I'd like to see the government commit to keeping the Sentinel aircraft in service beyond 2015, as it has now demonstrated its worth in both counter-insurgency and conventional war fighting roles, for a relatively low cost. 

40. A proper regeneration of the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) function should also be high on the priority list. There are many solutions available that offer the combination of sub-surface search and attack, surface search and attack, and search and rescue support that are required from a UK MPA. The government should make funding for such a capability a priority, beyond even a Tornado replacement if necessary.

41. I would also like to see the government provide funds to return a proper UK Suppression of Enemy Air Defence's (SEAD) capability, lost when the ALARM missile was retired. It seems ridiculous that the RAF maintains the RAF Spadeadam electronic warfare tactics range, and yet lacks any kind of electronic attack or even basic SEAD capability. I am not convinced that the "stealth" characteristics and radar of the future F-35 will be enough.

42. I also have significant concerns over the A400M "Atlas" as the sole replacement for Hercules going forward. While unquestionably Atlas is a more powerful aircraft than Hercules, with longer range, greater cargo capacity and a larger cargo bay, the cost and numbers being procured are a cause for concern. The significantly more capable C-17 represents better value for money in the role of long range, "strategic" transport, while the Atlas itself seems overkill for "tactical" transport, such as shorter trips (e.g. intra theatre) and light loads. As the USAF is trying to divest itself of a number of the excellent C-27 Spartans (which share engine commonality with the C-130) and Boeing could be expected to be open for negotiation on the purchase of additional C-17's as that line approaches its end, I think there exists an opportunity to create a more balanced "high/low" mix of transport capabilities using the C-17 and C-27.

43. On the subject of disposing of aircraft, I find it absolutely astounding that the RAF is planning to retire its Tranche 1 Typhoons from service in the 2015-16 time frame, so soon after they have arrived. While the upgrade potential of this aircraft may be limited, such expensive assets should not be disposed of in such a callous manner. There are two major roles which I can see the Tranche 1's performing in the future.

44. The first would be to handle all of the UK's Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) requirements, both at home and in the Falklands Islands. Secondly, and in keeping with the earlier theme of greater training alongside small allies, a squadron could be kept spare along with a squadron of Hawk trainer aircraft (either T.1 or T.2) as the basis for a British version of the US aggressor squadrons used on Red Flag exercises. The combination of being able to offer allies the chance to fly against both an advanced fighter like the Typhoon, plus practising dogfighting skills against a small, agile aircraft like the Hawk, and the use of the Electronic Warfare Tactics Range at Spadeadam, would likely make the UK one of the world leaders in air combat training.

45. Lastly, given the significant cut backs that have taken place in army manpower, the use of the RAF Regiment should be reviewed. It's not that the Regiment does not serve a purpose. The value of such a unit has been demonstrated over the years in many examples (some not involving the UK, or involving the UK as the aggressor). What is needed is for the RAF Regiment to take on a wider breadth of roles.

46. Currently the one UK airbase most likely to be attacked (outside of Afghanistan) has no protection from an RAF Squadron; RAF Mount Pleasant. This seems absurd, especially as another unit is required to provide defence and training support for the Falkland Island's Defence Force. This is a capability that could easily be handled by the RAF Regiment. Indeed, this is precisely the role for which it was designed.

47. As the Army 2020 plan does not include use of the old Bulldog Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC's) it seems logical that - providing the cost is not too great - these could be handed down to the RAF Regiment, both for base protection roles and to provide mobile Forward Air Controller (FAC) teams to help support the army on operations. 

48. The RAF Regiment also provides a small contingent to the UK Special Forces Support Group (SFSG). Given that II Squadron, RAF Regiment is parachute trained, it seems a waste not to just outright include the whole squadron as the RAF's representative in the SFSG. The RAF Falcons parachute display team could be disbanded to pay for any additional training needed.


  1. Nice article chris, plenty of points and ideas for people to get there teeth into.

    43. To take this point, although it seems a strong rumour online. I can't say I've heard of it, that's not to say I hear everything at my level on the food chain! The first problem would be what else would we do, putting that many Typhoon into service all at the same time would take a bigger number of Sqns. More than we could afford to run. We'd probably need to open another station. It's not ideal but should it come down to that, what other option is there? The idea of QRA fleet creates problems within itself, fleets within fleets, it wouldn't keep that many either, look how many are on QRA at any one time.
    The aggressor Sqn in similar to the ones at RF, I'm not sure we'd have the demand and we haven't got set up as at Nellis. I'm not sure how many exercises we could hold to justify it?

    45 and 46, I think it would be a bit of a inter service pissing competition. Historically it's always been an Army tasking. Should we change it might well come up; look at the crabs they're trying to keep a RAF reg Sqn! and if we don't well we should since it's their job. Rinse and repeat... In time it might come round as Herrick winds down.

    1. Evening,

      I think it was a blurt by someone at BAE in an interview that started it all off.

      As for the QRA and Aggressor, not sure off the top of my head how many Tranche 1's there'll be in total, but I'd have though it'd be enough to cover north and south, plus the aggressor, plus falklands, plus an OCU.

      The aggressor sqdn itself could perhaps double hat as an OEU, or do a combo of say three or four large, two week, multi-national exercises a year (get the Poles to bring their MiGs over as well) and then perhaps spend the rest of the year doing more one to one work with individual squadrons.

      Granted we wouldn't have anywhere the kind of tracking kit that the fellas at Nellis do, but it'd be a hell of a step up for a lot of air forces compared to what they're used to.

    2. I support the idea in principle after all you can never have too many FJ Sqns :)

      That work load though wouldn't require a great number of Tranche 1 so you'd still end up getting rid of some or if you did then you'd still have the latest versions to put to use, or more accurately find the money to run.
      If all 160 come into service we'd end up with 10 Sqns or so, good stuff the problem as always £££.

    3. That's ok, keep the extra Tiffy 1's!. Use Tranche 3 as your Torndao replacement. 617 takes the first batch of F-35, the FAA takes the next 2-3 sqdns and then top up with an RAF buy later if need be, once the F-35 situation has evened out a little.

      Everyone's a winner.

    4. 'two week, multi-national exercises a year over here '

      Been away for a bit Chris, a little nod, keep your eyes and ears open ;)

    5. Ohhhhh, sounds interesting?

      Any further revelations you'd like to make by e-mail, providing you don't give away anything you shouldn't?

  2. Excellent read. On point 36, regarding a replacement for Ocean/Bulwark/Albion, the time frame that we're looking at is going to be well after Ocean pays off in 2018 right? And around this time the first of the Type 26's should be taking shape or starting to in the very early stages, and the construction run of that class is expected to go up to 2036 when the last T-23 retires.
    The burden of LPH is going to rest on the QE's in a swing-role capacity, we all know, but of course we want a dedicated ship for the task that also takes pressure off the Albions, which like you said may be worked hard and simultaneously after 2018, and even more so if they have to go on to the 2040s to be supplemented and replaced if our shipbuilding capacity is going to be T-26 dedicated from ~2020-2036.

    Enough waffling though, lets get to my question: where do you stand on contracting a foreign shipyard to build a replacement to Ocean (and probably the Albions)? It might be more cost effective and get a ship in the water quickly, but of course it is hard to budget for out of my blue-sky thinking!

    And not to mention the political controversy such a deal would cause, because of national pride etc etc. Either way, what are your thoughts about this and the challenges facing such a plan?

    1. Evening,

      Erm, not entirely sure you'd need a foreign yard. By that sort of time frame Prince Charlie would be about where Queen Liz is now (or thereabouts), so they'd be some space in some of the other yards to build an Ocean replacement in blocks. No doubt QE and PC could between them handle the helicopter side of things in the interim (perhaps a good excuse to commission both), but with no well deck their capacity to truly replace Ocean is limited.

      I couldn't see it being done in a foreign yard though. By that point I don't expect the economy to be booming again yet, and handing the work of a major warship like that abroad could be dodgy. You can guarantee someone will leak to the press and talk about how British jobs are being sent overseas just at the time they're needed here, despite the governments commitment to rebuild manufacturing, blah, etc.

      The budget would also be a sticking point. 2020 is going to be a very interesting SDSR, because by then either the economy will still be largely flat and the government might have to dip into the armed forces for more savings (or spending elsewhere, depending on which colour wins) which by that point really will be pushing the armed forces to the limit, or if the economy is doing much better then we might even see a modest uplift in spending (stop laughing).

      In troubled times an Ocean replacement is one of those things where the government can point to the QE carriers and the Albions and say "well you've got room for helicopters over there, and you've got room for your landing craft over there, so you don't need this thing..."

  3. Great post. On 35, can't see STOL CVF configuration changing - firstly it's too politically sensitive for both major parties and actually I think the design will be more successful than we currently think. The F35B is the only option for carrier based air defence (which is a must for the UK global ambitions), but it doesn't stack up for a land based fighter not even a first class strike platform. This is where the MOD has accept that it needs to cap the spend to 60 airframes and invest heavily in TLAM and UAVs for initial strike capability. I'd even go as far to say an additional SSN may be a good investment in this area also, over spending on more a/c.


    1. Evening,

      The thing about F-35 is that really you'd want the RAF to buy for their Tornado replacement the same as the FAA (unless you elect me Prime Minister and I'll let both sides have plenty of whatever they like). The FAA is never realistically going to get a 60 jet buy for itself, not unless the likely future government candidates all have a miraculous change of heart.

      So fundamentally you're left with a situation where the RAF either a) gets a completely different version which is incompatible with the carriers, and the FAA is left with about 30-odd active frames, and that would mean surging the OCU etc onto the Carrier for a big ding dong, or b) you give them the same version, have a joint party, and now you have much more flexibility over deployments, albeit at a loss in performance for the pure land role.

    2. I was very careful not to say FAA gets the F35B just that it would be the operated solely from carriers. They will be joint squadrons and to be honest as long as they are operated from the carriers I don't realy care. Plus whilst the F35B wouldn't be an initial stike a/c it would still do ground attack support as well as air defence.


  4. On 6&7, remember that DE&S includes support and that a significant number of those 5000 military bods are busily ensuring that the support delivered by in-service IPTs and organisations reflects the realities and needs of military use. I'm thinking of places like ABRO, Lynx, SK and Merlin PTs at Yeovilton and Culdrose etc as well as the monster that is ABW. For the RN it also provides a valuable set of shore billets without which retention of mid-career staff is going to be difficult. Not sure how much that applies to Perce and the Crabs, but there are probably some parallels.

    Most of these people do not get anywhere near commercial issues and even if they do, those are handled by the CS commercial branch, within which lie many of the problems - not least career development and wage scales.

    That's not to say that the Requirements management part of the house doesn't need a good kicking, but that's as much to do with enforcing commercial and project discipline by the PMs and commercial staff as it is with the mil staff.

    1. Evening,

      Aye, there's some functions rolled in there not related to procurement, I think the HMNBs are included for example.

      But just looking at the breakdown from '10 (which I presume is still broadly similar today) there's still plenty of room to swing an axe.

    2. If that breakdown is 5000 bods (~3% of 82000 pongoes, 35000 crabs and 30000 matelots and bootnecks) then I'd suggest there's very little room to swing an axe at all.

      Just assume for a moment that 2000 of those bods are matelots. That's less than 10% of the total force (excluding Royal). It is a fact of life that you need shore billets to provide some form of stability for mid-career people if you want to hang on to them.

  5. A few additional comments...

    12 - 14 I like the concept of getting the Netherlands and other Nordic countries contributing towards the RFTG. Additional marines, LPDs and escorts will be complementary rather necessary leaving the UK the ability to act independently where needed.

    22 - spot on

    36 - Operating 2 QE with Crownest and MPA is far more important than a replacement for HMS Ocean. As part of the SDSR I actually think the UK needs to go back to the drawing board for what amphibious assault capability it needs. The focus should be how to deliver the Response Force Brigade given likely scenarios, broader capabilities and limitations.

    37 - The T26 should ultimately be a single platform to replace both the T23 and T45 classes. This means that it should have the same AAW and ASW capabilities (or better). The cost would be higher per platform and hence fewer hulls (aiming for 14), but in my view the UK cannot afford to support small numbers of single role first rate platforms - not even the USN does this :)

    Additionally, the UK needs a significant number (20+ if you include MCM replacements) of cheap and relatively small (1-2000t) vessels akin to the French Surveillance frigates. This will not only compensate for the drop in DDs/FFs but also increase ISR assets which will be the key enablers for the 21st century.

    43 - Again spot on, Tranche 1 Typhoons should be kept on with the Tornado being retired. This does require investment, but it seems to be happening anyway to attract Middle East orders.


    1. Evening (again),

      12-14. That's precisely what I'm thinking. Take a trip down to the med, with Dutch Marines and their craft in tow, with a DeZeven on one side and something Danish on the other. Find someone else to play OpFor and then join in afterwards.

      36. I'd imagine that for general service you'd only expect to put a battlegroup down as your immediate response. Not entirely sure how many Marines the RFTG carries on a regular basis.

      37. Trouble with that is you end up with a very expensive platform that just ends up duplicating what Type 45 already provides. For general tasks, it's not always going to necessary to have the Type 45's level of air defence. In the future, as you get towards the end of the Type 26 build (by which time 45 will be about 20 odd years old) you might think about building an AD version of 26. That's a long way off though.

    2. 36 - Agree, but ultimately the RN (and RM) should be the enabler to get this force in theatre by sea either to a friendly port or over a lightly defended beachhead.

      37 - I think the mistake is that by having 6 AAW platforms and 8 ASW platforms you enviably end up with more cost both in the design / build, but also the support / training / maintenance. Also, it leads to having key valuable asset dependencies. Also, maybe with more AAW assets for example the level of capability can be slightly less on each Sampson vs Aegis...


  6. I don't understand why we must eliminate the "HMS Ocean" it is brand new ?

    1. If, by brand new, you mean almost 20 years old. Illustrious bows out in 2014 and Ocean rejoins the fleet so she still has life left in her yet. But by then Ocean will be the only ship of her kind in the fleet (with a dock and plentiful helicopter handling space combined) and we'll need to be thinking about life after Ocean, what with procurement taking as long as it does.

    2. I might be mis-understanding what you mean, but if you are suggesting that HMS Ocean has a dock, then that is incorrect. HMS Ocean has 4 landing craft on davits and a stern ramp.

    3. Sorry, the fault is mine for using the wrong word (dock). I couldn't think of a shorter way of saying "the ability to launch, recover and store 4 LCVP"! Though a well deck would be nice.

    4. I thought that might have been what you meant, that is why I said I might be mis-understanding you. And yes a well dock would be good.

    5. No worries. I have a tendency at times to be lazy and just substitute in inappropriate words to replace long phrases.

  7. "... [defence spending] or spending elsewhere, depending on which colour wins [the election]"

    This seems to be based on the idea that one of the most likely governing parties is more likely to be friendly towards defence spending than the other. Such an idea is fallacious in the extreme. Every Conservative government in my time (with the possible exception of Heath's) has slashed defence spending, even the sainted Margaret signed off big cuts, which is, arguably, how we got into the Falklands war in the first place.

    As we all here may know defence reviews are a treasury controlled exercise to reduce the defence budget. Even when decisions are made (e.g. we need 12 T45s) and then when a few years down the line money gets tight, but neither the threat assessment nor the strategy changes, HMG will decide that, actually we only need 6. Nobody in Parliament of the media ever tries to hold them to account for such decisions. Nobody ever asks the question, "Hang on, a few years ago you said we needed 12 now you say we only need 6. What has changed?"

    Current HMG's attitude to defence is like the skint householder who has to borrow to get by and who gets his house buildings insurance renewal notice at the same time as begging letters from distant relatives. Does he borrow to pay the insurance (on which he has never claimed) or does he borrow that money to give away to those needy relatives. Giving the money gives him a warm glow of satisfaction keeping the insurance up is just paying a bill.

    SDR 2015 will mean real cuts in defence, whoever gets into power. They might be dressed up a bit and some extended capability gaps will be accepted as "projects are moved to the right", but cuts there will be.

    1. Afternoon,

      I think you misunderstood that comment ref; "... the government might have to dip into the armed forces for more savings (or spending elsewhere, depending on which colour wins)"

      As in, if the Blues win they will potentially raid defence to cut the deficit. If the Reds or Yellows win, they might raid defence in order to spend the money elsewhere.

  8. on point 28) How do you expect to make up for the massive drop in reserve officers commissioning with this idea then?

    As it stands the majority of these reserve officer recruits are coming through OTCs, currently many that go off to Sandhurst do so before the last year of their degree (in the Summer break) to continue as a 2LT for a year in the unit to continue gaining experience. Those the commission after the end of the degree are generally looking for a civilian career at that point (they are reservists remember they need a 9-5 still). So when exactly are they supposed to fit in a year of Sandhurst but NOT bother then going full time since they've bothered t put in the same training requirement?

    And of course you're ignoring the fact that the OTC has been designed to cover the basic bits of the training they'd be required to repeat at Sandhurst (making one of the two entirely redundant - and I suggest the OTC is too valuable a recruiting tool for officer candidates to do away with)

    It would be the same as demanding that all reservists do the same initial training as the regs here (so you demand that every infantry reservist takes 6 months out of their life to go to ITC Catterick). Again you've lost all sight of the point of a RESERVIST. If you want more soldiers just adjust the regular force size, because at the moment what you're demanding is more of what you want from the regs but demanding that you get it out of part timers, which is unworkable.

    As for converting back to CATOBAR, do you really want to piss the American off more? And wasnt it basically assured that if we went CATOBAR we'd lose one of the two carriers?

    Finally, whilst it is stupid to gap any capability, if we are looking at CROWSNEST in its primary role of carrier AEW, it isnt the most stupid decision i've ever seen when cuts are happening to let it gap until the carrier may actually deploy with an air wing (so when the F35's arrive in a large enough amount to be of any use, in the early 2020's.) Lets face it until then those carriers will be on trials and training anyway.

    1. What is to stop a young graduate going to Sandhurst, doing the course, then taking up their spot in the reserves so they can also pursue civilian opportunities? They have their degree, they have the respect and confidence of doing the full training, and now they can go out into the big wide world and make money. They also have the full military option as a fall back if their degree turns out to be worthless in the economic climate.

      "Again you've lost all sight of the point of a RESERVIST"
      -- Someone who is properly trained and then held in reserve because they are not needed on a day to day basis. Point to me where the suggestion in paragrapgh 28 breaches that definition.

      "As for converting back to CATOBAR, do you really want to piss the American off more?"
      -- Well I'm glad the Americans opinion over which carrier we select is considered more important than the long term viability, cost and operational effectiveness of the carriers. Besides, why do you think the US would be so angry, given that they tried to play down the £2 billion quote, which suggests to me a country that would rather like us to switch to a conventional carrier.

      As for the AEW, you don't need fighter aircraft to start making use of it. HMS Sheffield might have stood a much better chance of survival, even without fighter cover, had she been given early warning of the incoming raid. It's an incredibly handy tool that could be operated off a variety of platforms.

  9. Good post! Lot's of interesting ideas, many of them close to me own.

    20-22 - I agree that something has to be done about the detrimental fixation with cap badges and the government certainly needs to be bolder about how they are organised and who stays or goes according to what's best for the Army and Armed Forces as a whole and not what's best for individual regiments with a partisan agenda.

    I don't mind you're idea about using non-regional and essentially neutral cap badges such as The Duke Of Wellington's and The Rifles. My idea though was to use the old regional names that were to an extent adopted as collective regimental depots between the 1940's and 1960's. How does having 4-6 large English regiments with names such as Wessex, Lancastrian and the already in use Mercian and Anglian sound?

    Naturally id keep the Scottish, Welsh and Irish regiments as they are, but id seek to also merge all of the Guards regiments into one of high-quality light infantry and merge the two English Guards into one (even though they and the media would probably recoil in horror at the idea).

    Not sure about the Gurkha's either. Can we really justify keeping them when they are no longer any cheaper than their counterparts and are being retained whilst British units get scrapped?

    1. Right. Evening,

      You could do (Wessex, Mercian etc), but you still have the problem of distribution. 1/5 of the UK population lives in and around London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool alone. New army recruits are generally (but by no means exclusively) young and from poor backgrounds, which means certain areas are going to have less difficulty recruiting.

      Merging the two Guards? You're brave! The Regiment of Coldstream and Grenadier Guards?

    2. I do see you're point, not so much in that these regiments would be as partisan and parochial as the ones they replaced, but that it would take a larger amount of different regimental set-ups properly distributed to cover the whole country.

      Could Birmingham not come under the Mercian, Manchester/Liverpool under the Lancastrian and London under a Home Counties regiment? I guess recruitment is always an issue, but the best that could be done would be to ensure that each unit had roughly the same proportion of the population within it's boundaries, which would of course make regiments quite differently sized from one to the next.

      Out of interest how regiments would you foresee having and what names would you give them under you're completely un-regional set-up? You already mentioned the Duke Of Wellington's and Black Watch, anymore? I can think of the Royal Green Jackets and of course the Rifles.

    3. Why have any regional areas at all? Having regiments doesn't mean there needs to be regional recruiting. Seems to be hang up from the past. As people join up post them to Regiments that needs the recruits.

    4. Right, I have returned.

      @ Topman,
      The theory is that everyone has something in common, so for example soldiers in regiments from Cornwall can compare sixth toes ;)

      @ Challenger,
      Historically the county regiments recruited from well outside their authorised boundaries, often sending recruiting parties to large towns and cities that were nearby. They also contained sometimes ridiculous amounts of Irish, Welsh and Scottish recruits (especially Irish) in ostensibly English regiments. If you wanted to go regional, you could always make it so that recruiting areas overlapped, for example around London, as well as having a pool for everyone to dip into of commonwealth recruits.

      As for me, as far as I know we're down to 32 battalions including the 2 paras. So set them aside and that leaves you 30 battalions. 5 per reg would be nice, so you need six regiments, which I would go with;

      - The Royal Regiment of Foot Guards,
      - The Black Watch (keep Salmond quiet),
      - The Duke of Wellingtons Regiment,
      - The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers,
      - The Rifles,
      - The Buffs,

      Job done. If you wanted to take the cavalry example to the extreme then practically every regiment of the infantry would end up as some form of guards or fusiliers, in the same way that we have a morass of cavalry guards, hussars and dragoons.

    5. "The Royal Regiment of Foot Guards"

      Now I am no supporter of the Cap Badge movement, but that is obviously never going to work - the politics alone never mind the practicalities. For example how would the buttons on their tunics be grouped? What about the Troop - what colour would be trooped and who would be shouting abuse at their TV screens? Who is going to tell the Duchess of Cambridge that she has no big connection with the Irish Guards? Come to that who is going to tell the Irish Guards (the Curragh Mutiny might be trivial in comparison).

      "The Buffs"

      That's a bloody Kent regiment. So their recruitment would overlap with the Fusiliers and why should the Kent name remain when equally as good Sussex and Surrey regiments have been lost forever. People from up country don't appreciate how Kentish folk (or People of Kent depending on which side of the county we are talking about) are regarded by their neighbours - the whole 12 toes debate plus much more comes in here. The Queens regiment was an acceptable name, even the PWRR, holds, but the Buffs - never!

      Given that the Paras don't and can't parachute any more, why on earth should they remain extant. The Paras, like the Glider Pilot Regiment (GPR) that was called into being at much the same time, should follow the GPR into honourable retirement - the their reason for existence having gone.

      All in all you are barking up the wrong tree. Much better to keep single battalion regiments, which can recruit, than to engage in the Godless stramash like the current Royal Regiment of Scotland.

    6. Evening,

      Regarding the Guards, couldn't care less, couldn't care less, couldn't care less, couldn't care less, couldn't care less (have I missed one?). Maybe they could wear a five button jacket, with one each of the previous buttons in order of seniority.

      The Buffs on the other hand, like all the other regiments listed (incl. Guards), would be geographically ambiguous. It wouldn't be a question of being from Kent or having over lapping boundaries. People would be shuffled off for infantry training with their preferences listed. Where possible the preferences would be met, otherwise people would be dropped into whichever regiment needed the manpower the most.

      Single Regiments? They've been abandoned precisely because they can't recruit. They can't cast the net far enough usually, and they significantly restrict promotion prospects unless people are happy shifting regiments.

      And I find Kent and its people to be most agreeable neighbours!

      "Given that the Paras don't and can't parachute any more" - The Paras can and do parachute.

    7. "... people would be dropped into whichever regiment needed the manpower the most."

      Well, if you want to drop the regimental system entirely for goodness sake say so. It is a position that can be cogently argued, though one that might find a level of disapprobation, but all this poncing around with half-baked new regimental names is pathetic (what pace is your new Rifle Regiment going to march at?). If you want to advocate "The Infantry" and abolish cap badges then do so.

      As regards the Paras, just how many are qualified right now? And how many could we actually drop? Oh, and when was the last time we actually wanted any of them to parachute in a combat drop?

    8. Half baked names? They're pretty well respected, with good traditions. The point is that you keep the best part of the regimental system (the pride, the standards to live up to, the sense of belonging) while also easing recruitment pressures across the whole force. And the Rifle Regiment can march at whatever pace it sees fit, I couldn't give less of a shit.

      Paras, all are jump qualified in training, then you have a lead airborne task force maintained at any one time. As we've seen in Mali with the French, the option of having parachute qualified soldiers is a very handy little trick to keep up our sleeve.

    9. I like you're idea Chris and id be happy with having around 6 large regiments and non-regional names if it stood a chance of simplifying the infantry structure, easing the issues with recruitment and went a long way to removing the cap-badge mentality and partisan, parochial rivalry.

      Plus I couldn't agree more on the Guards, who gives a dam what they want! The whole point about a radical change is to do what's good for the Army as a whole, you can't have a singular regiment or group of regiments undermining that.

    10. The thing that always gets me about the regimental structure is that you have naval chaps moving back and forth between ships over the course of their careers, but that doesn't seem to effect their pride in the ship and their bond with the ships company. Then in the RAF they're forever deactivating squadrons in response to cuts, knowing full well they can reactivate them at a later date if needed.

      Granted it's a slightly different situation because the ships might only be in service thirty years, then be laid to rest, whereas the regiments have been continuously activate for a long time, but it does make the army look a bit odd in that regard.

  10. A great post, and practically nothing to disagree with in it...just a few thoughts:
    1 Is there any merit in replacing Illustrious and Ocean with a third QE, providing three big flat-tops...returning to Catobar to make them as versatile as possible...and backing them up with much cheaper A/W assets with well-docks, built to merchant standards if necessary.
    2 There is clearly a case for shifting CASD into a Strategic Budget Line, outside the MOD...
    3 there also one for shifting some logistic/gendarmerie functions into DfID/Law and Order/BOT Budgets; some variety of the Coastguard function with some variety of SIMMS vessels?
    4 Likewise, are there economies of scale and efficiencies to be achieved by uniting "functional" armed Police units (MOD, Nuclear, Airport)into a single set-up...another useful post-service employment opportunity for men and women leaving front-line service...and a potential supplement to the home based reserves.
    5 And finally, have you had any further thoughts on forward-basing beyond those about the RAF Regiment (which clearly should cover the Crown Bases and MPA, backed by regular Army training in both locations)

    A thoughtful GNB

    1. Bonjour, (or is it Bonsoir? My French is Rubbish)

      1. Not sure you'd have enough room to build a third carrier and start up the Type 26's? More Bays - no arguments here.

      3. You've jumped ahead of me there, I've got something up my sleeve.

      4. Generally with police forces they have very specific requirements to their function. Not sure a huge amount would be gained.

      5. Not so much, mainly on account that it would take quite a comprehensive analysis to figure out where you want them, and even then you're almost bound to be defeated by circumstance. Can be quite expensive keeping people abroad permanently. In the Falklands you have a clear reason for it, Cyprus you have the double hat of peace keeping and middle east response. Elsewhere? The justification becomes difficult quickly, perhaps a deployment to Africa somewhere, like a permanent battalion supporting BATUK being the one most likely to earn a tick of approval.

    2. My "Fantasy Fleet" would definitely have 3 CVFs, but even I would concedd that if we had CATOBAR you would only end up with one platform.

      As a side note, building a 3rd CVF would be possible if you reduced the initial order of 13 T26s to 8 as I suggested above. Portmsmouth could build the surveillance vessels I meantion.


    3. It depends about the catapults. I can't remember off the top of my head (and don't really have the time right now to go and check) but I think the cost breakdown that ended as £2 billion involved a number of "one offs" that would not be carried over to a second or third installation.

  11. Excellent post Chris! I agree with almost all of it; I particularly like your "UK Top Gun" idea as well as the defence "Hub" idea with smaller allies. Also saving COIN experence - yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

    However, do you have any links/info regarding the F-35B programme being in trouble? The last I heard it was back on track and looking good...

    1. Evening Gareth,

      In a report by (I think it was) the US General Audit Office they acknowledged that the performance parameters for all F-35's had been down graded, with the B being downgraded quite significantly, such as sustained turn rate and some others. The aircraft has very little growth margin left and still time to go in development, and the latest costings in the latest DoD budget requests have the aircraft clocking in at well over $200 million each, which is expensive even for an aircraft still in development.

  12. Is the Alarm missile actually out of service now? I know there was some rumours that it would go out of service this year, but I haven't seen anything official about it. It is also still listed on the RAF website.

    1. As far as I know it's been pulled, there's no training or support for it, and there is no replacement slated for it. Could be wrong about the first bit, but there's definitely no replacement (or plans to replace) in the works.

    2. I think they might be viewing the SPEAR missile (as well as maybe Brimstone and Paveway IV ) as the replacements. In that instead of having the anti radiation seeker in the missile, they relay on longer range stand off sensors and then fire a missile at that location. If we have the required stand off sensors could be a question, but I guess they will at least improve a bit with the F-35.

      I think the reasoning behind this sort of thinking (if I am correct in what they are thinking) is that stand off sensors are getting better, plus counter measures have been developed against the anti radiation missiles. From turning the radars off (of course ALARM has the parachute to make this harder), to the various decoy transmitters that have been developed. So a combination of turning off a radar and turning on some decoy transmitters could cause even ALARM to attack a decoy. Where as if you could get an accurate location of the real/original radar then using say a GPS guided weapon could be more successful.

      Maybe the best solution would could hope for in the future is that maybe they make a anti radiation version of SPEAR?

      I personally would like to see a anti radiation version of Fireshadow or the Miniature air launched decoy and then just have a number of those loitering. Of course they might be easy to shot down, but if they fly high enough so that they are of range of the shorter range SAMs, then the cost of shooting them down is going to be high. As every potential enemy other than China or Russia is going to have quite limited stocks of longer range surface to air missiles, then could they even afford to waist them on shooting down some cheap loitering drones?

    3. I think part of the great future SEAD hope (maybe I should trademark that?) is that on board sensors will have advanced to the stage that aircraft can rapidly pin point the location of fleeting targets and then, as you said, use weapons like SPEAR etc to hit them.

      As sophisticated as the radar warning receivers (and future AESA) on Typhoon may be, and as advanced and powerful as the F-35's radar may be, personally I think that whole plan smells like a disaster waiting to happen. F-35's using their radars to jam ground radars? Kind of an odd thing for a "stealth" aircraft to be doing, pumping out radar energy like it was going out of fashion. I'm also sceptical of the ability of future aircraft to detect, classify, locate (with the requisite precision) and then engage radars using weapons like SPEAR.

      If it were me in that Typhoon, I'd be much happier knowing that for this mission my four recessed pylons were carrying something along the lines of an anti-radiation version of Meteor.

  13. 30 - Trident being taken out of the budget is probably the single most important decision that need to happen.

    31 - Yep! Relatively small investments in a Tomahawk stockpile for the Astute's so they can fire more than 1 or 2 at the beginning of an operation and getting it onto the T26 now will add significant amounts of capability in the long-run.

    32-35 - Naturally having both carriers in service should be a serious priority and Crowsnest is a vital component capability that is badly lacking in investment which needs rectifying.

    Considering the serious costs and doubts over it's capabilities I think the F35B can't be relied on too early. Feeding into what you said about Typhoon I think it would be wiser to cap the F35B order at 60-70 aircraft to compliment a larger Typhoon fleet that includes the trance 1' least until a Typhoon replacement is needed further down the line.

    36 - I think Ocean should be kept running as long as possible, even if it's in some sort of reserve capacity in exchange for getting both Albion's back into service. Agreed that Ocean will eventually need a replacement, but it makes sense for her successor to be the first in a 2-3 ship class that can gradually replace both her and the Albion's through the late 2020's and into the 2030's.

    37 - The T26 is shaping up to be a pretty decent design. Obviously the more the better! I agree with what others have said about an eventual AA variant to replace the T45 and take the RN down to 1 class of high-end surface warships. Evolution not revolution!

    40 - Reviving MPA is a no-brainer for me! I like the Sea Hercules.

    42 - I agree that C17 is fantastic but only having 8 limits how much they can take on and that Atlas will be overkill for a lot of smaller tactical operations, especially intra theater. Could at least some of the C130J be retained to bolster the fleet and take on these smaller roles? Their is a rumor going around that certain people in the Army want some retained for SF operations. Keeping a few and then going down the Sea Hercules route would provide some good commonality between the 2 and keep costs down. A few more BAE 146 would be good as well!

    1. @ Challenger,

      I have to dash off, but I'll get back to this later. It also pumps up the comment count, which is nice! ;)

    2. Right,

      The problem I have is that while A400M is a massive leap over Hercules, for a bit extra more you can have a Globemaster which is itself a leap over the A400. Not sure about the 146. I'd rather have some of those Spartans the Yanks have consigned to the boneyard, plus a few new jobs. Or at least something of that ilk. Just a theatre run around and some other minor taskings.

  14. 8 is still quite a few, second only to US. Although this number could be increased to 10, although I couldn't see us going past 10. The C130J are pretty tired, they could be kept on but at what cost? FH I don't think are too bad, it's the fatigue, all the short hops, rapid descents and climbs in and out of desert airbases have taken their toll.

  15. I won't go on about Trident because I think you know my views on that but I do like the A400M - more C-17's and something smaller, perhaps linked with a new MPA as mentioned above would be good. More C-17's might increase our rapid reaction capability (which I believe we are lacking in) but at the same time I read somewhere that many developing world airports can't handle many C-17's; the rough field capability of the A400M is key here.

    1. Can't say as the A400M looks much better in that regard, perhaps a shorter landing run?

      I think sacrificing the greater capability of the C-17 for the A400 in order to access a few more airstrips would be a mistake.

  16. SomewhatInvolvedAugust 04, 2013 12:05 pm

    Hi Chris,

    Great site, only just found you courtesy of TD.

    Sadly that's as far as it goes. Having numbered your paragraphs, Para 1 is wrong, just plain wrong. Other government departments have not been protected, quite the opposite. Defence has taken significantly smaller cuts than any other department with the exception of DFID (and one other that escapes me). The problem was that the MOD had allowed itself to build up a credit card bill of £35BN. There is no justification in the world that says that the Government should just fork out for the previous Government's financial incompetency.

    What the cuts have finally ushered in is an end to the blank cheque mentality that says we should have all the toys 'because without them we cannot defend the country'. It's a tired old line that belongs in the dustbin. Until the MOD and the three Services learn to balance their books and formulate a long term strategy that is commensurate with the true economic output of the country, none of them deserve a penny more. I think the RN has done that now; I cannot speak for the other two Services.

    1. Health, Education and DfID all had their spending protected. Health and Education are both much larger budgets than defence, while DfID has seen its spending increased and guaranteed. With more room to make significant savings and still be able to deliver their core capabilities, health and defence could have saved the other departments a bit of cash.

      The MoD hasn't been a Saint in the past, but its borne more than its fair share of the cuts now. Defence of the nation and its interests is the primary responsibility of every government.

  17. "Until the MOD and the three Services learn to balance their books and formulate a long term strategy that is commensurate with the true economic output of the country, none of them deserve a penny more." - Well said. However it's also up to our politicoes to come up with a consistent long term strategy that the forces can then equip themselves for - or at least provide a price tag for. If the price is too high, the politicoes must trim their sails accordingly.

    " I have a tendency at times to be lazy and just substitute in inappropriate words to replace long phrases." - I'm the same with comments. Excellent article with good comments. I note you're a carrier light, however.

    The two biggest issues for me in the next SDSR are the nuclear deterrence and the army reserves. I think you've successfully addressed the Trident question (assuming we're sticking with CASD), but the issue of the structure and size of the army reserves is a real headache. I honestly don't know the solution to this. Are company tax breaks for employing reservists a nonstarter? How about the MoD meeting employers' pension contributions for reservists? Not often you find yourself lamenting the lack of an economist.

    1. Evening squire,

      To me the whole reserves system smells like a roll of the dice. They're hoping that the uplift will come good. When it doesn't (which unfortunately many signs point to) my guess is they'll just restructure the reserves to make the numbers fit.

  18. I forgot to mention that there has been some recent good news on F35:

    Saying that, I would have (and still would) go CATOBAR with our carriers. Always get shouted down over on TD, but he's wrong.

    1. Well, that's 1-1234344675676 in favour of the F-35 then....

  19. I am currently reading Mark Steyn's Polemic "America Alone" about the growth of militant and aggressive Islam whilst watching the BBC report on the Spanish Government decision to ratchet up tensions over Gibraltar, and Jacob Zuma's statement endorsing Mugabe's theft of the Zimbabwean Election...the Argentine are about to take over the UN Security Council...the POTUS is organising an increasingly undignified retreat from the Gulf and Afghanistan...and the Chinese are War-gaming an attack on Japan, as well as gradually building a neo-imperial position in Africa and Latin America...

    I am finding our self-denying ordinance about just demanding much more money increasingly difficult to sustain...

    Both paranoid and Gloomy...

    aka GNB

    1. Didn't the US once war game a war with Britain? Be prepared and all that.

      I think China's efforts in Africa are similar to what we've been doing in Africa and the Middle East over the years; investment, trade, etc. An interesting development to watch.

  20. Up to a point Lord Chris...the PLA are heavily involved in the Chinese Economy, and their approach includes organisations like the "development company" in their own Tsinkiang Province which is directly descended the Army Corps that "pacified" the area after 1949, and that set-up is explicitly introducing a large Han population into a Turkic and Islamic Province...many of their African enterprises import large Han workforces(who keep themselves to themselves), leaving nothing but low-level service jobs for the locals...they are not squeamish about bribing and supporting people who keep the enemies heads in the fridge...and Chinese factories mostly haver their own militia...there is no such thing as a "Guardianista" whinging in Beijing...

    I could go on, but my essential point is that the Chinese way of doing business is very different to ours...and will have very different outcomes...especially for the kind of Africa that emerges under Chinese as opposed to Western influence...

    aka GNB

    1. I would be cautious. China's spread is limited to a certain number of nations in Africa right now. There's many nations that no more trust China than they do someone like the US, and the real money states in Africa have mostly European ties.

      Give the Chinese their due, they've tried every trick in the book over the last ten years to avoid making some of the same mistakes that previous growing powers have. They've obviously spent a long time studying their history. Which means we can expect them to be far more cautious about getting involved too deeply in the problems of Africa. They want resources, but there are lots of places they can find those and I doubt they'll let themselves get drawn into too much trouble trying to protect one specific mine etc.

      China has shown all the signs of wanting an easy life, secure and comfortable in its position, and not wanting to "replace" the US on an International scale.