The defence review is occurring at a time of extreme financial pressure at home and considerable military risk in Afghanistan. Yet it would be a grave failure if it attended principally – or worse, exclusively – to the clamour of those issues. The deepest principles of national security are silent. They explain why bad things don’t happen and they must be given voice. This article also argues that geopolitics prescribe a primarily maritime framework for any British SDSR, and that the core strategic challenges are naval. The Royal Navy, however, has become dangerously weak. Urgent steps must be taken to reverse this trend before it is too late
Its timing is of course related to the pre SDSR buzz but I hope it doesn’t get get labelled as Senior Service Special Pleading because its is very interesting and relevant.
Acknowledging the dire state of the public finances, but arguing national security is not a discretionary expenditure, the paper suggests the strategic need for more surface combatants must be met through reassessing the choice of ‘seriously cost constrained’ new ships, looking closely at examples from Denmark and the Netherlands that offer a modular, adaptable design at a quarter of the price of currently planned purchases.
The paper argues for a cost constrained general purpose class of ships that make extensive use of modularity. It argues for 12-15 of these to compliment a force of 12 to 14 Type 45 and Type 26 (that’s in total, not 12-14 each)
This is a strong argument, a return to the two tier constabulary nature of forward defence with the ability to surge highly capable ships into an area should it be needed. Although the numbers and capabilities might be different it is fundamentally in line with the Think Defence position, that of a high capability core surrounded by lower capability but more numerous types.
The authors also published a similar paper in 2007 called ‘The Royal Navy at the Brink’, arguing for a 30 ship Future Surface Combatant (FSC) comprising a 10 C1, 20 C2 ratio but the new paper recognises the financial constraints we are in.