About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
May 9, 2012 8:25 am

Today, it looks like we are going back to F35-B. Who’s to say next week we may change our minds (again), and the week after change again?


paul g
May 9, 2012 10:50 am

who knew that CV stood for conventional variant, strewth i’m thicker than a whale omlette and i could do better than that, same paper that did an in depth report on the RAF apache!!

Looks like dave b then, 65,000 tonnes to do what a 30,000 could do anyway. arsecakes!

May 14, 2012 5:06 am

“Balanced budget”. Devil will be in the detail.


May 14, 2012 5:39 am

The MOD ain’t allowed to borrow money so it’s budget is always balanced. The problem is and Phil the spread sheet may not be getting this is that the MOD does not buy it’s kit from Tesco’s. No one has a final idea of what programs will cost. Even relatively simple of the shelf procurement can run over budget.

I have very little faith in the top brass or the MOD to deliver kit at reasonable time and prices. Especially when we factor in BAE. However I do appreciate this is a very difficult job and it can’t be done by simply firing in numbers to a spread sheet and declaring the balck hole gone.

(Interesting strategy for the Tory’s to declare the black hole gone. I thought they were going to use that one until the end of time. )

May 14, 2012 6:03 am

From that linked BBC article “It is not clear exactly how Mr Hammond has done his calculations, though it’s understood he has built in a reserve of some £8 billion over the next decade”
– cost of capital charges constituted a perverse incentive to scrap perfectly good kit – just to make the same money available for new purchases => those charges were scrapped when this was finally understood

I would bet on something similar being in the works here:
-project estimates, each one, include a risk buffer
– there is a “law of physics” that any slack you put in tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy
– taking such “fixed proportion to the total sum” buffers away and pooling them at the total budget level could easily come to 8 bn over ten years (MoD moving from after-the-fact style financial control to proactive management accounting?)

May 14, 2012 6:54 am


“there is a “law of physics” that any slack you put in tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy”

Precisely why I never told Abbey Wood how much of the training budget HQ LAND was willing to expend on WATCHKEEPER*. Drove the civil service numpties wild to not know that (and inevitably leak it or just give away the secret inadvertently), resulted in complaints all the way up to 2 star level, but in the end COS LAND held firm. And guess what? Thales started paying great attention to what the end user actually wanted, spending a lot of time on the Training LoD, and the budget being under-achieved.

* At least for my three years that coincided with the bid phase. Who knows what happened afterwards?

May 14, 2012 7:03 am

Hi James, RE
“At least for my three years that coincided with the bid phase. Who knows what happened afterwards?”
– catapult launch was tested
– I am surprised that it has not been adopted, as an operating option (landing could be hundreds of miles away, where ever we happen to have an airstrip)

May 14, 2012 10:06 am


I recall in the WATCHKEEPER bid phase at least one of the teams bidding was offering as the smaller air vehicle a UAV manufactured by RUAG of Switzerland which came off a launching rail – but I cannot recall which team it was! I think Northrop Grumman, but I may be mis-remembering. My vote (out of about 20 people) went to N-G for their Firescout UAV, but in the end the majority decision was Thales.

I think there were a couple of USN battleships involved in GW1 that had rail-launched UAVs for spotting the fire from the big guns. As I recall, it was the last time proper battleships took part in a war, and the first time UAVs played a role (Israelis aside). The battleships were I think leftovers from WW2. The USMC ANGLICO team we had in my Squadron were a bit miffed at us being too far inland to use NGS, so they had to control the F-18s instead.

Peter Elliott
May 14, 2012 10:52 am


This You-tube of USS Missouri firing its 16″ guns in GW1 inlcudes some shots of UAVs launching and recovering.



May 15, 2012 7:58 pm

The Andrew finally grows a pair!


To be fair, there are probably 100% of those deployed on this operation who would have done this years ago, without the political constraints. But even so, nice to see the Andrew justifying its’ existence…. ;)

May 20, 2012 9:37 am

HMS Talent currently in South Africa, will then deploy to Falklands waters according to the media.

Talent has TLAM, I think? I’m not expert on Trafalgar-class subs.

Glad to see the Government keeping the FI on regular patrol schedules.

May 21, 2012 9:52 pm

Sorry if this has been covered else were but I think I’m right in saying we have a return of the Jedi


May 22, 2012 9:36 am

Trident contracts to be placed. Presumably for long lead stuff or research work, as the official decision is not taken until 2015.


May 22, 2012 9:55 am

On book balancing at the MOD.

I heard at a meeting last week (Chatham House rules so no names) that the list of current defence projects that haven’t been allocated a firm line item in the procurement budget amount to about 7.5% of the total worth of the existing wish list.

Some of these are projects for which costs are not yet firmly known, some are projects that are still being prioritised to see if inclusion in the official budget fits requirements/restraints.

7.5% sounds quite reasonable to me being, as we are, at the beginning of a 10 year timeframe.

The person giving the information was a very knowledgeable source with no reason to massage the figures.

Also 40% of the procurement budget so far allocated is for RN purchases.

May 22, 2012 10:15 am

Hi WillS,

“7.5% sounds quite reasonable to me being, as we are, at the beginning of a 10 year timeframe”
– yes
– and with mathematical roundation it is the same as the announced 8% contingency

May 22, 2012 11:20 am

Hi Mark, the linked article implies (but does not say) that the flight (-) on FI has been seconded out of the two sqdrns out of Leuchars?

Someone posted that the current Tiffie number stands at abt 80, so well on our way to 5 with 107 (as the older ones start to get dropped, while new keep “trickling”in)

May 22, 2012 11:34 am

Hi James,

The headline number is meaningless, through a trickle feed about 2 bn will be committed to the new build before this Parliament is over.

“Mr Hammond told MPs the contracts announced were a step towards ensuring the UK had a nuclear deterrent “into the 2060s”.

‘Cutting edge equipment’
He added: “We have a world-class submarine-building industry in this country and this programme will help to sustain or create more than 1,900 jobs across the UK.

“By making the core equipment programme fully funded and affordable, we are able to confirm additional equipment projects which help safeguard our national security.”

He has also included the final cost of the replacement submarines – expected to be at least £20bn – in his latest budget plans.”
-if the figure really covers both the boats and the designs (incl. CLC with variations)
– then, we are OK to 2040 – not 2060 – as in-between one can expect missile and warhead investments
– in the earlier announcements, cutting-edge was not the argument (I am sure it is one of them), but being able, in the first place, to have the first boat in water when the oldest “V” needs to go
– no one can drive this argument to any level of detail, as the RN is keeping the cards about SLEPping the “Vs” very close to the chest (I don’t blame them, but I just wonder what sort of talks, based on what information, are going on within the Coalition)

Peter Elliott
May 23, 2012 12:37 pm

Hawk order from the Saudis – some jobs saved at Brough.


May 29, 2012 8:26 am

good article from roger, he is becoming progressively less insistent in supranationalism as the means, and more focused on using europe effectively towards our ends.


May 29, 2012 8:27 am

PRSIM article on the onset of Her Majesty’s Fighting Gendarmerie:


While all these pressures do exist, and will exert pressure on european nations to evolve in the direction stated, the OP was specifically written in reference to Britain and i do have some doubts about the end to expedionary war:

“The end of expeditionary operations. The British public and many members of Parliament are not likely to mandate future expeditions on anything approaching their previous scale to support U.S. military missions. After more than a century of overseas campaigning, ending the primacy of expeditionary forces will have a radical effect on the role and organization of the armed forces.”

Specifically, i have my doubts as to the [degree] to which this is true.

Yes, it is the end of protracted and nasty counterinsurgency campaigns that sees interminable blood and violence as the sole return on billions of taxpayers money.

That is not the same as an end to an expeditionary stance………………. unless the next SDSR ditches the commitment to spending the 2.0% of GDP mandated by NATO.

As an island nation, that does not have to plan for tanks rolling across ones border on a Friday afternoon, 2.0% of GDP can preserve a sovereign and strategic expeditionary capability.

The real question is about what kind of expeditionary capability you invest in, and the answer is obviously not the endless body-bags of COIN war that inevitably overburdens the host Defence budget as the campaign grinds on for a decade or more.

No, ambition and budget permitting, the answer is drawn from the DCDC’s own planning documents stating a desire for pre-emptive action designed to lower the total investment necessary to see the problem solved. That requires a greater emphasis on light-weight forces fully supported by the panoply and transport and theatre-entry assets necessary to justify the term “rapid reaction”.

Unsurprisingly, the SDSR saw the preservation of 3Cdo and 16AAB along with the amphibious ships, RFA support vessels, and RAF lift necessary to achieve this.

The future is bright, the future’s Raiding!

May 29, 2012 9:34 am

Roger never quite gets it for me. He always starts so well and then looses it

We are in Europe because of our geography; we are too big to be ignored. We should have aimed to be a “Super Norway” trading with but not part of the grand French experiment. If France could sit outside Europe’s military structure for most of the Cold War “we” could have sat outside their political experiment. If war had come to Europe France would have been dragged in and economic or political shifts in their grand experiment would have affected us too. But that degree of separation from their experiment would have satisfied our national character, just as sitting outside NATO satisfied the French’s nationalistic needs.

What “we” through away in the early 70s was the White Commonwealth. As a part of block that included Canada, Australia, and New Zealand we would have global span and through our navies with their common history global reach across the Atlantic, Pacific, and India Ocean. That is lost now. We still pull in the same direction more less but the association is much looser. “We” could have lead a block with a shared history and culture with a population greater than Germany’s and the world’s largest resources. “We” could have shared and developed technology; we used to before we through it away and we ended up with shares in expensive poor value Euro projects or sickly domestic projects. “We” could have used our collective influence. Together “we” would have been stronger. Hindsight is fantastic; not for nothing does the term “Little Englander” really piss me off.

Being a part of strong White Commonwealth block we would have been a more balance to the US. And taking more of the load would have probably paid benefits on Capitol Hill as the US wouldn’t have been carrying the lion’s share. It would still have been an unequal partnership, but not as unequal by a fair margin.

What we need now is another “Thatcher” somebody who can see some of that potential power as the UK sits as nexus betwixt the US, Europe, and the White Commonwealth. Doubt it will happen.

Turkey in the EU. Made me laugh.

May 29, 2012 9:37 am

Not so impressed by PRISM thing. Very late 60s/early 70s “oh, we’ll NEVER need to deploy outside Europe again. And the peasants are revolting!” S/students/Muslims, /communists/Islamists.

I think his take on the riots is both alarmist (really, it didn’t come close to “bringing London to a standstill”) and poorly informed (rioters weren’t all or even close to being majority Muslim). But I guess it’s better for ex-colonels to advocate a bigger nastier police force than a private Tory militia like the original 1970s Walter Walker model.

Also, if we’re not going anywhere, why does the Gendarmerie have to be deployable?

May 29, 2012 10:01 am

@ Alex

Yes it is poor. It would probably get a first if handed in as an essay on a Security Studies course……….

I don’t think the likes of Afghanistan can be seen as expeditionary warfare after a decade. The first phase yes. Going into unseat the Taliban by bringing forces to concentrate rapidly on the target yes. But what came later no. Same in Iraq. The public don’t mind quick wars with easily defined objectives. It is the attritional periods afterwards they come to despise. Unseat a dictator or regime yes. Stay to mould or build the nation afterwards no.

And I note there is some “unknown unknowns” with the “unimaginable changes”. Always good to fill a paragraph or three.

May 29, 2012 10:10 am

Mark’s link, posted on the 26th
– tells us that the army reorg will be informed about July (moving from the Feb-April target)
– also Ch2 LEP from 2018; Scout roll-out from 2020; and Bulldogs will have to last to 2022 (and beyond)… well, over 500 got an upgrade
– no date for Warrior upgrade, and if the new gun only gets rolled out to other platforms from 2020, that will make the economics for ammo production and development ‘interesting’

“The 500 million pound ($784 million) demonstration phase being undertaken by General Dynamics UK to provide a family of tracked Scout and other specialist vehicles could be extended and the fielding of the vehicle pushed back, one MoD source said.

A second source said the Army was “looking at its options and while the issue had not been finally settled, it was likely the vehicles would not enter service until 2020.”

International observers will likely track the possible delay since the Scout Specialist Vehicle (SV) was already generating interest in the export market. A recent Ernst & Young study estimated the potential export value of the program at more than 1.3 billion pounds over a 16-year period.

The MoD has never publicly acknowledged the expected in-service date for the Scout vehicle, although Army officers at last year’s DSEi exhibition in London said it was 2015.

The number of vehicles eventually purchased could also be cut. That’s a reflection of continuing budget pressures and the fact the Army is facing a heavy downsizing as part of a restructuring plan.

Details of the restructuring, known as Army 2020, and a tri-service reorganization and expansion of the reserves are expected to be rolled out before the government goes into summer recess in July.”

May 29, 2012 10:22 am

That ” army reorg will be informed about July (moving from the Feb-April target)” makes it a full two years from SDSR speculation reaching the fever pitch as for the likely outcomes
– interesting if from pointing direction it takes two years to get a plan
– and we will have this every five years

May 29, 2012 10:53 am

@ X – “Roger never quite gets it for me. He always starts so well and then looses it”

It is the natural consequence of his affliction; an [interest] in FP combined with a [belief] in ever-closer-union resulting in the [need] to conflate the two. :D

May 29, 2012 11:20 am


very depressing when the original timescales for FRES UV were ISD 2008, and SV ISD 2011. That was back in 2002.

Funnily enough, what many wanted in 2002 were a reliable armoured box for the UV, probably a 40mm gun and some decent networked comms / SA, and a smaller armoured box with a mast and sensors, plus the networked SA for the SV.

Could have been fielded in easily enough time, if the C-130 deployable requirement had been dropped.

Given the original “budget”*** of £14B for around 3,000 vehicles, I’m presuming UV has pretty much dropped out of the ten year plan, and UV will become some warmed over Warriors.

432 will be well over 50 in 2022, CVR(T) about 50. 432 does not become any younger if you give it a new name of Bulldog.

*** That’s “budget” as in what it was predicted to have cost, the figure pencilled in, but not in any way actually funded.

May 29, 2012 12:51 pm

*Fourteen billion quid*, and some people complain about the shipbuilding budget…I really don’t see why there’s not vastly more outrage about FRES*. Perhaps it’s just that some armoured-vehicles-that-aren’t-quite-tanks don’t have the iconic quality of a really big ship or a fleet of supersonic jets.

*or for that matter, BOWMAN or DII. There was a bit of outrage in the end about Annington, but only years after it mattered.

May 29, 2012 6:43 pm

@ Alex

“Fourteen billion quid*, and some people complain about the shipbuilding budget…I really don’t see why there’s not vastly more outrage about FRES”

— Because most people agree we need new vehicles. The same cannot be said about Carriers. Arguing over numbers of vehicles is still viable though.

I don’t see why we can’t just roll with the CV 90 (meets requirements, already has a 40mm, just stick Bowmans on it), put the new 40mm CTA turret on the Warrior to de risk it for a MLU to the CV 90, then start from scratch a small vehicle to fill the scout role.

May 29, 2012 6:48 pm

If you say 60 per battalion x 20 x £3million a copy and then add in vehicles for the RA to I don’t know RE and everybody else £14billion sounds quiet reasonable.

May 29, 2012 7:11 pm

Yes 14b for vehicles and the opposition buys a Toyota pick up with a gun on the back!

X do we need 20 battalions worth of tanks if we’re only ever going to deploy 4 battalions worth? Just that French vbci and have done with all this fres nonsense.

May 29, 2012 7:11 pm

I’ve got no idea how it came to be £14Bn either, and here is me, then the HQ LAND bloke being the lead proponent for FRES (apparently, but Freddie Viggers’ mind was rightly more on the here and now of AFG in 2002, so he agreed to let Upavon have the lead on this). As far as I was concerned, some modern reliable armoured boxes would have done, some with 40mm guns, some with gucci ISTAR kit, but there were those who really wanted it to fly about the world in a C-130, and in the manner of Doctrine HQs, they were tremendously self-important and all at least Lt Cols and all combining to vote for the expensive stuff. Most of them are now prostituting themselves around the defence industry.

You also have to factor in the most spastic (civvy) IPT leader ever in human history, with some completely mad ideas about Systems of Systems houses and Integrators. It was very little surprise to me that the megalomaniac was later quietly removed from position (only £500 million wasted) after he had a very odd fistfight on the hard shoulder of the M4 with a white van man that he believed had cut him up. Lord knows what he is doing now, but hopefully it does not involve an MoD chequebook.

May 29, 2012 7:24 pm

@ Mark

I am just trying to make sense of £14billion. And that is the only way I can do it.

Um. I am “used” to kit that costs in the region of £3million so that figure seems reasonable. Most of these 8×8 come in at about £2million. So….

My view is concentrate all the Warrior in one brigade (3 x batts) and then buy/reuse Mastiff for the brigade off on the American’s next adventure. And everybody else get on with whatever is to hand.

May 29, 2012 7:48 pm

Did we even need 40mm guns? If we want to look at missed opportunities, then look no further than the Warrior 2000 paired with the Stormer. A procurement of those, back in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s would have covered almost, if not everything, that was needed. By replacing the RARDEN-armed vehicles in the armoured battalions with the new vehicles, some seven hundred modern and reliable hulls would be available to replace the FV430 series. Whip the turrets off, plate over the hole with mission-specific kit and you’ve got mortar carriers, APCs, Ambulances or whatever else you need.

Given the continuing work on the Supershot for the Mk44 gun with which both were equipped, there would now or in the near future be a 40mm (or near enough) upgrade as well.

May 29, 2012 7:56 pm


there’s no making sense of the £14billion, and that’s me speaking as Mr FRES U Like, and as you know the chief cheerleader for the spending on carriers and F35s. It is monumental bollocks.

Just think of what we could have got for the nearly £25 Billion that was FRES + CVF + F35 combined. Or more likely, how much Gordon’s deficit could be reduced.

Stryker comes in about £2M, Jackal about £500 K (not sure why, but that’s published), LSV about £80 K. Add £100 K to both Jackal and LSV for the ISTAR kit and it is still as cheap as chips. That’s pretty much all we need.

May 29, 2012 8:16 pm

I know this will sound a bit derogatory but if Bugatti can build a Veyron for less than £2m then I’m sorry but any number of wheels and armour can’t cost £3m each! Have people never heard of a production/assembly line? 3000-4000 of the things is “buy the factory” money!!!

Gareth Jones
May 29, 2012 8:20 pm

@ Jedi – Interesting links, particulary the first one.

May 29, 2012 8:31 pm

James as a total layman thats seem a sensible suggested list of vehicles to me. The marines did buy viking off the shelf for not a lot of money and they came in handy. Theres so many vehicles out there and a number built in uk I cant quite understand why this seems like pulling teeth.

May 29, 2012 8:44 pm

It is the MoD so I am surprised you are all surprised that we would pay £3million for what everybody else will be paying £2million or less. Remember this is the organisation that couldn’t even buy a decent tactical rifle.

@ James re Jackal and LSV

You will be advocating quads next! Let me get this right then. This week I have found out you think FRR vehicles don’t need the autocannon on their vehicles. And you are not wedded to enclosed vehicles (I remember you said buttoned down in CVRT you might as well not bother) or tracks. This is interesting anything else you can add?

Brian Black
May 29, 2012 8:45 pm

The Scout SV may be desirable now, but it will look most passe by 2020. We’ll have to find a few billion quid more to begin a new scout vehicle development.

Meanwhile GD ASCOD will surely be selling all the SV variants we paid them to develop. Not made in Britain of course.

May 29, 2012 9:11 pm


I assure you that it can. The Veyron is a stunning piece of engineering but it is simply a highly optimised car. It goes places on smooth roads. It does not have the ability to pick out a man at several kilometres in the pitch black. It isn’t armoured against mines, missiles and machine guns. It doesn’t weigh thirty tonnes. It can’t put a shell through a window at over a mile. It cannot survive, much less operate, in the severity of environments than an AFV has to operate in.

It does build on a vast amount of experience in building cars – something that simply does not exist in the armoured vehicle world. How many models of car have Volvo made since the CV90 came out?

May 29, 2012 9:18 pm

Mr Fred,

“it goes places on smooth roads”

No, if flys 1mm above the ground at 250mph :-)

Sorry, I said it would seem derogatory but I must be missing something. A shell through a window at over a mile? Pick out a man at several km in pitch black? 30 tonnes of steel plating for armour. Come on, that kind of stuff has been around for years – it simply can not cost £3m.

May 29, 2012 9:24 pm


there seems to be some form of delusion that a cavalryman is wedded to an armoured box on tracks and does not like getting his boots dirty. I am against that tendency – I like recce people to live in the mud, walk about, and move from A to B unobtrusively but rapidly. I will admit there’s probably a majority of recce people that like some more protection and don’t mind trading noise and height.

In the end, it is all about getting into the right place to observe something, form a judgement and get that info back to the relevant commander in the most appropriate format (and also mostly to lie up for a while observing to get a pattern of activity). By and large, stealth is better than armour. There is however a fetish about wagons. Frankly, a quietened trials bike or even a mountain bike and man pack radio with some decent binos would be good enough in many scenarios.

Mike W
May 29, 2012 9:32 pm


“If we want to look at missed opportunities, then look no further than the Warrior 2000 paired with the Stormer. A procurement of those, back in the late 1990′s/early 2000′s would have covered almost, if not everything, that was needed.”

Couldn’t agree more. I presume you are referring to the Stormer 30 (for reconnaissance). Saw that vehicle down at Aldershot in the late 1990s – a mean, snarling sort of machine and one which looked right in every respect. You know what they say: “If it looks right, then . . .” What a phenomenal amount of wsted money would have been saved if those two vehicles had been selected. Furthermore Alvis amnd GKN might still have been in business.

May 29, 2012 9:38 pm


to add some flesh onto that, I cannot at all think of a situation in my career where a decent lightweight trials bike (with some noise muffling) would not have been perhaps a better wagon than CVR(T). The optics on CVR(T) were crap, Drives and the Gunner were basically only enablers for getting my eyes to where I wanted them to be. Yes, over some weeks having extra bods about is useful in running a routine in an OP, but the CO didn’t want to have my Driver explaining some sighting report while I kipped 50 yards behind the OP, he wanted me to do the talking.

I do believe you can buy trials bikes for less than £10K, which seems cheaper than FRES SV. If I were really pushed, I think you’d get a better recce troop than 4 CVR(T) if you had 6 on trials bikes, 6 on quads, a couple of which had some form of lightweight genny on the back rack, and the other 4 carrying some troop kit and a few Javelin. Add in a “mothership” Land Rover and trailer with some extra jerrycans of fuel. You’d probably get a Troop’s worth of kit for less than £200K.

May 29, 2012 10:08 pm

@ James

There is an American book called “Air, Mech, Strike” that says basically what you said. Some regard it as a bit “Looney Tunes” but as somebody who speaks crap about defence daily who I am to judge? In a way what you are advocating is a return to horses. Um. I don’t know. Would the public buy it, however sound the reasoning behind the idea? Even though the public have no understanding of military matters. Look at the controversy over body armour, imagine replacing a tank with a half dozen of Honda or Kawasaki’s finest. It is a better answer than LSV which was wrong in so many ways; wheels too small, ground clearance good but come on could be better, under-powered etc. etc. Who ever signed it off into service had never attended an AWDC Comp Safari and had a shufty at the more imaginatively engineered vehicles.

May 29, 2012 10:45 pm


I’m not familiar with the book, and in a wider sense there are several ways to skin a cat. My cousin commanded the recce platoon of 1/2 Ghurkhas and they used to do a couple of kilometres a day in the jungle (Observer would probably relate to that). My recce background is in Germany mostly, plus GW1, so 50-100 clicks a day was about normal.

As far as protection is concerned, well, it is a risk business. I’d far rather have unimpeded all round visibility and the mobility to choose any path I want than being buttoned up in armour but stuck to a defined road. If you drive over a bomb in a balls out wagon, well life’s a bitch.

I say LSV in a generic sense: anything from the original LSV to Jackal would work well enough. If one’s got a problem with weight or wheel travel or engine power, sort it out or choose something different.

Nothing to stop you bolting on a lightweight Kawasaki trials bike onto the back of a Jackal to have the best of both worlds. The French used to do something similar with recce tanks and monkey bikes, a really odd combo.

Also nothing at all to stop a laterally thinking troop leader from packing a set of jeans and a grotty old hiking jacket in the CVR(T), and going for a hike on the Sunday before an exercise against the Bundeswehr in the Harz Mountains. Amazing what you can pre-observe while appearing to be nothing more than another hiker.

May 30, 2012 12:43 am

…re LSV in the generic sense.

Big snarly engine with shedloads of torque, mounted low and central.

As quiet as it can be, but not making the engine wimpy.

Low flat chassis. Off-board wheels with lots of travel. Those funny tyres with raised road profile centres and knobbly off-centre bits for speed on roads and grip off-road.

Bit of a barge board at the front to take small streams at a run.

Tubular rollover gear.

XPM bins.

A 40mm AGL, and several Javelin.

Secondary 28V circuit for ISTAR gear and the comms.

Local wi-fi “N” tied into the comms so you can take a PDA into a lie up position 100m from the wagon. Encrypted of course.

GPS mileometer and direction readout for Drives.


Small mmW radar for detecting vehicles, and for data-bursts between troop vehicles.

TI / II combined sight, roll bar mounted but also extensible by muscle power onto a 6m mast with a remote display. Including FAC-conmpatible LTD.

Leica’s gucciest birdwatching telescope but with stadiametric range markings.

I reckon you could get the wagon for less than £75K, and the gear for another £50K. Maybe the mmW radar might nudge the price up a bit.

May 30, 2012 4:51 am

Might want to invest in a bit of environmental protection there James. You’d really hate thunderstorms dripping water into all the semi-expensive stuff.

Wifi sounds nice, but something I’d avoid. Someone with RDF equipment might sniff you out and send you a welcome present that goes boom. What we had was a super old version of the PDA (it was 15 years back) hard connected by cable to the radio set and set to convert image/text and compress to radio. Transmission time per screech was about 3 sec, no RF leakage. The “next gen” one we’re playing with now does video as well, small clips, but longer transmission time.
And the motion detection activation feature on the camera’s an idiot. Lots of clips of grass waving…

Guess the pointy end determines the equipment you end up using. Your experience was desert, which means LSVs work great, but what happens when your next dust up happens in a jungle? OTOH, if I do end up in a desert on a bike, I’d probably wish for an LSV too, deserts being terrible to handle with bike traction (fine sand = sliding) . So I guess we can have “common equipment” up to the “mothership” stage, Land rover or ATTC, as long as you get food and fuel to the troops, but bikes/LSVs at the front, terrain depending.

BTW, Log-P for the mothership too, scouts broadcast to the “node”, node boosts signal to HQ. Saves from having the poor scouts carry a booster/long distance antenna for every radio.

May 30, 2012 6:46 am


I think that you are missing something. Possibly it was me missing out something too. That shell through the window is fired on the move and the first shot. The tolerance and control that you need for that is not only bespoke but quite challenging.

Thermal imagers have been around for a while but their market is limited and even the worst costs a couple of thousand. The good ones, especially when coupled to stabilised sighting systems, will cost hundreds of thousands.

These days, it isn’t 30 tonnes of steel (and even then it would be 30 tonnes of good quality – and hence costly – steel) but 30 tonnes of sensors, engines, running gear, servo motors, weapons, ammunition and then modern armour systems which incorporate all manner of high-tech materials.

The low drumbeat is also important – maybe 50% of the cost will be due to having to re-learn or catch up. with new technologies – something that the car industry does incrementally over a number of models.

Even if the Veyron does fly 1mm in the air, I doubt it would fly so well down a heavily pot-holed track, or through snow at -20 degrees C. Or through a desert at 50 degrees C.

Finally, by the same logic as you employ, the Veyron is a car. It simply cannot cost £2m.
Or perhaps this: http://www.fly-q.co.uk/buy/used/ . A Robinson R22 costs £300k. How can the AW139 possibly cost $14m?

Mike W,

I was thinking about the whole Stormer family to fill the CVR(T) role, but yes, the Stormer 30 would be key in that. Not that the British army would have gone for it, but the Delco turret used on both vehicles was also able to mount TOW launchers. Even with just two in the tubes that would be a useful capacity without having to wait half an hour for air support to turn up.

May 30, 2012 6:58 am

Hi James,

Re “The French used to do something similar with recce tanks and monkey bikes, a really odd combo” I can quote from another European army:
– monkey bikes and 6×6 ATVs for armoured formations recce
– CV90s for recce in units where there is armour only for protected mobility and fire support

So, the formula in each case seems to be compensating for what the main unit does not have
– cutting across those axes of movement with road access
– ability to “fight away” from an unexpected contact

May 30, 2012 7:32 am

@ Mr. Fred – “I was thinking about the whole Stormer family to fill the CVR(T) role, but yes, the Stormer 30 would be key in that. Not that the British army would have gone for it”

Ah well, HMG will get a second shot at a CVR(t) 2.0:


An [opportunity] i am keen to see realised if only because it should spark reasoned debate over whether such a vehicle is needed by the Army.

I think it would be awesome as a single FRR capable of providing squadron level armour support to 3Cdo and 16AAB, but i’m just a civvie so what do i know? :)

May 30, 2012 8:27 am

@ James re LSV

Yes I did what I ask others not to do and talked about the specific not the generic.

The only mitigation I can offer the court was it was late.

May 30, 2012 8:47 am

@ James

This is what you need. None of that buggy rubbish.


Think of it as re-imagined Land Rover done properly for off-roading.

If you know your Land Rover history you know it was conceived as tractor-cum-load-lugger for farmers. Unlike Jeep which was design as a personnel carrier. Ibex is a Jeep-Land-Rover if you like. Amazing attack and departure angles. Big choice of engines. Super, super thing. There are times I wish I had bought one when I could have afforded one.

May 30, 2012 9:31 am

X / Observer,

I’m not too fussed about the specifics of the vehicle or who makes it, so long as it is fast and gives completely unimpeded vision, and has a tubular frame so that stuff can be bolted on and off quickly. As for the environmental protection, if the gear needs it have a section of the wagon protected from the elements.

Wifi is also a generic concept (other parts of the frequency spectrum are available). Short distance wireless connectivity is useful, but only in a dynamic situation. If you are lying up anywhere for more than an hour or so, you’d want a wired connection to avoid Observer’s point about being DF’d. There’s also are a range of data-capable radios now which hop and can self-mesh on a 10 MBit/s basis. That’s nearly full motion video on a troop net, which is more than enough.

All of this is much cheaper than FRES SV, and makes for a better recce wagon than some armoured box.

May 30, 2012 11:33 am


Cheers for the 2nd hand copters link ;-)

From what you say it sounds like these £3m vehicles may be worth it, but do we really need 3000-4000 of them? It’s like the whole of the Royal Marines being landed on Merlin HM1/2 rather than the cheaper HC3/4 variety or Sea King.

I’d have thought we needed a lot of cheaper APCs and only a few (hundreds, not thousands) of the high-spec MBT, AS90, and FRES type scout vehicles. It seems as though all and sundry are getting a high-spec mini-tank.

Please note, I want our chaps protected, but I also want our vehicle fleet to be flexible and cost effective. 3000 of the Piranha V (that was originally touted) would be 24,000 armored troops, which according to some is more than everyone that we’ve ever deployed in the last 10 years.

May 30, 2012 12:26 pm


completely with you on your general sentiment.

However, point of detail. Many of the FRES UV will be going to non-infantry units and certainly non-infantry roles e.g. Sappers, ambulances, and therefore typically only crewed by a couple or 3 people. your maths breaks down on that.

As far as I can recall, the rationale for the numbers was to be able to put a Division into the field, plus enough other wagons to have a training fleet at BATUS, various places in the UK, plus one further Brigade as part of a follow-on sustainment force. Putting a Division into the field is based on GW1 / GW2 scenarios. Some may argue that we won’t be doing that again, but on the other hand, it is what we have done rather more frequently than we have sent aircraft carriers down south in the last 70 years, against an enemy which appears rather less capable than it was in 82. So on balance I’m personally content with that (not that anyone is asking me, or taking note of what I think anyway).

I am fully supportive of the FRES concept (global deployability), but slightly dismissive of the “by air” detailed thinking, and wholly horrified by the botched execution by the IPT to date.

Let’s buy 1000 bog standard Stryker (£3Bn), which is more than enough for the infantry and accompanying CS in the F Echelon, 200 Light Strike wagons (£20M), and be done with it. Less forward troops can cope with existing vehicles, and Challenger / Warrior are all bought and paid for. That brings FRES to something around £3.5 Bn, a big saving over the original £14 Bn, and actually gives us a pretty punchy force. Now let’s turn our attention to the “globally deployable” bit, which means dedicated shipping, and enough of it on hand to be able to react quickly.

I seem to be more keen on spending money on the Andrew than the Army, which is odd for a Cavalryman. But I don’t want any spastic carriers or stunted little jump jets.

May 30, 2012 12:42 pm


Thanks, I thought I was the only one… an entire division in armour!

Perhaps we should be making sure that Argus, Victoria and Diligence are replaced by three more Bay class.

These along with the Point Class would deliver in the region of 38,000 tonnes of vehicle or 30,000 square meters of vehicle.

This is nearly 1000 FRES every month delivered!

May 30, 2012 12:43 pm


As for your “spastic carriers” you managed to go to bed early last time I asked but… what would you do for air-cover for 2-3 battalions of RM/Paras/Army?

May 30, 2012 12:55 pm


fast jets flown by Kevins from land bases, which works 98% of the time, and the other 2% is an acknowledgement that we are in the risk business.

Also, AH-64D from existing decks, which covers the 98% of the 2%.

So, £11Bn for the CVF + F35 deal, or existing kit for 99.96% of the time? There is not any credible threat anywhere in the world that overmatches Typhoon / Tornado / ISTAR planes and AH-64D, so we can (to quote the PM) “chillax” a little/.

I think in this post and the “cut FRES down to reality” post above I have saved about £20Bn. Unfortunately, there are some who will immediately reply that “we are where we are” and “these are sunk costs” (which is what should happen to both the QEC – a SINKEX about 2 miles off Rosyth once they get underway. They’d be cheaper uncrewed and sitting on the bottom of the Firth of Forth than they would be in service, and just as useful).

May 30, 2012 1:07 pm

James, Others, TD,

Can I therefore ask if anyone even has the faintest inkling as to the number of operationally successful sorties (including my loathed Black Buck raids) that the RAF and FAA have undertaken since 1980?

This might sound a little mad but although the RAF do most of the combat sorties over land I’m not sure if they rack up most of the sorties.

Perhaps we can simply count “bombs dropped”?

e.g. Falklands (from memory) was about 1400 Sea Harrier sorties. Probably about 1000 bombs?

How many sorties did the RAF do in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc?

How many sorties did the FAA do in Palliser and Bosnia?

May 30, 2012 1:12 pm

@ James

‘(which is what should happen to both the QEC – a SINKEX about 2 miles off Rosyth once they get underway. They’d be cheaper uncrewed and sitting on the bottom of the Firth of Forth than they would be in service, and just as useful).’

Well the last time we tried something like that http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/29/newsid_2819000/2819369.stm no-one covered themselves in glory, maybe it’s time for a skill refresher ?:)

May 30, 2012 1:13 pm


You are clearly my long lost brother.

I don’t want to sink the Elephants.

At a rough guess at a TARE of 4 tons there are 10,000 TEU Containers, in each ship.

(I suspect that is TD’s motive for opposing elephants)

May 30, 2012 1:13 pm

@ Simon

For the love of god don’t go there…

May 30, 2012 1:20 pm


Why not? I just want to see if James’ claims about 98% (okay I don’t believe that anyway) is vaguely justified.

Let’s put it this way. If we only need naval air power for 2% of the time then 1 x Cavour would have done. If however, we need it 2% of the time but when we need it, we need it big time, then 2 x QE.

1. 2% of the time?
2. 2% of the sorties/bombs?

May 30, 2012 1:33 pm


The legendary ‘Blaster Bates’ Demolition expert and comedian’s (I kid you not)! Sketch, on how he wound up Senior officers on BBC national telly about that, including announcing that next time war broke out he was going to hide in the centre of target area, should be available on the net somewhere.

If your under 50 For a taste; Just Google Blaster Bates and Nicker Brook or the shower of shit over Cheshire……

May 30, 2012 1:36 pm


I don’t have enough time to justify your question (am hanging onto a global telcon, it’s my turn in around 10 minutes, after that on with the proper productive work). I could come back in more detail tonight if you are still interested in the thinking.

In brief, there have been 3484 weeks since 1945, of which aircraft carriers have proven “vital” (which I don’t really believe, but most do) for 6 of them. That is 0.17% of the time. There have been other occasions on which aircraft carriers have proved not to be only an expensive encumbrance. Even being generous and saying that it was for ten times the amount of weeks they were arguably useful, you are still only up to 1.7%. Add in some windage and you are about 2%.

May 30, 2012 1:40 pm


If someone has those figures on hand, he must be with the MoD. And if he was, do you think he’s going to be putting classified info on a public discussion board?

May 30, 2012 1:47 pm

@ Simon

‘Why not?’

Because when sorties rates start getting mentioned, threads end up dissappearing down the rabbit hole ending up in ‘1.0987 sorties per day per a/c’ and so on with no other thought to anything as though that were the only way to look at things. Similar to trying to work out who was the best xyz unit by looking at who’d fired the most rounds and only that.

May 30, 2012 1:50 pm


Why would it be classified?

The sortie stats for the Falklands and the recent Libya campaign are in the public domain.

I suppose we don’t really know how many bombs and missiles were used though. Hmmm, maybe I’ll do one of those “freedom of information” requests.

May 30, 2012 1:52 pm


Ahhh, yes. I was trying to avoid the sortie rate thing. That’s why I thought total live bombs and missiles would be a better indication since that is a measure of the “effect”.

I would then have assumed that the RAF were as good/bad as the FAA in terms of accuracy and success.

May 30, 2012 1:58 pm

@ Simon

You might well be able to find some information out, but I don’t think enough to make a proper conclusion. Even then you would have to ask what effect did the bombs have? What sortie is worth more on which target? All very tricky to do online.

May 30, 2012 2:11 pm


I suppose it all breaks down when you consider a GR7 with 7 x 500 pounders vs a Tornado with a couple of 1000lb Paveways IV.

In fact it probably breaks down due to JFH.

My gut feeling is that is you take Harrier out of the equation the number of targets destroyed since 1980 will drop massively.

What about air-hours-per-year in Typhoon, Tornado and Harrier? Surely you’ve got those figures to hand? Didn’t Typhoon recently pass 100,000 hours?

May 30, 2012 2:16 pm

@ Simon

‘I suppose it all breaks down when you consider a GR7 with 7 x 500 pounders vs a Tornado with a couple of 1000lb Paveways IV.’

Not sure what you mean by that?

Well Tornado has passed 1 million flying hours if that’s any use.

I can’t remember the usage rates, but I think they’re googleable.

May 30, 2012 2:29 pm


I mean that if I count bombs alone the 7 on Harrier may have been dropped on a single target vs the 2 from the Tornado. i.e. counting bombs is not a good measure alone, I need the sortie count too.

May 30, 2012 3:04 pm

Simon / Topman,

i think you both need to be counting in terms of targets hit (effectively), and possibly then also considering supporting sorties (e.g. AWACS / AAR / SEAD) that enabled a target to be hit. It does not really matter what size the bomb was, only did it do the job required? But doing all of that cannot be in the public domain as that gets pretty sensitive info.

My instinct is that over the years the Kevins have done quite a bit more bomb dropping than the Andrew. Don’t forget all of those years patrolling No Fly Zones in Iraq.

The Navy is good with helicopters though, and should concentrate on those. Jets that are actually useful is a bit of a stretch for the Andrew. They weren’t very useful in Bosnia, for example. Nor in either Gulf War, and quite rightly had the jets taken away in 2010 while we could still flog them off.

May 30, 2012 3:32 pm

@ james yep that’s my point counting up with only online info is pretty hard and that’s why i try not get sucked into some war stat chat about it…

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 3:39 pm

I guess the point in the carrier argument is that F35b can fly from concrete in Afghanistan and from a steel deck off the Falklands or any other place where we cannot quickly or easily base RAF aircraft.
They do not present a target for a ground attack and are capable of launching an attack from well over the horizon with complete suprise as once they are at sea very few nations have the capability to track them. Compare that to anyone with a pair of binos and a sat phone that can report on the squadron of Gr4s we have just flown into the despots Western friendly neighbour “should one exist”.
What we have never taken into account is the number of options that have been closed to us or plans rejected because of the lack of more effective carrier based air power.

May 30, 2012 3:41 pm

James, Topman,

I have done the FOI request. I’m sure they’ll simply ignore it or say “sorry mate, not on your nelly”.

James, if what you say is true (which I guess it mostly is) then I can see why JFH was conceived – generate land based use out of jets that were really property of the RN.

It also makes sense why any F35’s purchased should operate under the RAF rather than FAA simply because otherwise they’ll sit there gathering dust – as long as they are made available immediately they are required on the carriers, which I guess is outside the control of the RAF anyway – there are bigger wigs when it’s war.

However, I’m still going to investigate some stats to back this up.

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 4:01 pm

Simon, The only way IMHO to maintain proper currency of a Joint Force Lightning “JFL” organisation is for the squadrons to be interchangeable. Whether that means mixed Squadrons or simply that if it is the FAA squadrons turn to deploy somewhere hot and dusty then off they go and if a Squadron is then needed for carrier ops then the next one in line deploys. Even if it is an RAF squadron.

May 30, 2012 4:09 pm


I agree. They each do their stints on rotation. I think the point then is that there really is no difference between RAF squadrons and FAA squadrons, they simply become F35 squadrons – deployed wherever they’re told.

May 30, 2012 4:12 pm

“I agree. They each do their stints on rotation. I think the point then is that there really is no difference between RAF squadrons and FAA squadrons, they simply become FAA squadrons – deployed wherever they’re told.”

Is what I read it as……..

May 30, 2012 4:16 pm


I had to read that six times before I saw what you’ve done.

Sneaky ;-)

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 4:16 pm

Simon/X the Difference is the service they are in and their career progression and future. FAA pilots may fly for some time but then look at PWO course, small ship drive and onwards within the Naval structure. That is a future that might not appeal to RAF pilots who quite fancy being an F35B pilot but when they reach the stage of being in zone for Wing Commander may well want to return to their normal career progression.

May 30, 2012 4:20 pm


I guess that’s where they can leap to RAF or RN depending on which service they aligned themselves with more. They would certainly be qualified enough to move through either.

May 30, 2012 4:35 pm


I am trying not to get involved. :)

But as you probably have gathered I am familiar with the possible career trajectory of an RN aviator.

And you also know my concerns about RAF maintainers not joining the RAF to go to sea. Even though a good number here laugh at me when I say it. I know they are as much passengers as embarked RAF, but I think there is something to be said of shared culture (up to a point! odd Uckers rules and propensity to call ladders stairs etc. etc.) and expectation to serve at sea.

The only solution I can see is that the F35 squadrons are FAA in that maintainers, clerks, and bottle washers are RN. And the pilots are either RN or RAF and the RAF even command squadrons. Not wishing to demean FAA ratings, splendid bunch of ladies, but it is piloting the blessed things that is the problem not finding technical ratings (though that can be problematic too at times.)

As I said I am not getting involved. Too busy with my trials seeing how we can navalise key RAF personnel……..

May 30, 2012 5:01 pm

I feel a bit guilty. Having asked TD to create a “Tip Offs” thread so that he had a one stop shop for little snippets over his morning coffee, I have among others been guilty of derailing it.

Perhaps what we need is another pair of Open Threads: the first “Kevins and how they are a ridiculous waste of money”, and the second “The Kevins fight back – why naval aviation is completely pants and the Corporal pilots of AH-64D and CGS are deluding themselves”. We could entertain ourselves for several years on those threads.

I would also propose a third thread: “Oh. My. F*cking. God. How much for an Aircraft Carrier and Some Dinky Little Jump Jets?”, but I suspect I’d be talking with myself alone on that one. Everyone else seems to accept it as a done deal.


May 30, 2012 5:08 pm

I’m afraid I have my daughter to thank for the “OMFG” phrase. Despite washing her mouth out with soap, it appears popular among early teenage girls in State schools.

May 30, 2012 5:18 pm


“Simon/X the Difference is the service they are in and their career progression and future. FAA pilots may fly for some time but then look at PWO course, small ship drive and onwards within the Naval structure. That is a future that might not appeal to RAF pilots who quite fancy being an F35B pilot but when they reach the stage of being in zone for Wing Commander may well want to return to their normal career progression.”

– Concur. I suspect that few RAF FW aviators will choose to emulate the career of someone like Mike Clapp who ended up as COMAW (Commodore Amphibious Warfare) during the conflict in the islands that shall remain nameless (see biog at http://www.directart.co.uk/mall/profiles.php?SigID=403). But if he/she is up to the mark and happy to swap uniforms, then why not?

(Yes, I know one or two things have changed since then but the principle remains valid.)

May 30, 2012 5:23 pm

Hang on, does anyone fly after the rank of Wing Commander / Commander in either service (or Lt Col in the Army for that matter)? I’m not talking jollies, but the proper day job.

For most officers, after flying training, it is a round of 50:50 Squadron / staff appointments from the age of 24 to 38, after which it’s all staff or for some Command and staff.

May 30, 2012 5:25 pm

Dunservin re “RAF aviators” and RN careers

The idea never ever crossed my mind perhaps because it well wouldn’t. One assumed that they would follow the career path of their own service which appears to be FJ for 10 years then a regional civi airline…. :)

That recent documentary on Ark Royal the JFH squadron leader was a RM major. Didn’t half confuse my dad,

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 5:31 pm

James, I don’t think so but the RAF guys would probably rather command an EAW and Group than a FF/DD and do their staff jobs in light blue away from the nasty sea! Whereas the ultimate aim of young RN Lt flying an F35B should be to drive the Carrier!

May 30, 2012 5:38 pm


Bog standard Stryker? Waste of time and money. Overloaded in most senses and you could do better for the same money. A Patria AMV, Piranha V, VBCI (sans turret) or Boxer might do the trick. A bit lighter and perhaps one of the RG-series? License-built locally.

£3m for an APC is pushing it.

May 30, 2012 5:58 pm


if I had my way, there’d only be a Wildcat or Merlin for the young shaver to fly, not an F35, and certainly no carrier to drive. If he’s lucky, and can forget the fast jet nonsense, he can learn something of amphibious operations and drive a JC*** instead.

I would however prefer someone from the Navy to drive the ARG, and not a Kevin.

*** That would be a JC without the stupid ski jump that might encourage some in the Andrew to start thinking of a stunted little jump jet. It would be a JC with a flat top optimised for moving helicopters about, and even more optimised for moving landing craft about, for hosting entire Battle Groups, and for being close inshore to deliver them, not several thousand miles to the East as the Sea Lords appear to think necessary.

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 6:13 pm

James, None of the US LHDs have a ski ramp and they are going to fly F35B! You know my opinion that if we were going to go B then we should have bought two LHDs in the 45-50k range with a ski ramp and able to do 25kts plus. Basically a what is envisaged as a batch 2 America.
I am not getting into the positioning of Carriers 30 years ago when the armies main complaint was the inability to request fast air due to poor HF comms with Hermes.

May 30, 2012 6:34 pm


would that be “poor and risk averse commanding from Hermes”, as opposed to “poor comms”?. Otherwise known as “the Admiral was frit” argument. I don’t believe Sandy Woodward was personally not courageous, and certainly the crews of the carrier group would have willingly gone to where they were told to do, as did the companies of Coventry, Sheffield and others. But I do believe that Sandy Woodward made a fundamental misjudgement on acceptable risk, and prioritised ship safety over landing force effectiveness.

People talk of a carrier sinking as being a “mission killer” in 1982. Would it really have been? I don’t believe so. Yes, it would have been a heavy blow to morale, but the carriers were not really doing very much, and only mounting a mostly ineffective CAP over San Carlos. They were not really fundamental to overall victory. What nearly was a mission killer was allowing critical logistic and transport ships like Atlantic Conveyor and Sir Galahad to be attacked so easily.

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 6:45 pm

James, It would not have been a “mission killer” in military terms it may well have been a “political” mission kill. certain Senior Officers though the loss of a Carrier would lead the politicians to the negotiating table.
In 1982 the cabinet were very sensitive to the manner that the US public reacted to the sight of body bags coming back from Vietnam. They has also seen the Argentinian reaction to the Belgrano sinking.
Sir Galahad was an uber cluster of offloading and Atlantic conveyor a disaster but to say having the Carrier half the distance away would have prevented either is just guess work.
Remember the enemy get a vote too and the Argentinian Pilots were brave and dedicated.
1982 has virtually no relevance to the positioning of carriers for a future Op.

Not a Boffin
May 30, 2012 6:51 pm

As you should be well aware, the positioning of the carriers was driven by the lack of AEW and consequent inability to run CAP on an optimised risk basis.

IIRC the SHAR component got 20+ kills – something like half the total Argentinian losses (excluding the Pucara/Skyvans destroyed on the ground at Pebble Island). That also excludes the number of A4/Mirage/Dagger that jettisoned ordnance when they saw SHARS in the area.

To suggest they were not fundamental to overall victory is stretching credulity in the extreme I’m afraid. Don’t forget that the carriers were also home to most of the helos, providing ASW as well as lift. Without the carriers, even less tactical mobility than we ended up with.

If you think they weren’t really doing very much, then I’m afraid the Joint warfare bit of the joint staff course syllabus is or was sadly lacking.

May 30, 2012 6:56 pm


(positioning) – let’s hope not, but equally let us also institute a doctrine where carrier task group commanders get repeatedly battered with baseball bats to the mantra of “it’s not about your carrier group, it is about what you are here to do, and that might involve the carrier paintwork getting scratched”.

I’m still sceptical about the political aspect of a carrier sinking. Once they were down there, we weren’t going to sail away if we lost a carrier, so the risk should have been taken. That’s a decision that should have been immediately obvious in the South Atlantic, taken by Sandy Woodward, and no need to refer back to Northwood at all, let alone Downing Street.

You want to hear Gen Julian Thompson on Sandy Woodward. Let us say that scathing does not do it justice. Also Gen Brian Pennicot, who had under command the guns (“Fires” in today’s parlance), including NGS, and the Air Defence assets.

May 30, 2012 6:59 pm

Going back to what James said about the UK only needed carriers for 6 weeks since WW2. We will forget Suez, the Soviet threat…

Any how can you imagine what would have happened if we didn’t have the carriers and couldn’t get the islands back? The government would have fallen. The skids would have gone under a shakey recovery. Doesn’t bear thinking about it….

May 30, 2012 7:03 pm


you appear to have a very broad definition of “fundamental”. How were SHARS “fundamental” to victory? Were they the single point upon which everything else relied? No, they were not.

What was fundamental to victory were two Brigades of infantry. Everything else was enabling. Do not think that enabling implies some secondary status, or is not allowed to be important. But fundamental is a sole capability, one thing only, without which everything else is a waste of time. And SHARS in 1982 did not fall into that category.

I’m not much fussed about your judgement as to how much I listened to the joint staff course, after that little intervention.

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 7:11 pm

james, I am sympathetic to your view point but remember that losing Hermes and her embarked staff and air group would have been the worst single loss since task force Z and in terms of manpower may have been worse.
Incorrectly as it may have been Hermes was seen as the UK COG by some Politicians.

May 30, 2012 7:37 pm

@ James

All the brigades were weapons fired by the TF. I have no doubt the 3 RM Commandos could have walked to the FI carrying everything they needed, fought the war, invaded Argentina, and walked home again. But HMG made them take some army bods too which meant ships…..

May 30, 2012 7:50 pm


there were about 7-10,000 men potentially getting the crap bombed out of them in San Carlos Water, and 2,000 on Hermes which was nearly 300 miles east. Hermes could have been a bit closer, given that it was known by that stage that there were no fast attack jets at Stanley, the Pucaras had been pretty much wiped out, the combat radius for any Argentine jet from the mainland gave them negligible reach beyond West Falkland, and the on-station time for SHARS on CAP was ten minutes, with a total out and back transit of 80 minutes.

You will not be able to persuade me that there was a horrifying lack of judgement by Sandy Woodward. I don’t know why you try. More importantly, his subordinate commanders also felt it was a terrible lack of judgment, and they were all there and in his confidence.


ha ha. Don’t forget that the Paras wanted to fly in (but too far away), the Gurkhas to crawl in sneakily but can’t swim very well, and the Guards wanted to march in open order, doing the left form on Fanning Head. But it was all a bit wet. So Andrew rules for a while, until normal service resumed when they got ashore.

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 8:00 pm

James, the average on station time for a SHAR during the FI campaign was close to 40 mins!

May 30, 2012 8:03 pm


Think there is a bit of doublethink in your argument, if the carrier wasn’t such an important asset in the war, why then are you saying that men were being bombed due to it’s mispositioning? If it was so useless, it would not have mattered if it was parked next to Port Stanley or in the Channel. The fact that you made such a big deal of it’s positioning implies the opposite, that the carrier WAS fundamentally important in the campaign.

I for one, think that it did serve a big role then, the AAW frigates then appeared to have been a little less AAW and more “bomb target” than was initially expected, and Fleet Air did pick up some of the slack in air defence.

Of course, that was then. Now? Hard to justify the cost of a full up carrier. Wonder how a cat equipped LPH would fare? Through-deck LPH carrying a single squadron for area defence? Cheap enough that it might be risked on dangerous ops, enough planes to make a difference.

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 8:08 pm

Observer, or a CVF launching 24 F35b from 200NM behind a TLAM strike, F35B utilising JSM and laser guided bombs to finish of the AAW and C2 network, cueing SF and satellite and then the ARG closing the coast under an F35b umbrella and T26 5 inch vulcano rounds form an Oto Breda lightweight out to 70NM. What a difference in capability.

May 30, 2012 8:12 pm

@ James re Ghurkas and swimming

I remember reading a story about a platoon of Ghurkas being transported in one of HM’s ships. I think it was in the Far East. It was a nice day and the captain decided to give the ship’s company an opportunity for a swim. The ship was brought to a halt and “Hands to bathe” was piped. There was much consternation amongst the mountain men who thought they were being ordered to swim. They were up for it, but none too happy.

May 30, 2012 8:37 pm


not doublethink (I don’t think, but you’ll be the judge).

CAP was important, so therefore a carrier also important. But CAP was not vital: it cannot be demonstrated that the amphibious landings would have been impossible without CAP. So if CAP is important but not vital, let’s do it. If the balance of risk is between 7-10,000 who are the ones to actually go and win the war, and temporarily are variously offloading and ARG-ing or providing an AA screen, and 2,000 who are supporting CAP, then move the carrier closer.


I got the 10 mins from a reasonably recent TD post (was it about the FOB? Can’t quite recall). I do know that Rupert Uloth who commanded one of the Blues Troops was incensed after being razzed up by a Pucara when a Harrier arrived about 10 minutes too late, that Arthur Denaro commanding an SAS Troop could get no air cover for a raid, and that there is a massively over-engineered story about air cover at Goose Green that is designed for political purposes to stop any discussion at all of Julian Thompson’s anger with the Fleet for leaving 2 Para balls out in the scrub. If you read the soldier’s accounts of the battle, or even the official log record kept by 2 Para of radio messages, there is literally Zip reference to air. And yet, the 2 stars claim there was. Hmmm.


heard similar, delete ship insert aircraft and parachuting and not enough parachutes to go around. A cousin of mine was a Ghurka (you know what I mean), and tells of a time when he was on OP duty in the HK New Territories. He received a written report that 2 Chinese policemen were observed playing ping pong outside their guard post with no arms. Another time a Ghurka came back from a bicycle patrol along the frontier with a freshly severed human hand, and a report that a Chinese man had been trying to climb the fence, but he had “told him to go back to his village”. There’s telling, and then there’s “telling” while waving a ruddy great kukri about, I suppose.

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 8:41 pm

James hence my earlier point about HF comms, there were relatively few aircraft covering the area. the army had persistent HF comms issues with requesting direct support via Hermes. In the age of tacsat that would not happen.

May 30, 2012 8:59 pm


actually, I think that’s a bit hopeful. Skynet struggles to provide the comms that far south and right down in the corner of the orbits (it’s all a bit single point of failure). But it is possible if all works well. You will of course tell me of fantastic data transmissions from MPA happening dozens of times daily, to which I will only say “concrete pad, constant electrical power, engineering and a large fixed dish”. It is a bit more dodgy on the side of a hill at night, under fire with some nearly futzed batteries, and the rain pissing down.

What we all need is Stratsat, a deployable comms rebro airship that sits up at 80K and is pretty much immune to any form of attack, short of dozens of suicide U2s. It’ll do 30 knots as well so can deploy above the Task Group. But it is optimised for station-keeping well above the weather.

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 9:05 pm

James when was the last time you were down South, we have a few more satellites now!

May 30, 2012 9:20 pm


2000, and then only for a fortnight. Skynet 5 was not yet in service.

However, digging my “Schoolboy’s Guide to the Cosmos” big book of pictures out of the back of the loft, there is a difficulty with latitudes above 57 degrees north or south (please don’t ask me why 57 is important and not 58 or 56, because I will have to plead ignorance and being a Cavalryman, which is much the same). It’s pretty damn marginal, and the boffins want to start replacing the standard satellites with ones in polar orbits, but because of techno-reasons that make my head spin, that’s a pretty crap answer, and expensive, and they spin off into space after a while anyway.

So, reading those articles in the Economist about 21st century resource wars in the polar regions and also (when there’s no fighting) the new North West and North East Passages being ice-free year round, I’m suspecting that comms is going to be an issue. Maybe it’s worth investing in a company that has a decent answer to that.

May 30, 2012 9:21 pm

What we want is SKYLON. And then we can put satellites where we want, when we want, and for little cost.

Of course we would have establish a Royal Space Force to operate it with its own ground troops, helicopters, and dog handlers (and dogs.)

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 9:26 pm

Reading my little book of having been there and utilsed SCOT I guess I should nod to the economist? Bloody hell James you base an argument on an economist article?

May 30, 2012 9:26 pm

@James, 3 Cdo and 5 Brigades were the only way of finishing the war, but it’s nonsense to declare that SHAR were not fundamental. They were far and away the most effective air defence weapon, and no landing could have been made without their presence. If you think San Carlos was raining bombs with them, without them, with Rapier, Blowpipe, Sea Slug, Sea Dart and Sea Cat all effectively useless, a chronic lack of AAA other than the GPMG, and no way of interdicting aircraft before they reach visual range of the landings, it would have been the sort of disaster that makes Dieppe look like a minor learning experience.

Thompson and others (including the infamous Sharkey) have been on record for the last two decades that Woodward was the wrong man to command the carrier group, as a man who had specialised in submarines. They wanted Derek Reffell, as someone from a carrier and amphibious background. They are probably right. But he did well enough to allow a successful landing nevertheless.

May 30, 2012 9:38 pm


“Or a CVF launching 24 F35b from 200NM behind a TLAM strike, F35B utilising JSM and laser guided bombs to finish of the AAW and C2 network, cueing SF and satellite and then the ARG closing the coast under an F35b umbrella and T26 5 inch vulcano rounds form an Oto Breda lightweight”

I wasn’t aware carriers could launch TLAMs. As for the rest, which part of it could not be done by a pair of the budget carriers that I was suggesting? 24 F-35s are 24 F-35s, regardless of being launched from a carrier or from a rowboat. The only difference which you rapsodised about is the 5 incher, and even that is from a different platform. Unless you’re implying the QE has an inbuilt T-26. Satlink is not dependent on ship but on installations, you can even build it on the helo flight deck of a destroyer and it’ll still work. Though I won’t recommend it.

But it’s a dead issue. Despite what James thinks as “approval”, I actually see the “we’re committed” issue as resigned acceptance. Steel has been cut and assembled, going backwards is going to be more costly than going forwards, and plans with too many people’s approval have been laid out. It’s a dead issue. All we can do is hope that better decisions can be made the next time.


Problem is not with delivery, problem is that recon sats don’t stay still, and after a while, they go off course.

May 30, 2012 9:38 pm


no, SHAR were useful, not fundamental. It is not really too problematic to see that, nor does it demean the Navy. It does however seem to be some lodestar of faith among many people.

Most of the landings took place without a CAP. Some of the landings took place before the first CAP arrived, and most of the landings occurred at night when neither Argentina nor the UK had planes with night vision equipment. The CAP was in place for less than 90 minutes a day.

The majority of SHAR kills were achieved away from San Carlos Water, although some of the chases certainly started there.

If you really believe the FAA historiography, may I interest you in some KoolAid?

May 30, 2012 9:42 pm

Neither the Argentine airforce or navy had a night capability. Seeing as the landings began at night and the Argentines didn’t know straight away where the landings were there was no need for CAP from the get go.

I can see I am going to have to get Ward’s book off the shelf. :(

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 9:45 pm

Observer, i aplogise if you didn’t realise I was talking about BG capabilities. As for the rest of your post , I guess you are a Singaporean in service or retired officer, so in terms of making objective comments about RN amphibious capability you are another internet Admiral.

May 30, 2012 9:49 pm


And what was the difference in battlegroup capability? That was the point that puzzled me. If the only units that are different is the carrier type, launching the same number and type of aircraft, how does the change reduce the CVBG capability?

May 30, 2012 9:54 pm

Sorry guys, my post initially was more polite until APATs editted his to be more snarky.


Less chest thumping, more info. Rank and post reitterations do little to provide facts.

May 30, 2012 9:55 pm

“Thompson and others (including the infamous Sharkey) have been on record for the last two decades that Woodward was the wrong man to command the carrier group, as a man who had specialised in submarines. They wanted Derek Reffell, as someone from a carrier and amphibious background. They are probably right. But he did well enough to allow a successful landing nevertheless.”

Just to point out for fairness that Woodward’s long been on record as saying that himself, and at the time he suggested to his superiors that it would be better to wait until a better commander was available: just another problem that went with the Task Force having to sail immediately.

May 30, 2012 9:56 pm

Can I retell of the result of the recent Army Navy Rugby match? :) Just want to get the tone back to mildly joshing, not finger pointing.

(Andrew crapped out, but the Army had about 30 Fijians. Rumour that the Sea Lords have sent around a press gang to Fiji being strongly denied)

All Politicians are the Same
May 30, 2012 9:59 pm

Obeserver, we are looking ta a BG that can have SGNs in on location CVs in an other an other and FFS in a third we can synchronise tot FOR TLAM and F35B JSM and use a 3rd wave of f35B on top then push escorts inshore to utilise oto breada 5 inch light weight whilst also bringing the ARG in, I know you guys cannot but we can.

May 30, 2012 10:02 pm

@James, come now. After all our friendly discussion as to the importance of landing of supplies, you forget that the support stores for 3 Cdo alone took a week to land, during which time the SHAR’s scored the majority of their kills. I’m all in favour of the bayonet, but it seems a little optimistic to see the RM and Paras taking the islands without ammunition after half their supplies are sunk.

I’m sure you also know that the CAP was planned specifically on the basis that it would not fly over San Carlos, which was to be a fixed wing free fire zone, unless the aircraft concerned approached in a fuel emergency with landing lights on.

May 30, 2012 10:18 pm

TD said “Light Blue onboard”

Did you have much to do with recruiting arm of the Army during your time in?

I was on very good terms with the succession of CPOs and POs out our local office. I had a lot to do with an ex-WO recruiter during my time with cadets (on the UMC side.) And I know the why’s and wherefore’s of how youngsters decide on which service they are going to join. And IMHO based on all that is that KIDS DON’T JOIN THE RAF TO GO TO SEA. THEY DO IT TO AVOID THE SEA. AND RUNNING AROUND OUTSIDE IN THE COLD, DIGGING THE OCCASIONAL HOLE TO LIVE IN, AND PLAYING WITH BANG-BANGS. JFH isn’t a good example. The Harriers spent more a lot time ashore than deployed to the carriers. I think your “light blue at sea” point of view is more to do with making your model of no FJ for the FAA work. Exchanges are a novelty in a long career service. An 18 year old signing on the dotted line thinks he will be pending his service time will be spent in Lincolnshire or the Home Counties with perhaps a tour in Bastion. He isn’t expecting a life on the Oggin with RN frequency of deployments. He wouldn’t join else. That is the modern youngster.

May 30, 2012 10:30 pm

Now we need to do the 5 minutes during the Midway encounter that sealed the Pacific war’s outcome, as a fraction of the time elapsed from Pearl Harbour to Nagasaki bombing, RE
“there have been 3484 weeks since 1945, of which aircraft carriers have proven “vital” (which I don’t really believe, but most do) for 6 of them. That is 0.17% of the time.”

May 30, 2012 10:36 pm

“with Rapier, Blowpipe, Sea Slug, Sea Dart and Sea Cat all effectively useless”

I don’t understand why this myth persists. Blowpipe proved to be a bit of a dog and the others had their problems, but missiles shot down more attacking Skyhawks than the Harriers did, so I’d say they had a pretty good hand in protecting the landings. The majority of Harrier kills were the higher flying Dagger escorts.

May 30, 2012 10:40 pm

Hi Mr. fred, RE
“Bog standard Stryker?”
– $3.5m lately, much cheaper to begin with
-” Waste of time and money” Agreed

” Patria AMV”
– $2m, add turret and any advanced sensors

“£3m for an APC is pushing it.”
– if those two were meant (cheaper is better?), how come?

May 30, 2012 10:41 pm

@ X

I would say your characterisation of young people seems to be rather more service driven than anything based in reality. One kid from my school (alright, we’re going back a while now) joined the engineers because he thought it would set him up for life in trade skills. Another joined the RAF because he liked planes but wasn’t smart enough to fly them.

I cant imagine people actually joing certain services because they plan to just sit around in Oxford for the next few years or because they don’t want to get their hands dirty. That just sounds to me like you’re doing precisely the same thing you’re accusing TD of doing; constructing an argument from nothing to fit your preferred profile.

May 30, 2012 10:53 pm


you make my argument for a properly constructed Brigade-sized ARG beautifully. Yes, we need loads of lovely loggies coming ashore in quick time with whatever it is that loggies carry. Scoff and bullets, presumably.

Why does “loggies” default on my Apple spell check to loggias, as in bosky Italian flower-decked love nests? Perhaps I missed out in my service years by not being a loggia? I am concerned that there are service teachers, QARANCs at Rinteln and WRACs that got away unmolested.

Not a Boffin
May 30, 2012 10:55 pm

The reason the carriers and SHAR were fundamental is simple. On April 2nd 1982, had the Navy been asked “can you assure a landing of 3 Cdo and follow on forces against an air force of 200+ based in Argentina?”, without the SHAR, the answer (from all senior naval officers) would have been “no”. Had the answer been “yes”, both CGS and CAS would have asked some fairly pointed questions along the lines of “how?” – probably because back then, the air threat was something that all services thought about and understood – particularly as they had not grown used to it being dealt with by “someone else” back then. Result, no deployment of what I absolutely agree was the required “effect” – the infantry and also no Op Corporate, end of. Hence fundamental, like it or not.

TD – Causeway may well have brought a shedload of Wessies & SK, but Hermes brought 845 and half of 846 from the off. She also had the AE department and facilities to sustain them, which Causeway did not. She also didn’t get there till four days after the first landings, by which time 845/846 and the HAS SK squadrons had got the Rapier and 105 batteries ashore to provide some defence for the FOB.

May 30, 2012 11:10 pm


good thing that the Navy were not asked then, but instead one man. The only Admiral with balls since Nelson – Leach – stood up and said it could be done. Much against his staff’s advice.

As it was, SHAR was useful but not critical.

I do feel like I’m slightly banging my head on a brick wall with this “fundamental” definition. It is one capability only. If you really want to say that the Falklands could not have been retaken without a carrier launched fast jet capability, say so, but it appears that every piece of evidence is completely against that.

Or to put it into your court, if SHAR was fundamental, how did Sharkey and the Far East Fleet plan to capture the Argentinean trenches on East Falkland? Would they have gone for the riskier right flank at Goose Green? What about that tricky SF position on the northern side of Longdon? And how good is Harrier at crawling through the mud silently before the attack on Tumbledown, and can it hook in there for over 24 hours in a battle group attack, or does it need to bugger off for some fuel at some point? It would also be useful to know of your logistic calculations for how many pallets of 105 ammo SHAR can under sling, or even if the young pilot on board has any concept of the land tactical battle. Certainly in 1982, the SHAR pilots had none. Junglies yes, SHARs no.

May 31, 2012 12:06 am

@James, you are deliberately tilting at windmills. @NAB and I have no issue with land forces being those that finish it, but since SAM and AAA managed to knock down less than half AR’s fighter aircraft losses, you are looking at rather a lot of additional aircraft that would have been dropping bombs on amphibs. We’re not a pair of Sloane’s begging for some cavalry goodness you know :-)

May 31, 2012 12:21 am


You feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall? There is simply no question about it. Any idea of mounting an opposed landing 8,000 miles from the UK without a scrap of air cover against an enemy possessing considerable numbers of aircraft equipped with ASMs, bombs, cannon and rockets would have been a non-starter, even with Leach.

The campaign was a close enough run thing as it was but, thanks mainly to SHAR and with one notable exception, at least the ships managed to deliver the troops and most of their kit ashore relatively unscathed. However, they paid a hideous penalty in the process, mostly owing to the lack of a proper fleet carrier with fast, long-range FJ and AEW. I pray that we never risk being placed in such an invidious position again.

May 31, 2012 12:27 am

P.S. That’s for the Army’s sake as well as the RN’s. :-)

May 31, 2012 12:55 am


SHAR were useful, no doubt. But there is not a scrap of evidence that the landings could not have proceeded without them. The landing sites were mostly (on a 24/7 basis) unsupported by CAP, but the landings went ahead anyway. There is plenty of video and documentary evidence that SHAR were not actually that successful in keeping the Argies away from the landing sites (i.e. several ships attacked and sunk, without SHAR getting involved). There is an easy mathematics that says “but SHAR took out more than 20”, but if you analyse the evidence, most were Mirage flying “top cover”, and many of the rest were not actually attacking the landing sites. And on the day the Sir Galahad was hit, where were the SHAR? Nowhere to be bloody seen. That is mostly explained by the fact that someone deemed it not to be flying weather as far east as the fleet was, but as far west as the Argentine Squadron airbase, it was good enough to get airborne. So the SHARS were socked in, the pilots eating cheesy eggy hammy, sand Carlos Fandango had a free run in. It doesn’t matter that the Army were stupid and should not have remained aboard, the Andrew for technical weather reasons were stuck on deck. So don’t give me this “without SHAR it would have been impossible” crap,

So it wasn’t mainly thanks to SHAR. SHAR did their job, but their job did not win us back the Falklands by themselves and with no other help, and without them we’d have been helpless. Or do you really want to pretend that they did?

May 31, 2012 3:57 am


Despite your desire to see all FJs turned into tin cans (very useful tin cans mind you) and my corresponding desire to do so just to put one in the eye of APATs, I have to say that FJs still have a very important part to play in the battlefield. Sure, they can’t hold land, but they are incredible “enablers” that allow other forces to operate with much more ease.

Just think off the AH force you recommended on the JC LPHs. They’re wonderful CAS, but against FJs with BVR missiles and look down radar, they fare fairly badly. A friendly FJ force allows your AHs to go tank hunting without having to worry about enemy FJs as they would either have been shot down or engaged in a contest for air superiority instead of turkey shooting helicopters.


Did you hit your head? Most of what you brought up are just smoke and mirrors, red herrings, strawman arguments and innuendo, not to mention the severe decline in your spelling.

Your ships come with SYLVAR 70s? No? Then you can’t do TLAMs either, and Mk 48s? Your carrier comes with them? No? Then why are you claiming that CVFs will suddenly give NGS ability? Or that changing CVFs to CVEs will suddenly disable T-26 4.5 inchers? You got enough red herrings to feed Africa for a decade. My only conclusion to all this nonsense is to either conclude that you

1) Have just hit your head and have lost your faculties to reason or

2) You don’t really have a good answer to the question and are trying to obfuscate the issue to your CVF bias.

May 31, 2012 6:36 am

James said “The only Admiral with balls since Nelson”

Beatty? Cunningham? Vian?

Not a Boffin
May 31, 2012 6:57 am


Which bit of “what I absolutely agree was the required “effect” – the infantry ” did you not understand? Your references to “Sharkey & the Far East Fleet” are therefore absurd – as is your denigration of naval admirals.

However much you dislike the fact, without SHAR plus carrier, the “infantry effect” would not even have loaded aboard ship and it would have been CGS making that decision, never mind 1SL or CDS, probably because all of them understood threat assessment.

I can help you with “fundamental” – the definition of which is “adjective – forming a necessary base or core; of central importance”. Sounds pretty much like the contribution of SHAR plus carrier, plus RFA & STUFT, plus (of course) 3 Cdo & 5 Inf. Or did you just want to suggest that the land forces did all the work and that the most intense naval war since WW2 was an unimportant sideshow?

May 31, 2012 8:01 am

@ TD and all,

the point I am trying to make – not very successfully, it appears – is that in all military matters there is one capability without which strategic success cannot be imagined, and that in the case of the Falklands, it was land combat power. That is NOT to say that everything else was unimportant or only there for the ride. This is a concept that has been around for hundreds of years, and is codified by all militaries that I know of in their doctrine. It can be captured by several names – Main Effort, Schwerpunkt, Centre of Gravity, etc. At a tactical level, the Army for instance also follows this in the names of types of artillery support: Direct Support, General Support, General Support Reinforcing, that tell both the Artillery and Combat Commander what to expect at certain phases of the battle.

It makes a mockery to suggest that everything is “fundamental”. It is also true to say that very many things were very important, and in this case I include everything that I am aware of that the Navy did. It has not come up in the discussion, but I personally believe that the three SSNs were the key naval asset, as they were able to keep the Argentine Navy bottled up in their ports.

Would the Falklands have been re-captured without an infantry force? I suggest the answer is no. Would they have been re-captured without carrier air? I suggest that it would have been much more bloody and less certain, but not impossible. Would they have been recaptured without the deterrent effect of the SSNs, and if the Argentines had come out for a proper naval battle? Much less likely.

Honestly, anyone would think that questioning the role of fast air in the Falklands is heresy. It’s really not.

May 31, 2012 8:09 am

Just to add that if carrier fast air had not been available (and leaving aside any considerations as to whether the task force would have been sent at all without fast air), then what would have changed? I suggest that there would have been even more emphasis on taking out the Pucaras that were on the islands (more SF raids, and NGS onto the grass airstrips), and that the landings would have been made in north east Falkland, a further 50 miles away from the Argentine bases on the mainland. The biggest single mistake the Argentines made was not to put fast air on the islands themselves. Once the Pucaras were neutralised, if neither side had no fast air in the vicinity of the landing site, then air threats and the need to deal with them become a non-problem.

May 31, 2012 9:13 am


Can I presume from your lack of value of carrier jet aviation that you like the idea of the air being dominated by the enemy dropping cluster bombs all over the front line and removing every UK helicopter that pops up with a sidewinder? I say this based on your 98% of 98% rather than the stuff said above.

You don’t need CAP over the landing site. You put CAP in a place to make sure enemy aircraft don’t get to the landing site.

I’m not sure 1982 is a good example of “fundamental” air power – we only just scraped by. But generally the foundation for a successful military conflict (or at least the one’s I’ve seen) is to dominate the air either with air-supremacy jets or by taking out the enemies capability to control the air (SEAD). MANPADS and Sea Viper/Ceptor have only a limited coverage.

As for 1982, if we had lost a carrier would we not have used the other one but closer in? If we lost that one too would we not have nuked the Argentinian airbase? Black Mamba backed into a corner and all that!


I’d have procured 4 x WASP – 2 active, 1 as carrier, 1 as LHD.

Also, you just said “…CVF launching 24 F35b from 200NM…”. Have you changed your tune? You wanted to put it 50nm with the ARG last time we spoke. Anyway, wouldn’t the initial strike wave come from ~400nm (100+ sorties a whole day before the landing).

I like your sub-fired TLAM strike!


Please don’t brand me with the “sortie rate” thing. I never said RATE! It’s total sorties or bombs and, unless statistics has changed, a comparison does actually provide meaningful information.


I’d join the RAF or the FAA to fly jets – nothing else. If you’re recruiting people with long-term career visions, you’re recruiting the wrong people.

May 31, 2012 9:22 am


How about the view of the Yanks who seem pretty switched-on about joint operations? This is the heading at the top of Page I-1 of Chapter 1 (INTRODUCTION) of JP3-01 (Joint Doctrine for Countering Air and Missile Threats) (http://www.fas.org/spp/starwars/docops/jp3_01.pdf) endorsed by the US Navy, USMC, US Army and US Air Force:

“If we lose the war in the air, we lose the war and we lose it quickly. (Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery)”

(I didn’t realise he was American – I thought he was one of yours ;-) )

These are the second and third sentences of Para 1 on the same page:

“…Air superiority delivers a FUNDAMENTAL benefit to the joint force. It prevents adversaries from interfering with operations of air, space, or surface forces and assures freedom of action and movement…”

Still quibbling about the use of the term “fundamental” with regard to the SHAR during CORPORATE? They may not have constituted ‘Air Power’ (if only) but they were able to provide local ‘Air Superiority’ at critical times. No matter how much you demur, the TF would never have sailed without them.