UK defence issues and the odd container or two

The Post They Tried to Kill

If you can remember from a few weeks ago and my communications with those fine gentlemen from the Phoenix Think Tank there was a particular post they objected to in which I eviscerated their outrageous claims about the RAF and their over inflated claims about the Fleet Air Arm.

In that post, called Naval Aviation, Blogs and Think Tanks, I took selected quotes from the PTT and offered a rebuttal and exposing their nonsense. Because they objected to me quoting from their posts I agreed to remove the original but I thought an update, without them, would still be useful.

So, here it is, the post they tried to kill :)

This is not intended to be authoritative and I would strongly urge readers to research the facts and points of view (which aren’t facts) for themselves.

In the build up to the SDSR a number of web sites popped up that had a single theme, the promotion of the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm. There is absolutely nothing wrong in that, if you look at the broad aim of Think Defence it is to promote debate on the nature and role of UK defence capabilities, so when it comes down to chit chat, I think more is always the merrier.

As the SDSR timeline progressed and in its aftermath, it became obvious that the content and tone had changed in some of them from advocacy of a maritime strategy to the advocacy of a maritime strategy at the expense of the RAF. Instead of highlighting the unique contribution of naval aviation, where it compliments land based aviation and how it can be integrated into a joint force, articles increasingly turned to denigrating the RAF, its achievements and personnel, and often, calling for its disbandment.

The authors and contributors maintain that criticisms are not directed at individuals in the RAF but at it as a corporate body or its senior leadership, but it is hard to reconcile that with some of the content and its tone which verged in some parts on impugning the memory of service personnel killed on recent operations.

This is inter service rivalry at its worst, it is desperately depressing that in an environment of decreasing funding and increasing costs that clearly bitter relations continue to harm UK defence capability especially when that energy could be devoted to more productive matters.

It is obvious that they are passionate about the defence of the UK and that passion has been directed to the production of numerous articles and opinions which have achieved some traction in the mainstream media.

Perhaps they are right, perhaps not; there are always two sides to any argument and although I do not entirely agree with a maritime centric strategy it is an entirely valid thing to argue for, that doesn’t make me ‘anti Navy’ it just means I have a different opinion.

One of the pillars on which it bases its argument on, is the history of naval aviation, particularly British naval aviation and comparing it unfavourably to land based aviation.

One has to be careful about citing history as some justification for the future composition of UK combat air power because it is very easy to simply learn the wrong lessons, forgetting that yesterday was very different to today, and today will be very different to tomorrow. We also have a tendency to look back with rose coloured spectacles; it is human nature to be loyal to one’s own ‘tribe’

Being objective is very difficult.

Their position seemed to be that naval aviation is far superior and belittled the contribution of the RAF at every stage, citing numerous examples of where the RAF were found wanting and the FAA and/or naval aviation were superior, saving the day.

This view was then extrapolated forward to an assertion that the RAF should be disbanded.

The source of this historical perspective seemed to be an article on the Fleet Air Arm Officers Association website from David Hobbs (a former RN Commander and author of excellent books) in which the case was made for naval aviation at the expense of land based aviation. An additional set of conflicts were also used to highlight how the RAF, lacking strategic mobility, needed the Royal Navy and its carriers to get to the fight, as it were.

This article has since been removed but I thought it was highly selective, presented a completely one sided and narrow perspective on what air power is and only discussed operations where naval airpower was used, not naval and land air power.

The Fleet Air Arm Officers Association website is a brilliant site, with bags of interesting information, so I would urge readers to pop over and have a look;

http://www.fleetairarmoa.org/

So the original article then propogated across multiple sites and was often cited by associated articles, blogs and other published papers.

I am no professional researcher but I wanted to examine the evidence presented by the these websites, surely if the RAF are as bad as they indicate, successive governments, civil servants and chiefs of the defence staff have been hoodwinked for a protracted period by RAF propaganda and it should be exposed!

You might to Google for yourself to see if the article in question, and others that quote it, are still around. I seem to remember extracts from it were used in submissions to the House of Commons defence select committee as well.

So this is a quick run through of post war operations where air power, of any flavour, has been used, and this might allow a spot of comparing and contrasting.

Instead of quoting directly, I have paraphrased or described the claims made.

1944 to 1949, Greek Civil War

In a 5 year operation the RAF deployed approximately 15 squadrons/detachments and Hurricanes, Spitfires, Beaufighters, Wellingtons, Boston’s, Mosquito’s, Dakotas and Walrus.

The FAA deployed a detachment of Sea Otters.

No mention of this in the article.

1945 to 1946, Indochina and Siam

Although it was a relatively small operation from a UK perspective, both the RAF and FAA were involved. 2 squadrons of Spitfires and 811 and 825 NAS with Sea Fury’s and Fireflies from HMS Warrior were deployed.

No mention of this in the article.

1945 to 1946, Netherlands East Indies

The RAF deployed Spitfires, Beaufighters and Mosquito’s in addition to Sunderland’s, Dakota’s and Auster’s from 14 squadrons/flights.

No mention of this in the article.

1948, Palestine

The article claimed that during the withdrawal phase, only naval aircraft from HMS Ocean could be used because the RAF aircraft had already been evacuated.

The first counter to that is the highly selective date, 1948. British forces had been in Palestine for many many years prior to this and in the pre war period the RAF and Army had perfected close air support tactics to such a degree that reaction times for airborne close air support were as low as 15 minutes, an interesting comparison with today.

In 1946 the infamous King David Hotel bombing prompted a reinforcement of Palestine in support of the British Mandate. Wikipedia has a good overview of the history of the conflict but without delving too deep into the wider conflict as one might reasonably imagine there was a sizeable RAF presence throughout, 12 squadrons in fact, No 6, No 13, No 18, No 32, No 37, No 38, No 178, No 208, No 214, No 621, No 651 and No 680.  Between them, they operated Spitfires, Mosquito’s, Lancaster’s, Liberator’s, Tempest’s and Austers of various marks.

The main operation location was RAF Aqir but others were used including Ein Shemer, Qastina, Ramat David and Peta Tiqva.

By the end of 1947 the British announced their intention to withdraw and in the tense operational and political climate that followed all UK forces were gradually drawn down. The announcement came after the UN Resolution on Planned Partition which required the UK to withdraw by May 14, 1948 and the port of Haifa open for immigration by February. However, the British authorities deemed the opening of Haifa to be extremely unwise.

In April 1948 Tempests from 249 Squadron and Spitfires from 208 Squadron made a number of operational attack sorties in support of ground forces and the Lancaster’s of 38 and 37 Squadrons were relocated to Malta. The Union Jack was lowered on 14th of May and the state of Israel was declared the day after although British forces would not leave for some weeks after.

Within hours of the declaration Egyptian Spitfires had attacked Tel Aviv and Sde Nov airfields and on the 22nd of May also attacked Ramat David Airport in two sorties where the RAF were still tasked with covering the withdrawal. A number of RAF Spitfires and one Dakota were destroyed and 4 RAF personnel killed for the loss of 5 Egyptian Spitfires, 4 in the air and one with ground fires from the RAF Regiment. The Egyptians later apologised, they mistakenly thought the RAF had left and the forces on the ground were Israeli. The aircrew at the stations in question were reportedly recovering from a Dining In night in the mess in which they had decided to destroy the mess before handing over to the Israelis, hardly a model of military preparedness.

In 1946 the Royal Navy Palestine Patrol was established to prevent illegal immigration into the area and the Fleet Air Arm was renamed to the Naval Aviation Branch. The patrol continued its work right up until the end of the mandate.

HMS Ocean(theship that conducted the first ever landing of a jet aircraft on an aircraft carrier and first ever embarkation of female crew) arrived off Haifa on the 7th May 1948 and was later joined by HMS Triumph.

On the 15th of May the High Commissioner left Palestine aboard onboard HMS Euryalas, escorted by the aircraft carrier HMS Ocean, HMS Chevron, HMS Childers, HMS Volage, HMS Pelican and HMS Widemouth Bay.

British forces then withdrew to the Haifa enclave, a simple collapsing perimeter.

Towards the end of June the rear party preparing to leave Haifa after recovering a great deal of heavy equipment, with Royal Marines, Royal Engineers, Coldstream Guards, Grenadier Guards, Dragoon Guards and other units carrying out these final moves. Providing air cover was HMS Triumph with 4 Seafires held at 30 minutes notice. RAF aircraft were also involved with a search for a missing 4/7 Dragoon Guards tank and the Seafires conducted a number of armed reconnaissance patrols, no doubt providing a highly visible coercive deterrent. There is some disagreement on exactly who and when the last British forces left Palestine but the overall picture is largely one of an ordered withdrawal.

On the 30th of June, with most British forces now out of Haifa, HMS Triumph’s Seafires conducted a flypast.

The remaining Royal Marines and Army units gradually shrunk the perimeter until the last of the equipment and personnel were embarked on the LST HMS Striker and the force sailed. A destroyer was left in international waters for a few days, just in case.

For a complete breakdown of UK forces that served in Palestine between 1945 and 1948 the ever brilliant Britain’s Small Wars has a comprehensive breakdown hereand for further details of the Royal Navy Palestine Patrol, including the final few days, click here

In the book linked above there is no mention of HMS Ocean in the final days but other sources state she stayed with HMS Triumph.

Some great British Pathe newsreels on the evacuation here, here, here and here

So it would seem that the quote is largely correct in its highly selective construction but it fails to note the 3 years constant service in theatre by the RAF, the fact that RAF bases can’t be evacuated onto LST’s through a collapsing perimeter and would therefore have to have left long before, the actual nature of the protection and the continued operations in the area by the RAF some time after.

I would also question the assertion that only naval aircraft were capable of providing the protection required, Haifa is less than 200 miles from Cyprus and some of the longer range Mosquito’s had a range in excess of 2000 miles, the reason naval aviation was used was simply because it made more sense to do so, the aircraft could conduct limited sorties that suited the nature of the operation but would be available at short notice to cover any contingencies in what was essentially, an amphibious operation in reverse.

After the withdrawal, flying from Kabrit in the Canal Zone RAF PR Mosquito’s made daily sorties over the area and one was shot down by an Israeli Air Force P51 Mustang piloted by an American volunteer on November 20th 1948. Two similar incidents followed but in the very sensitive political environment at the time retaliation against the embryonic IAF would have certainly destroyed them and left the door wide open for Arab air forces to attack.

These incidents in 1949 were a lesson to the RAF about complacency, details in the Flight International archive here.

1945 to 1950, Southern Arabia

The RAF were engaged on a sporadic basis through this period with Mosquito’s, Brigands, Tempests and Lincolns.

No mention of this in the article.

1948 to 1952, Eritrea and Somaliland

RAF Hawker Tempest F6 aircraft of 6 Squadron deployed from Fayid to Mogadishu to fly a series of demonstration sorties. No.6 Squadron’s efforts were subsequently augmented by a detachment of Tempest F6s belonging to 8 Squadron, which operated from Hargeisa during March 1948.

In April, a detachment of Hawker Fury F6 fighter bombers from 39 Squadron was despatched from Khartoum in Sudan to Asmara in Eritrea to help counter guerrilla attacks mounted by Shifta bandits. The primary task of the detachment was to fly armed reconnaissance sorties in support of ground forces but they also conducted rocket attacks against rebel bases.

In August, unrest within Somaliland, triggered by the announcement that the disputed Ogaden territory was to be transferred to Ethiopia, leading to the despatch of No.213 Squadron (Hawker Tempest F6) from Deversoir to Mogadishu in order to ‘fly the flag’ and assist in restoring order. Following the withdrawal of the last British troops from the Odagen region of Somaliland on 23 September, No.213 Squadron left Mogadishu and returned to Deversoir.

Aircraft deployed included Mosquito’s, Tempests, Brigands and Lancasters.

Detachments remained until 1951 and operations from other locations until 1952.

No mention of this in the article.

1948 to 1960, Malaya

Following serious rioting and social unrest in early 1948, Sir Edward Gent, the High Commissioner for the Federation of Malaya, declared a state of emergency. The Malayan Communist Party was subsequently banned on 23 July. This marked the beginning of the Malayan Emergency (Operation Firedog). Operation Firedog represented a major commitment for the Royal Air Force (RAF).

A total of fifteen RAF squadrons served in Malaya at some stage of the emergency and many more United Kingdom-based units took part in temporary detachments to Malaya.

At the beginning of the operation the RAF presence was limited but during the emergency it escalated significantly. During the operation Fleet Air Arm aircraft would contribute when RN carriers were in the area. The full gamut of RAF and FAA aircraft were employed and a number of innovations progressed, including helicopter operations in a combined wing and psychological warfare. 848 NAS carried out its first airlift in 1953 when three S55’s lifted 12 members of the Worcestershire Regiment into the jungle in search of an insurgent commander and the naval rotary aviation component played a major role until the RAF could catch up and meet the requirements.

It would be fair to say that many of the jungle strike sorties were ineffectual and the most significant contribution to the overall campaign was provided by the fixed and rotary supply aircraft.

No mention of this in the article.

1949, the Berlin Airlift

147 RAF aircraft completed 65,857 sorties, transporting 394,509 tonnes of supplies.

No mention of this in the article.

1950 – 1953, Korea

The articles in question stated that the RAF’s involvement was limited to transport and some flying boat MPA patrols and the RN flew thousands of effective patrols. It also mentioned that the RAF supplied Meteor fighters to the RAAF but these had to be transported to theatre on RN aircraft carriers, the point being made that the RAF needed the RN even for that limited operation.

What happened

Aircraft carriers did indeed provide all the UK’s tactical strike and fighter capability during the Korea War. On their way to, and way back from Korea, Firefly’s from 827, 821 and 825 Squadrons from HMS Triumph HMS Ocean also conducted a number of sorties in Malaya but these were from land bases. Although to me this demonstrates the flexibility of naval aviation they weren’t actually flown from the decks and thus for some reason, left out of the article(s).

At the outbreak of the Korean War HMS Triumph, sailing to Hong Kong from Japan, joined the USN Valley Forge and the first sortie comprising 12 Seafires and 9 fireflies was launched against Haeju Airfield on the 3rd of July 1950.

The articles casually dismissed the role of the Sunderland yet fails to mention that there were there at the request of the Royal Navy, initially providing an anti submarine capability. Hong Kong was a vital staging post and naval base for the carriers, without Hong Kong it is unlikely the carriers would have been able to sustain their deployment and it was given the appropriate degree of protection.  From mid 1949 in Hong Kong, 2 squadrons were maintained as a protective force, first with Spitfires and later with Hornets and Vampires. Photo recce Spitfires were also based in Hong Kong and regularly flew sorties over China. The RAF deployment in Hong Kong lasted from 1948 to 1997 and the FAA were also involved over a sustained period.

HMS Triumph was duly replaced by HMS Theseus in October and in April 1952 by HMS Glory. HMS Glory was replaced in May 1952 by HMS Ocean when she was replaced by HMS Glory in October. HMS Ocean carried out the final shift until the ceasefire was declared in July 1953 and during her deployment carried out a record breaking 123 sorties in one day.

This was a superb display of sustained deployment, a Sea Fury from HMS Ocean was also responsible for the first kill of a jet aircraft from a piston engine aircraft (interesting account here) and the first use of rocket assisted takeoffs from a carrier was also carried out by HMS Ocean in this period.

Video from British Pathe of HMS Glory in actionoff Korea

The carriers generally spent 18 days on station followed by a 6 day trip to Japan for replenishment where they would be in port for about a week before returning to the ops area.

Despite the superb contribution of naval aviation to operations in Korea it would be wrong to dismiss the contribution of the RAF. RAF Sunderland Flying Boats from 88, 205 and 209 squadrons were tasked throughout, 2 were lost. The Sunderland detachment came under the operational control of the United States Navy’s Fleet Air Wing (FAW) 6 and their duties included anti submarine, maritime patrol, weather reconnaissance and transport. The last detachment concluded operations on 31 July 1953.

Auster’s from 1903 Independent Air Observation Post Flight and 1913 Light Liaison Flight were deployed from 1951 until the ceasefire, 2 were lost to ground fire and over 3,000 sorties were completed. Both these flights were mixed RAF and Army, with the pilots usually being ex Royal Artillery.

RAF pilots also flew with other nations; the Royal Australian Air Force 77 Squadron and 6 pilots were killed or taken prisoner. At the ceasefire, 77 Squadron had flown over 18,000 sorties. RAF pilots also flewwith the USAF, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing at Suwon the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing at Kimpo.

Given that a number of RAF personnel were killed in action I would say that the article is rather disrespectful to their memory and it is also worth considering why the RAF was largely in the backseat in Korea.

The simple reason is that they were heavily tasked in Malaya and not forgetting the early fifties was a period where air defence of the UK, the strategic deterrent and other locations were core roles.

1951 to 1956, Egypt

After the war the Egyptians naturally wanted to assert their independence and effect a British withdrawal. A number of RAF bases in the Canal Zone protected the canal and provided a buffer against Soviet expansion in the area. There was a simmering and escalating security situation with 40 service personnel killed and the RAF had Vampires, Meteors, Mosquitos, Meteors, Valettas, Dakotas, Proctors, Ansons, Lincolns and Austers in theatre.

No mention of this in the article.

1952 to 1956, Kenya

After the War, the Kenyan African Union was formed and from that came the extremist Kenyan Land Freedom Party, otherwise known as the Mau Mau. In 1952 the murder of a prominent local prompted the declaration of emergency. By the end of the emergency the RAF had dropped nearly 22,00 bombs and deployed Lincolns, Austers, Harvards, Meteors, Lancasters, Dakotas, Ansons, Proctors, Pembrokes and a number of Sycamore helicopters.

No mention of this in the article.

1952 to 1959, Oman

There had been a long series of close links with Oman that continues to this day and in this period British forces provided combat support, the RAF deploying Vampires, Meteors, Valettas, Lancasters, Lincolns, Shackletons, Canberra’s and Ansons.

Sea Hawks, Sea Venoms and Skyraiders from HMS Ocean HMS Bulwark were also deployed for a short period.

No mention of this in the article.

1954 to 1968, Aden and Radfan

The artice described how the withdrawing British forces were covered by an RN task force, this task force providing cover the RAF as it too withdrew from theatre.

What happened

Although British forces had been involved in various smaller operations in the region for many years things got serious in 1954 when the RAF airlifted troops to counter an attack against Fort Rabat. Supporting the troops were a small number of Vampires and air command post. The Vampires also marked targets for Lincoln bombers and operations continued for some time, in this phase up to 1957 when Shackeltons were also deployed. In 1960 Hunters saw service in the area and in 1960 and 1963 Sea Venoms and Sea Vixens from HMS Centaur and HMS Hermes were involved.

In October 1962 there was a revolution in Yemen and the situation escalated, with Egypt being drawn in. British forces then had dissident tribes, incursions from the Yemen and terrorist actions in Aden itself to deal with.

Combined arms operations continued through 1964 including Operation Nutcracker which involved Army, local forces, RAF and Wessex helicopters from HMS Centaur. After Nutcracker another operation was executed that included 45 Commando, a company of 3 Para, other Army units, local forces and a range of RAF aircraft. Hunters provided close air support and in May this forces was reinforced further, including Wessex helicopters from 815 NAS. The operation was ultimately a success and order was maintained after these combat operations using the well tried air control tactics.

A quote from Tim Toyne Sewell in the book ‘The British Retreat from Aden’

Spectator sport was watching the RAF Hunter (successor to the Venom) pilots attacking rebel positions deep in the valleys between the mountains. They flew at the limits, heading down the between the rock walls until it seemed that they must crash into the mountainside, firing into forts or sangars with long bursts of fire, before hauling back the stick and going vertically up over the mountain lip. It was real Biggles stuff and the RAF won plenty of plaudits from the Jocks, who knew that they would be well served if they needed help in an emergency

The Wessex helicopters were essential to the success of the operation and during the May to June period, RAF Hunters flew over 600 sorties, expending over 180,000 cannon rounds and firing 2,500 rockets. During the same period RAF also Belvederes flew over 1,000 sorties.

In 1964 it was announced the area would be granted independence but with a British military bases retained. This didn’t go down well with the locals and fighting continued in and around Aden for some years, in 1966 the intention to retain a base was reversed.

Plans were now made for a full scale evacuation involving the largest airlift since Berlin and many thousands of personnel and huge quantities of stores were airlifted by Hercules, Britannia’s and Belfast’s. In an echo of Palestine the final withdrawal was 42 Commando by Wessex helicopters from 848 NAS and 78 Squadron. These were covered by Buccaneers Sea Vixens from HMS Eagle. Although there were of course contingency plans if things get a bit sporty, in the end, the withdrawal proceeded without incident.

The article was again guilty of being highly selective in its dates.

1955 to 1959, Cyprus

When the Cyprus Emergency was declared in 1955 after the murder of a policeman there was already a significant British force on the island following the withdrawal from Egypt in 1954. The RAF and FAA contribution was relatively small but there was a contribution nevertheless.

No mention of this in the article.

1955, Sudan

The RAF deployed 3 squadrons of Tempests to support the run up to independence and attack dissidents in the south of the country.

No mention of this in the article.

1956, Suez

The article described a combined assault by UK and French carrier borne and land based aircraft, making the point that because of their position, the carriers reacted more quickly to calls for action than RAF aircraft from Cyprus and Malta. Despite, it said, only having a third of the British strike fighters the RN strike fighters flew two thirds of the strike sorties. RAF aircraft were said to carry fewer weapons and could spend little time on task and when on task most time was spent at high level to conserve fuel.

What happened

In October 1955 fighting broke out around the British bases in the Suez Canal Zone and 16 Independent Parachute Brigade was flown from Cyprus aboard the Vickers Vikings of Nos. 70, 78, 114, 204 and 216 Squadrons RAF to support the units stationed in the Canal Zone.

In August 1956 after the nationalisation of the Suez Canal by Egypt on 26 July Canberra bombers were deployed to Cyprus as part of an escalation strategy. In October following the Egyptian Government’s rejection of the ultimatum presented by Britain and France and its closure of the Suez Canal, British and French forces commenced operations against Egypt, called Operation Musketeer.

Twelve Egyptian airfields in the Canal Zone and the Nile Delta were attacked by Canberra and Valiant bombers. In an echo of recent operations this initial phase, called Operation Fairlove, was designed to neutralise the opposing air forces. The bomber force consisted of 17 RAF squadrons supported by 7 squadrons of Venoms, Hunters and Meteors operating from Malta and Cyprus. In addition to the RAF, the Fleet Air Arm fielded 11 squadrons, Sea Hawks, Sea Venoms and Wyverns.

Operations commenced on the 31st of October, with reconnaissance being carried out by RAF Canberra’s closely followed by Canberra and Valiant bombers. The night after both the RAF and FAA were engaged in bombing operations. The destruction of the Egyptian Air Force was swift and other targets were engaged although subsequent research has shown that some of the Egyptian Air Force was relocated South prior to the operation.

Subsequent analysis showed that the high level bombing was not as effective as first thought but as the threat of the Egyptian Air Force was reduced, medium level attacks were much more accurate and rules of engagement meant that civilian casualties were to be avoided at all costs.

Whilst the Canberras carried out many effective strike sorties the Hunters, with most of their drop tanks having been damaged by previous gunnery practice, were indeed limited to only 10 minutes over the target area.

Prior to the amphibious attack phase there was a shortage of viable targets for aircraft so strikes reduced.

Carrier borne aircraft, in addition to strike sorties, also carried out anti submarine and AEW tasks.

On the 5th of November 3 Para were dropped onto the El Gamil airfield by RAF Valettas and Hastings, the drop zone being marked with flares dropped by Canberra’s. The airborne force also included 7 jeeps armed with recoilless rifles, these, incredibly being carried under the wings of the Hastings. Although the WWII vintage jeeps had been out of service for some time they were the only vehicles available that were light enough for air dropping. FAA aircraft flew cab rank style close air support missions and by the end of the day in excess of 400 sorties had been flown. The size of the airdrop was largely dictated by the available space at the Cyprus airfields and capacity of the RAF’s transport fleet. This was an area that had seen rapid decline since the war and with the resource intensive effort to get the V Bomber force operational the air lift capacity was simply too small. In comparison with the French parachute force, British parachute forces were much less well trained and equipped.

On the 6th of November the amphibious assault commenced with 40 and 42 Commando, supported by Centurion tanks from the Royal Tank Regiment. The reserve, 45 Commando, was committed to and in a world first, carried out a ship to shore helicopter assault using Whirlwinds from 845 NAS and HMS Theseus and Whirlwinds and Sycamores from the Joint Helicopter Unit and HMS Ocean.

After helicopters had demonstrated their potential in Korea, Joint Helicopter Experimental Unit (JHEU) was formed at RAF Middle Wallop on April Fools Day, 1955, with both the RAF and Army in equal numbers. After many landings on an aircraft carrier sized runway at Middle Wallop, helicopters from the JHEU deployed to HMS Theseus in 1955 to develop the concept further.

Just before Suez, JHEU ceased to be an experimental unit and was renamed to the Joint Helicopter Unit, during Operation Musketeer they were extremely busy. JHU was a truly joint unit, Army and RAF pilots ferrying Royal Marines into battle.

RAF and FAA aircraft continued to provide support to the land operation although given their close proximity the FAA aircraft could remain on station longer. Close Air Support to the amphibious landing was provided by the FAA, 8 Sea Hawks armed with rockets and coordinated by an Air Control Team that consisted of 2 pilots (RAF and French Armeé de’l Air), 2 forward air controllers and an Army Ground Liaison Officer.

The FAA was involved with a friendly fire incident when a Wyvern mistakenly attacked the HQ of 45 Commando.

The same day a ceasefire was announced.

Suez, like every single combat operation, was a mixture of success and failure, many lessons were learned but what strikes me is the interconnected nature of the operation, all the services combining for maximum effect in what was a stunning tactical victory, strategy of course, was another matter.

1958, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq

The article described how HMS Eagle provided support for airborne and amphibious forces and that carrier borne fighters were used to protect RAF transport aircraft because RAF fighter bases were to far away for their aircraft to be effective.

What happened

As part of a coordinated US/UK response to growing unrest in the area the UK flew elements of 2 Para to Amman from Cyprus in RAF Hastings. By the 18th, over 2,000 British troops were in Amman. The RAF transports were escorted by fighters from the powerful US Sixth Fleet and on the 20th a detachment of Hunters from Cyprus were stationed there.

1958, British Honduras

In April, Operation Quick Flight commenced, in light of the worsening relationship between the United Kingdom and Guatemala with regard to the status of British Honduras, a Royal Visit was conducted by Princess Margaret to demonstrate the United Kingdom’s commitment to preserve the integrity of the Crown Colony. The Vickers Viscount carrying Princess Margaret was escorted by two armed Canberra interdictors of No.59 Squadron, with two Canberra PR9s of No.58 Squadron acting as navigation leaders.

No mention of this in the article.

1961, Kuwait

The article decsribed how HMS Bulwark and 42 Cdo RM arrived in the area within 24 hours because of timely intelligence and used helicopters to provide rapid deployment. It stated that British troops arriving in RAF transport aircraft had only what they stood up in and had to both requisition vehicles and wait for RN amphibious shipping to bring in more. HMS Victoria arrived some time later but arrived with a complete package of power that subsequently dominated the area. It said that a single RAF Hunter squadron was deployed to Kuwait from Bahrain but lacked the logistics and radar cover to be effective, this being provided by HMS Bulwark. Because no RAF transport aircraft were available, as they were all being used for troop transport, the Hunters left as soon as HMS Victorious arrived.

What happened

In response to Iraq making a claim against Kuwait and moving troops south, British forces in the area were placed on 4 days notice to move. HMS Bulwark and 42 Commando were off Karachi and she joined the three frigates in area, moving into the Gulf. Plan Vantage was a prepared Reinforced Theatre Plan which envisaged supplementing local forces with those flown in from the UK.

On the 29th June HMS Bulwark started her voyage from Karachi and on the 30th the 2 Hunter squadrons moved to Bahrein from their respective regional locations and were operational the same day. A pair of Shackletons also moved to the same location and Canberra’s went to Sharjah (now part of the UAE) HQ 24 Brigade was moved into the Gulf from Kenya using a combination of RAF and civilian transport aircraft.

When the formal request for assistance came on the 29th British forces were poised ready. The first units to enter Kuwait were elements of 42 Commando flown off HMS Bulwark by Whirlwinds of 848NAS. The RAF Hunters arrived the same morning at Kuwait New Airfield and Britannias flew in  45 Commando and the 11th Hussars from Aden. A small contingent of the 3rd Dragoon Guards was put ashore from HMS Striker (the same HMS Striker mentioned above in the Palestine section)

The build up continued with Comets, Britannias and Beverleys bringing in 2 Para, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskillings and 2 company’s of Coldstream Guards complete with their equipment.

On the 4th the planned build up was complete and the composite force took up positions along the Mutla Ridge. The RAF aircrew were rotated onto Bulwark and Bulwark also provided the only air defence radar capability.

On the 9th of July HMS Victoria arrived with Sea Vixen fighters, AEW Gannets and much improved radar which extended coverage out to 150 miles. On the 18th, the RAF also established a second air defence radar site although it was not as capable as that of HMS Victorious. No moves were made on Kuwait and by the 20th plans for a stand down were in place. HMS Centaur relieved HMS Victorious on the 31st of July and by late September all units were at their normal locations.

No invasion came and one might reasonably chalk this one up to the effectiveness of an all arms deployment that rapidly built up ground forces that were supported by a range of airborne capabilities from both land and sea.

1962 to 1966, Borneo

This is where the article seemed to descend into siliness, clutching at straws to to score points, making a point that the RAF had to rely on the RN commando carriers to get into theatre because they lacked the range to self deploy which seems rather obvious. It then described how carriers and their air groups provided a deterrent against Indonesian intervention by a show pf presence in international waters, the RAF being unable to provide anything similar.

What happened

The then president of Borneo encourage a local group to revolt, seeking a unification of Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia and a number of attacks were carried out and a pre prepared plan, Operation Borneo, was commenced. RAF Beverleys and New Zealand and Australian aircraft flew a battalion of Gurkhas into a number of locations to reinforce and restore order. Hunters and Canberras were detached to provide close air support and Beavers and Austers continued to provide localised support. 42 Commando joined the action and HMS Albion was on the scene with Whirlwind and Wessex helicopters a short time later.

As mopping up operations continued HMS Hermes arrived to provide additional air cover

Things de escalated but by 1963 trouble was increasing with sporadic cross border attacks by Indonesian forces although both sides were at pains to keep the political rhetoric low key.

By late September Indonesia has started overflying the area with their B25’s and P51 Mustangs. In response the RAF detached Hunters and Javelins, this was reinforced in early 1963 with more Javelins and an air defence intercept zone was established.

Prior to the state of emergency being declared on the 2nd of September Indonesia paratroopers had conducted and airborne assault in West Malaysia. 14 Hunter sorties saw most of the ground force destroyed and the remnants were cleared by ground forces.

The Malaysian aircraft had penetrated via a radar gap and HMS Kent was subsequently positioned to fill it. Gannet AEW aircraft played a vital role until ground based radar coverage could be improved.  RAF, RNZAF and RAAF aircraft continued to reinforce the air defence arrangements in the area.

In Borneo, ground operations continued and were supported by an increasing number of RAF, AAC and FAA helicopters and transport aircraft.

To provide an overt and visible deterrent to Indonesia detachments of the V Bomber force were routinely deployed to Singapore.

1964, East African Mutinies

Again, the article seemed to make great play of how RAF helicopters had to rely oy on the RN to get into the action.

What happened

A number of former East African British colonies achieved independence in the run up to this period and British forces were involved in minor roles, supporting evacuations for example.

On the 20th of January men from the 1 Battalion Tanganyika Rifles mutinied, detaining British officers, NCO’s and the High Commissioner. HMS Centaur sailed from Aden with 45 Commando, elements of the 16/5th Lancers and RAF helicopters. Although the captives were released the mutiny spread and the president of Tanganyika formally requested assistance. On the 25th 45 Commando conducted a heliborne assault into Colito on the coast supported by Wessex from 815 NAS and Belverderes from 26 Squadron RAF. The Belverderes were used to transport Ferret armoured scout cars of the Lancers. After restoring order the next objective was Tabora, some 400 miles inland.

An RAF Argosy flew in an RAF Regiment force to secure the airbase who were met by elements of 45 Commando flown in by the 2 Belvederes. Sea Vixens were planned to strike that day but the mutineers had surrendered and the attack was cancelled.

A number of other mutinies were effectively dealt with and the RAF, Army, RN, FAA and Royal Marines all playing various roles.

1965 to 1980, Rhodesia and Zambia

The article describes how during the Defence of Zambia (1965-66), the RAF took many months to deploy and in this period was covered by aircraft from HMS Eagle.  Then for the Beira Patrol (1965-66) claimed that only aircraft from aircraft carriers could cover the area before the RAF arrived.

What happened

Following Rhodesia’s declaration of independence sanctions were imposed but these would also impact Zambia so it was decided to mount an air supply operation supplement their oil stocks. In mid November 1965 HMS Eagle arrived off Mozambique to provide air cover in case the air force of Rhodesia decided to attack the transports flying into Zambia. The plan called for the aircraft from HMS Eagle to mount defensive patrols until they were relieved by RAF Javelins. On the 1st of December the Javelins flew direct to Nairobi from Cyprus using long range tanks. Air defence radars were also flown in.

On the 19th of December the oil supply flights commenced and by the end of October 1966 when the airlift ceased, over 3 million gallons had been transported, although it was said much of this was for the Vixens!

HMS Eagle left the area in December and in January was replaced by HMS Ark Royal who took up station off the Mozambique port of Beira. HMS Eagle came back in early March to relieve HMS Ark Royal and commenced the blockade; this was called the Beira Patrol. Until Shackletons took over in August the FAA and RN carried out the task.

The Beira Patrol was a futile exercise, most of the oil was transported overland from South Africa and many saw it as a complete waste of time and resources better deployed elsewhere, Borneo for example.

1972, British Honduras

The article describes how a show of force by Buccaneers from Ark Royal prevented a threatened invasion of British Honduras (Belize) by Guatemala and that the RAF was too far away to do anything.

What happened

In January 1972 a small force of Guatemalan troops were sighted on the border and HMS Ark Royal, who was in the area conducting a training mission with the USS Bachante was detached to the area, Buccaneers from 891 NAS conducted a number of shows of strength on the border.

In February HMS Ark Royal returned to the area with the 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards who reinforced the garrison.

The country was renamed Belize in 1973

1975 to 1994, Belize

After negotiations between the UK and Guatemala broke down Guatemalan troops began massing on the border. From the 11th of October RAF Pumas were flown into the area by Belfast transports and the garrison increased to over a thousand personnel. Six RAF Harrier GR1A aircraft were flown to Belize, using in flight refuelling and stops at Goose Bay and Nassau.

By 1976, with things calming down, the Harriers returned to the UK, transported in Belfasts.

The situation escalated yet again and six Harriers were flown out to reinforce the garrison, yet again.

Although the expected invasion did not happen, as could be expected, a force of 4 Harrier GR3 was established and maintained throughout this period. The last Harriers departed in 1993 and the Pumas in 1994.

No mention of this in the article.

1982, Falkland Islands

Given the recentness and how obvious personalities have been vocal on this it should come of no surprise that the article was partiularly strident about the RAF’s contribution to the Falklands conflict.

First it made the point that RAF Harriers and Chinooks had no means of reaching the conflict other than the Atlantic Conveyor, HMS Hermes and HMS Invicible, how they had to rely on RN supplied radar, air defence, weapons and fuel to be effective, neither of which would have been there without the carriers. It then went on to describe how carrier borne strike fighters and helicopters were fundamental to the success of the operation, neither of which would have been there without the carriers. It again made the point, using the word ‘significantly, that the RAF ‘needed’ the carriers and ACO to ‘get them into action’

Not in the main article but claims made around the same time on the same collection of sites included statements that RAF Harriers flew many fewer ground attack missions than did Sea Harriers and on Black Buck it claimed that one bomb hit the edge of the runway, how this did not prevent its use by Hercules or Close Air Support aircraft and 62 bombs were off target, 21 of them not even being armed properly. One mission was reportedly aborted because a pilot left the cabin window open and declared a cockpit pressurisation failure. Comparisons were also made about comparative fuel use, how Sea Harriers delivered many bombs and hit their targets every time, that £10m of fuel was spent on knocking out one small surface to air machine gun and that the RAF placed ships in danger by insisting that the naval task force could not fire at any targets whilst the Vulcans were near the target.

What happened

Much has been written about the Falkland Islands conflict in 1982 and inevitably there are differences of opinion and perceptions, to research these differences would be a huge task, made even more difficult by the official history differing in some aspects from subsequent publications.

The first and obvious thing to say is that without the Sea Harriers the operation would have simply been extremely unlikely to have been successful. The anti aircraft systems on board the Royal Navy vessels and when ashore, ground based air defence systems, proved less capable than thought and no land based fighter cover was available. Even though British forces demonstrably failed to achieve complete control of the air what control was achieved was enough to provide the land and sea component the ability to retake the islands.

Operation Corporate was predominantly a naval and ground operation, the RAF were to play a series of supporting roles but these were vital to overall success. The final decisive operation was very much a land one but denigrating the RAF’s role is wrong.

Rather than going through the entire operation I am going to look at a few different air aspects of the campaign;

Black Buck – Anti Runway

They were and still are hugely controversial.

The famous Vulcan raids on Port Stanley, like much of Op Corporate, have been endlessly analysed with the obvious divergence of opinion. Some claim that it was nothing but showboating so the RAF could say they were involved and a complete waste of valuable fuel. To understand Black Buck one has to at least try and balance the certainty of post operation research with the degree of uncertainty that would have been experienced at the time.

The fact that several components for the Vulcan’s were recovered from museums and scrap yards makes this extraordinary feat of airmanship even more remarkable but what about its material impact on the operation?

It is obvious that the given our relative disadvantages, attacking well defended islands with a numerically inferior force at the end of an 8,000 mile logistic train the use of Port Stanley for fast jet operations was a major factor in planning. If Argentine forces could operate their Skyhawks and Mirage fighters from Port Stanley instead of at the limit of their range the balance of power in the air war would have massively changed and without some semblance of air control, no land operation could be countenanced. It was therefore imperative that Port Stanley was denied to Argentine forces, especially their Mirage and Skyhawk fighters.

This was a maximum effort operation, as far as practically possible all British defence forces were engaged and it is entirely understandable that all services wanted to get stuck in. There are a number of accounts of service personnel just turning up at the troop ships hoping (and I think there might have been a few successes)  to get a ride south.

There were a number of strategic objectives of Black Buck; the first was to deny the airport to Argentine Mirage and Skyhawks and the second, arguably the most important, was to send a very clear message to the Junta that the UK could reach out and touch them. In both these strategic objectives, they were a success, it was also hoped that such a demonstration would force the diversion of Argentine aircraft to defence of the mainland, opinions on this seem to differ but most accounts confirm that some repositioning took place which would have meant less aircraft available for operations around the islands with obvious results. The degree of this repositioning was arguably not hugely significant but opinions and accounts do differ.

Critics point to the fact that only one bomb hit the runway on the first attack but this was calculated, conventional bombing doctrine against runways dictates that the attack line is at an angle to the runway, the angle being calculated using a number of factors. This is to maximise the possibility of a single or multiple hits, it should also be recognised that in order to maximise damage the bomb needs to land as near as vertical as possible and at high speed which dictated a medium level approach. The bombs penetrated the runway and surrounding areas creating a heave effect that rendered the surface unusable to fast jets with high pressure tyres. It has been noted that the Argentine combat engineers repaired the craters and this allowed Hercules, Pucara’s and even light jets to operate right up until the end of the operation. This is true but it was designed to stop fast Mirage and Skyhawk’s, not transports. The material difference that continual Hercules operations had on the outcome was immaterial, the same could not be said if Argentina had operated their Mirage and Skyhawk aircraft from the islands.

Launched from mainland Argentina, the Skyhawks, Mirages and Daggers were at the edge of their endurance, time over the islands was measured in minutes, they (Mirage and Dagger) were unable to use to maximise their speed advantage over the Harriers and usually concentrated on attacks against the land and sea forces without defensive weaponry. If Stanley could be used, this would change dramatically even if only the Skyhawks could be deployed (runway length issues), sortie rates would be much higher and who knows what the result might have been.

It came as a surprise that the Argentine forces did not make more of an effort to use Port Stanley, they might have thought it was too short, too vulnerable to attack or without the support facilities necessary but it could have been used as a divert location, refuelling stop or other use that fell short of full operations. They could have extended the runway and had the capability and materials to do so not only was the runway a target in the initial mission, the surrounding areas were also targeted.  According to Wikipedia (which backs the claim up with Argentine document links) in early April arrestor gear was installed to enable S2 tracker and A4 Skyhawk landings with a small number deployed until just before the British forces arrived. There are pictures on a number of online forums that would seem to confirm this.

Sea Harriers conducted a follow up attack after the first Black Buck with cluster and conventional bombs but the degree of damage was uncertain. The claim that they could have dropped 1,300 bombs for the fuel of a single Black Buck is fair enough, but the task force didn’t have 1,300 thousand pounders and it would have needed 650 Harrier sorties to deliver them.

It has been claimed that Sea Harriers would have been more effective but with the munitions and delivery mechanisms available, the fact that Vulcan’s were available and the finite supply of Sea Harriers, which in a cold analysis, were too few in numbers, meant that the task force commanders rightly decided to marshal the Sea Harrier and use them for what they excelled at, namely air defence. If Port Stanley was without air defences then a lower level attack by Sea Harriers probably would have been able to completely deny the runway to all aircraft but this was not the case, Port Stanley was protected by a number of extremely effective anti aircraft systems and to prosecute such an attack, to get the necessary runway penetration, would have meant flying directly into the optimal engagement zone of these systems, it was simply too risky. The Vulcan could deliver this strike on one go, using its powerful ECM and large bomb load, whereas to use Sea Harriers would have diverted them from the valuable role of air defence and without ECM would have exposed them to great risk.

I can see the argument for greater use of Sea Harriers in the ground attack role in the early stages but I think the decision taken was the correct one, on balance.

It would also have been in the planners mind that post conflict there would be a need to defend the islands against any retaliatory attacks and denying the runway rather than completely destroying it might have been thought of as a sensible option.

When it became apparent that the Argentine forces were not repairing Stanley it dropped down the things to do list although they continued to try and deceive the task force into thinking otherwise, arranging the MB339’s with angled runway repair planking to simulate a Super Etendard for example. Some have claimed that the runway was repaired the following day but this is also to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of runway repair, what they did was fill the holes so the runway could be used for Hercules and light aircraft, this is not the same as effecting a proper repair and extension that would have been required for the Skyhawks and Mirage’s and their high pressure tyres.

This from the Telegraph in 2007

Immediately after the Argentine surrender, I and a Falkland Islander drove the length and breadth of the Stanley runway looking for signs of damage and repair. There were none and the concrete was in as good condition as when I had been responsible for its security in 1978 and 1979.

My friend and I marvelled, not for the first time, at the inventiveness of the Argentine engineers. Certainly the RAF’s bombing operations against Stanley airport were strategically useful but of little tactical value to us actually in the Falklands.

Lt Col Ewen Southby-Tailyour, Ermington, Devon

In response, I think this from someone qualified in airfield bomb damage repair is relevant.

Sir – Ewen Southby-Tailyour (Letters, May 5) is wrong in his description of the damage to the Stanley runway. As Commander, Royal Engineers, I was responsible for its repair immediately after the surrender. There was one large crater caused by a 1,000lb bomb from the RAF Vulcan raid, and four smaller craters resulting from earlier Harrier attacks. (The Argentines had also created dummy craters to confuse our aerial reconnaissance.) Repairing the large crater and the large area of runway took about two weeks and 1,000 square metres of captured Argentine runway matting. Lt Col Southby-Tailyour is, however, correct in stating that Argentine aircraft were able to continue to use the runway, despite the bombing raids, by temporarily backfilling the craters. This, perhaps, is why his “recce” did not spot the true extent of the damage

Black Buck 7 used proximity fused bombs against facilities and positions and Black Buck 2 bombs failed to go off. It is Black Buck 2 that comes, rightly, in for criticism. Depending on which account you read they were either incorrectly fused or incorrectly armed, such is conflict, mistakes can be made and many were made by all three services.

Back to the overall goal, accepting that we did not know whether Argentine forces were going to use Stanley for fast jets (Mirage, Skyhawk, Dagger etc) or not, the goal was to deny them the ability to do so and by a combination of Sea Harrier, Black Buck and naval gunfire this goal was achieved.

Were the Black Buck raids an unqualified success, no, of course they were not and there is no disputing the cost in tanker capacity and fuel (it might be worth comparing the fuel to that used by the task force as a whole) or the inter service rivalry that would have been in the back of people’s minds but the final word should go to Admiral Woodwood at a seminar held at the RAF Staff College in 2002

My dark blue aviators said “Oh, it’s the air force just trying to get in on the act”, but I said, hang on a minute, there will be two things. If they do hit the runway, that can’t be bad, they can disrupt it… but also it will have exactly that effect of causing them [the junta] to think they could come at us on the mainland. It is showing reach and therefore it is deterrent. And I suspect it made them hold back some of their Mirages, which could have acted as top cover for their A-4 raids. So I signed up for it and told my aviators to shut up.’

Black Buck – Anti Radar

The other Black Buck missions, 3 to 6, were designed to destroy Argentine radar installations in and around Port Stanley, a modern Westinghouse AN/TPS-43F and supporting AN/TPS-44. These posed a significant threat because they could be used to support inbound strike sorties by Argentine aircraft, locating the approximate area of the carriers by plotting the Sea Harriers flight path for example.

The Grupo de Artillería Antiaérea 601 posed a serious threat and was reinforced with a detachment of Grupo 1 de Artillería Antiaérea that manned some of the radar equipment. In addition the radar sets mentioned above the occupying forces also had Roland 2 launchers, Skyguard fire control radar, radar controlled 35mm twin Oerlikon-Contraves cannons, twin 20mm cannons and Super Fledermaus fire control radars.

On paper, a formidable array

After Black Buck 1 and the first Sea Harrier sortie, during which the air defences were ineffective, the second wave of Sea Harriers was met with intense fire, although, again, ineffective. Subsequent operations against Goose Green resulted in the loss of a Sea Harrier to radar directed 35mm weapon and it was reported that after this, subsequent air to ground missions were carried out at an altitude outside of the engagement envelope of the 35mm weapons until low level strikes were resumed by the RAF GR3’s later in the operation, again, not sure if this is true but it would make sense, the Sea Harriers were a precious and finite commodity.

Black Buck 4 was the first mission armed with the AGM-45A Shrike anti radiation missile but was cancelled when one of the tankers had a refuelling equipment failure. Black Buck 5 was flown on the 32st of May and the principal target was the TPS43 radar, it shot and missed, plain and simple, the missile striking about 10 meters from the radar.

Black Buck 5 this time had 4 Shrike’s, a pair each tuned into the TPS43 and Skyguard radars. The TPS43 crews wisely switched off their transmitters but not so the Skyguard crew and a successful strike took place, killing 4 and destroying the equipment. This was the mission that had to divert to Brazil due to low fuel and was unable to jettison the remaining Shrike, this fell into Brazilian hands and was never seen again (I think it might be in a museum in Brazil somewhere)

A small number of Shrikes were parachute dropped into the sea next to HMS Hermes by Hercules transport aircraft, these were recovered and assembled but by the time the weapons were ready the Argentine forces had surrendered.

After the conflict, the remaining 35mm cannons and fire control systems were recovered to the UK and pressed into service.

RAF Crewing

Roughly one in four aircrew on the Sea Harrier force were RAF and they accounted for about a quarter of the kills.

Harrier GR3

After the initial warning order was received modifications of the GR3 to enable naval operations commenced including drilling holes to allow water to escape, fitting lashing points, fitting transponder equipment to allow recovery to the carriers and a very hasty Sidewinder fit. Without radar the GR3 would be much inferior to the Sea Harrier in the AD role but in the absence of anything else, they would have to make do.

The GR3’s and additional Sea Harriers were flown to Ascension Island for embarkation on the Atlantic Conveyor. One Sea Harrier was kept onboard at alert state to counter any Argentine 707’s and in the first few days after leaving the island some tanker support was available should it be needed.

After transferring to the Hermes on the 18th of May, the first operational sortie was completed on the 20th

Because in the period between the initial operations and when the reinforcements arrived there had been no Sea Harrier losses so the GR3’s could be used for their primary role, close air support, combat reconnaissance and interdiction using cluster bombs, thousand pounders, rockets and the twin 30mm Aden cannon pods. The GR3’s were also capable of using the newly obtained laser guided bombs but these were not used effectively until the closing stages of the operation due to unfamiliarity. When they were used, they were devastating, destroying a Company HQ and 105mm artillery piece. Although the writing was clearly on the wall for the occupying forces by this time, the precision strikes must have contributed to the desire to surrender. It was a fearsome capability.

Ground based air defences included the automatic weapons and missile systems mentioned above and Blowpipe and SA-7 MANPADS. Two GR3 losses were both attributed to ground based air defences, another to small arms fire and the fourth to an accident.

A little known element of Harrier operations in the Falkland Islands is the port San Carlos Forward Operating Base (FOB)

The Atlantic Conveyor was carrying Harrier spares and a full FOB, the Royal Engineers managed to improvise with the small stocks of matting they had. It wasn’t perfect, the AM2 matting that went down would have been far more suitable but it did provide limited capacity. A pair of GR3’s were usually located there as a quick reaction alert for ground forces and Sea Harriers used it is a refuelling point. It might be an interesting ‘what if’ to ask what impact on subsequent air, land and sea operations if a fully functioning Harrier FOB was established early after the initial landings.

An interesting quote from Major General Julian Thompson as recorded at a Falklands Seminar in 2003.

I was the commander of the 3rd Commando Brigade in the Falklands. In his presentations, CAS* said that his squadron helped to turn the tide at Goose Green. I can tell him that it did turn the tide. 2 PARA were stuck on a forward slope, in daylight, being engaged by 35mm AAA at 2,000 metres range, something to which they had absolutely no answer. Suddenly like cavalry to the rescue out of the sky came three Harriers which promptly took out those guns and turned the tide of the battle. There is a tale behind that too. We had previously been supported by CAS’s squadron on exercise in Norway and we had a very high opinion of what they could do. While we were on our way south, I turned to my primary FAC, who was an RAF Phantom back seater on a ground tour, and I told him that I needed No 1 Squadron. He said that I would never get them. I asked why and he replied they simply couldn’t get there. Thank God you did Peter, because you really did pull the fat out of the fire for us, for which I would like to say thank you, very much indeed.

* Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) at the time of the seminar, Sir Peter Squire

There have been other claims that the guns were knocked out by mortars but it is still an interesting quote, here, on page 155

Bravo November

The single RAF Chinook survivor of the Atlantic Conveyor moved 1,350 troops and 1,600 tonnes of supplies during the short time from when it was operational to the surrender. On one occasion it was used to move 81 fully tooled up paras to Fitzroy. It was supplemented by 4 more when the Contender Bezant arrived, a day after the surrender.

There is no doubt it was decisive, especially in moving the 105mm light guns and ammunition into position. There is an enduring myth that Argentine forces were poorly trained conscripts who gave up after the first shot but this is simply not true, their positions around Stanley were well constructed and fighting was fierce, often close quarters with bayonets and small arms. Without the artillery support provided by the 105mm Light Guns casualties would have been much higher, the limiting factor was ammunition supply and the Chinook was instrumental in providing the ammunition to these guns.

Others

VC10’S and Hercules were engaged in a more or less constant airlift effort between the UK and Ascension Island throughout the conflict and beyond.

Without the huge logistical effort from the RAF the task force would have been unable to transfer all the Harriers south and unable to obtain spares and time critical stores. Hercules also carried out a number of parachute supply drops sorties to the fleet in excess of 24 hours and in total amassed some 14,000 hours.

One might reasonably argue that these incredibly long Hercules sorties that provided vital supplies to the RN were as important as any other.

These continued after the cessation of hostilities.

A little known element of the operation was the contribution of Nimrods, flying from Ascension they carried out various roles throughout, some very close to the Argentine mainland.

RAF Regiment personnel were also deployed.

I am currently researching a more in depth piece on Black Buck but posts on the Atlantic Conveyor and the San Carlos FOB can be found here and here.

1983 Lebanon

In 1983 a small British peacekeeping forces was deployed to Lebanon. In addition to operating Chinook helicopters the RAF also mounted Op Pulsator which detached a flight of 6 Buccaneers to Cyprus. A number of show of force flights were mounted over the British area of responsibility and in one incident, the alert state was raised because a tank round entered the area but was quickly lowered when the Druze Militia Commander immediately apologised to British forces for a stray round.

No mention of this in the article.

1990 to 1991, The Gulf War

Confusing carrier aviation with British carrier aviation the article highlights the role played by USN carriers and states that HMS Ark Royal operated in the Eastern Mediterranean in a ‘containment role’ that was not, in the event, used.

Although not in the original article, associated pieces published at the same time claim that ‘informed sources’ confirm that of the eight RAF aircraft lost, only one was due to enemy action. The others were, it claimed, due to unfamiliarity with the JP233 delivery profile, ‘finger trouble’, whatever that is, and a so called basic lack of air warfare munitions experience. I think it is at this point that things started to get heated and objectivity thrown clearly out of the window.

Hold on, I thought this was about British Combat Airpower not American. So that would be the largest deployment of the land and aviation forces since the colonial operations of the fifties and RN aviation was limited to a containment role that wasn’t used, surely some mistake.

What happened

The Gulf War is another intensively studied conflict.

The RAF flew 5,417 sorties using Buccaneers, Tornado GR1, Tornado F3, C130, Victor, VC10, Jaguar, Nimrod and Tristar aircraft.  1,126 guided bombs were dropped, incidentally, more than the US Navy and US Marine Corps put together.

RAF tankers provided a significant proportion of aerial refuelling support to the USN

JP233 was developed to destroy the runways of relatively compact European airfields and prevent repair. The Iraqi airfields were huge in comparison and given the ability to strike the hardened aircraft shelters with precision weapons and the general lack of Iraqi air force resistance there was some debate whether they should be used at all. The RAF and USAF in theatre did not think they were needed but it was reported that this was over ruled by the MoD. In the event, over 100 JP233 missions were used but only one JP233 mission resulted in a lost aircraft and this was several minutes after release. We also have to put this into some context, the RAF had extensively trained for ultra low level attacks using Tornado, it was thought, possibly correctly, this was the only way to penetrate Warsaw Pact airspace and it was this low level penetration anti runway mission that they were extensively prepared for and were tasked for as part of NATO plans for Europe.

Intelligence failures led to the underestimation of the density of AAA and because there was little scope for realistic training, only trials crews had conducted live firings, the effect of a night time deployment of the weapon, which created a series of flash photography like illuminations, made the aircraft vulnerable.

A change of tactics on was announced January 23rd, medium altitude bombing to move out of the AAA danger zone was now the preferred option. Accuracy suffered but gradually improved and with the introduction of the Buccaneer in the laser designator role the move to guided weapons was commenced.  The initial decision not to deploy Buccaneer was based on logistics, avoiding introducing another type into theatre was desirable but when the low level and JP233 missions were compromised the problem with medium altitude dumb bombing was that the Tornado force was not trained to do so and the aircraft systems were not optimised. The concerns about ramp space and logistics were valid, but they were misplaced. Buccaneer arrived in late January, a rapid deployment and during the operation, despite its age, the Buccaneer had one of the best availability records of all aircraft.

Once the precision issues were resolved by the deployment of Buccaneer and TIALD, the Tornado make an effective contribution and it is telling that for the first time in 30 years the RAF published a new doctrine soon after.

In early February the first Tornado mission with the TIALD pod was launched.

Because of the relatively poor performance of the Tornado F3 it was decided that it would play only a limited role, providing combat air patrols in the rear areas, just in case. The Jaguar contribution, relatively speaking, was also not significant.

A total of 6 Tornado’s were lost on combat operations and one 1 from mechanical failure

17th January 1991; hit by numerous AAA fire and after successful release of JP233 was seen to hit the ground, aircrew killed

17th January 1991; hit by a surface to air missile after releasing weapons and unable to control aircraft, crew ejected. Mission, using 1,000 pound bombs against an Iraqi airfield, aircrew captured

19th January 1991; hit by surface to air missile whilst on a ‘run in’ for a loft attack. Mission, night attack against Iraq airfield using 1000 pound bombs, aircrew captured after navigator initiated ejection.

20th January 1991; suffered a technical failure and was unable to land, aircraft went to a safe area and the aircrew ejected

22nd January 1991; after successfully releasing their 1,000 pound bombs in an attack against an air defence site the aircraft was lost. The likely cause was AAA fire

24th January 1991; subject to explosion during a night time medium altitude attack against an airfield. Investigation concluded the explosion was caused by premature detonation of bombs, aircrew captured.

14th February 1991; subject to attack by two surface to air missiles whilst engaged in a medium altitude daylight mission in conjunction with Buccaneer. Pilot initiated an ejection and was captured but navigator killed.

I haven’t seen the Board of Inquiry documents and the information above is from an RAF website but I would not presume to know any better. Not sure what ‘finger trouble’ is and ‘informed sources’ should publish their revelations so they can be verified.

After ground operations ceased and with the majority of forces withdrawn the RAF continued to contribute, as did the other services, to operations in the north.

The Iraqi no-fly-zones were established in April 1991 (north) and August 1992 (south) as a coalition (US, UK and France) initiative in support of UNSCR 688 demanding an immediate end to Saddam’s brutal repression of Kurds in north and Shias in south. Operation Haven was mounted in support of the US Operation Provide Comfort in the north and this involved the Royal Marines and various RAF aicraft. This was then followed up with Operation Warden and in 1997 Operation Northern Watch commenced. The Southern Watch operation was called Jural.

On 16-19 December 1998, the US and UK took military action against Iraq under Operation Desert Fox on the basis of Iraq’s non-compliance with UNSCOM and the growing concern that Iraq was continuing to develop its chemical and biological weapons capability. In 1999, Tornado GR1’s carried out a number of strike sorties against Iraqi facilities

A good summary of the no fly zones and Desert Fox was published as part of the Iraq Enquiry, here

Suffice it to say, this was a sustained deployment for the RAF.

1992 to 1996, The Balkans

The main article and similar posts made the point that carrier aircraft were able to reposition and thus be effective when RAF aircraft were hampered by poor weather at land bases. A carrier was ordered to be available to cover a possible withdrawal under fire as only carrier based aviation could guarantee cover. They made the claim that Tornado operations, when grounded due to bad weather, were successfully conducted by the Sea Harrier FA2 operating from the carrier and that the Sea Harrier was instrumental in establishing and maintaining the no fly zone.

What happened

Operations in the Balkans took place over a number of separate phases, operations and years.

Bosnia

In 1993 in support of Operation Deny Flight the RAF deployed Tornado F3s, Boeing Sentry AEW1s, SEPECAT Jaguars and Tristar tankers.

During 1993 and 1994 the Sea Harrier was deployed on three separate non contiguous tours in support of Deny Flight and on the 16th of April 1994 a Sea Harrier was shot down by a SA-7 whilst carrying out a close air support mission.

In 1994 8 Harrier GR7’s were deployed to Gioia del Colle in Italy on July 28th to relieve the Jaguar force and undertake ground attack and reconnaissance tasks as part of Operation Deny Flight. These were reinforced with more GR7’s later. In total, the GR7 flew just over 175 sorties and remained deployed until 1999 as part of the NATO Rapid Reaction Force.

Kosovo and Serbia

With the collapse of diplomatic talks to settle the conflict in Kosovo Operation Allied Force commenced. Tornados, Harrier GR7’s and Sea Harrier FA2’s took part, plus the usual array of support aircraft; it was also the first operational outing for Royal Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The operation was from March 24 1999 to June 10, 1999

HMS Invincible arrived from the Gulf on April 17th and flew their first combat air patrol (of 102 flown) soon after. On the 27th of May, HMS Invincible arrived back in the UK on May 27th, 1999.

GR7’s flew 870 sorties and released 894 weapons, ending at 16 aircraft in theatre.

On April 4th Group Captain Travers Smith, an RAF spokesman, commented

This is yet another form of frustration. Now that the weather has cleared they have taken off, but there is nothing for them to hit. This was the first of the daytime operations for the GR7’s that have managed to get airborne (without weather problems). Their prime purpose today would have been to hit mobile targets that would have been identified by other means. During the period that GR7’s were airborne, no such opportunities presented themselves, so the Harriers returned with their bombs

The weather was to play a significant role, of the 78 day campaign, only 25 days had good weather. This coupled with highly restrictive rules of engagement, the lack of all weather precision munitions and an extremely capable and wily opponent meant that considerable challenges were placed in the path of the air forces and as usual, many lessons were identified, particularly the need for all weather precision munitions and improved communications/coordination with NATO allies.

The weather over the target played a more significant part in hampering the air operation than the weather over the launch area so no amount of repositioning would have helped.

Despite this the GR7’s, with their integrated GPS/INS were approved to release weapons through the clouds against pre approved targets where the risk of collateral damage was relatively low. Tangential, but relevant to the list, USMC Harrier II’s were also employed from naval vessels but of the 58 sorties planned, many were cancelled, about a third, due to bad weather.

The air campaign was followed by the ground component which saw the use of 8 RAF Chinooks and 6 Pumas.

A good overview of this phase is here

Democratic Republic of Congo, 1997

In Operation Determinant 4 Pumas were deployed to Libreville and Brazzaville in the Congo, with support troops, as a precaution against the possibility that British citizens might need to be evacuated from the Zairian capital, Kinshasa

No mention of this in the article.

2000, Sierra Leone

The article talked up the benefits of having a floating base and national command centre. It also claimed that RAF pilots embarked on the the carrier were so concerned about finding their way back to the ship the Sea Harriers had to do their missions for them

What happened

The engagement in Sierra Leone comes in three parts, Operation Palliser, Basilica and Operation Barras.

Palliser

Civil war started in Sierra Leone in 1991 and before it ended in 2002 over a million people had been displaced and the widespread and indiscriminate violence, sexual violence, mutilation and use of child soldiers was to leave a lasting legacy. Into this complex mix had been thrown private military companies, diamond mining and interventions from neighbouring countries. UN Security Resolution 1270 established the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) that was a 6,000 strong ground force (rising to 11,000), including 15 British personnel as observers.

Operation Palliser was mounted to evacuate non combatants (NGO’s, UK/EU citizens et) from the country when increased fighting threatened the capital, Freetown and 208 Zambian UN soldiers were ambushed and captured by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)

In early may 2002, the UN requested to support the ineffective UNAMSIL which was rapidly loosing control of the situation. Initially, France, the UK and USA declined, getting involved in an African civil war had little attraction but given the historic ties the UK had with Sierra Leone it was viewed by Robin Cook and Geoff Hoon as our back garden.

On the 5th of May Brigadier David Richards (yes, that one) the Joint Task Force Headquarters (JTFHQ) commander was ordered to deploy.

On the 6th of May, lead elements, the Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team (OLRT), arrived at Lunghi Airport in Freetown to prepare for the rest of the force.

On the evening of the 7th of May, RAF Hercules and Chinook, staging out of Senegal, had transported 1 Para and supporting elements to Lunghi Airport.

Also on the 7th of May the Amphibious Ready Group, elements of which were on exercise in the Med were also ordered to deploy. The ARG comprised HMS Ocean, HMS Chatham (type 22) and two RFA vessels. It was to be joined by HMS Illustrious, more RFA vessels and HMS Argyle (Type 23). Also aboard were 42 Commando RM, 4 Sea King, 2 Lynx, 2 Gazelle, 2 Chinook, 7 Sea Harriers and 7 GR7’s.

The troops at Lunghi set up as a consolidation point for evacuees and on the 8th were reinforced and secured Aberdeen Peninsula and the road between the airport and Freetown. Evacuation commenced almost immediately with nearly 300 individuals flown out.

On May 11th the ARG arrived offshore and conducted a number of shows of force using embarked RM and Harriers. 47 GR7 sorties were flown, the first on the 17th and 85 Sea Harrier sorties.

Even without carrying drop tanks the bring back performance, in the temperatures encountered, was one 504 pound bomb, the Mk107 engine was later to improve this enormously but was not fitted to Sea Harrier because of the cost and relatively small fleet.

On the 17th of May the pathfinder platoon was involved in a firefight with the RUF at Lunghi Loi Village.

With the situation stabilising and the evacuation complete 1 Para were relieved by 42 Commando on May 26th

Palliser ended on 15th June but a number of personnel were committed to build on the security gains made during Palliser.

So it seems to me that the RAF effected theatre entry, again, surely this is some mistake!

Basilica

Operation Basilica established a small advisory team and in July a battalion of Royal Irish Regiment set up a jungle training camp just outside Freetown. A little known operation was also mounted during this period, called Operation Kukhri, to assist the UN forces rescue 220 Indian soldiers that had been surrounded by the RUF. C130 and Chinook were involved

It is also worth noting that op Silkman, an amphibious show of force’ conducted in November (after Barras) was hugely effective in supporting the UN forces and ongoing peace process

Barras

On August 25th a small party of RIR travelling in 3 Land Rovers were captured by the West Side Boys, a rebel group. After a series of protracted negotiations a rescue operation was mounted including SBS/SAS, 1 Para, 3 Lynx and 3 Chinook helicopters.

2003 to 2009, Iraq

The article highlights how a lack of range meant that carriers had to ‘take them to the fight’ and how they caused difficulties on HMS Ark Royal because of a lack of blade fold.

What happened

Operation Telic commenced and RAF aircraft provided about 6% of coalition sorties and released over 900 weapons, of which 85% were precision-guided.

The air tanker fleet dispersed 19 million pounds of fuel, over 40% of which is given to United States Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.

Aircraft involved included Tornado, Harrier, Tornado f3, Nimrod MR2, Tristar, VC10, E3 Sentry, Hercules, Nimrod R1, BAe125, Hercules, Canberra, Puma, Merlin and Chinook.

The operation lasted from 19th March 2003 to 30th April 2009.

The initial UK operation was to secure Umm Qasr, especially oil installation on the Al Faw peninsula and this was carried out in conjunction with the USMC and Polish personnel.

The Iraq – Lesson learned document from the MoD provides a good overview of the assault on Al Faw, here

The joint plan was for special forces to secure helicopter landing sites and other key areas then 42 and 40 Commando would clear the remaining area and secure them over the assault phase. The majority of heliborne assaults were launched from Tactical Assembly Area Viking, in Kuwait. A, B and C Co  of 40 Commando lifted from Kuwait and D Co from HMS Ocean. The landings were supported with a variety of land and ship based weapons and aircraft.

More information here and here

Al Faw is often used to highlight the effectiveness of aircraft carriers but in all the pieces I have read from the usual suspects, none of them make any mention whatsoever of the role of TAA Viking or the Army units that took part and it is this kind of selective view of history, deliberately excluding the role of others that really niggles me.

Summary

So there we are; a rambling trip through the last several decades of UK military aviation. I have left off operations in Afghanistan and Libya deliberately and might look at these separately and as I mentioned above, will be looking at Black Buck in some detail soon.

The list above also excludes air defence of the United Kingdom, development and maintenance of the strategic deterrent until Polaris, supporting the Polaris and Trident deterrent submarines, supporting the BAOR, transport, various humanitarian deployments and search and rescue.

If you have got this far then I congratulate you on a feat of unparalleled endurance!

Clearly, both the RAF and FAA have contributed significantly to operations since the end of the war, no one can doubt this.

The historical evidence leads to me the conclusion that land based and naval aviation are entirely complimentary but the campaign by some has over inflated the value of aircraft carriers, made extensive use of selective arguments and in some cases used juvenile language to try and argue that one is somehow ‘much betterer’ than the other, it’s like saying my dad is bigger than yours.

The definition of ‘British Combat Airpower’ is also rather selective for it assumes that combat power is derived purely from strike fighter aircraft, this is complete nonsense of course, logistics and intelligence are equally as important, if not more so.

There is no doubt in my mind of the value of naval fixed wing aviation but instead of putting forward a balanced view those made by some of its over enthisiastic supporters are highly partisan, make a selection of cheap shots and have little or no reflection in the reality of history, without any operational or political context and with language that more or less tries to belittle the contribution of the RAF and its personnel, it is really not the way to make a compelling case.

I think it also actually fails to properly highlight the huge contribution made to British operations and the art of combat flying by the Fleet Air Arm and its predecessors and thus scores a spectacular own goal.

There is some of underlying truth in what the campaign says, naval aviation in the Suez campaign for example was much more responsive, of course it was, it was only a few minutes flying time away from Port Said, but that fundamentally misses the point that Suez was a brilliant all arms operation that made maximum use of the capabilities of all three services.

It is one thing making a case for your service, it is one thing to highlight the significant historical achievements of the Royal Navy and Fleet Air Arm, it is one thing to highlight the undoubted flexibility of naval aviation but it is quite another to denigrate another service with little or no basis in fact, make a collection of childish arguments that say more about them than the service they seem to be spending so much energy on denigrating and see naval aviation in the wider context.

I find it rather amusing that the collection of anti RAF ranters are doing a much better job of promoting the RAF than even the RAF would ever hope to do.

Carry on fellas, your doing a grand job.

I wonder if the articles in question have been removed, you know what, I can’t even be arsed to check.

 

 

 

Sources

http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/documents/Journal%2035A%20-%20Seminar%20-%20the%20RAF%20Harrier%20Story.pdf

http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/documents/Journal%2030%20-%20Seminar%20-%20The%20Falklands%20Campaign.pdf

http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafcms/mediafiles/C0054AE0_1143_EC82_2EE9013F84C9F82E.pdf

http://www.ejection-history.org.uk/aircraft_by_type/tornado.htm

http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/Publications/Annotations/gwaps.htm

The Falklands conflict twenty years on: lessons for the future

Osprey – Essential Histories 049 – The Suez Crisis 1956

Suez 1956: Operation Musketeer

Certain Death in Sierra Leone, The SAS and Operation Barras 2000

The Royal Navy in the Falklands Conflict and Gulf War: Culture and Strategy

Air War in the Falklands

Argentine Air Forces in the Falklands Conflict

The Official History of the Falklands Campaign Vol. 2

Britain, NATO and the Lessons of the Balkans Conflicts

Kosovo: Lessons from the Crisis, MoD

The Lessons of Bosnia

European Contributions to Operation Allied Force

Disjointed War

Conflict in the Balkans

Britain’s Air Arms in Action 1945-1990

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!

336 Comments

  1. Mike

    The one that got away!

    Seriously, the tribalisim of both sides of the fence is to be expected – especially from the upper ecelons and retired/arm-chair people – but it still is ridiculous to those in the forces doing the real work… outside of the customary sh!ts n giggles…

    “This is inter service rivalry at its worst, it is desperately depressing …”

    Amen. Now then, I can hear the running footsteps of the old school commenters approaching :D

  2. Jim

    One interesting fact is that the RAF GR3 pilots were able to land on aircraft carriers without any prior training. Everyone claims that F35B is/will be easier to fly than the harrier, so why do we keep seeing arguments that RAF squadrons will need to keep qualified for naval operations.

  3. wf

    @TD: great summary. I think the key point about carrier air is that it makes amphibious and long distance operations either practical or a lot easier. The FI is the poster boy for this obviously: an operation that would not have been possible without carriers. What would we as a country look like if we had had to acquiesce to the loss of British territory because we didn’t have them?

    Merging the RAF with the Army and RN does make sense for me, because a military organisation has to be large enough to grow it’s own top brass. As the numbers of RAF fighter pilots remorselessly decline, that point has been reached IMHO.

  4. Challenger

    Great post TD, I will read it more thoroughly later!

    What I took from this is the need for balance and pragmatism. Service rivalry isn’t something that we can ever totally remove from the equation, but the fact is that conclusions have to be based on operational need and logical practicality, not on petty disputes and childish jealousy.

    I see no problem in people wanting to change the RAF or even talk about the idea of it being absorbed in-to the other services. However I think that what’s important is what a service offers, not the framework it works under or the mentality it projects. Air power should be available from both land and sea! Any kind of decisive swing in either direction would result in an unbalancing of resources and the narrowing of real world options.

    My opinion in this whole RAF or FAA argument is that I would ideally like to see the Army and Navy take control over most of the air assets available to us. However I accept that this isn’t likely to happen and that the mere idea is a massive step that cannot be taken in one broad stroke.

    So I think the right approach would be to give the other services a slightly larger share of the pie (Chinooks to the AAC for example) where it is logically feasible, whilst also trying to streamline the RAF’s framework (oh dear, I sound like an 80s yuppie!). Maximising it’s co-operative usefulness whilst moving away from a ‘boys in blue’ Battle of Britain mentality would be no bad thing.

    The one thing I can’t abide is the idea that I am sure still exists in some circles which is that the RAF is capable of winning campaigns on it’s own, because it just isn’t! The whole ‘deep strike’, strategic penetration’ rubbish makes it sound like the Dambusters. The last time an airforce tried to dismantle a national infrastructure was in Iraq, and we all remember how that turned out.

  5. Gareth Jones

    @ Jim – Indeed, expeditionary air ops, whether on land or carrier are a lot easier with STOVL aircraft…

  6. Adun

    Fascinating read! I think this specific problem is related to the broader difficulty of selection bias in thinking about military history. The big and more recent conflicts (Falklands & Gulf War for Britain, Vietnam & Gulf War for US) get the preponderance of the attention, while the many smaller or older conflicts are almost entirely ignored. The result is a very skewed view of military history that can lead to some very strange policy preferences.

  7. martin

    @ TD – Great post
    If I take anything from it, it is that having a combined arms force able to project sovereign power has been vital for us on many occasions since World War II, far more than many think. While many of these situations were the result of the withdrawal from empire it is interesting to note that the conflicts we have fought post 1990 have been very similar.
    All of these operations were conducted in what we might call 3 dimensions. However what happens once a nation like ours loses the ability to conduct full scale operations in 3D. Do we concentrate our forces on one or two of the dimensions to retain some sovereign capability or do we spread across all three knowing that without a substantial ally (the USA) we will be unable to act at all.
    Interestingly almost all the operations we have conducted on our own from Suez and Kuwait 1961 to the FI and Borneo seem to be far more in line with strategic raiding than global guardian. A land force of medium brigade sized backed in early operations by sea power with land based air coming in after.
    Looking at air power the concept of moving in and out of theatre with sea based air power also seems to have been used on many occasions. This would seem to support the concept of F35B FAA and RAF Squadrons to me. Initially deploying from a carrier before moving to land for long term op’s then eventually returning to the carrier once we disengage.
    I am not sure where I stand on the inter service debate and the future of the RAF. I can certainly see a benefit of the Army operation all the helicopter’s it uses. I am not sure why the RAF ever took on this role.
    I am concerned about carrier operations with all RAF personnel as I feel eventually inter service rivalry may one day see the carrier without aircraft again. The RAF has taken over carrier operations twice in history and both times saw the RAF leave naval airpower in tatters. I understand why the RAF did what they did both in the 1930’s and in 2010 and they may have made the right decision.
    However the aircraft on an aircraft carrier are part of a system. Carriers should not be viewed simply as moving airfields to be used if there is no land base in range. That being said I can see no reason why Joint Force lighting cannot succeed. Having FAA Squadrons fully versed in A2A and CAS with RAF squadrons specialising in Deep Strike and CAS. I do believe however that Joint force lightning should come under the command of the navy rather than the RAF. If it is to be employed as part of a task force on most occasions then surely this makes sense.

  8. wf

    @martin: I suspect you need to specify “command” more carefully. JFH was under FAA operational command and RAF admin command originally, which didn’t stop it being immediately gutted by the withdrawal of F/A-2.

    Given that we’re going to get a limited number of F35B (50-60), and that there’s plenty of time to train pilots, I’d put the lot under the FAA. The RAF can get F35A.

  9. jedibeeftrix

    “Do we concentrate our forces on one or two of the dimensions to retain some sovereign capability or do we spread across all three knowing that without a substantial ally (the USA) we will be unable to act at all.”

    ^ The key question right there Martin. ^

  10. James

    The only problem with the RAF is the officers. I wish they’d get an attitude adjustment, and stop wearing plastic off the peg clothes in the Mess (what they do in their service council house is surely up to them). It would help if they were not all called Kevin, as well. ;) They could up their flying skills by importing a few NCO pilots from the AAC, and learn something from the Junglies about landing in the correct field and not having to be coaxed into action by the application of a well-aimed Schermuly flare. Oh,and stop the passed over Specialist Air Crew from being quite so snotty when mostly they are the cause of a problem, not the answer to it. ;) (and in case that was missed :) ).

    What a very good post TD. Try as I might, I cannot think that anything other than fully purple is the way to go in the future, has been for several decades past (and where we as a nation went wrong was in perpetuating single service divisions unnecessarily).

    My uncle was one of a few National Service pilots during Suez (can’t have been many), flying Hunters from somewhere in Germany. One of the Hunter Squadrons in the Suez area was 2 pilots short of establishment. Apparently, there were over 30 volunteers to take the vacant places, he among them. The crisis turned out to be too short for any volunteers to be posted in.

  11. x

    Same niggles as before really with this.

    During 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s the UK had a much larger footprint across the world so there was greater access for the RAF to airfields. Your tone suggests the much smaller FAA was a bit part player when it could be argued they (along with AAC) still bore a considerable part of the East of Suez (outside Europe) air effort.

    Again the RAF pilots in the Falklands and their kills. Well as I have said before as soon as CVA was cancelled the draw down began on FAA FJ pilot numbers. During the FIW the “family” of combat aircraft being flown was Harrier. The larger and established Harrier community was No1 and No3 RAF so where was the fledgling SHAR community going to get extra pilots from? Again were these RAF kills achieved from RAF cabs flown from land bases? No. So we just sort of forget the crews of Hermes and Invincible and all the other ships that got the planes into theatre?

    And similar could be said about your Sierra Leone assessment….

    “Also aboard were 42 Commando RM, 4 Sea King, 2 Lynx, 2 Gazelle, 2 Chinook, 7 Sea Harriers and 7 GR7’s.”

    So the RAF again forced entry into theatre? The Chinooks and GR7s flew all the way from the UK did they? No. Yes it is an example of jointery or purpleness but you are presenting as if the RAF did all by themselves. Again if the SHAR had received the same level of interest as GRx that could have been 14 FAA AV8x flying into action in Africa. Of course if I mention the cost savings of flying one type in this instance I am being anchor faced at best or just stooopid. If I suggested the reverse, as happened, GRx for all JFH squadrons then that is sensible.

    As I have said several times as somebody trained to read documents in a critical and unbiased way in one of the best history departments in the UK (on a par with Oxbridge for research) the blog isn’t just poking fun at those who pro-navy to ridiculous extremes but is actually verging on the anti-navy.

  12. Pete Arundel

    Anti RAF vitriol? Do I sniff an unmistakable, shall we say Sharkey, aroma? Truly the man is an arse no matter his qualities as a pilot or leader.

    Personally, I am in favour of disbanding the RAF – not because I have any axe to grind with the service, it’s personnel or it’s attitude but because I don’t see why a third service is needed. Now that my position is clear, I would point out that cherry picking historical conflicts to show your favoured service in a good light or to denigrate your hated rivals does nobody any good and PTT would do well to remember that.

    As an aside, my first thought when I heard of the (recently reversed) decision to go with the F-35C was that it was a bid by the Navy to ensure that it retained control of all fixed wing aircraft that fly off it’s carriers

  13. John Hartley

    Surely, the critical point, is the ability to reach the enemy. This can be done by tactical aircraft from local friendly airfields(if available). Or Carrier borne aircraft, or long range bombers/transports.
    I still think we should put airstrips/ deep water quays on those dots still British (St Helena, Pitcairn, South Georgia).

  14. tsz52

    Hehe… in view of the intro, every time my eye scanned across the top of the page, I honestly kept reading that little line on its own:-

    “Being objective is very difficult.”

    As:-

    ‘Boeing ojective is very difficult.':)

    You always need some kind of balance of interested parties competing to some extent, to give the system chance to thrive: “Over-specialisation breeds in weakness,” as everybody’s favourite philosophical hot combat cyborg noted.

    Trick is to not let it get too internecine. Dunno; there’s been some counter-productive decisions and dirty tricks for sure (all round), but by everybody sticking to their self-interested guns we’re ending up with a two type FJ air force (and I don’t mean ‘Airforce’) comprising some Sci-Fi-level uber-Harrier for carrier (f**king carrier!) and austere forward base work; and an upgraded (properly, hopefully) multi-role air-superiority fighter that has (will have) few rivals in the world (when taken as a complete package).

    I’ve been a bit down where Defence is concerned, these last few horrible years, but every time I stop to think about the extremely complementary potential of having F-35B (plus carrier) and upgraded Typhoon, I have to stop and pinch myself: That’s f**king awesome! Well done to all concerned, and there ain’t many countries can match that.

    Just a little unusual blast of cheerfulness and optimism there.:)

  15. Brian Black

    It’s always interesting to read about some of the last century’s less well known operations, but I don’t think that past involvements of RAF and FAA assets has any direct relevance to how we should construct our forces today.
    Had we set a clear strategic path towards operating the QE ships as strike carriers, and stuck to that course, then the demands of that strategy upon armed forces of our scale would inevitably had led to a shift of emphasis towards the RN and FAA regardless of how important the RAF has been in the past. If such a path led to the RAF operating a couple of QRA sqns and an airline, then I think it would be quite reasonable to question the need for it as a separate service – but it’s a question that should be led by the situation, not by childish rivalry.

  16. James

    Brian,

    yes but carrier strike is such a clearly ridiculous path for the UK that the rest of your argument, while well-expressed, means nothing.

    If we want to strike at something, there are several dozen pre-existing alternatives, bought and paid for. More importantly, after any strike (many of which would only be necessary to justify the vast cost of the capability), what do we do next? The answer is not to be found in the carrier, but in the raggy old helicopters and gash old vehicles that are all the rest of the services can afford.

  17. Think Defence

    x, on Sierra Leone, the usual suspects use it as a poster child for the speed, responsiveness and flexibility of carrier aviation, trumpeting how SHAR and how all round brilliant the RN/FAA/RM combo yet forget to mention that the Para’s had already been there a week before the RN arrived courtesy of the RAF C130’s and Chinooks.

    That is the kind of selective one sided view that gets on my tits so it was the RAF that effected theatre entry in a coastal nation, the horror of it all.

    The more the chumps do this kind of one sided stuff the more they are going to get a reaction, just sayin like

  18. All Politicians are the Same

    The problem most people seem to have is a failure to realise that 99% of the time capabilities are complimentary. In Sierra Leone capabiities complemented each other. Often an aircraft and a “friendly airstrip” provides the quickest means of response but must be tempered by something a US Ranger I once worked with said to me. It looks really good jumping out a plane or landing in your C17 and spilling out the back inside 12 hours of the balloon going up but you are out on a limb until the heavy stuff arrives. Hence the phrase “fly light die early”.
    Often the initial airborne reaction is best but will require backing up/ For instance the NEO in Beirut had RAF and FAA helos taking people out in dribs and drabs for days even the FF/DDs were only taking hundreds. It toook the LPD to lift out 1200 whilst acting as a deck for Chinook to really break the back of the problem.

  19. Chris.B.

    @ TD
    — Good post. You dont half have a knack for making some of my evenings disappear without trace. Always nice to see the record set straight and to read more about the little ops that tend to go unnoticed.

    @ Challenger,
    “The one thing I can’t abide is the idea that I am sure still exists in some circles which is that the RAF is capable of winning campaigns on it’s own, because it just isn’t! The whole ‘deep strike’, strategic penetration’ rubbish makes it sound like the Dambusters. The last time an airforce tried to dismantle a national infrastructure was in Iraq, and we all remember how that turned out”
    — Airpower on its own? No. You’ll nearly always need someone to go in and finish the job up close and personal. But calling deep strike and strategic penetration rubbish is, well, rubbish.

    You brought up Iraq. Iraq was a perfect example of just how much damage can be done to an enemy regime through the application of strikes, be they bombs or cruise missiles. How badly disjointed did the Iraqi’s end up after having large chunks of their command and communication chains mauled? Then when the air attacks switched to their ground forces, how many tanks were ‘plinked’ from above?

    Seems like an odd example to bring up of the ineffectiveness of “strategic” bombing campaigns.

    @ wf,
    “because a military organisation has to be large enough to grow it’s own top brass. As the numbers of RAF fighter pilots remorselessly decline, that point has been reached IMHO.”
    — Really? Even if we exclude everyone except for fast jet jockeys from the senior ranks of the RAF, you’re still talking about enough pilots to cover over a 100 fighters, plus extra in just the Typhoon force, let alone if the RAF gets a Tornado replacement.

    The broader point would be to ask; why can’t a Transport pilot become a Chief of the Air Staff? Why not a helicopter pilot? Why would you exclusively only select FJ pilots for senior roles? That approach (FJ only) would seem to me to be the most counter productive method available.

    @ x
    “Again were these RAF kills achieved from RAF cabs flown from land bases? No. So we just sort of forget the crews of Hermes and Invincible and all the other ships that got the planes into theatre?”
    — I don’t know about you, but I distinctly remember reading that part of the article where the RAF were only credited with 25% of the kills. That would seem to suggest by default that 75% of the remaining were achieved by the FAA, would it not? This is perhaps the biggest gripe I have with some of the more ardent naval types.

    Nowhere can I remember reading an article by an army General or an army pressure group that advocates disbanding either the Navy or the RAF. Nowhere have I heard an Air Marshall or some light blue pressure group advocating the winding up of the Navy or the Army (except in the humourous conext of ‘wind up’).

    Ardent supporters of the Navy are the only service I’ve seen that’s actively advocated for another whole service to be removed, while simultaneously eyeing up the majority of the funding earmarked for the other service in order to massively expand its own empire.

    The Navy is the only service I’ve seen so far to spend so much time trying to downplay the achievements and efforts of others while boosting its own profile, while at the same time having the cheek to keep using the phrase “silent service”. The way that some of the Naval commanders conduct themselves in front of Parliamentary committees, including some of the statements they make/submit, would make my spoilt, drama queen little neice blush with embarassment at how childish they’re being.

    I think I’ve actually gone beyond the point of being annoyed – not least because service rivalries are put ahead of what is best for the nation, its defence, and its budgets – but because it’s gotten to the point of being unintentionally hilarious.

    At the same time as bemoaning that the crews of Hermes and Invincible are not getting enough credit in the article, you’re trying to sh*t on the achievement of those RAF pilots for their air combat record on the principle that they were flying aircraft with RN roundels on the outside instead of RAF ones, and that the runway they took off from happened to be attached to a RN vessel.

    This one article gives the RAF pilots some credit compared to the background of bile and bullshit that the PTT regularly puts out, but you can’t even let this one mention slip?

    It’s getting bloody tragic if you ask me. With escort numbers and sub numbers on the decrease, I’m beginning to think this isn’t the RN going into the desperate survival/justification mode that they often accuse the RAF of having been in since WW1.

    It just seems that the Dark Blue is the only service incapable of living with the others and accepting the fact that other people do important things for the nations defence that must be equally funded.

  20. Obsvr

    “Auster’s from 1903 Independent Air Observation Post Flight and 1913 Light Liaison Flight were deployed from 1951 until the ceasefire, 2 were lost to ground fire and over 3,000 sorties were completed. Both these flights were mixed RAF and Army, with the pilots usually being ex Royal Artillery.”

    Lack of fact checking here. ‘Ex’, that is either singularly underinformed or an obnoxious assumption :-) AOP pilots in Korea were RA and RAA (Luscombe KIA), not sure about RCA and RNZA but there were probably some. None were Ex. There may have been a few outsiders, but basically all AOP pilots were serving artillery officers from 1940 until 1957. The only known RAF pilot was in the flight of 3 a/c that went to France in 1940 but did not join the action.

  21. Peter Elliott

    @TD

    I wouldn’t get too worked up about the tendency of some people to publish nonsense.

    I’m quite happy to have found a mixture of informed, dissinterested analysis and salty humour on this site. If a site doesn’t push my buttons I just don’t go there.

    In terms of influencing the wider debate the right thing for you to do is focus on producing good balanced stuff on here. That’s the best way of building credibility and exerting influence. As you suggest the more lurid campaigning sites are actually self defeating – so best leave them to get on with it.

  22. Mike

    “It just seems that the Dark Blue is the only service incapable of living with the others and accepting the fact that other people do important things for the nations defence that must be equally funded.”

    Change “Dark Blue” to “Dark Blue fanboi’s”, since the real sailours I’ve worked with generally have the same opinion as you Chris.B.

  23. Chris.B.

    @ Mike,

    “Change “Dark Blue” to “Dark Blue fanboi’s”, since the real sailours I’ve worked with generally have the same opinion as you Chris.B”

    Point taken, perhaps wasn’t specific enough. I think my post would include Fanboi’s, the PTT, some of the current senior officers in the remarks they make to official and journalistic sources, and some of the ex-officers who appear often on various outlets (Sharkey, PTT again).

  24. wf

    @Chris.B: I specify FJ pilots as the main source of top brass because war is about fighting, and those that were involved at an intimate level with the former are generally best at commanding them at flag level. This holds true for the other services (how many REME or RLC generals have held operational commands?), and it will hold true for the RAF as well.

    FJ aircrew are now in the low hundreds, and when the Tornado drops out we lose the WSO’s too. Game over (no, I’m not a fan of the “UAV’s will take over the world tomorrow” tendency)

  25. Chris.B.

    @ wf

    “Game over”

    — What?

    You have Typhoon and then you have the Tornado replacement. Right off that bat that will leave you with about 200 FJ pilots, plus remaining Wing Commanders etc. You’re telling me you can’t select one of those pilots every few years to become the new Chief of the Air Staff? Why?

    And why couldn’t a transport pilot take the lead? I imagine he would need a deputy and the deputy could easily be selected from the FJ ranks.

    The upper rank structure of the RAF might be reduced in coming years but there is absolutely no reason, none, that they couldn’t generate the needed senior leadership.

    Think about the Navy by comparison. How many ships are there to command, including submarines? How many officers in any one year can achieve the rank of Captain? Certainly many, many less than could achieve the rank of FJ pilot in the RAF. Yet I can’t imagine the Navy will have any problems generating senior officers for the forseeable future.

    That seems like a very bizarre statement to me.

  26. James

    Chris B,

    the correct comparison (to FJ pilots) is between numbers of officers in the Andrew entering the Warfare branch each year, not the amount getting promoted to Captain. FJ pilot is not a rank, BTW, only a qualification that some of the more spatially gifted Kevins attain. It says nothing of their judgement.

  27. R L-C

    Nice article, i’m sure i read the original last year (and laughed). Pity about the in house rivalry, maybe if the top 10% were dis-honourably discharged they would get the message.(Yes im sick and tired of it to the extreme).

    @ James: why don’t we want strike capable aircraft carriers? I would agree that strike ships(eg tomahawk equipped) would be more sensible with the carrier being the “floating airfield” for CAS etc.

  28. Chris.B.

    @ James,

    “FJ pilot is not a rank, BTW, only a qualification that some of the more spatially gifted Kevins attain”

    — I know, but @wf is concerned about a lack of FJ pilots that can go on and achieve senior ranks. I’m saying there are going to be around 200 of them at a time, probably more. In one of the great oddities of the RAF, each flight has a squadron leader and each squadron a wing commander, not to mention the various officers performing other tasks such as technical stuff away from the front line. There should be a plentiful pool of experienced officers to draw from going forward.

  29. All Politicians are the Same

    Why on earth should only a FJ pilot be the “boss”? It is just one of the services that the RAF provide. The RN is slightly different as every other Branch other than warfare is a support branch but the equivalent would be to say only Submariners or AAWOs or ex Amphib drivers could be the Fleet Commander.

  30. topman

    @ apats i agree but then most militaries around work that way. Cas is always fj pilot perhaps a wider group of branches should be looked at i agree. But i would say that cns and cgs are all chosen from an equally narrow peer group.

  31. James

    To be honest, all 3 services have some form of “black mafia” to whom the high command positions are reserved. In the Army, command of combat Brigades is restricted to combat arm or combat support arm officers (i.e. Cavalry, Infantry, Air Corps, Artillery, Signals, and Engineers). Divisional Command is restricted to only officers who have commanded a combat Brigade. There are of course one and 2 star positions of logistics officers, but they don’t lead to being CGS. In the RAF, it seems to be restricted to pilots and navigators.

    As for the RN, I believe it to be the case, but I cannot put my finger of a specific. I spent an interesting couple of hours talking with Tim Lawrence (then a 1 star and Divisional Commandant on JSCSC) who spoke about this sort of thing. He left me with the very strong impression that the Andrew operate a similar scheme, so that if you are not Warfare Branch or FAA, chances of commanding a ship are slim, and of course no one makes CNS without having commanded several ships. He himself rather hoped to command Lusty at some point, but I don’t believe that happened.

    As for the future, there’s a man called Commodore John Kingwell who I knew as a very young Cdr (late 30s). He’s my pick for CNS at some point, and he’s got the clear head for CDS as well. I think he now commands the ARG, but I’m not in touch with him. Tremendously talented, extremely modest, entirely dedicated. He says that he’s only the son of a Gloucester dustman (which is true), I and many others on JSCSC 3 thought he’s going all of the way to the top, and deservedly so.

  32. All Politicians are the Same

    James, it is true that you will have to have commanded several times. The only way to Command as a non Warfare or FAA Officer is a WE Officer who completes PWO (I am pretty certain). I can think of 2 who have gone on to drive MCMVs via this route one of whom was subsequently promoted.

  33. Challenger

    @Chris.B

    On the subject of deep strike I don’t think I was clear on what I was really getting at. I’m not denying it is a useful skill to have in ones armoury, I just don’t think it’s a priority. It sustains a mentality about air power and the RAF in particular that is of a 1940s vintage and not relevant to the situations we find ourselves confronting in 2012.

    I agree that Iraq is a good example to use in this debate. I won’t deny that destroying radar sights is a very handy thing, but that is suppression of air defence. I would also say blowing up armoured columns or ammunition dumps has a dramatic effect on the course of a campaign, but again that’s not really deep strike.

    There were lots of targets in Iraq that were valid, but did going after these things win the war? Id say no, it maybe shortened the fighting by a few days.

    The American ‘shock and awe’ bombing of the middle of Baghdad and other major cities isn’t something I can ever be comfortable with. Taking out bridges, telephone lines and power cables, levelling a building because a general or politician was suspected of being inside for a few hours, I find these actions disturbingly illogical when you’re main purpose is to bring stability and security to a country after the fighting is over.

    I want to reiterate that I believe these types of attacks aren’t totally useless. But I equally don’t think they are a really a good use of money and resources. I’m never going to think that millions of tons of fuel and ridiculously expensive Storm Shadows are worth the results. Often the only clear results are to murder some civilians (in operations that are often about hearts and minds) and dismantle a nations infrastructure when a few days or weeks down the line we will want to put it back together again. Can we really deny that those sorts of strikes were a contributor to the chaos that followed the Iraq War?

    I strongly believe that aviation should be there to support troops on the ground and ships at sea and nothing more.

  34. tsz52

    Not that I expect anybody to really care, but I hate to be misinterpreted; so just to clarify something I wrote above:-

    “… we’re ending up with a two type FJ air force (and I don’t mean ‘Airforce’)….”

    I can see that by disregarding everything else in the post, and with a bit of pathetic and wilful twisting, that this could be read that I’m suggesting disbanding the RAF, or something equally insane and absurd.

    Just to clarify that I meant that I think that somehow or other (in the most cost-effective way possible that our ingenious civilisation can devise), some of the F-35Bs should be the FAA’s, with the RAF getting most of them (but not really wanting to kick that debate off again).

    So it’s generalised air force, comprising the RAF (predominantly) and FAA (to a lesser extent); and not exclusively Airforce (ie RAF).

    Sorry for any offence caused etc etc.

  35. Chris.B.

    @ Challenger,

    I completely agree with you in respect of air power being unlikely to be sufficient to win a war by itself. But “deep strike” still has an enormous contribution to that.

    While the utility of blowing up a sewage treatment plant is most certainly dubious, dropping bridges and hitting command centres etc is not. If you’re enemy relies on civilian phone exchanges to handle the amount of traffic needed, then the phone exchange is a legit target which will have an impact on the enemy.

    Brining down a bridge can cut a supply line to the front. That potentially can save a lot of lives and hassle for the men at the front of your armoured forces.

    Taking out a command centre and killing senior officers plus their staffs, along with their ability to organise their forces can have a huge impact on the ability of the enemy army to effectively organise itself and fight back, what our colonial cousins might call “effects based operations”.

    And given that with newer weapons like laser guided weapons and brimstone, those aircraft can then switch roles to provide ground support.

    It may seem exspensive at times, but without those strikes how many more men would die in the ensuing land battle? How many more tanks would you have needed?

    Anything that helps the Monarchs army to defeat the Monarchs enemy quicker and with less casualties should be considered a good thing. Penny pinching over the cost of bombs and a bit of aviation fuel is a bridge too far I think, even for a cost consious individual such as myself.

  36. Brian Black

    Don’t forget that ‘deep strike’ also translates into other capabilities. Libya for example was hardly an example of a deep battlefield, but someone deemed it necessary to fly strike missions beginning in England and even South Dakota. The shorter-ranged your aircraft are, the more reliant you are on inflight refueling to cover the same distances.
    Deep strike can also translate into persistance in the battle area. Providing the same availability with fewer platforms.
    As for the cost of stand-off strike missiles, multi-million pound sorties may not seem so expensive if one considers the costs of achieving the same effects through other means, or of leaving high values targets untouched.

  37. Brian Black

    Hi, James, I don’t agree that British strike carriers are ‘a clearly ridiculous path’. It’s a perfectly valid method of projecting a military effect at long range, for a country that is generally reluctant to throw thousands of ground troops into optional wars. It is clearly ridiculous though to tinker with the idea of strike carriers if strike carriers aren’t at the very centre of your politicians’ military and aggressive foreign policy strategies – as the demands of a couple of strike carriers on our armed forces would necessarily make that the cornerstone of our whole conventional force. I wasn’t making an argument for strike carriers though – just that it requires such a major shift before you can reasonably validate scrapping one of the services.

  38. Alex

    RAF aircraft were also involved with a search for a missing 4/7 Dragoon Guards tank

    I’m sure I parked it over there…

  39. Obsvr

    @wf

    “This holds true for the other services (how many REME or RLC generals have held operational commands?), and it will hold true for the RAF as well.”

    The reason is that in the army you have to have commanded at the previous level, ie you can’t command a bde unless you’ve commanded a bn. EME and RLC officers can and do comd log type bdes, log bdes are operational but they are not combat.

  40. Obsvr

    The RAF’s historical problem is being hoist with their own petard. Trenchard basicaly insisted that the job of the RAF was strategic bombing, a stategic concept that proved to be wrong (ie it failed to achive its touted objective). Fortunately the RAF was also forced to consider ADGB, I say fortunately because if there hadn’t been a centralised air force then ADGB may not have been effective and the outcome of BoB may have been very different. The ponderable point is the relevance of this today.

  41. x

    @ Obsvr said “if there hadn’t been a centralised air force then ADGB may not have been effective”

    If I was marking this post I would need to see some support for that statement young man. :) ;)

  42. WillS

    This article by David Hobbs, which you believe started it all off, any idea when it was published? Nothing is ever really removed from the web, I’m sure with a decent target window the wayback machine (http://archive.org/web/web.php) could help us locate it.

    I first remember hearing of the calls to get rid of the RAF when the idea was raised by former Colonel Tim Collins in 2006 who argued that as an administrative structure the RAF was superfluous and that its tasks could be split between the Navy (the fighty bits) and the Army (the transporty bits).

    WillS

  43. x

    Lewis Page speaks for getting rid of the RAF too.

    I see no logic in the RAF either. But at the moment UK defence is in such a poor state debate on peripheral issues isn’t worth the bother.

  44. Challenger

    @Chris.B.

    At least we can agree on some things!

    Yes air power alone cannot win wars, it has to be in support of a larger objective.

    In terms of deep strike I agree that there are always worth while targets to be found, I was just suggesting that there is always a limitation to this. As you say a sewage treatment plant, perhaps not, but taking out bridges and command centres, if it shortens the war and saves lives then fine. There will always be a trade off here between saving lives on your own side and inflicting civilian casualties on the other. Laser designated bombs and smarter missiles may reduce the risk but I don’t think it will ever be something that can totally go away.

    Id rather see aircraft optimised for close air support with some deep strike capability included than the other way round. I am sure that the pairing of Typhoon and Lightning will achieve this and become a potent, balanced mix of capabilities.

    I am more concerned about the RAF mentality and how they will utilise the capabilities provided.

    I guess I have stated quite a simple opinion in a very complicated way! It seems to me that the RAF still in 2012 tries to position itself between the twin alters of air defence and strategic bombing, immortalised and embodied by the glorious history of the Spitfire and the Lancaster. I don’t think this is a particularly relevant or healthy attitude to maintain.

    I’m saying instead that the main objective of air power should be to support the boots on the ground towards the greater good of the mission. It’s perhaps not as enthusiastically relished by some because it isn’t a particularly glamorous or independent way of waging war, but it is essential none the less.

  45. Topman

    @ Challenger

    ‘Id rather see aircraft optimised for close air support with some deep strike capability included than the other way round. I am sure that the pairing of Typhoon and Lightning will achieve this and become a potent, balanced mix of capabilities. ‘

    Not done because it’s hard to do, much easier the other way around. Similar in the other thread about the T26, easier to get kit to ‘step down’ rather than up, if that makes sense. I’m not sure how you’ve come to that conclusion which one of those aircraft is optimised for close air support as it’s primary role?

    ‘I’m saying instead that the main objective of air power should be to support the boots on the ground towards the greater good of the mission. ‘

    Like you say yourself not all targets are in the immediate front line so some ‘deep strike’ will have to take place. It’s always in support of the mission, just maybe not immdeiately obvious, but that doesn’t lessen the role or mean any other objectives are being dodged somehow.

  46. Challenger

    Lewis Page and Tim Collins are the two that spring to mind when I think about disbanding the RAF.

    I agree that the RAF isn’t essential as an independent element. Most of what it does could be hacked off and absorbed by the AAC and FAA. Tactical helicopters should for instance be under army control because they are the people that need to use them.

    I think what’s needed is clarity instead of the current overlap and confusion of resources. So either have all air assets under one organisation or have two services with their own miniature air forces available.

    However how likely is it that we can achieve a complete dismantling of the RAF in the next few years? Not very, to put it mildly!

    Id like to see a compromised solution instead, a kind of stepping stone in the right direction. Have the RAF keep air defence with Typhoon and the strategic airlift fleet with it’s associated tankers. These are the two roles that aren’t navy or army specific and so can stay independent, everything else though could be transferred over. The aircraft would need the personnel to switch with them, but if pilots and ground crew love their jobs and want to serve their country then it shouldn’t matter what uniform they wear.

  47. Topman

    ‘However how likely is it that we can achieve a complete dismantling of the RAF in the next few years? ‘

    You make it sound like some sort of movement ;)

    ‘The aircraft would need the personnel to switch with them, but if pilots and ground crew love their jobs and want to serve their country then it shouldn’t matter what uniform they wear.’

    Well that would be one way of announcing it.

  48. x

    @ Chris B

    It isn’t a question of airpower just organisation.

    Any who as I listen to the racing I am perusing the interweb. Apparently the EU Common Fisheries Policy costs the UK £3.3billion or just over 13 T26…… :)

  49. ArmChairCivvy

    RE “Like you say yourself not all targets are in the immediate front line so some ‘deep strike’ will have to take place.”
    – I think we are all, at least a bit, victims of RAF propaganda
    – CAS – battlefield interdiction – deep strike
    – when the capability shrank mainly to the intermediate form, it was then called by the “more glorious” name… and still is

  50. Challenger

    @Topman

    Ha-ha, by we I didn’t mean a bunch of crackpots and bores like us!

    We are in the realms of fantasy, but I meant that even if it was hypothetically a real prospect I couldn’t see it ever getting off the ground because of the resistance it would provoke, not least from the tabloid media and of course the RAF itself.

  51. James

    ACC,

    yes. “deep strike” is to me some completely dastardly and shocking action that hits directly into the centre of the enemy’s gravity. It could be something kinetic, equally it might be the public announcement of an unexpected alliance with a neighbouring country that the enemy had not expected.

    The amount of people in the forces, let alone on the web who confuse “deep strike” with geography and being a long way away is shocking.

  52. Topman

    @ James

    Although I didn’t explain myself properly, I think it was me that tripped up on the correct meaning of the term. Genuine question is that the Joint Service definition?

  53. James

    Topman,

    not at home, not close to the old manuals, but yes, pretty much. It all started out from the early 90s definitions of “Deep”, Close” and “Rear” for operations, which I believe were first coined by the Army Doctrine Committee in Upavon – I may be mistaken in that however. Those definitions were fairly quickly adopted as Joint – certainly by 2000.

    Deep = affecting the enemy’s centre of gravity. Aimed at setting the conditions for strategic victory.

    Close = time-limited, possibly temporary. Aimed at putting the enemy at a local disadvantage, normally in order to prevent him from recovering from a previous deep strike, or supporting a future deep strike.

    Rear = supporting our own forces. Aimed at mitigating the enemy’s activities on us, or supporting future close or deep operations.

    So you can have a deep operation in any part of the battlespace. Two examples from 1982, both attacking the Argentinean military centre of gravity which was their ability to launch strikes against our ships:

    1. MI6 agents stopping Argentina from acquiring more Exocets in Turkey, Morocco and the Phillipines.

    2. The introduction of food poisoning into the hotel the French technical team were staying in Rio Gallegos, so stopping them from being able to complete their work on Exocet integration at the air base (mostly successful – but not entirely).

    Two examples of close operations from the same conflict, again not geographically confined:

    3. Obtaining radar data from a British-supplied, Chilean operated radar on top of the Andes.

    4. Bombing the runway at Stanley in the Black Buck raids.

    However, a common fallacy is to confuse these with geographical descriptors.

  54. Mike

    “Ha-ha, by we I didn’t mean a bunch of crackpots and bores like us!”

    But Challenger, thats the only types you get such narrow ideas from. Everyone gets on with the real world, meanwhile its only the web and from certain parties where you get such strange motions. Most, such as X’s outside all things navy, are narrow because they base what they say/think on their opinions/experiences and nothing else, not seeing the bigger pictures.

    If there is calls for one service to go, thus loosing the 3 legged stool thats worked so well for a century, then there is an even stronger case for them all to be brought into one uniform service.

    Its rather strange, and as already commented, only really comes from one side. Its odd that you dont hear similar calls from other nations (some much worse off militarily and economically) regarding their own forces.

  55. TrT

    “I completely agree with you in respect of air power being unlikely to be sufficient to win a war by itself.”

    I’m afraid I dont.

    But it depends upon your definition of “win a war”
    Airpower drove the Taliban from government, but no amount of land power, for any time period, has made them accept defeat. Even now, they happily fight on, knowing they can outlast us.

    Unrestricted airpower has been tried before, and failed, but we’ve come a long way since 1942 when 20% of bombs managed a 5 mile CEP.
    Realisiticaly, it was bombing that broke Japans back, they were still winning the land war in 44, and never suffered the sort of reversals Germany suffered at the hands of the Soviets.

    http://www.decc.gov.uk/media/viewfile.ashx?filetype=4&filepath=Statistics/source/electricity/dukes5_11.xls&minwidth=true

    Destroy the 25 biggest of those, which if you discount the QRAs, is no problem what so ever, and you take out 50% of the UKs electricity production.

    The UK might refuse to surrender at this point, but it would be in no position to raise and arm 20 armoured divisions for the conquest of France.
    Our offensive capability would be limited to terrorism, and even that would be deeply weakened by lack of money.

  56. Chris.B.

    @ Challenger,

    Much easier to convert a “strike” aircraft to perform CAS than the other way around. The F-111 is a perfect example. During the GW1 it took out more tanks and enemy vehicles than even the venerable A-10, using laser guidance to “plink” enemy tanks from medium altitude. The issue is one of advancing technology. In WW2 a pilot needed to get down in the grass in order to even see the target, let alone hit it. A modern fighter aircraft carrying a Sniper or Litening pod with a camera can zoom in on targets from several thousand feet now, getting a better look than they did in the past when they flew right over the target!

    It’s thus easier to build a modern, multi-role aircraft that can do air to air, strike and close air support, just by changing the weapons it carries.

    re; the dissolution of the RAF,

    This is a subject that has been done to death on here and I’m surprised it continues to crop up every now and again still. Basically you save nothing. You would still need all the same personnel, even up to the senior ranks. You would literally not save a penny. If anything it would cost more as both the Navy and Army established their own extensive air branches to match the previous ones of the RAF.

    Then begins the bun fighting.

    So the army wants money for a CAS aircraft, but the Navy wants an all singing, all dancing fighter. So they end up going to war over the new joint fast jet budget and how much of it they each get to spend.

    Then comes the war over who gets to do strike missions. The Navy will want to do it to justify the aircraft carriers, but the army will argue that they are better placed to conduct such missions because the strike role is in support of their operations.

    Then comes the argument over transport. You think the Navy would be happy with the army having control of a significant amount of lift assets? I don’t think so. I’d imagine the Navy would take the approach of “you don’t need those big C-17’s, we can ship all your stuff to where it needs to be anyway, that money could then be better spent on frigates….”

    It’s a fools errand. Anyone in the army who thinks they would win control of large chunks of the former RAF assets is off their rocker. You think the Royal Navy is going to sit back and allow the new army air force to operate non-marinised helicopters? Not a chance. “We fly helicopters off our ships every day! We transport people and goods by helicopter every day! Why not just let us take charge of the helicopters! We can do it more efficiently than the army can! Our airmen aren’t subject to the same restrictive harmony rules as the army air corps chaps!”

    There’s a reason that you don’t get involved in long term relationships with a woman who is willing to cheat on her boyfriend/husband with you, because if she’ll do it to him then that makes it more likely she’ll do it to you. Thus the army should be very wary about getting into bed with a service that is planning to strip another of all it’s assets and subsume it.

    Lots of people have tried having army air services and Naval air services. They nearly always end up with a seperate air force, not least because once you put the fate of your air power into the hands of the other two services they become very keen on the bits that support them and not so keen on the bits that don’t support them. In the case of air defence of the UK for example, neither side is especially keen on investing the money in a proper AD network and the units needed.

  57. Dunservin

    @TrT

    “Realisiticaly, it was bombing that broke Japans back, they were still winning the land war in 44, and never suffered the sort of reversals Germany suffered at the hands of the Soviets.”

    – …Combined with crippling sinkings by submarines and 1,075 merchant ships (2,289,416 tons) knocked out of the war by mines from Oct 1943 culminating in Operation STARVATION, the mining blockade of Japan.*

    * ‘Most Dangerous Sea’ by Lt Cdr Arnold S. Lott USN, US Naval Institute, Annapolis, 1959.

  58. TrT

    Meh, thats still economic warfare rather than a land battle and occupation.

    “In the case of air defence of the UK for example, neither side is especially keen on investing the money in a proper AD network and the units needed.”
    +1

  59. Simon

    TD,

    Reading your paragraph on the Black Buck raids it does raise some questions as to why (nowadays) the RAF has no long range bombers?

    These working with escorts provided either from the launch point (with tankers) or near the target (from a carrier) should be able to provide a much more cost effective, long range capability than a few dozen carrier based jets.

    If these could also loiter for 1-2 hours (with their escorts) we’d also be able to provide CAS.

    I just can’t figure out if these “bombers” would have to be B52 (i.e. big and cheap) or B2 (i.e. stealthy) like.

  60. Pete Arundel

    “So the army wants money for a CAS aircraft, but the Navy wants an all singing, all dancing fighter. So they end up going to war over the new joint fast jet budget and how much of it they each get to spend.”

    Why would they have a Joint Fast Jet budget? Unlike the RAF and the FAA, an RFC and RNAS wouldn’t be competing for the same assets.

    “Then comes the war over who gets to do strike missions. The Navy will want to do it to justify the aircraft carriers, but the army will argue that they are better placed to conduct such missions because the strike role is in support of their operations.”

    The Navy. No argument.

    “Then comes the argument over transport. You think the Navy would be happy with the army having control of a significant amount of lift assets? I don’t think so. I’d imagine the Navy would take the approach of “you don’t need those big C-17′s, we can ship all your stuff to where it needs to be anyway, that money could then be better spent on frigates…”

    And you don’t think that the Navy argues this about the RAF already?

    “Lots of people have tried having army air services and Naval air services. They nearly always end up with a seperate air force”

    Like the US all through WWII. Reason for creation of the USAF? Pretty much the same reason for the creation of the RAF – a reason that no longer exists in the UK.

    “In the case of air defence of the UK for example, neither side is especially keen on investing the money in a proper AD network and the units needed.”

    Disagree. Both the Army and the Navy would be very interested in air defence over their area of operations be that some hot sandy middle eastern rat hole or Our Green and Pleasant Land.

    Nobody has ever given a convincing argument for retention of the RAF that I have read – at least not one that didn’t use the term “air-minded” at least half a dozen times.

    As I’ve said before, I have no axe to grind with the RAF and I’m willing to be convinced of it’s utility but at the moment I see no reason why the Army doesn’t have the Chinooks, A400M’s etc and the Navy all the fast jets – yes, even Typhoon . . .

  61. Simon

    Pete Arundel,

    Do you not place any value in having UK airspace defended?

    Perhaps you should just look at the RAF as though they are the Navy’s airwing?

  62. James

    A couple of Squadrons of Army-flown A-10s would complement AH-64D very nicely. A bit quicker into action, longer loiter time, not really very complicated so easy enough on the logistics front. Plus, if Army-flown, there are several reasons why CAS would be better / quicker / more focussed than if flown by a Kevin. It comes down to understanding the context and being in the same chain of command.

    I know it is about as old as the hills, but what is wrong with the A-10?

  63. All Politicians are the Same

    James, Nothing at all but can we afford a single use aircraft?

  64. Simon

    James,

    The A10 is great.

    The Army would need an airfield to operate them from (at home) and a 1000m airstrip within 250nm of the action.

  65. wf

    @James: getting some surplus A10’s would be great, although I suspect that the time for them is drawing to a close. If you want heavy COIN air support, a Reaper carries lots of bombs and has unrivalled endurance.

    @Simon: sadly, the A10 is still underpowered. Taking off in less than 1500m with a useful load is sadly not possible, although an easy engine upgrade might make it so

  66. Chris.B.

    @ Pete,

    Look at your list of answers again and then have a word with yourself. The RAF and the RN are effectively having to agree over a joint tornado replacement, FAA mainstay. You think the Army would just be issued with its own budget for buying CAS aircraft? Not in a million years would they, not least because a certain other service would likely be arguing that they could provide CAS with their jets if only the army would stick out of the way.

    All the arguments that could be levelled at the RAF could equally be levelled at a FAA that controlled all the aviation assets, except the army would probably lose much of the air transport it currently enjoys, along with losing the non-maritime Chinooks in favour of things like Merlin that have a dual use for Naval operations.

    You must be absolutely bonkers if you think the army would get its fair share of the aircraft/aircraft budget. Not a chance in hell, which is precisely one of the reasons why we have an airforce, to serve as the wedge between the airborne ideals of the other two services.

    You say nobody has made a case for the RAF, but the RAF exists. If you want to disband it, you have to make the case for that not the other way around. Every argument I’ve seen so far usually centres around “it’ll be cheaper” when we all basically acknowledge that it won’t at all, in fact likely becoming more expensive. You’re going to have to work a lot harder than that me old chum.

    @ Simon,
    Try getting a “regional bomber” approved in this era of cuts etc. The PTT will have a heart attack. I was actually looking at the Vulcan specs the other day just for a baseline. There’s room to replace the engines with the smaller, lighter, but more powerful EJ200. I reckon you could probably knock the weight of the B.2 version down from 93k kgs to about 73k using new materials etc? Range would be pretty handy, especially if you stick a fuel probe on it. Maybe 12-16 bombs, either GPS or Laser guided. Maybe 6 Storm Shadows?

    @ James,
    It’s unlikely an A-10 would be able to respond quicker. She’s not exactly the fastest bird in the sky.

    Generally it’s a well appreciated plane, but lacks a probe compatible with UK refuelling and is a bit of a one trick pony for a country that’s counting the pennies. You can do much of the same with different tools, though that gun is always going to be hard to replace.

  67. Simon

    Chris.B.

    Bomb doors in the bottom of Voyager?

    …bit of a “one trick pony” there in my mind.

  68. James

    @ Everyone.

    I just love the fact that the A-10 is the only gun in the world that comes with a freebie plane. And the gunner gets a titanium chair and armoured boxer shorts! What’s not to like? I’d like the UK upgrade to have some Piccatinny rails around the nose so that we can mount some lasers and probably a loudspeaker.

    I do confess I am 1.5 make it 2 bottles of Nuits St Georges downrange, but the above appeals to me. Probably sensible not to post anymore tonight, so if anyone wants to suggest buying some aircraft carriers or uselessly stunted jets, now is probably a good moment.

  69. Ace Rimmer

    Challenger: “Have the RAF keep air defence with Typhoon and the strategic airlift fleet with it’s associated tankers. These are the two roles that aren’t navy or army specific and so can stay independent, everything else though could be transferred over.”

    I’ve advocated this before, call the RAF the Royal Strategic Airforce and like you say, give them all the heavy stuff, plus air defence, and have a Tactical Air Corps for all the choppers and mud movers. Unfortunately this was before all the Harriers went West, although I can’t wait for the day a Royal Marine/AAC corporal flies a fast jet, just to see the expressions on the Rupert’s faces….

  70. Chris.B.

    @ Simon,
    Again, Voyager lacks air to air refuel, at least compatible with our current systems thanks to that shit fest that is otherwise known as the Future tanker thingy. Not sure you’d want a high value asset like a refuelling aircraft making attack runs over or close to hostile territory.

    @ James,
    A-10 is a beauty and has a wonderfully unique engine whine, but just a bit outdated as a concept. Now if you wanted to bring something like the Hawk or Tucano up to a standard where it could serve as a low(er) cost CAS aircraft for semi-permissive air environments, then you’d have my ear.

  71. x

    @ Chally

    When the RAF fly their C17 and C130 about the world transporting stuff strategically, um, whose stuff do you think they are moving mostly like 95% of the time?

  72. Ace Rimmer

    Having had a quick look through the comments above, one thing not mentioned is the creation of a Marine Corps, UKMC? A singular organisation utilising all necessary assets required to perform an amphibious operation including rotary and fixed wing. Ok, the FAA with Harriers did the role very effectively, but is their role any different from USMC pilots? I think not, apart from a fleet defence perspective. This may conflict with my comment above, but if the services in their current form cannot make it work without political inflighting, then rip it up and afresh.

  73. Ace Rimmer

    X, Su-25 Frogfoot would be ideal for Afghanistan, on a previous thread I said we should’ve bought a squadron off (say) the Bulgarians and handed them over to the Afghans when we withdrew.

  74. Challenger

    @X

    Come on! I didn’t mean that the air force doesn’t move army people and stuff. What I meant was that the heavier aircraft transport in and out of a battle zone in a strategic manner.

    This is in comparison to for instance a Chinook, which moves men and materials around the place in a tactical manner.

    That was the point I was making.

  75. x

    @ Chally

    So you are saying you trust AAC pilots with nap of the earth flying, under fire, and at night.

    But you wouldn’t trust somebody in an AAC uniform to switch the autopilot on and fly between two points?

    And this “strategic manner” business? Is that like tacticool but more bad ass?

  76. Challenger

    @X

    Well I have always understood strategic to mean the whole picture whilst tactical deals with the details within.

    So strategic means deciding what gear needs to be loading on a C17 to be sent in-to Afghanistan, but tactical means an on the spot decision of where to distribute that stuff once it’s there and how best to utilise it once it’s in place. Surely that makes some sense?

    My core point is linked to my core frustration, which is concerning the overlap and confused distribution of assets.

    The RAF will nominally control all fast jets, but the FFA will have ‘access’ to them whatever that means and have it’s own pilots in the mix. Both the RAF and the Navy have their own tactical transport helicopters, but not the Army who deserve to fly them most based on how much they use them surely? Oh and whilst on the subject of helicopters the AAC has gun ships, even though all other types of fire support are part of the RAF.

    If we do get a new MPA in the future the RAF will want to fly it and are most likely be seen as the natural choice being that they flew the Nimrod. This is despite the fact that it provides what it says on the tin, maritime patrol, not terra firma patrol!

    Hmm, what else. Well the RAF Regiment has never made much sense to me. I’m not going to even try to understand which pilots train where and when, two services operate SAR platforms and UAV’s seem to be something that everyone will eventually get their hands on even though the roles of each will be broadly the same.

    I hope I am conveying my point here, which is that clarity and simplicity can help to build effectiveness. I’m not saying services aren’t complimentary, of course they are because they are all part of the armed forces and should all be working towards a common goal.

    Whilst I am going id also like to say that I think all 3 services are guilty of petty, selfish inter-service greed and rivalry. I think that to a certain extent it’s natural. However I won’t deny I think the RAF is a little guiltier of this than the others. In addition I think it is a bloated service that doesn’t get the maximum capability out of the people it has, the equipment it has or the money it receives.

    Which is why that in an ideal world Id happily have the RAF absorbed by the other two. This not being an ideal world I think about compromises and more progressively gradual solutions. There are plenty of options available, that’s what this site is about, talking through them in order to gain a greater understanding.

    Wow, that was a long one, I need a rest after that!

  77. x

    @ Chally

    Thanks. I do know the difference between tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

    I had the point a long time ago. :)

  78. ChrisM

    @Chris B
    “Every argument I’ve seen so far usually centres around “it’ll be cheaper” when we all basically acknowledge that it won’t at all, in fact likely becoming more expensive.”

    How so? Surely the army/navy would not replicate the command structure of the RAF? The squadrons would just move into the sides of the current Army/Navy pyramid. One less officer college for a start…

    Can anyone give me one sensible reason why the RAF are flying helicopters? The Navy should own their ASW ones, the Army should fly all transports/gunships (with a volunteer Commando Regiment if necessary for ones that spend all the time with the Marines)

    I dont however think we need to disband the RAF. They should lose all the helicopters, and the FAA should get all the F35s. Then the RAF loses its equal status and just reports to Joint command as Home Defence, Joint Transport, and Joint fixed wing flying training. Practically everything the RAF does apart from Home Defence is supplied to the other services, so they dont need to be on an equal footing.

  79. Challenger

    @ChrisM

    Finally someone I can agree with!

    @X

    Well I wasn’t sure so I thought Id spell it out!

  80. James

    If anyone thinks the Kevins would be welcome in the Army, they are wrong. I’m pretty sure the Andrew wouldn’t want them either. The kit, yes, the Kevins, no.

    It would however be fun to offer the RAF Regiment to the Marines. It’s nice to see terror on the faces of the RAF Regiment.

  81. x

    @ James

    I have only heard of transfers out of the RAF, nobody ever transfers in.

    Ans I have been assured many times on this very site that RAF bods would love to go sea if so ordered. Heck some of them may even volunteer.

    @ Chally

    I am off to get some “tacitcool” drink…. :)

  82. James

    …any offers for the RAF Movers, or should we just pay North Korea to take them? Some of them may be useful as traffic cones.

  83. Chris.B.

    @ ChrisM

    So you’ve disbanded the RAF and switched the kit over to the Navy and Army. You now need pilots for these aircraft. You need ground crew. You need the air traffic control people. You need the squadron leaders and wing commanders. You need the people to handle the extra admin load introduced. You need people to manage the various back office programs such as weapons development and systems development. You need senior officers to command and take responsibility for the various sub branches. And you need people to represent the air arm as a whole.

    Or in other words, you need all the jobs that the RAF currently has. Except you need two large streams to cover two services. Or in other words, you’ve just added people to the chain, not removed them. A pointless, counter productive exercise that will take years, doubtless cost millions, and achieve precisely f**k all.

    “…the Army should fly all transports/gunships”

    Why? What is it about a green uniform that would make an AAC pilot inherently more capable than a helicopter pilot wearing light blue, especially given the high standard of flying achieved by light blue chopper pilots (as evidenced by some of the photos and videos of the rather interesting spots that Chinook pilots have managed to manoeuvre into).

    Again, you’ll achieve nothing except disruption and increased short term cost, for zero savings and zero change in operational capability. Conversely Apache has shown adaptability into other areas which would be of little interest to the AAC, such as their use in low level operations against Radars. The Dutch assign their Apache to their air force and have had no real issues with that.

    Let’s put it this way, would you agree that the Bay Class and the Albion class should be run by the army? If not, why not, given that these assets are primarily designed to support the army? Would you advocate the handing over of the Marines to the army, given that Marines do most of their work on land?

    @ Challenger,
    “This is despite the fact that it provides what it says on the tin, maritime patrol, not terra firma patrol!”

    Does an MPA sail on the seven seas or does it fly above them? Given your train of argument it makes absolute sense for the RAF to operate the MPA as they fly.

  84. Chris.B.

    @ x

    “@ James; I have only heard of transfers out of the RAF, nobody ever transfers in.”

    — You obviously need to spread your ears a bit further. I think it was the Puma report or it might have been a thread somewhere else about Merlin, that made the point that a significant number of pilots from the AAC and RN had transferred over to the RAF.

  85. Gareth Jones

    RE: Bombers and MPA’s. I’ve mentioned this before but that never stoped me..

    One way to re-build a (semi-)strategic bombing force would be the Transport-Bomber concept with modular loads/weapons/sensors.

    If the transport aircraft fleet is capable then of transport, strike (land and naval), possibly CAS/gunship, Maritime patrol/ASW, SAR, AWAC, ELINT, ISTAR, C3, etc, it not only increases it’s support capabilities to the other services but dare I say help guarantee the RAF a role/future?
    For example, it would appear logical that a dedicated MPA should be part of the FAA. However, a swing-role transport/ISTAR/MPA aircraft appears to make more sense with the Air Force?

  86. All Politicians are the Same

    Chris B, I know of a few RN pilots that transferred after being chopped.

  87. Chris.B.

    @ APATS,
    Is that RN pilots who were chopped and went light blue, or light blue who were chopped and are now RN? I’m guessing the first, but it’s a little unclear, sorry.

    @ Gareth Jones,
    Really with a big bomber you would want very different things than you would out of a transport aircraft. Performance being one of them. A transport aircraft really needs to be optimised for load carrying and range. A bomber would need to be built for speed, range and survival in hostile skies.

    And again to bring up MPA, why is it logical for it to be FAA? It’s not directly supporting the fleet in any way for the majority of its time. It’s an asset that predominantly supports the civilian authorities in monitoring shipping and SAR, while also aiding in clearing a path for the CASD etc. With the RAF maintaining the only current large, fixed wing training stream it makes more sense for them to handle it and just stick a few RN personnel in the back, perhaps sonar specialists.

    I don’t mean to tar you specifically Gareth but I do wonder sometimes where people come up with the odd conclusions about who operates what kit.

  88. All Politicians are the Same

    Chris B, RN officers who joined to fly and got chopped. In fairness they wanted to fly so rather than transfer to another RN branch they went to the RAF.

  89. Gareth Jones

    @ Chris B. – true, which is why I said (semi-) strategic – its main strike weapon would be cruise missiles, although if the airspace was very permissive it may drop other weapons… it’ll still be more of a transport than a bomber but could add capaibilites…

    There is also the question of which type of transport aircraft would be best for each role: military, high wing, rear ramp aircraft or civilian (originally), low wing, passenger aircraft. Is there a natural split in the roles? Do you need both types or could you get away with one?

    RE: FAA and MPA – I believe most states MPA’s are operated by their navies (sometime coast guard); the UK is somewhat unusual with the RAF operating them (or they did…:()

  90. Topman

    @ Challenger

    ‘This is despite the fact that it provides what it says on the tin, maritime patrol, not terra firma patrol!’

    It actually spent a long time over land, afghanistan in the main. Aircraft often spend time supporting all sorts of areas, I think that’s the problem here people are chopping stuff up willy nilly with little regard to it’s wider use.

    @ Chris M

    ‘How so? Surely the army/navy would not replicate the command structure of the RAF? The squadrons would just move into the sides of the current Army/Navy pyramid.’

    Something that’s often repeated on the internet but once you look beyond the flying sqn and understand the whole RAF not just xyz sqn the opposite is true. You gain very little and end up with a whole mess to try and sort. The idea that you just cut a whole organisation up and dole out the prizes like some sort of xmas party is ludicrious and shows a lack of understand about what they are actually saying.

    @x

    ‘I have only heard of transfers out of the RAF, nobody ever transfers in. ‘

    I think someone has been pulling your leg.

    @ GJ

    ‘RE: FAA and MPA – I believe most states MPA’s are operated by their navies (sometime coast guard); the UK is somewhat unusual with the RAF operating them (or they did…:()’

    Someone did a list (might have been on here) of MPA platforms around the world, airforce operating MPA is more common than you would think.

  91. Chris.B.

    @ APATS
    Aye, I’m with you now. That was the general gist of the comments I’d heard, whether it was that Merlin forum or the Puma report is beyond my memory (think it was the forum to be honest), that a few RN and AAC pilots decided to make the switch because they wanted to fly and felt making the jump gave them the best opportunity to do that for a long time.

    @ Gareth J,
    It depends. Canada, Spain and Holland all operate their MPA through the air force (and somehow the Dutch airforce have gained operation of ship board helicopters, which I didn’t know). It just makes more sense to me to make it an RAF task. Most of what it does isn’t really supporting the Navy per se, more like the old Coastal Command.

    Erm, as for transports bombing I guess the cruise missile out the back is a possibility, but it does somewhat cap the range as the aircraft can’t wander very far into anything resembling hostile airspace, so you’re then limited by the 250km advertised range on SS. If you want to do that sort of strike, you’re better off going the full monty and building a proper bomber. Trouble is the damn things would probably clock in at the £100m a piece mark, before we even start talking about development costs spread over the airframes.

    Transport versus transport wise, the low wing civvie jobs have limited height capacity due to the split into two decks and without a rear loading ramp you’re not putting anything other than pallets and maybe small vehicles (land rover) on a low winger. Of course you could buy some of the old 747 cargo versions, but even then they’re not ideally suited for military cargo what with the height off the ground.

    @ Everyone,
    Am I the only one seeing incorrect time stamps? It seems like the “TD Clock” is an hour and half or so behind. This post being posted at 0254.

  92. Topman

    @ Chris B

    ‘that a few RN and AAC pilots decided’

    More than a few, there’s quite a few aircrew of all sorts that come across as well as other into ground trades and branches. I’ve worked with quite a few who have jumped ship. Never heard of anyone going the other way and leave to go into the navy/army, no doubt it’s happened mind, but it’s very rare.

  93. Gareth Jones

    @ Topman and Chris B – I stand corrected. I thought the RAF kept the old Coastal Command due to a kink of history but like you point out it is more common than I thought.

    I think making more use of the RAF’s transports (and ideally getting some more) by making them multi-role is a good way to maximise the utility of these national assets – my question over the two types (high wing v low wing) was about the different roles e.g. MPA is often performed by low wing aircraft, being designed for long-range efficient cruising, etc; however, high wing planes do offer some advantages not usually shared by the other type, such as low-speed handling, ability to throw things of the back ramp, and easier to swap pallets/equipment.

    Is there a set of missions best performed by low wings, such as MPA, AAR, AWACS, etc, and others best performed by high wings or the roles can be performed by either type, with different pro’s and con’s?

  94. ChrisM

    @Topman – you insist you couldnt make cuts by disbanding the RAF, without giving any logical reasons. Apparently you would need to hire more people to do stuff that the RAF does. Sounds to me like you are saying the RAF is inefficient.
    There is already an AAC, you would just add some regiments to its current structure. And bin some of the RAF command.
    In my plan you would bin most of the RAF high command, with the squadrons reporting to Joint Commands.

    MPA would be a Navy task, as it is command of the sea. However as it is multi-engine air and ground crew, and rarely deploys it is more sensible to put it in the RAF career structure, but under Navy operational command.
    Transport helicopters are tightly linked to the Army and deploy with them so it would be sensible to have their harmony regs, command structure and ethos as part of the army. I just can not see any reason for them to be in the RAF.

  95. Topman

    @ Chris M

    I don’t put reasons mainly because it’s been done to death and I can’t be bothered to do it all again. If you believe it’s that simple then, in the most pleasant way I can say it, you’ve little idea of what you are proposing nor of how aircraft are operated, what’s required and how the RAF are structured. Try looking beyond the flying sqns and at the whole makeup.

  96. ChrisM

    @Topman – to prevent duplication can you link to where it has been done to death?
    When two companies merge they make synergies by binning loads of management and duplicated processes. Just the same in this instance. You wouldnt need the top levels of the RAF as their work would come under the other structures. You wouldnt need an RAF officer college, you wouldnt need any RAF bands,separate HR, separate uniforms, etc etc etc.
    If you dont disband the RAF surely it is still more efficient to remove the helicopter stream from them?
    And ignoring costs, surely the transport helicopters would be most efficiently and effectively managed by the service that uses them almost exclusively?

  97. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Chris B,

    “The Dutch assign their Apache to their air force and have had no real issues with that.”
    – the last round of (their) defence cuts brought about an interesting concept:the 3 marine bns and the 3 paracommando (light army, or ranger) bns are seen as one force; again , that did not need them transferred under one admin command, just training together and developing/ evolving a joint doctrine

    In your post that then followed, you raise the Puma report. It was interesting as it evaluated the pro’s and con’s of the so-called (self-contained) Puma Force and whether the concept should be adapted more widely

  98. Topman

    @ Chris M

    I think somewhere on here and I put up a bit on Gabby’s blog about the same issue. Just to cover your issue about helicopters, the army already do as they hold the budget and control of JHC through Land, you would think that but evidence suggests otherwise. I’ll admit it does make perfect sense online, but in reality it’s different. For example it sounds perfectly logical that army would want to invest heavily in helicopters as they use them. Yet one of the first things they did when getting hold of the budget was remove a big chunk out of it. Look at the faff over wildcat the AAC got lumped with it, why? They didn’t have enough clout within the army and got dragged along with the navy’s needs. The AAC isn’t really a teeth arm it’s officers don’t get to the top. That has issues if you want a/c to remain important, I’m not argueing for a mafia either just balance, which I don’t think is there. It’s not really the main aim of the army so doesn’t recieve as much attention is people think. As to used more effectively, going by the report into the army’s use of helicopters (which I think is online) during initial Op Telic that is wide open to question.

  99. IXION

    I see the old for and against the RAF as an institution has reared it’s head. The usual suspects have appeared (me included) and the usual arguments advanced(ditto).

    Topman

    Why would (say) the RN desire to keep the RAf’s squadron structure?

    One of the criticisms of the RAF is that (like the other services, but more so)It structure no longer properly addresses what it is required to do or actually does.

    For example. The huge disparity between deployed numbers of Aircraft and those actually available to fly is such that the traditional 12-18 aircraft squadron is next to useless, generating perhaps 2-4 aircraft at the end of the runway ready to go. When interventions like Libya/Afghan, even QRA require rather more aircraft to operating ‘in country’.

    Rather as the size of military units grew in the Napoleonic era from, companies regiments to brigades and then divisions. as the numbers required to have the required effect grew, so did the scale of deployment and command/support structures.

    In effect we have the reverse going on to the same effect. The effectiveness of modern strike aircraft is such we need less of them, but the support of them is now so technical that they need huge support structures, to produce a few flyable aircraft.

    Recent history seems to be that they need to be deployed ‘by the dozen’ flyable airframes which I suspect would need say (as a guestimate) a 36 aircraft single unit. 2- 3 times the current squadron size. For example (and I never thought I would say this)! If we are having the elephants, to keep 12 aircraft at see we will need 36 or so per Elephant. Seems sensible to me to have one such unit per elephant rotating 12 aircraft pilots etc on deployment.

    Now that holds for support unit size as well, given likely economics of scale support unit sizes would have to adjust.

    In effect a lot of the support for the RAF structure, is rather like the RN’s fixation with fats pointy ships.

    We have always done it this way, so that’s the way it is done, and anyone who does it will have to do it this way.

    I remain to be convinced that is the case.

  100. ChrisM

    Isnt the fact that the army dont own the helicopters/crew part of the problem with JHC? They can cut the budget on other services’ helicopters and staff, not hurting their own cap badges. If all the transport helicopters belonged to the army then that would give the AAC more mass and influence, and give the army no excuses if the helicopters didnt perform to expectation.

  101. Topman

    @ IXION

    I didn’t think I’d be round and round on this one again so soon. ;)

    ‘Why would (say) the RN desire to keep the RAf’s squadron structure?’

    I believe the FAA have a similar number to each sqn type for type.

    If I understand you are wanting a structure that supports larger units to be deployed ? If that is the case it already exsists in a Wing. Used in Op Telic formed from the whole fleet. Day to day such a formation is a bit big to deal with, but as and when the need arises it can be easily formed. This is usually the case with fj, but with for example C130 they worked under a wing day to day concept as you suggest. They maybe something in it, as for example that’s how the Saudis their Tornados in wings of about two dozen.

  102. ChrisM

    @Ixion – that is why the FAA should get all the F35s, and all based in the South West (reopen St Mawgan?? or will they all fit at Yeovilton?)

  103. IXION

    Topman

    Why would a: (for want of a better word) Wing sized squadron,(perhaps better dealt with by simply dispensing with the squadron altogether); Be too unwieldy day to day?

    Are not most FJ units fairly statically based and maintained?

    As for The FAA doing it that way anyway:-

    I suspect a big element of ‘Big brother RAF does it that way’ so for a whole host of interoperability/ cultural/ logistical reasons it makes sense to do it that way.

    I suspect if the RAF moved the way it did things, FAA would follow.

    I just used squadron size that as an example of why Just Becuse the RAF does it that way, why would anyone who took over their roles automatically do it that way?

    I suspect if RLC took over air transport, they may have some views on organisation that were very un-RAF like.

    For example the whole history of civil aviation since the early 80’s, has been non ex-airforce business types; taking over running things; and vastly cutting costs from the national flag carrier, ‘Airforce’ in Civies’ organisational model. See BA / Air France’s struggles with the likes of Virgin and RyanAir.

    Likewise a USMC attitude towards pilots as ‘ A Marine that happens to fly an aircraft some of the time’, If applied by the Army to CAS and other battlefield support operations may well produce different structures.

  104. x

    @ Topman

    According to one former well known RN commander the FAA can maintain 1000 airframes with just one chief, an AB, a Sea Cadet to make the tea, and a ship’s cat to answer the phone. True. Honest.

    We need someone gullible, sorry I mean addicted to the internet to find out the FAA strength and numbers of airframes and then compare that to the RAF squadrons per aircraft number. Less cats.

  105. Topman

    @ X

    They might be able to but that would depend, does the cat get a rum ration?

    I’d be more surprised if someone hadn’t already done just that and then gone on to question how much the cat food costs and it’s precise content or some other such…

  106. IXION

    Chris M

    It will be a bonkers situation, for the f35 B not to all be based at the same central base, for training/maintain’e/ logistics/ command control personnel – you name it.

    It should be dark blue- will probably be purple, for the sole reason that If you think for one minute the RAF will let a sexy pointy bit of kit like the F35 slip though their fingers……

  107. IXION

    X

    Td did a lot of work some posts ago on this and (If I remember correctly), came to the conclusion that there was not much in it when you factored the support element given to FAA BY RAF.

    That is completely different question to RAF structure etc- e.g. the IDF air arm reputedly does what it does, for a lot less men per aircraft than the RAF. Still we all know how shit there are.

  108. IXION

    This is a defence blog concerned with the safety of our nation.

    On no account should cats get anywhere near sophisticated weaponry!

    Remember.

    1) They are members of one of the APEX predator families.
    2) They are born knowing where the Jugular Vein is.
    3) They know where we sleep – they tend to sleep where we sleep.
    4) I have met enough clever ones, to know when they develop an opposing thumb we are toast..

    I remember an old cartoon:-

    Picture a big hollowed out Volcano Lair with the standard big futuristic, meeting table and chairs.

    The CAT number one surrounded by his hench-cats is reading from a list.

    1) Automated Mouse farms- Check
    2) Automated Salmon fisheries – Check.
    3) Automated Dairy Farms- Check
    4) Automated Food canning factories- Check
    5) Tin opener that does not require Opposing thumb- Check.

    (Slight Pause (Or Paws)).

    ‘KILL THE HUMANS KILL THEM ALL!’

    We have been warned.

  109. Chris.B.

    @ Gareth Jones,

    Low wing vs high wing,

    Predominant issues include; 1) loading the aircraft, 2) location of the wing box (where it meets the fuselage), 3) operating environment, 4) ease of maintenance,

    I’ll start with four and work back, confusingly. In the private airline industry, reducing costs is critical to the health of the airline. Low wing aircraft make it easier to access the engines for routine maintenance, which saves a packet on maintenance.

    Civilian aircraft are also guaranteed to be taking off and landing at concrete airports with fewer worries about things like debris, something which a military transporter can’t guarantee.

    A low wing aircraft sees the wings meet at the fuselage quite low. If a civvie aircraft were high wing it would cut into the available cabin space and cause some issues with the layout of the aircraft.

    A low wing aircraft needs longer undercarriage (which is also an issue with rough landings) which causes serious issues with loading it with cargo, especially in the case of very heavy objects like vehicles. A low loader is much better for that.

    @ ChrisM,
    “When two companies merge they make synergies by binning loads of management and duplicated processes”
    — That’s actually a misconception. That only really works when two businesses do almost identical functions, such as when one construction company takes over another.

    If you spread RAF equipment over the other two services, they will need people to take on all the needed functions. You’ll need a head of helicopters, in fact you’ll now need two. Same with fast jets, same with transports. You can’t just eliminate jobs without eliminating the functions that these people perform.

    “And ignoring costs, surely the transport helicopters would be most efficiently and effectively managed by the service that uses them almost exclusively?”
    — The RAF is the service that uses them most. The army are effectively passengers. They don’t run the maintenance, they don’t do the navigation, they don’t fly them. If you switched the helicopters over, you would need to bring in all those people from outside. And for what? What have you gained? Nothing. It’s not like the RAF hoardes the helicopters in a warehouse somewhere and only lets the army play with them once a year. As much of the fleet as can be is provided for use.

    It’s just a complete waste of time, an anti-RAF wet dream that doesn’t serve the best interests of the personnel on the ground. And that’s what worries me the most with all these anti-RAF fanatsies. They have nothing to do with what is best for operations, it’s about service rivalries.

    That’s a completely unacceptable angle to be approaching these decisions from.

    @ IXION,
    — I think you’re having the precise same issue that I used to (and sometimes still forget about) and that’s confusing administrative formations on paper in the UK with the elements that are needed and put together for operations. It doesn’t matter what aircraft are put in what admin formation here, as long as we can generate the needed abilities on the front line, which so far we have.

    I’m not really sure what else you would expect the FAA to do? It cant bypass maintenance cycles. It cant bypass airframe hours. So in other words it’s going to find itself in precisely the same boat as everyone else.

  110. IXION

    Chris B

    I do not suggest that numbers of support staff to aircraft maintanence etc will differ that much: – Although I repeat, published figures, (whose relaibility and impartiality I cannot confirm)suggest,various highly effective forces do those jobs with a lot less people.

    It is the top heavy admin structure which we need to lose. If every time we want to put 12 functioning aircraft int he field, or on the elephant, if we have to involve 2-3 different small groups of aircraft rather than one big one it costs more.

    I make the point:- 1 Pay scheme / personel / uniform / vehicle fleet managment / base support admin etc, will be cheaper. Mergers of complimentary organisations the world overpull off this on a daily basis. Why a Light blue dark blue or green merger would be any different, and economies of scale not be obvious I fail to see.

    After all, TD’s scrap the FAA and AAC, and give it all to the light blue requires exactly that in order to work.

  111. ChrisM

    @ Chris B

    The AAC/FAA/RAF all do the same stuff – they fly things – so there will be synergies. The AAC and FAA wouldnt need Heads of Helicopters – they already have people who do that.
    The RAF dont use the Chinooks most – they just fly them for the users.

    I dont want to abolish the RAF, just want them out of the helicopter business and out of the F35s completely (assuming all F35s are Bs and carrier capable). The RAF would then keep its name, but would not be an individual service equivalent to the Army or Navy but effectively report to Joint Headquarters as a provider of Airlift (or into the RLC if you really want some fireworks…) and Home Defence and maybe all flight training. You could then take the whole top off the organisation and make the pyramid flatter for what is left.

  112. Chris.B.

    @ ChrisM,

    I’m sorry, but your last post must be some kind of bizarre joke.

    “The AAC/FAA/RAF all do the same stuff – they fly things – ”
    — In the same way that you and Michael Schumacher do the same stuff right? After all, you both drive. How much difference can there be?

    “The AAC and FAA wouldnt need Heads of Helicopters – they already have people who do that”
    — They wouldn’t need them because they have them? Eh? Now start adding in other aircraft streams. All of a sudden the FAA and AAC will have head of fast jets, heads of fast jet training, heads of transport, heads of large fixed wing training etc, you get the point.

    You can’t just take all those jobs that the RAF provide and say, we wont need that anymore. You will. The AAC will need someone responsible for large transports. Whoever takes over the RAF’s ISTAR will need a head of ISTAR. Just because you’ve changed the uniform doesn’t mean you’ve eliminated the capability, and in most cases it’ll need to be duplicated in both services.

    If you really want to save money, and this is going to cause a riot, the best way would be to fold the FAA and AAC into the RAF.

    “The RAF dont use the Chinooks most – they just fly them for the users”
    — In the same way that your local bus company doesn’t use its buses the most, it just drives them for the customers right? No? That’s right, the bus company owns the buses, drives them, provides maintenance for them, tasks them as needed across the various elements of its business sector.

    Your plans just make very little sense. I’ll ask you the same two questions that I ask of everyone else that proposes a similar thing and if you wish to engage in a further discourse on the subject then I expect two bloody fantastic answers that don’t touch on any of the points I’ve brought up so far, for example corporate expertise or the cost of transference for no appreciable gain in capability. After all, what’s good for the geese is good for the gander, huh?

    Question One; Why not amalgamate all the available sea lift such as responsibility for the Point Class, Albions and Bay’s into a command that is then given to the army? The RN would have absolutely no say or control of it what so ever. The Royal Marines would also be transferred to the army. After all, the army are the main users of this lift, are they not?

    Question Two; Why not scrap the Royal Navy almost entirely and party out its kit to the other two services? The RAF would take control of the Carriers and any ships needed to protect them. They would also be responsible for all helicopter aviation at sea. The Army would take control of all sea lift assets and would be given some escorts as well to protect them. The Royal Navy would be reduced to operating the CASD and the submarine force, for which it wouldn’t need any senior organisation and instead could just report to the Joint Headquarters as providers of sub surface action. This would flatten their pyramid massively and save a fortune would it not?

    I await your response with great anticipation and an almost childish sense of glee, safe in the knowledge that these two questions are the equal of your proposal but just the other way around, and both are equally as ridiculous. The only conceivable reason you could possibly give for rejecting them is because they involve the massive reduction of the Royal Navy and not the RAF, which of course is an impossible position to defend because it would mean your entire argument was built around single service bias and not rational thought of what is best for the nation and its defence.

    In your own time.

  113. Challenger

    @Chris M

    I would really like to see the RAF out of the helicopter business in particular, simply because unlike most of platforms they are exclusively there to provide for troops on the ground. Hence why I think the Army would get the most out of them.

    The rest of it I’m not so sure about. Half the time I want to abolish the RAF all together, the rest of the time I go all soft and just favour a bit of an adjustment, on the lines you and others have suggested.

    Their is also the problem of whether the FAA could handle that kind of additional number of aircraft. Even if personnel cross over it’s only worth it if it brings about greater efficiency and flexibility of resources, otherwise their isn’t much point.

    It seems to be that as British military power has receded over the last half a century it has left behind in it’s wake several irregularities of command set-up and an illogical division of resources. Id like to see this corrected as much as possible to increase clarity and hopefully effectiveness, something that is very important in these times of austerity when every penny counts and every capability has to be squeezed of all it’s worth.

    So I don’t really mind what solution is dreamed up, as long as it brings results!

  114. Challenger

    @Chris B

    Having just read you’re long post to Chris M you do make a fair bit of sense.

    As I just said, I really only want clarity and simplicity (as far as possible). So maybe the best way to achieve this is a real division of resources (which you joked about, but I am taking quite seriously).

    The most extreme case would be to have ALL aircraft in the RAF, ALL troops (including RAF regiment and the Marines) in the Army and ALL boats of any kind in the Navy. That may be a bit radical and would no doubt cause a riot, but perhaps it isn’t such a bad an idea?

  115. Challenger

    @myself, 10 minutes ago.

    Actually looking again you could aim for near total division of assets, I doubt total division would be possible or even practical.

    For example it wouldn’t make sense for the ASW Merlin’s to be in the hands of anyone except the FAA, purely because they are so specific to the maritime role.

    But broadly, it’s a concept that I wouldn’t mind talking about.

  116. ChrisM

    They all fly stuff. Your point about me and Schumacher both driving is irrelevant. They all fly high tech military aircraft – extremely similar. If they arent then you are actually arguing FOR the helicopters to go to the AAC as they are so different from the jets.

    You may need Heads of Streams, but some of them already exist in the Navy/Army, and they would report into current Navy/Army commanders instead of the RAF top brass. There is a lot of duplication.

    A bus company is totally different as its customers are individuals, and not an army. A more relevant comparison would be Tescos logistics – they either own and operate the lorries or they competitively contract it out, with the contractor reporting to them.

    The reason for the RAF being the “victim” is that it is a supplier to the other services, particularly the Army, not an end in itself. The Army wins wars, the RAF just help them out. The Navy controls the sea, and now the strategy is based around the carriers the Navy can do its own air support.
    Giving everything that flies to the RAF takes command of the operators away from the users, which is illogical.

    Specifically on Q1 – the army are not the main users of the Albions and Bays are they? The Royal Marines are. The Army help out with the numbers occassionally.

  117. Brian Black

    I thought the original reason for the helicopters being split between the services was that it was expected that Chinook air and ground crews would be woken from their slumber by room service tapping on their door, bringing tea and toast; while Lynx crews would be woken by another squadie pissing into their muddy hole – something that’s not been so apparent over the years that a purple helicopter force has operated from large, static airbases. On that basis, it is impossible for delicate, fragrant RAF personnel to be given AAC aircraft – though Army personnel can be taught to use indoor toilets, so could take over the RAF’s choppers.

  118. Chris.B.

    @ ChrisM

    Oh dear, you’ve been well and truly guzzling the kool aid haven’t you?

    “They all fly stuff. Your point about me and Schumacher both driving is irrelevant. They all fly high tech military aircraft – extremely similar”
    — Yes, landing a C-17 and landing a Lynx Wildcat are identical aren’t they. How silly of me to not spot the similarity.

    “If they arent then you are actually arguing FOR the helicopters to go to the AAC as they are so different from the jets”
    — How do you figure that one out? One service operates both jets and helicopters, and has a corporate background of flying both going back to the very introduction of the helicopter into military service and beyond. The other does not. But you want to transfer all of that to the less experienced service, because somehow the experience of operation of multiple complex flying machines and intergrated air spaces makes an organisation less qualified than it’s smaller, less experienced sibling that leans on the larger organisation for a significant degree of its support? Okey dokey.

    “You may need Heads of Streams, but some of them already exist in the Navy/Army, and they would report into current Navy/Army commanders instead of the RAF top brass. There is a lot of duplication”
    — Yes… by the FAA and AAC. You seem to be missing the point that a larger FAA and AAC would require very senior commanders, for both services. The would need chiefs of their respective air arms, with the appropriate seniority to sit at the highest tables to talk budgets and strategies. That would double the cost of the functions currently provided by the RAF. The only other choice is to not assign these individuals, in which case the air arms will fall by the wayside as they struggle for funding and proper representation; precisely the reason why a seperate airforce was established in the first place.

    “A bus company is totally different as its customers are individuals, and not an army.”
    — No it’s not. It’s a perfect example. The bus company supplies a bus to a particular route to pick up whoever happens to be the passengers on that day (an infantry company). It has the biggger picture in mind and can shift buses around to better accomodate the passenger requirements in different areas, as well as organising connections with other “buses” or even the bigger “trains”. Helicopters do other things except shuttling soldiers around in the same way that a bus company is not the exlusive preserve of the commuter at the bus stop.

    “The Navy controls the sea”
    — HAHA, Have a word with yourself. Even user x, an ardent Naval supporter, is not that silly.

    “The reason for the RAF being the “victim” is that it is a supplier to the other services, particularly the Army, not an end in itself. The Army wins wars, the RAF just help them out”
    — What do you think the Navy is then? It’s a supplier to the army as well, providing safe transport across the sea as one of its primary roles. Of course this is a simplification. The Navy does other things, as does the RAF. The provision of QRA has nothing to do with the army, and nor did the intervention in Libya (except on a very sneaky, strategic level). Your assessment of the RAF is fundamentally flawed and shows a serious lack of study.

    “…and now the strategy is based around the carriers the Navy can do its own air support”
    — On a very limited basis, presuming the carriers make it into service.

    “Specifically on Q1 – the army are not the main users of the Albions and Bays are they? The Royal Marines are. The Army help out with the numbers occassionally”
    — The primary purpose of these vessels is to deliver the army by sea, transporting their tanks and other heavy equipment along with the Points. The main purpose of the Royal Marines is to fight on land. Using your rational both the transport ships and the Marines should be part of the army.

    But as I said, I knew when the shoe was on the other foot all your original arguments would suddenly be swapped about. If it’s RAF kit we’re talking about then you’re all “ohh, that should be given to the prime user” but when its Navy kit suddenly its “ohh, you can’t touch that, that belongs to the Navy”.

    It reveals the sad and somewhat depressing nature of your comments, i.e. that you don’t really care what is the most operationally effective or cost efficient method. All you care about is taking things away from the light blue and giving them to other people, for some arbitrary reason that defies explanation.

    How does that help defence? Why should a significant chunk of the armed forces been completely upheaved and moved around, providing zero additional operational benefit and zero cost benefit just because you don’t like light blue shirts.

    It really bugs me. It’s beyond petty and goes into the realms of spiteful vindictiveness.

  119. wf

    @Chris.B

    It’s entirely reasonable for @ChrisM to advocate that support helicopters go to the Army, their allocation to the RAF is owed more to a half century old budgeting problem than considered decisions. Forgetting the existence of RA crewed observation planes and the Glider Pilot Regiment is a little silly. It’s common sense that users are better able to decide what services they require than a third party, and support helicopters are hardly a priority for the RAF the way they are for the Army.

    The existence of separate administrative chains of command within the RAF duplicates similar ones within the Army and RN. Removal of the former is unlikely to double costs.

    The RM would probably be best off within the Army, and there’s a case for the Points and amphibs being similarly organised and funded. Air defence is unquestionably a largely RAF function, but that’s hardly enough to justify a whole separate service.

    Ad hominem attacks by anyone don’t serve discussion. None of us know each other’s motivations and there is precious little point in speculating.

  120. Dunservin

    @Chris B May 29, 2012 at 20:21

    – I am not an RAF abolitionist but your challenge proved irresistible. I have kept my answers short and sweet but there is more where they came from.

    “Question One; Why not amalgamate all the available sea lift such as responsibility for the Point Class, Albions and Bay’s into a command that is then given to the army? The RN would have absolutely no say or control of it what so ever. The Royal Marines would also be transferred to the army. After all, the army are the main users of this lift, are they not?”

    – Your question is based on two flawed premises: First, Point Class apart, you have labelled floating weapons systems as ‘sea lift’ and tried to equate them with ‘air lift’ assets (presumably C-130s, C-17s, CH-47s, etc.). To the best of my knowledge, none of the RAF’s strategic or tactical ‘air lift’ assets deploy on prolonged, relatively autonomous operations and employ their own C4I, armament, combat personnel (RN & RM), aviation and boats for such tasks as MIOPS (Maritime Interdiction Operations), intelligence gathering, ASW, anti-piracy and anti-drug smuggling patrols, rendering humanitarian aid, providing disaster relief, NEOs, etc. Secondly, the Army is not the principal user of these vessels when they are performing most of their maritime functions. The Royal Marines are not called ‘sea soldiers’ for nothing.

    “Question Two; Why not scrap the Royal Navy almost entirely and party out its kit to the other two services? The RAF would take control of the Carriers and any ships needed to protect them. They would also be responsible for all helicopter aviation at sea. The Army would take control of all sea lift assets and would be given some escorts as well to protect them. The Royal Navy would be reduced to operating the CASD and the submarine force, for which it wouldn’t need any senior organisation and instead could just report to the Joint Headquarters as providers of sub surface action. This would flatten their pyramid massively and save a fortune would it not?”

    – Much of this is down to ethos. While plenty join the Royal Navy (and the Army) to fly, I’d suggest that few if any join the RAF to go to sea, much less leave their home bases for up to 10 months at a time every 18-24 months. The RAF is also unique in sending its officers into combat while just about everyone else stays ‘behind the wire’. The RN not only has an ‘all of one company’ concept but also treats its ships as integrated weapons systems of which the aircraft form one element. RN (and RFA) ships are not just floating airfields that wave their aircraft off then sit twiddling their thumbs until their return. With regard to ‘sea lift’ assets, see my answer to question one. Last but not least, I am amused if you believe it sensible (or indeed possible) to divorce sub-surface activity from surface and air activity in the maritime environment.

  121. Challenger

    @Chris B

    Are you now or have you ever by any chance been a serving member of the RAF? I’m detecting quite a bit of anger in you’re defensive responses.

    As Wf said we are here to discuss, if we can’t do that in an effective manner then what’s the point!

    @Wf

    Yes exactly! People can advocate what they wish for the future, it’s totally open for discussion

    What can’t be denied is that a lot of the budgetary allocations and structural framework can be argued to be anomalies, decisions made long ago that have questionable relevance to today.

    Wanting to find a way of achieving some logic and clarity in a confused mess can be no bad thing!

  122. Chris.B.

    @ Challenger

    “Are you now or have you ever by any chance been a serving member of the RAF?”
    — No.

    The closest I would come to any connection to the RAF would be a Grandad who was a firefighter on one of the RAF bomber bases in WW2, not sure which one or whether he was even technically RAF or not, and an Auntie who is mad as two cuckoo clocks stuck together with crazy glue who once served in the WRAF. Other than that, nothing.

    My issue is simple Challenger. I came here, to Think Defence, to talk about defence and try to find like minded individuals (and even some not like minded), to discuss the state of defence and perhaps to come up with solutions that maybe, if someone from a higher power in defence is watching, are taken on board.

    I want to see what is best for the nation and frankly what is best for the men and women deployed on the front line, where death and serious injury are very real concepts that they live with daily, as opposed to being abstract concepts that we talk about here behind the comfort of our keyboards.

    That may sound somewhat cheesy or hokey, but I don’t care. It is something which I believe in very passionately and maybe misguided, an idealist perhaps. I do not care what people think of this, because it is me, I am what I am and I think what I think, and I feel what I feel, so that is that and I do not care if people think it naive or optimistic or just down right laughable.

    However, I did not come here to listen to people bashing one of the services and plotting its downfall on the simple premise that they don’t like it, or because they served in another service and are bitter because the RAF took all the shiny flying toys and they were left with the dull ones.

    I have nothing but contempt for people that would advocate the destruction of a service that has a very good track record of doing what is needed of it on operations and providing the support that is part of its job description, just because people do not like the fact that RAF crews live on air bases or that they get shorter tours (with consequently shorter intervals).

    If that is a problem for ex-serving members of the Navy then fine, they should not have joined the Navy. When I used to do 16 hour night shifts I did not complain to people about it because I was the one that agreed to do them in the first place.

    So that is where I source my hostility from. Because there is no sound rational behind all these proposals for stripping away chunks of the RAF or completely disbanding it. Not one solid reason has been put forward. All I’ve seen and heard so far has been an incessant stream of ridiculous claims that have no basis in fact or reality, which only serve to demonstrate the profound lack of understanding on the part of those who make these comments, and which seem to be underwritten by a current of service bias that is only thinly veiled.

    I fail to see why such irrational, petty, absurd, agenda driven arguments should be treated as anything remotely resembling a reasoned debate, when clearly they are driven by anything except a desire to find the truth and to help those in the service.

    @ wf
    “It’s common sense that users are better able to decide what services they require than a third party, and support helicopters are hardly a priority for the RAF the way they are for the Army”
    — You’re right. It’s not like the RAF has requested, and been requesting for quite some time now, more transport helicopters from the MoD. Oh wait…

    “Forgetting the existence of RA crewed observation planes and the Glider Pilot Regiment is a little silly”
    — Maybe if glider planes and Observation planes bore any resemblence to the large transports, fighter planes and large ISTAR assets that are being advocated as being handed over to the Army, then you might have a point.

    “The existence of separate administrative chains of command within the RAF duplicates similar ones within the Army and RN. Removal of the former is unlikely to double costs.”
    — So the army and Navy have administrative chains dedicated to the through life management of C-17, C-130, Chinook, Tornado, Typhoon? No? Brimstone? Paveway? Aviation fuels? Air bases? I didn’t think so. Which means they will need ALL the same chains as the RAF does. Yes, even in the senior levels. You will need a Chief of the Naval Air Staff and a Chief of the Army Air Staff, along with all their relevant subordinates. In many cases you will end up with two streams – one army, one navy – to cover functions that the RAF currently does with one. You will save nothing and probably increase a number of the costs. This simplistic view that the RAF = a bunch of pilots and a few ground crew is misleading.

    @ Dunservin’
    — You should have left the bait if you knew what it was.

    Regarding your reponse to question one, you’re quite right that those assets do other things, which is the point I was trying to make to Chris M that’s it’s not as simple as saying “well, Globemaster carries troops thus it should be managed by the army”. RAF lift assets do a number of roles, which include transporting personnel including Naval personnel. They also have roles to play in things like disaster relief, supporting the operation of Fast Jets, Search and Rescue (in the case fo the now former MPA) etc. And all the while that they’re doing this they are not solely supporting the army. You make my argument for me.

    Your response to question two is precisely the response I was expecting. If I may quote you “Much of this is down to ethos”. So in other words, ethos is a legitimate argument when we’re talking about subsuming Naval assets, but not the other way around, because presumably the RAF has no ethos of its own or its ethos is irrelevant? How convenient.

    While criticising RAF bods for not wanting to go to sea, you forget about the pilots that did just that in ’82 and performed very effectively in their new role. Now tell me how many of the armies Apache pilots who recently served in Libya off of a carrier signed up to go to sea? None I expect, but they just got on with the job at hand, as it seems current military types have an annoying tendency of doing, especially when that goes against the neat little propoganda paragraphs that often seem to find their way into the statements of senior serving officers when they give evidence to parliament. You over rate I think this concept about peoples willingness to go and do certain jobs.

    As for this “… much less leave their [RAF] home bases for up to 10 months at a time every 18-24 months”.

    First of all you’re right, the RAF don’t do 18-24 month tour intervals. I believe the current requirement is one every 16…

    So you believe that RAF personnel sign up in order to sit around at home all day? I would say new recruits would have to be somewhat idiotic if they indeed believed that they would spend the next four to five years sitting around at Brize Norton with no requirement to move about or go abroad. I think you give them not nearly enough credit.

    As for the 10 month tours that’s interesting, because an old friend of mine who has recently become one of the newest recruits into Her Majesty’s Navy should be landing on “those Islands” in the next day or so, and is spending two weeks with Dauntless, before jetting off to the Caribbean for about 2 and half months. This was described (he posted it on his Facebook wall no less) as being a, quote, “half tour”. Which would put a full tour at 6 months and would correlate with loose Naval mouths on other forums that the average Naval tour of duty (from the personnels perspective, if not the ship itself) is in fact 6 months, not 10.

    Then we have this; “The RAF is also unique in sending its officers into combat while just about everyone else stays ‘behind the wire’”

    How is this seen as a negative? That officers, who are supposed to be leaders, would fly into harms way? If it were the other way around I suspect you would be complaining that the officers were sitting at home and letting the juniors go into battle.

    And if you really must insist on this stupid bloody ‘we have bigger balls and share more of the burden than the light blue, going into action etc’, then I ask you to consider this; the RAF has suffered 22 killed in Afghanistan. Happy now? Has this placated your lust for equal RAF blood, all in it together and all that? Does this make them more manly now in your eyes? Perhaps make them more worthy of your mighty praise now, oh gracious decider of who is and who isn’t assuming the most risk on operations? Or would you care for a breakdown first on how many were blown up by IED’s, how many were shot, and how many died in the Nimrod crash?

    Then we have “The RN not only has an ‘all of one company’ concept but also treats its ships as integrated weapons systems of which the aircraft form one element”.

    And presumably the RAF doesn’t treat its aircraft the same, as just one component of the deployed capability? Perhaps you presume that the RAF ground crew just sit around themselves when the aircraft are off? I mean its not like they have other things to be doing is it? I certainly can’t think of any other tasks that they could be doing while the officers are away.

    We could go on, but I think I’ll stop it here.

    I presume from your user name that you are an ex-service person? Yet you treat the other services with such contempt, such disdain, despite the fact that in the end they’re all fighting for the same side to achieve the same objectives, or at least supposed to be. I find that a little unsettling personally.

    And as expected (you essentially answered for Chris M) you gave me not one good reason why his proposal wouldn’t work the other way around. Of course we all know it wouldn’t work, in the same way that chopping up the RAF and trying to hand pieces of it around to the other services wouldn’t work. But when the shoes on the other foot suddenly it’s all, “oh what about our ethos, what about our history” as if the others have none of their own and your own service is the sole owner of words like “tradition”, “corporate knowledge” or “ethos”.

    Not one good reason has been put forward and I strongly doubt one will.

  123. TrT

    Chris.M
    “The AAC/FAA/RAF all do the same stuff – they fly things – so there will be synergies.”

    Have you ever been through a merger?
    You, personaly?
    Ever sat on a transition team?
    Chaired one?

    The theory, is synergies save costs.
    The reality is mergers create larger organizations, and larger organizations spend more money talking to themselves than smaller ones.

    Headcounts frequently increase after the merger, because everyone protects “their” turf

  124. x

    Please, for all that is holy, won’t somebody think of the Alsations?

    Any how I always view this RAF business as a de-merger of the RFC and RNAS.

    And though head counts sometimes increase during mergers they also reduce. Ask many in the financial sector over the past decade or so.

    And as for protecting turf many argue it is about concentrating assets in the area they are used eg. RAF Army Co-operation squadrons to the AAC. It is about demarquation which isn’t always a bad word.

    Any way it is all getting silly. The next one of you to mention RAFcide will have to go and get their hat. Gees guys…….

  125. IXION

    Chris B

    This is going to sound silly but I sort of agree with you on one point.

    I do not accept, nor support the kind of ‘My service is best, (insert Army Navy air force) and everyone else smells’ arguments about force mergers. Implying that the RAF are all effeminate sybarites, who cant fight without 5* service, and all wear soft soled shoes and use to much Brylcream, compared to us hearty sons of Nelson / Wellington Is bollocks.

    HOWEVER… In answer to your points (Yes I know they are Baldrick style cunning traps but what the hell this is a discussion blog).

    1) Yep give the Amphib and transport to the Army along with the marines. I have said it before I have listened to all sorts claim, the Marines are special, and not at all like soggy Paras’. It’s all balls as the Army have been treating the Marines like what they are – a high quality light to medium infantry/ recon unit for years! Indeed the Paras and Marines have regularly relieved one another on identical ops / deployments; and did pretty much the same job save for the amphibious landing speciality, in the nameless isles.

    If I am saying give RAF REG to army can’t give special pleading to Navies Popski’s private army can I.

    2) You want to give Elephants to RAF that’s very tempting.

    BUT a no go for this reason.

    Elephants will not deploy that often and unless you give the RAF exclusive use of 3-4 t45 and 4-8 t26 to sit around in port waiting for then elephants to leave there enclosures it won’t work. And would bea shock waste of resources.

    Further and this is where your argument falls down. The navy does all sorts of stuff that has nothing to do with the RAF or the Army. Surface ASW,SSN,SSBN, for starters. Everything the RAF does is in essence for someone else. With the posssible exception of the largely discredited ‘Deep strike’ capibility. (See Below)*

    Where do the subs go and if it remained separate service that defeats the point.

    Like I said ALL plans for mergers of whatever type, or movement form one force to another and of whatever capabilities, IMPLICITLY ACKNOWLEDGE the benefits of scale. And by the stripping out of layers of middle management.

    Those benefits have by and large been proved by modern commercial practice.

    As I pointed out TD’s whole ‘if it flies its light blue’, relies on that as it’s bedrock.

    I have no axe to grind about the RAF, I have seen examples of shocking service insularity, and down right bloody mindedness, from it’s denizens. (in particular an incident involving leaving freezing soldiers on a hill in an exercise because it was time to knock off and go home, where frankly we were lucky no one died).

    But I have seen and heard that from Pongos and the Andrew too, that’s just human nature.

    * BTW being given out on news last night that ONE OF (my emphasis), the many reasons we are not going to be attacking Syria….

    Is coz they is too hard and have lots of air defence capabilities we don’t fancy having a go at…

  126. wf

    @Chris.B

    “You’re right. It’s not like the RAF has requested, and been requesting for quite some time now, more transport helicopters from the MoD. Oh wait…”. So? My point is still valid, that a capability requirement is best funded by those that use them, and given that it’s taken this long for new Chinook orders, it sort of proves my point. The RAF sees Typhoon as it’s core requirement, and prioritises accordingly. It’s understandable from the organisational point of view.

    “Maybe if glider planes and Observation planes bore any resemblence to the large transports, fighter planes and large ISTAR assets that are being advocated as being handed over to the Army, then you might have a point.” I thought that anything that flies was the same? Your point was we shouldn’t take away the support helicopter role from the RAF because it had pioneered the use of such, which I suspect the Yanks might be surprised to hear.

    “So the army and Navy have administrative chains dedicated to the through life management of C-17, C-130, Chinook, Tornado, Typhoon? No? Brimstone? Paveway? Aviation fuels? Air bases? I didn’t think so. Which means they will need ALL the same chains as the RAF does. Yes, even in the senior levels. You will need a Chief of the Naval Air Staff and a Chief of the Army Air Staff, along with all their relevant subordinates. In many cases you will end up with two streams – one army, one navy – to cover functions that the RAF currently does with one. You will save nothing and probably increase a number of the costs. This simplistic view that the RAF = a bunch of pilots and a few ground crew is misleading.” Actually, most of that is handed by civil servants, not uniformed personnel. Since the AAC and FAA presumably handle JP8, Hellfire, Lynx etc and similar equipments, and are often based on current or former RAF bases, I can’t really see the point you are trying to make: there will be more work for the existing structures, but 2 rather than 3 will see a reduction in depts, mainly in the MOD rather than the service.

    @IXION: good points there

    If I had to sum up the conundrum of a separate air force service, it’s that it was formed because it was assumed that wars would be won by the independent use of air power. This has been repeatedly disproved, so now we hear that it needs to exist for administrative convenience on the basis that things that fly are the “same”. It’s not exactly compelling, because tools should not be driving strategy, but requirements, and silo’ing off “flying” will result in organisational resistance to anything that reduces the latter, even if it’s a better solution

  127. Challenger

    @Chris B

    The closest RAF connection I have is my Great Grandfather. I believe he was in Coastal Command for the first half of the war (I have a very interesting photo of a merchant ship in flames and going down, alas no name or date though). The story goes that after injury he spent the second half of the war on light duties and was allegedly Glen Millers driver for one or more of his trips to London.

    I completely agree with you’re view that we all come on here and read and post, hopefully in the process finding some likeminded individuals, and even if we disagree it’s still productive to have difference and debate.

    Again I agree that what’s really important is serving the national interest and the interests of undoubtedly brave and dedicated service personnel (we can at least agree on one thing!). Id add in-to that the idea that the taxpayer also deserves to get real value for money out of the defence budget and be served by flexible and capable armed forces.

    I am not partisan against the RAF in particular. I am not, nor have ever been in the armed forces so I consider myself neutral. My views have never had anything to do with who gets what shiny toy (that’s the kind of petty jealously that id want to try and rectify). I have singled it out more recently because that was the theme that this thread was heading towards. For the record if we were talking about Navy or Army waste id be as vocal in my views.

    Anyway I agree that we should probably leave the ‘RAF abolishment’ idea behind. For my part I have never been totally convinced by any argument for or against. I have really been in two minds, oscillating between various points rather than sticking to one overwhelming view.

    I would however say that all of this speculation. Some of us think certain changes would be productive and some of us don’t, their can’t be right or wrong because we have no idea how these views would transfer in-to reality.

    I’m still going to believe and advocate that some changes of association, some clarity amongst the confused cross service interdependence would be a good thing. Just as you don’t have to agree with me, I don’t have to agree with you. That’s what’s great about living in a relatively democratic land!

    After all, we are all friends here!

  128. Topman

    @ wf

    ‘If I had to sum up the conundrum of a separate air force service, it’s that it was formed because it was assumed that wars would be won by the independent use of air power. This has been repeatedly disproved, so now we hear that it needs to exist for administrative convenience on the basis that things that fly are the “same”.’

    That could be equally argued for any service, no-one wins modern wars/campigns on their own.

  129. Simon

    Cor, there’s a lot of rivalry here.

    Can anyone list out the RAF structure. I’m having serious problems understanding the contradicting statements within the RAF’s own website!

    1 Group (combat)
    901 EAW?
    902 EAW?
    etc
    2 Group (support)
    22 Group (training)

    And roughly what assets each wing holds?

  130. Topman

    @ Simon

    I hope this clears things up a little.

    1 Group run all the FJ
    2 Group all AT, SH + RAF Reg.
    22 Group run all the training in the RAF across all trades and branches.
    901 EAW and the rest of EAWs are admin formation to cover all the Non formed unit personnel on a particular station namely the larger flying units. Something like Ellamy for example, the flying sqns deploy and the support functions like the drivers, admin, support staff are ‘badged’ within that formation.The commander of the EAW is the same as the Station Commander.

  131. James

    Simon,

    Groups are 2 star commands, dedicated to some similar roles (e.g. transport, ISTAR, training, and being pretend Biggles). EAWs are subordinate to Groups in peacetime and grew out of trying to give Station Commanders a proper job. They are the deployed HQs on 6 month rotations.

    Sort of like Divisions in the Army, and Brigade HQs. There was always a jump in the RAF between Squadrons and Groups, probably not easy to manage. So EAWs were invented to give Kevin something to command in between Squadron and Group.

  132. Simon

    Topman, James,

    So…

    Somewhere like RAF Cottesmore/Coningsby would constitute an EAW?

    …and….

    These EAWs are the “deployable unit” that work on rotation?

    What kind of assets does an EAW have? Are we talking a defined number of FJ, AEW, tankers, etc?

  133. Topman

    @ Simon

    Not Cottesmore, it’s an army barracks ;) but yes units such as Coningsby would have a EAW on them and other large flying stations. No they don’t work on rotation they are just an admin function for that unit. They don’t have assets per se more just a deployable unit to put all the support personnel into. Not to to try and confuse you further but their are EAW out in the ME there are 2 (I think) overseas in Herrick or supporting plus an EAG above those EAW. They are similar to the EAWs on stations around the UK

  134. wf

    @Topman: “That could be equally argued for any service, no-one wins modern wars/campigns on their own”. Agreed! So why do we need a separate service to perform some duplicate and some unique capabilities based around flying when the other two services also perform flying tasks?

  135. wf

    @James: I suspect you’ll find EAW’s were patterned after similar USAF units organised after a successful trial in GW1 by a composite wing flying from Incerlik in Turkey.

  136. Simon

    Topman,

    I’m confused :-(

    Can you point me to a link that makes sense? The RAF one doesn’t. It goes on about an Expeditionary Air Force made up of an Expeditionary Air Group and Expeditionary Air Wings (901-904). The link to the EAG then takes you off to another page which implies 901-904 EAW are part of the EAG!

    Wiki (that highly reliable source) makes more sense but implies an EAW is part of a station or part of a group!!! Which is it? Which wing is part of which station and which group!!?!?!

    Are you simply saying that an EAW is built from whatever is needed at the time but is managed by a particular station?

  137. Topman

    @ wf

    Same reason we need an army, which is no different from your point (edited to make a point) ‘a seperate service to perform some duplicate and some unique capabilities when the other two services have ground troops.’

  138. James

    Topman, you’d better not be trying to make a case that the RAF Regiment are anything other than a comedy dance troupe. It is one of the few things that Royals and the Army can agree upon.

    i’ll give you a clue. The MoD don’t try to deploy them into a combat role. Bumbling around airfield perimeters is about all they are useful for.

  139. Topman

    @ Simon

    Don’t worry your not the only one! It’s more formalising and numbering command structures that were there already than adding anything, a tidying up of CoC if you like.

    ‘The link to the EAG then takes you off to another page which implies 901-904 EAW are part of the EAG!’

    They are, to use army terms, think of it as 3 companies dotted about the ME with a btn HQ controlling it.

    ‘EAW is part of a station or part of a group!!! Which is it? Which wing is part of which station and which group!!?!?!’

    It is part of a station, as above it’s a ‘ghost’ unit when not deployed.

    I think the confusion comes from the 2 types of EAW the ‘900s’ which are there to support air ops in theatre and as that is long term deployment so it has been decided to have a ‘permanant’ EAW in the ME.
    Then (still with me ! ) there are 1xx EAWs these are the ‘ghost’ ones. Used on Ellamy from Coningsby more to support single station deployments.

    ‘Are you simply saying that an EAW is built from whatever is needed at the time but is managed by a particular station?’

    The day to day ‘ghost’ ones are taken from personnal on the unit that it is based at.

    Phew! I know it’s pretty confusing even to those serving :)

  140. Simon

    Topman,

    I think I get you, but so as to not waste your time, I’ll buy a book.

    I just hope I don’t find out it’s matrix managed otherwise FBOT will have a field day ;-)

  141. Topman

    @ James

    Don’t worry I know your thoughts on them ;)

    All banter aside, they’ve always been ok by me, but then since it’s not really my field I’m probably not in position to judge. But they do the job they are tasked with, PJHQ seems happy enough they wanted more of them so the RAF formed up 2 more Sqns. You can only do the job your tasked with, all issues with the army aside, they keep our jets when on the ground complete without holes in, that’s good enough for me.

  142. Topman

    @ Simon

    ‘I think I get you, but so as to not waste your time, I’ll buy a book.’

    Not at all, as one of the very few crabair types here, some has to act as translator ;)

  143. wf

    @Topman: You may recall my expressed desire to subsume both the RM and RAF regiment into the Army…

    So, why is the technical practice of flying require a separate service again?

  144. Topman

    @ wf

    ‘You may recall my expressed desire to subsume both the RM and RAF regiment into the Army…’

    Why not the other way around?

  145. ChrisM

    @ Chris B
    I have no allegiance to any service. If anything I prefer shiny flying things to boats or green stuff.
    You keep yelling “facts” without evidence, yet allege that nothing I say has any solidity.
    I still dont understand how you think the RAF should continue to fly everything because they know it all, yet claim that helicopters and planes are completely different things for anyone else to control.

    I work in financial services and have been through a load of mergers. Costs get stripped out in a massive way. If two teams do the same thing then generally one of those teams gets binned, and the other picks up the extra work with a couple of extra junior people. You dont keep two CEOs, or two boards, or two sets of senior management, and middle management gets nearly halved. The property portfolio normally shrinks as well, and HR, and IT and all other support services.
    I also have much experience of outsourcing (which is effectively what the support helicopters are) and it isnt good. The outsourcer concentrates on what they wont do, not what they could do – if you want anything extra you better bend over and grab your ankles. Their staff are interested in succeeding in their structure, not helping yours. And you end up with big middle offices and internal teams doing much of the stuff you thought you had outsourced.

  146. Brian Black

    Just to show that some of these RAF arguments are nothing new. The member for Walthamstow East speaking in 1973, from Hansard. “Although one may argue that at present the Army Air Corps is in no way equipped to cope with such a complex aircraft the logic of having [Harrier] in the Army Air Corps rather than the Royal Air Force seems inescapable. That also applies to the logic of having [Chinook] in the Army Air Corps rather than the RAF, because a medium-lift helicopter would be there for the logistic support not only of Harriers but of troops.”

  147. Chris.B.

    @ ChrisM

    “I still dont understand how you think the RAF should continue to fly everything because they know it all, yet claim that helicopters and planes are completely different things for anyone else to control
    — Try asking yourself this question then; does the AAC operate fast jets, Large transports, tankers, AEW aircraft, and fixed wing ISTAR assets? The answer is no. Now ask yourself this; does the RAF already fly quite a lot of helicopters? The answer is yes.

    Or in other words, the AAC only does a fraction of the flying that the RAF does while the RAF already does all the flying that the AAC does. I’m not trying to argue against the AAC, I have no issue with them, but you seem to fail to understand the underlying fact that the RAF has the knowledge and experience to do all the AAC’s jobs, but the reverse is not true.

    As for the mergers thing, I’m sorry but your description of how easy and seamless it is suggests that you’ve probably never been through one, let alone many. Mergers take place for a number of reasons, only one of which is when two similar businesses merge, which is when the most savings are achieved.

    But we’re not talking about two similar businesses are we? We’re talking about merging two or more services that do utterly different things. The FAA has no current fast jet department, to use a civilian phrase. It has no department that handles the acquisition of missiles for fast jets. It has no department for handling the acquisition of bombs for fast jets. It has no department with experience of managing the through life costs of Typhoon, or Tornado, or Voyager, or Globemaster.

    You seem to think that all these tasks are going to magically disappear. They are not. And you’re still not understanding the point about senior officers. The Navy will need its own chief of the air staff if it where to assume a large chunk of RAF assets. The AAC would need the same. Thus you’ve just traded one senior chief for two. Even if those two are down one pay grade from the chief of the air staff, the fact that there are two of them will make them more expensive. Ergo, your proposed savings are a myth. This really isn’t that hard to grasp, or at least I believed so.

    As for the outsourcing thing, what are you talking about? The RAF has been operating helicopters in support of the army for many, many years now, achieving generally high levels of servicability and support. Like I said, the RAF has been fighting the government for several years now 9including the last lot) to try and get more Chinooks to support the army, so how is that considered not trying to do the best by the “customer”? You’re claims that the RAF don’t want to help the army or are not interested in jobs like transport are simply not backed up by the facts. You’re essentially just plucking your argument out of thin air with no support what so ever.

    @ wf,
    You’ve fallen into the same trap with Topman that I laid with those loaded questions. On the one hand you’re arguing that the RAF Regiment and Royal Marines should be taken over by the army because it is the biggest provider of fighting men/infantry. But when Topman suggested the same logic could apply to the RAF taking over helicopters, it was all “but, but, but,” and you can’t give him a reasonable answer.

    You, like many others in this debate, want to have your cake and eat it. You think you’re line of argument works wonderfully until its turned back on you, and then all of a sudden you’re left scrabbling for excuses as to why this is so very different now that the shoe is on the other foot.

    That’s when we hear “uh, uh, ethos! Corporate Knowledge! History!” etc, the same arguments that you poo hooed when they were used against you as being irrelevant. Now that the tide has changed all of a sudden these things become the most relevant and important reasons in the world.

    Now to throw another spanner in the works and chuck another loaded question at you which you can’t possibly hope to answer without backtracking over your previous statements. You said, “My point is still valid, that a capability requirement is best funded by those that use them,” and have argued that the end user/customer/benefactor should be the one who has control over the item.

    Fine, here goes; why not hand over control of funding and operation of the aicraft carriers and their air groups to the army, after all, UK carriers have seen the majority of their operational deployments in support of land operations, supporting the army?

    Is that not the excuse that you and others have used against the RAF? That the RAF is just supporting the army and the army is the prime benefactor, thus the army should have control of RAF assets? Well the Carriers primary role is to support land campaigns, therefore by your line of logic they should be controlled by the army, no?

    As for this; “Actually, most of that is handed by civil servants, not uniformed personnel[sic]”. This just shows how little research you’ve done and how bloody ill informed you are about this particular subject. There was even a post right here on TD breaking down who did what and how many senior officers were involved on the various projects and back office streams for the RAF, RN and army. I know… because I wrote it!

    @ IXION,
    I’m actuall not in favour of the proposals suggested such as shifting amphibious landing and naval transport over to the army, in the same way that I wouldn’t support the above question of putting carriers in the hands of the army.

    These are mere logical traps, designed to catch people out with their own anti-RAF arguments. They’re frankly a little silly and in all likelyhood completely unworkable, but work on the same basic and flawed principles that are put forward by others for ripping off chunks of the RAF without good reason.

    The only thing that comes close to being reasonable is the suggestion that the Royals Marines (sans the Fleet Protection Group) could be passed to the Army, but even that is a very sketchy argument that isn’t really justified given that the Royal Marines have had no problems slotting in with the routine deployments alongside the army.

    Just thought I’d clarify that for you,

    @ Challenger,
    I’d agree to partake in a sound, reasoned debate about disolving the RAF if there was a legitimate cause given and if it wasn’t driven by petty politics. Trouble is there is no sound reasoning that’s been put forward.

    Rather people keep dredging up the same tired old arguments that have more holes in them than a lump of Swiss Cheese, that have been repeatedly exposed as fundamentally flawed and in some cases completely unworkable, but then persist in trying to press them home despite this.

    To me that can only be driven by a service rivalry. Without sound logic behind them, and in many cases being horribly logically flawed, there is no other explanation for suggesting such plans. When such arguments are turned on there head and the Navy is suddenly under the spotlight, it’s interesting to see how the debate shifts and all of a sudden all the reasons swept under the carpet for protecting the RAF are now dusted off and held up as being exceptional reasons why the logical under pinning of the arguments against the RAF do not apply the other way.

    I hope that helps.

  148. IXION

    CHRIS B

    Just for the record constantly beating your chest about how everyone’s arguments are supposidly full of logical holes does not make it so. (They’re not. They might be full of practical difficulties- that does not make them illogical) Likewise constantly banging on about how it’s all driven by interservice rivalry does not make it so.

    Of course I knew your little bit about giving the carriers to the RAF was not serious.

    BTW Attempting to attack peoples arguments for being illogical, by trying to reverse them, and then when people deliberatly spring the trap. Point out that you were not serious as it would not possibly work that way, at all is not a good debating technic if nothing else.

    ‘You, like many others in this debate, want to have your cake and eat it. You think you’re line of argument works wonderfully until its turned back on you, and then all of a sudden you’re left scrabbling for excuses as to why this is so very different now that the shoe is on the other foot’

    You have in effect shot down your own arguement you have advanced in several threads, to prove how I and fellow travelers are wrong on this point…. That you can sucesfully reverse the ‘Anti RAF’ arguemnent and give control of the other forces to the RAF….

    You constantly refused to engage the central point of economies of scale by asserting that it’s just not so. In effect you appear stuck in the rut of …

    ‘The RAF does it this way, so that’s the way it will have to be done by everyone else, so there is no benefit in anyone else do it’

    If we scrap the RAF we lose a big chunk of it’s admin, EVEN IF WE KEEP THE CURRENT FORCE STRUCTURE. Not all of it I grant you, But you will loose a big chunk of it. We will we have 2 pay structures not 3, 2 payroles, not 3. 2 suply networks not 3. etc etc There is no reason why semi autonomous units of the RN and Army should retain the same sceniority heads as before… The oppourtunity could and should be taken to cut out some of the huge over supply of Chiefs over indians in all 3 services, at the same time.

    And that is Without considering alternate ways of doing it. I give you one solitary example. AAC NCO pilots instant savings on all chopper pilots.

    Oh and I have been involved in several mergers good and bad..

  149. wf

    @Chris.B:

    “On the one hand you’re arguing that the RAF Regiment and Royal Marines should be taken over by the army because it is the biggest provider of fighting men/infantry”. Err, no, I didn’t specify my reason.

    “But when Topman suggested the same logic could apply to the RAF taking over helicopters, it was all “but, but, but”. Can’t see that, I suggested that I wasn’t averse to other services swapping functions. I’ll repeat my reasoning for you: SHF are there primarily as capabilities for the land forces. The budget for such should logically therefore sit with the Army, so the Army should probably provide the capability.

    “the Carriers primary role is to support land campaigns, therefore by your line of logic they should be controlled by the army, no?”. If you have followed my posts on carriers, you would know that I see the single most important function of a carrier to be air defence for a task group, not land attack.

    ““Actually, most of that is handed by civil servants, not uniformed personnel[sic]“. This just shows how little research you’ve done and how bloody ill informed you are about this particular subject”. Defence Equipment and Support is three quarters civil servants. My experience is tangential since I spent some time working for what was RARDE, but I can assure you there weren’t many servicemen there either. The bosses may be service, but those that dispose, or not, usually aren’t.

    Commercial takeovers usually look for “synergy”: the combination of different capabilities. Two similar businesses merging isn’t usually regarded as a good investment. Yes, I have seen quite a few of the other type too…

    I think we need to ask @TD for a poster filter, so we can check on your rantings without lots of paging :-)

  150. Chris.B.

    @ wf,

    “SHF are there primarily as capabilities for the land forces. The budget for such should logically therefore sit with the Army, so the Army should probably provide the capability”

    — So let me get this straight. You see helicopters as being primarily an army thing, so you believe they should be transferred to the army. But you think the army should also take on the role of the RAF Regiment, despite the RAF being the prime user of that capability?

    Hypocrisy much?

    “If you have followed my posts on carriers, you would know that I see the single most important function of a carrier to be air defence for a task group, not land attack”

    — Woah, woah, woah. A little while ago you and others were all hands on deck bemoaning that the RAF doesn’t understand its end users etc and that’s why they should have their assets stripped. Now you’re doing precisely the same thing.

    You lot claim the RAF doesn’t provide the needed capabilities, being more focused on itself, and yet here you are trying to turn CVF into some kind of mini fleet carrier.

    In UK service those F-35 will be providing air cover, strike, and close air support for land forces, either amphibiously deployed or by other means. Whether you like it or not, that’s what they’ll be doing, i.e. supporting the army.

    You make the case for me. On the one hand you criticise the RAF and say the army should take away the capabilities because it’s better placed to manage them, and yet you’re planning on mismanaging other capabilities yourself.

    And why? Because you know your position is indefensible. You can’t argue on the one hand that helicopters should go to the army because they’re the prime user, but the RAF regiment should be taken away as well. Just the same as you can’t argue that the main benefactor of a capability should own it, then reject the obvious logical reality that means carriers and carrier strike should (under your conditions) be put into the hands of the army too.

    You backed yourself into that corner long ago pal.

    “but I can assure you there weren’t many servicemen there [DE&S] either”

    — Head of Air ISTAR; Lead by an Air Commodore, supported by a Lieutenant Colonel, 2 Majors, 2 other army ranks, 3 Group Captains, 7 Wing Commanders, 20 Squadron Leaders, 14 Flight Lieutenants and 119 other ranks RAF. Head of Air Transport/Air to Air Refuelling; a Major, 1 other army rank, 2 Group Captains, 8 Wing Commanders, 21 Squadron Leaders, 13 Flight lieutenants, 45 other ranks RAF. Head of Typhoon; an Air Commodore along with 2 Group Captains, 9 Wing Commanders, 20 Squadron Leaders, 12 Flight Lieutenants, 37 other ranks RAF.

    Shall I go on? Total RAF personnel in DE&S some;
    – 2 Air Vice Marshals
    – 14 Air Commodores
    – 33 Group Captains
    – 130 Wing Commanders
    – 241 Squadron Leaders
    – 150 Flight Lieutenants
    – 1009 other ranks

    If you really think you’re just going to cut all these people out and carry on fine then you’re bonkers. The fact that you tried to play down the existence of these people would put into question your claim about being close to DE&S.

    “Commercial takeovers usually look for “synergy”: the combination of different capabilities. Two similar businesses merging isn’t usually regarded as a good investment”

    — If only Santander had your wisdom, then they wouldn’t have wasted time buying Abbey National. Virgin Money wouldn’t have wasted so many millions buying Northern Rock. Commercial takeovers are made for a variety of reasons, everything from consolidating competing businesses, to gaining access to something desirable that other people have (patents, technology, expertise, niche market share, goodwill etc). Two similar businesses merging is one of the most fundamental forms of merger, so your claim about it being not a good investment leave a heck of a lot to be desired.

  151. wf

    @Chris.B

    “You see helicopters as being primarily an army thing, so you believe they should be transferred to the army. But you think the army should also take on the role of the RAF Regiment, despite the RAF being the prime user of that capability?

    Hypocrisy much?”

    It would indeed be so if I was using the same justification. Would you like to hear my reasoning as to why I think the RAF Regt should go to the Army? You still haven’t heard it yet….

    “then reject the obvious logical reality that means carriers and carrier strike should (under your conditions) be put into the hands of the army too”. I pointed out that I didn’t see carriers primarily as supporters of the Army. Mind you, that justification *does* apply to most portions of the RAF :-)

    “but I can assure you there weren’t many servicemen there [DE&S] either”. Misquote there, RARDE became DRA, then Qinetiq. I didn’t say DE&S. Anyway, the point still stands: DE&S is primarily staffed by civil servants. If I’d declared all the RAF presence in DE&S should disappear overnight, we might well be in trouble. But I didn’t, I merely pointed out that in the long run, having two services involved in aviation rather than three would produce savings.

    Santander bought Abbey because it had something it didn’t, a major UK high street presence. Point proven. Please don’t associate Northern Rock with the word success!

    Please read comments before commenting. It helps no end :-)

  152. Chris.B.

    @ wf

    1) It doesn’t matter what your reason may or may not be for wanting the RAF shifted, your argument about helicopters is that because you consider the army as the prime user they should be handed over to the army. Ergo, following that line of reasoning, the RAF Reg would have to stay with the RAF because they are the prime user. There is no way for you to back track out of that argument,

    2) It doesn’t what your opinion of carrier aviation is. The carriers will primarily be used on operations to support deployed land forces, thus again by your line of reasoning that would make the army the natural choice to own and operate them. Just because you’re trying to dodge that argument because you’ve realised you’ve put yourself in a logical bind, doesn’t make the argument any less valid.

    3) You’re argument about DE&S (“Actually, most of that is handed by civil servants, not uniformed personnel”) is provably false. The majority of those tasks such as handling the Typhoon program are managed by service personnel and contain large numbers of service personnel. Now other than helicopters you don’t have three services heavily involved in aviation. If you tried to merge the RAF with the other two you could not delete any of the current streams or cut the manpower, because if they’re needed then they would be needed in the future. The likely hood is that you would also create additional streams, needing more personnel not less. If you truly did work for Qinetiq, or are representative of the kind of people they employ, then your failure to understand this basic principle goes a long way to explaining procurement costs and mismanagement in defence.

    4) You’re right about Santander which is why I brought it up because it makes this statement; “Two similar businesses merging isn’t usually regarded as a good investment” seem silly. They both do similar business and merged (or rather Santander took over) because it gave Santander something new. Now as for Northern Rock, I didn’t call it a success, but for Virign Money it is a good investment. Again, similar businesses, broadly speaking, merging to create a good investment, in contradiction to your aloof but ill informed statement.

    “Please read comments before commenting. It helps no end” — In your case it doesn’t, because all you do is dance around the fact that you’ve been caught with pants down, from an debating perspective.

    @ IXION,

    “(They’re not. They might be full of practical difficulties- that does not make them illogical)”
    — Actually they are. If I argue that my business should take all the vans from your business because I use those vans the most, I can’t then cry wolf when someone else says points out that they should take all my motorbikes, because they use the motorbikes more than me. Crying wolf because someone has used the same logic to take my stuff as I used to take your stuff is… illogical.

    “Likewise constantly banging on about how it’s all driven by interservice rivalry does not make it so.”
    — If it’s not driven by practical, operational or financial reality, then that doesn’t leave a lot of reasons left in the tank.

    “BTW Attempting to attack peoples arguments for being illogical, by trying to reverse them, and then when people deliberatly spring the trap. Point out that you were not serious as it would not possibly work that way, at all is not a good debating technic if nothing else.”
    — Actually it is. It’s called turning peoples stupid arguments against them. Just because they are miffed at being caught red handed with their fingers in the bullshit jar does not mean it is an ineffective technique.

    “You have in effect shot down your own arguement you have advanced in several threads, to prove how I and fellow travelers are wrong on this point…. That you can sucesfully reverse the ‘Anti RAF’ arguemnent and give control of the other forces to the RAF….”
    — That didn’t make a lot of sense, but I presume you’re talking about the threads where people have said ‘we’ll take all the technicians and just change the shirt colours’. To which I and others have responded that if it was that simple, why not do it in reverse? To which you and others then usually respond “but, but, but, but….”

    “You constantly refused to engage the central point of economies of scale by asserting that it’s just not so.”
    — Because anyone with a basic grasp of maths and organisational management could tell you that your “economies of scale” do not exist. They are a fantasy created through a lack of understanding of how large organisations work. A good example being below.

    “If we scrap the RAF we lose a big chunk of it’s admin, EVEN IF WE KEEP THE CURRENT FORCE STRUCTURE. Not all of it I grant you, But you will loose a big chunk of it. We will we have 2 pay structures not 3, 2 payroles, not 3. 2 suply networks not 3. etc etc”
    — You may only have 2 structures, but you still have the same number of people that need to be paid, and thus the same amount of paperwork to be completed. You may only have 2 supply networks, but they still have to provide the same volume and variety of goods as the three networks did. Just because you’ve changed the name on the header of the form does not mean you’ve gotten rid of the form or the goods listed on it.

    A 5 year old could grasp this FFS.

    “There is no reason why semi autonomous units of the RN and Army should retain the same sceniority heads as before… The oppourtunity could and should be taken to cut out some of the huge over supply of Chiefs over indians in all 3 services, at the same time.”
    — Well it’s lucky that both the other services are currently so efficient with their manpower, for example not assigning Admirals or Generals to lead various important projects…. oh wait. They do.

    You’re argument is based on hope and fairy dust. That is not a sound basis to go about making large organisational upheavels.

  153. ChrisM

    @Chris B – so your main argument against my thoughts is that they must be service centric? Seeing as I have no loyalty to any particular service I guess that means I must actually be right….
    Who do all those Heads of report to? Higher ups in the RAF. They would all go, and the Heads of would now report into other services structures. Of course the Heads of might not need to be so ranking if they are joining similar areas. The Army already has people in charge of the RLC who can oversee Air Transport, and presumably has its own head of ISTAR and head of helicopters. The Navy will be needing a Head of FJs soon, the RAF one could transfer over and look after all FJs. etc etc

    The RAF/FAA/AAC are very similar businesses. They operate military aircraft. Specialist knowledge would come over with the people who operate the individual types. Some high command would merge into the new structure. Its all good, and cheaper.

    Sure the RAF want more Chinooks, they are in their empire – leading to service rivalry issues in procurement. But it should be up to the army to decide what type of helicopters they want, and how they want to operate them. They are tactical airlift, they should be in the tactical command structure.

    PS I would keep the “RAF regiment”. But it would become an army specialist regiment. Is the RAF really the sole user, as places like Bastion are bases that also fly planes, not just airfields?

    PPS How does the RAF justify that rank structure under Head of ISTAR!! How many planes are all those officers operating??!!

  154. ChrisM

    @Chris B

    You clearly dont understand administration and support activities.
    If you merge three payroles into two you do indeed have the same number of “customers”. However you need fewer people to run them, as all the automated systems and reporting absorb most of the size gain. You dont need two people to report the MI and instruct the payments. You dont need two people to review the sickness MI, there will be one report not two. etc etc.

  155. topman

    @ chris m there’s only so much one person can do. The head of the rlc wouldn’t have enough hours in the day to have to look after 2 group as well. They aren’t really that similar either.

  156. wf

    @Chris.B

    “It doesn’t matter what your reason may or may not be for wanting the RAF shifted…There is no way for you to back track out of that argument”. You don’t want to hear my argument, but you want to rubbish one I haven’t made? It’s the Twilight Zone here…

    “It doesn’t what your opinion of carrier aviation is{sic]. The carriers will primarily be used on operations to support deployed land forces, thus again by your line of reasoning that would make the army the natural choice to own and operate them. Just because you’re trying to dodge that argument because you’ve realised you’ve put yourself in a logical bind, doesn’t make the argument any less valid.” It’s entirely likely carriers will often be used to support land forces on operations. But they aren’t going to be doing this the majority of the time, unless you regard sea control and convoy escort as Army support because STUFT and amphibs will be in the latter. Please drink less Red Bull :-)

    “You’re argument about DE&S (“Actually, most of that is handed by civil servants, not uniformed personnel”) is provably false” But three quarters of the personnel are civilian: how?

    “The majority of those tasks such as handling the Typhoon program are managed by service personnel and contain large numbers of service personnel”. Agreed. But technical management will not be, because most servicemen or women won’t have the experience.

    “Now other than helicopters you don’t have three services heavily involved in aviation”. The majority of UK military aircraft *are* helicopters.

    “If you tried to merge the RAF with the other two you could not delete any of the current streams or cut the manpower, because if they’re needed then they would be needed in the future”. Correct, but as others have pointed out the program management won’t change because the teams change uniforms. The RAF staff will.

    “The likely hood is that you would also create additional streams, needing more personnel not less”. Why, are we going to buy more aircraft types?

    “If you truly did work for Qinetiq, or are representative of the kind of people they employ, then your failure to understand this basic principle goes a long way to explaining procurement costs and mismanagement in defence”. Read my comment, I worked for RARDE, and have mentioned it before. Qinetiq was far in the future when I was there. Try not to insult large numbers of people whom you’ve never met…oh forget it, what am I thinking?

  157. Brian Black

    It seems quite reasonable to me that the RAF should give up its helicopters. The AAC exists to provide Close Support to the Army; arguably, the role of the RAF’s helicopters has long since shifted from being GS logistics vehicles to becoming CS battlefield assets. The development of heli-borne manoevre and air-assault has brought about that change. The RN of course has its own uniquely naval helicopter requirements.

    The joint helicopter force just looks like a fudge to avoid addressing the issue – recognizing the need to combine the battlefield support helicopters in a single force for increased efficiency, while wanting to avoid upsetting folks.

    Either there is a requirement for the Army’s close support aviation to be operated by the Army -in which case they should get the RAF’s choppers- or there isn’t -in which case, disband the AAC.

  158. Alex

    The problem with “Scrap the RAF” or “Give the Army all the land based helos” or “Give the Army the RM” or “Give the RAF Regiment the Army” etc. is that mergers are very often shit, in general. When Company X buys Company Y, it is notorious that the people who benefit are the bankers and lawyers who arrange the deal and the execs in charge, and the combined company is very often worth less than the sum of its parts. Further, the integration process usually sacks a lot of people and then discovers that there were reasons for a lot of the organisational functions they closed existing, and has to recreate them, but worse.

  159. IXION

    Chris B

    Your ‘cunning argument’- at least As I understand it, is:-

    ‘That If Army and RN can take over RAF then the RAF can Take over the Army and the RN, so why not have just the one’

    You use this argument to attack any one suggesting the disbandment of the RAF, as an RN or Army stooge. So when I for the sake of argument say OK then lets look at that, you cry out (in Terms):-

    ‘HA! Caught you of course it’s bollocks I never for one moment thought the RAf could take over the carriers. It just show how stupid you are..’

    In effect to use your own analogy, when business A has taken your vans, you suggest Business B takes the motorbikes and when the manager of Business A says ‘OK lets look at that’..

    The manager of business B shouts

    ‘Ha never wanted your smelly motorbikes anyway and that proves why you should not have taken my vans…..’

    Sorry don’t get how that advances you arguments one little bit….?

    AS for the rest:-

    You accuse me of ignorance of organisational economics.

    Sorry but with modern largely paperless systems, you can run a 50,000 people pay role pretty much with the same number as 25,000 pay role.

    Likewise the 2 rather than 3 argument. It is of course not just changing the name on the form. If you think that is all that’s involved with in a merger then you are truly ignorant of management practice.

    Centralised supply / ordering the world over is done precisely because does lead to reductions in manpower, and often a more efficient service.

    What you are in effect saying is that all the worlds major enterprises are wrong about how to do business, and economies of scale.. Ok if you want to believe that… that’s fine.

    OH and I did say the other services need to reorganise as well…

  160. wf

    @Alex: yes, it often turns out that way. My experience is that merging two companies that do complementary things can work, often when both have something they can take the lead in. But if they both do much the same stuff in the same places, and it’s all about increasing market share….oh dear :-(

  161. The Other Chris

    Engineering has a term for what’s causing this argument: Impedance Mismatch.

    It’s a common problem pattern and can be applied to issues in electronics, software, mechanics and biological systems as the prominent disciplines amongst others.

    The root cause of your arguments is attempting to divide roles between three defined services: It gives rise to solution thinking based solely on which service is the best fit to provide a given role.

    The more appropriate solution methodology to the problem pattern is to remove the Impedance, in this case the concept of separate Services, and focus on the provision of the roles themselves.

    Some examples of Roles:

    – Air defence
    – Reconnaissance
    – Air Transportation
    – Command
    – Sea Control/Denial
    – R&D
    – Small Arms Training
    – Surveillance
    – Strategy
    – Urban warfare
    – CAS
    – BFPO
    – Sea Transportation
    – Amphibious assault
    – Helicopter maintenance
    – etc

    You sweep through all of the roles and determine commonality, applying the concept of DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) to eliminate duplication where possible, though often some similar roles will remain such as Ground Based, Sea Based and Air Based Air Warfare capability where the application of a role may be significantly different.

    The Command service then contacts the other role-based services to send elements in support of an operation.

    e.g. To support another Mogadishu

    – Command
    – Urban Warfare
    – CAS
    – Air Transportation
    – Surveillance
    – etc

    e.g. To send mail to our personnel in the Falklands

    – BFPO
    – Sea Transportation

    This is a tried and tested solution pattern to the Impedance Mismatch problem, I’ll leave you folks to decide how to actually broach applying this to the Services…

  162. Challenger

    The idea of moving helicopters in particular isn’t a merger as such, it’s moving something out of one command structure in-to another.

    I think it was Lewis Page who mentioned how before Suez the RAF wasn’t interested in helicopters, their was a general consensus that they would remain the purview of the Army and the Navy whilst the RAF concentrated on fixed wing aviation (yes I know the FAA had jets!).

    Now I’m not going to get into why this set-up changed or delve in-to the nightmare of service rivalry. I consider myself to be neutral when it comes to inter-service politics, I want what’s best and most effective for the service personnel involved, the taxpayer and the national interest.

    However I do not see what was wrong with that initial division of assets when it comes to helicopters. This is for the reasons of what helicopters broadly do and where they operate.

    1. Different types of helicopters tend to be designed, built and used to be fairly service specific. Apaches support troops on the ground, Chinooks lift them about. Similarly Merlin’s hunt submarines and Lynx strike at surface targets. I know there is often a bit of cross over, but I’m dealing with broad attributes here.

    2. RAF aircraft either operate from big airbases in the UK, or the equivalent when they head off for a foreign deployment. This is very different to using dusty or muddy ramshackle forward bases or the confines of a limited deck on a ship at sea.

    Right now somebody will be thinking about the F35. However, does anyone seriously think they are ever going to be deployed in the same way the Harrier could and often was? I would say the Lightning is way too expensive and complicated to ever be used outside of a fully functioning base or a carrier.

    Removing 3rd party involvement in very Army and Navy specific assets can only be a good thing. Why does everyone (I mean Chris B) keep brining up all of this talk of doubling up of personnel and horrific, inefficient waste etc? An Army that controls its helicopters gets more say in how the budget is spent and how the fleet is utilised. Who is going to be more willing to give all out support to troops on the ground the RAF or the AAC?

    Before anyone says it, I’m not gunning for the RAF, id say the same if the situation was reversed. If we were starting again and building armed forces from scratch this is the kind of logical framework that would follow.

    PS

    @Chris B. you keep on and on complaining that people don’t explain their views and dance around the issues. Well I would say you have being doing something very similar in being so overtly hostile to the kind of changes the rest of us have been suggesting. Of course you can have you’re opinion, but you can’t just angrily spit out words like ‘waste’ ‘inefficient’ ‘petty politics’ without having coherent arguments to back them up.

    I can’t speak for others but I don’t necessarily want to get rid of the RAF, only to look at ways of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of both the budget and how it translates into operational use.

    Id say moving stuff from the RAF to other services may be difficult, but it’s not impossible or illogical.

    There, done! (deep breath).

  163. Topman

    @ Challenger

    ‘An Army that controls its helicopters gets more say in how the budget is spent and how the fleet is utilised.’

    It already does budgetary command and control through Wilton along with the budget.

  164. Challenger

    @Topman

    Ok fair enough, it gets some control, but that’s not the same as having a total say.

    Typhoon useful to everyone, Sentry useful to everyone, Chinook?

    Id much rather see helicopter units absorbed in-to the Army’s new MRB’S. Dedicated fire and lift support is where the futures at!

  165. Chris.B.

    @ Alex,
    — Precisely, someone other than Topman in this thread who actually has a clue.

    @ ChrisM,
    — You’re going to have to forgive me for this and if anyone is easily offended by bad language then I suggest you move on, because I’m raging now and ChrisM I do have to preface this rebuttal by saying that I’m astounded by just how ridiculously fucking stupid and naive you are.

    “Who do all those Heads of report to? Higher ups in the RAF. They would all go, and the Heads of would now report into other services structures”
    — Are you that blind? Perhaps willfully? You think all those departments would just slot into the current command structure? Of course they wont. The Chief of the Air staff would simply be replaced by a Naval Chief of the Air staff. If the Navy is going to take on a great chunk of aviation then it’s going to set up (as you would expect any large organisation to do) a new department that handles all the aviation. And given the size and budget scope of that department, it’ll be topped by a very senior official, likely a Vice Admiral. The Army would also have to do the same, topped by a Lieutenant General. Congratulations then, you’ve saved nothing, but you have managed to add two OF-8 ranks into the structure.

    “Of course the Heads of might not need to be so ranking if they are joining similar areas”
    — What similar areas? What head of Typhoons does the Navy have? What Head of Air Transport does the Army have? Oh that’s right, they don’t, they’d have to create one. And if you think they’d be knocked down in rank, you obviously haven’t seen the kind of ranks that top other programs for both the Army and Navy. It all ends up the same level.

    “The Army already has people in charge of the RLC who can oversee Air Transport”
    — Are you mental? You want the head of the RLC to just pick up Air Transport and run with, as if he doesn’t have enough to do already. I hate to disabuse you of that notion but it would need its own department, as it does now. And guess what, you’d end up replacing the Head of that with a similar OF ranked Army chap. Starting to see how this all works now?

    “The Navy will be needing a Head of FJs soon, the RAF one could transfer over and look after all FJs.”
    — Why would you even bother? This is the whole point and the reason why I continue to bring up accusations of service centric thinking here. You’re saving nothing by doing this, not a penny. You change nothing from an operational perspective, not a thing. You’ve even hired the same bloody bloke! The only thing you’ve done here is arbitrarily change the cap badge. Why? If not for operational or economic reasons, then why do this? The sole answer remaining is out pure bloody spite. How the fuck can you possibly think that is a good way to run an organisation?

    “The RAF/FAA/AAC are very similar businesses. They operate military aircraft”
    — Like I said before, they all operate military aircraft in the same way that you and Michael Schumacher both drive. One of those services does the same sort of flying that the other two do. Two of those services don’t do anything near what the other does.

    “Specialist knowledge would come over with the people who operate the individual types. Some high command would merge into the new structure. Its all good, and cheaper.”
    — Ah, I see you’ve fallen into this old clap trap again. Well I’ll do the same thing to you as has been done to others; why not just change all those dark blue uniforms to light blue, and just bring all the specialists over? “But, but but, but but, ethos!….” I hear you cry. Shut up. If such a flat out repugnantly stupid and simplistic argument works, then it works both ways equally well. There is no getting around this.

    “Sure the RAF want more Chinooks, they are in their empire – leading to service rivalry issues in procurement”
    — So the RAF spends years and years trying to acquire new helicopters to support the army and yet you still think that’s a service rivalry issue with the army? How the bloody hell do you come to these conclusions? Do you have a bingo machine that just spits out balls with random soundbites written on them that you then attach to various statements? Of course the RAF had been providing transport for the army using a certain group of helicopters called Merlins, but somebody took those away from front line transport roles in order to replace Sea Kings? Best keep that one hush fella, that would do your service rivalry arguments against the RAF some serious damage.

    “How does the RAF justify that rank structure under Head of ISTAR!! How many planes are all those officers operating??!!”
    — Perhaps it would be easier to look at the total figures for DE&S to put it into perspective, specifically focusing on the Navy and RAF;

    Total Royal Navy Personnel;
    – 1 Vice Admiral
    – 3 Rear Admirals
    – 12 Commodores
    – 45 Captains
    – 164 Commanders
    – 279 Lieutenant Commanders
    – 218 Lieutenants
    – 1352 other ranks

    Total Royal Air Force Personnel;
    – 1 Air Marshal
    – 2 Air Vice Marshals
    – 14 Air Commodores
    – 33 Group Captains
    – 130 Wing Commanders
    – 241 Squadron Leaders
    – 150 Flight Lieutenants
    – 1009 other ranks

    Or in other words, don’t be getting too outraged lest you realise that there is a slight numbers imbalance there, and that imbalance swings to the Dark Blue side.

    “You clearly dont understand administration and support activities”
    — I think you’ll find I do. And I think you’ll find it is you that has some very naive assumption that there is a pair of office bods sitting somewhere who do all the admin work for the entire service, as opposed to each unit being required to do a lot of its own admin stuff that I suspect it passes up. Hence they would continue to do this regardless of what colour uniform they were wearing. And thus you would once again save precisely fuck all.

    You seem obsessed with the idea that you can save a few million quid by moving people about and possibly losing one or two people along the way. Presuming your largely imaginary savings could be made, for what purpose? You’ve just destroyed an entire service, transferred several thousand people from one service to two others, along with billions of pounds worth of kit and estates, achieved zero operational gain, caused several years worth of rejigging, likely jeopardised many capabilites that will be cut by their new owners because all they really wanted was the budget slice to spend on other things, and all this because you thought you could save a few hundreds of thousands, maybe a few million?

    The staggering scale of the stupidity of such an argument cant be expressed over a keyboard. I would love, love for you to walk into a meeting of the Chiefs of staff and propose that. They’d have the laugh of their bloody lives. Even better, become an MP, stand up in the House of Commons and propose that. You’d be the talking point for years to come.

    The fact that you can’t see how ridiculous and pointless your plan is just boggles my mind. For someone supposedly neutral and this great brain of mergers and admin, you don’t half come across as decidedly ill informed, and possibly slightly insane .

    @ wf
    I see you’re still dodging the questions asked of you? Good, good, keep it up. I’m sure eventually I’ll get bored and that’ll let you off the hook. You seem to have this slightly bizarre notion about CVF, like it’s going to spend its working life sailing up and down the Atlantic protecting convoy’s from zee Germans. I hate to break it to you fella but on operations that thing will be supporting the army. There is no way around that. You’re “it’ll do other things most of the time” line of reasoning applies to basically 100% of the RAF, but of course if you admit that then it jeopardises your entire rational behind disolving the service.

    Your argument was dead in the water from the moment you originally wrote it. I’m basically now just waiting to see how long you think can squirm around it before finally admiting that you can’t have your cake and eat it.

    @ IXION,
    “Your ‘cunning argument’- at least As I understand it, is:-”
    — No, you don’t understand it. The argument being put forward by others is “Group A uses toy B the most, so they should take it away from Group B”. So I countered by pointing out that “Group A also uses toy C the most (owned by group C) so therefore Group A should have that too”. At this point there is a sound of blustering, port being spilled and a whole series of reasons are advanced why this can’t possibly happen, despite the fact that these same reasons were tossed aside when used in defence of Group B.

    “So when I for the sake of argument say OK then lets look at that, you cry out (in Terms):- ‘HA! Caught you of course it’s bollocks I never for one moment thought the RAf could take over the carriers. It just show how stupid you are..'”
    — It does though. I even pointed out clearly when I made them that they were loaded statements designed for the specific purpose of using other peoples fallacious arguments again them, safe in the knowledge that they couldn’t be made without using an astounding level of hypocrisy. You even acknowledged that you were taking the bait when you did it. While I can sympathise to a degree that you made yourself look stupid by trying, that does not change the fact that you effectively put your hand into a set bear trap and our now whining that it went off and took most of your hand with it.

    “Sorry but with modern largely paperless systems, you can run a 50,000 people pay role pretty much with the same number as 25,000 pay role”
    — Providing of course that the data set remains constant and thus does not require the input of new data on any occasion, such as when people have holidays, go off sick, fail to show up for work, change working hours, change shift days, new people start work, other people leave work etc.

    You know, all those things that normal people do in the business world on a regular basis, something you would have realised if you had the first clue about how HR operates.

    “Likewise the 2 rather than 3 argument. It is of course not just changing the name on the form. If you think that is all that’s involved with in a merger then you are truly ignorant of management practice.”
    — I’m sorry, which side was arguing that 3 streams could be converted into 2 at the drop of a hat without any fuss and with no complications in the slightest? Hmmm, that would be your side of the argument. I think you’ll find my argument has always been that it’s a little more complicated than that.

    “Centralised supply / ordering the world over is done precisely because does lead to reductions in manpower, and often a more efficient service”
    — By businessess that deal in their own areas of expertise. If you add a whole new stream of items that need to be supplied, you need a whole new stream of people to manage that supply chain.

    “What you are in effect saying is that all the worlds major enterprises are wrong about how to do business, and economies of scale.. Ok if you want to believe that… that’s fine”
    — I didn’t say that. I’ve been consistently arguing that such businessess are complex organisations that employ a lot of people to do logistical work, and that the notion some have on here that you can just flick a switch and hand over a stream consisting of hundreds of new items that will be picked up seamlessly by the existing supply chain of the new owners is utter bollocks of the first kind.

    “OH and I did say the other services need to reorganise as well…”
    — Why? They’re doing just fine and dandy as it is right now.

  166. The Other Chris

    “…you can’t have your cake and eat it…”

    Not if we continue to think in terms of these conventional structures.

  167. Chris.B.

    @ The Other Chris,

    What I don’t get is this; where are these complaints about the RAF coming from? If you read the accounts of the people who have worked with the RAF’s helicopter pilots, perhaps with the exception of James’s incident with the flare, they generally seem to receive very high praise for their work. Of note is that basically every SF account that gets written, by people who spent an awful lot of time around the RAF and their choppers, seem to be particularly complimentary.

    So why this obsession that people have with taking the helicopters and giving them to the army? Everyone talks about how it will be more efficient and more focused and more this and that etc, despite the fact that the RAF are performing their role to a very high standard and with very few complaints from actual service personnel?

    If there was a problem, maybe we could start the debate, but there isn’t. The only problem people seem to be able to identify at the minute is that the pilots wear light blue dress shirts, while their actual field performance seems to be ignored in favour of rhetoric about how much better things will be once it all goes green.

  168. Pete Arundel

    “So why this obsession that people have with taking the helicopters and giving them to the army?”

    Well, they are ONLY used by the ARMY. They are flown by and maintained by the RAF but their only function is to move the army around and so, logically, they could be flown and maintained by the Army Air Corps (or a new RFC).

    “Everyone talks about how it will be more efficient and more focused and more this and that etc, despite the fact that the RAF are performing their role to a very high standard and with very few complaints from actual service personnel?”

    It’s not an argument about the quality of personnel or training it’s an argument about, basically, just what the RAF is for and if a third service with it’s attendant brass and administration is necessary – that and the fact that if the AAC was flying Chinooks then costs would come down since a NCO is paid less . . . :-)

  169. IXION

    CHRIS B

    OK where do I start…

    OK I did understand your argument. Unfortunately, it appears you did not!

    Go re read your own posts. And not just the ones on this thread, you have been peddling this:

    ‘Well if the navy can take over the RAF, then the RAF can take over the Navy’

    Line as a ‘Killer Argument’ for ages.

    Its balls it’s always been balls, and you finally admitted it several posts back on this thread.. If we were playing cricket I would have yelled HOWZAT! then.

    As for catching me out, or making me look stupid: –

    Not sure where or how you think you managed that, and to what end. It’s a little difficult to argue that you have caught someone out, when they say (in terms);

    ‘I know you are trying to catch me out here, but for the sake of the discussion I will play along’,

    AND

    Who then goes on to point out why I cannot agree with your red herring proposal re Elephants.

    I am quite happy I have not been ‘Caught out’.

    BTW I quite like port. But none has been spluttered about service ethos etc, again as I said earlier we agree about that, I think that’s largely self serving bollocks.

    Remember I am the guy who happy to give marines, (and can see the case for the Amphibs and point class as well) to the army…..

    However like I said before, if it keeps you happy, keep thinking that…..

    As far as toys and group A B C whatever. Put simply whoever plays with the toys most gets to keep them in their cupboard, and clean and look after them.

    Unless of course they play with them so little, and then at the other kids house, that paying for the cupboard and toy cleaning cloths, makes it simpler for the other 2 kids to keep the toys at their houses.

    Like the RAF

    Where have I or anyone else argued that the merger could be carried out at the flick of a switch?

    It would need to be done carefully, with some fore thought and in a staged manner. AND yes there would be one off merger costs, some big redundancy payments for starters…

    As for the rest; The first thing that gets merged, and the first thing to suffer job losses as a result is the back office in any merger.

    I assure you that if you can run 2 X 25,000 pay roles with 2 depts of 8 you will be able to run 50,000 with 10 or maybe 11. And the 5-6 who go will be the top end of the pay scale in that dept.

    Examples.

    Let’s say the RAF runs 3-4 000 GS vehicles and those functions are merged with and army running 20-30 000, obviously most of the mechanics and local stores staff will remain. But the RAF fleet management team will go, almost to a man or woman.

    We will only have one Admiral of the fleet (car parks (North)), Air Vice Marshal (car parks (north)), can collect his cards. OR Visa versa depending on the point at merger which service has more northern car parks….

    One can just go on and on and on with examples form the basic economics of scale textbook..

    But hey,

    If Chris B thinks he is the Greater disputant since ‘Deep thought’
    and the greatest business management expert since Henry Ford, Who am I to argue?

    As the Penguins of Madagascar say:-

    ‘Just smile and waive boys,just smile and waive…’

  170. Simon

    Seems to me that “copters” are the problem, especially the basic utility types. Perhaps we should set up “Copter Command” rebrand the RAF to “Fighter/Bomber Command” and be done with.

  171. The Other Chris

    @Chris.B.

    I’m not sure to be honest. If I had to search for a reason, I’d suggest that the discussions originate more from a desire to increase (restore?) capability rather than service bashing specifically, even if that’s how it comes across.

    – Commenter’s feel the pressure of cuts and budgets
    – Commenter’s want to preserve/restore/increase capability
    – (Due to pride? Desire to continue to be active in world affairs?)
    – Commenter’s look at cost savings/efficiencies to free up budget
    – Incomplete/hasty/inaccurate analysis often ensues as to who is actually doing what

    I genuinely believe they’re coming from a good place though.

    @Pete Arundel

    Some other uses for Helicopters (not exhaustive):

    – ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare)
    – AEW (Airborne Early Warning)
    – VERTREP (Vertical Replenishment)
    – SAR (Search and Rescue)
    – ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance)
    – Ferrying, transport and diplomatic tours around the city/bay
    – CAS (Close Air Support)

    I’ll let you decide if the RAF and RN can make use of these roles too.

    @Simon

    I’m sure I played an 8bit game called ‘Copter Command* back in the eighties! Can’t have been as good as Harrier Attack which, to use @x’s terminology, was “wizard”.

    *Edit: Might have been the 16bit Carrier Command

    @Everyone

    It leads me back to if you want to eliminate duplication and look at focussed efficiency, you need to think of Military Blocks in terms of Roles, not Service Branches.

    As I think @Chris.B. is trying to convey, we should only look into restructuring if we think there is a problem.

  172. IXION

    Chris B

    The objection to the RAF are on my part almost entirely based on the recognition that The RAF has become a service organisation.

    Primarily It’s fixed wing aircraft fly the other 2 services primarily the Army. Insofar as it flies it’s own service it’s to support the others.

    It’s rotary assets are entirely for the use by the army.

    Much of it’s recon kit is for Army use. It used to fly MPA and ASW aircraft- entirely a naval support role.

    EVEN IF one accepts there is still a real role for ‘deep strike’ (IMHO THE light blue self licking lollipop), then only that and QRA UK remain as roles, and they could easily be done by the RN though FAA.

    Let us gets some kind of perspective here we are only talking about few hundred in service aircraft in total of all types.

    It is about saving money on:-

    Back office admin.
    The Capitation costs .
    Etc etc.

    Not on out brave and capable pilots. Indeed the idea would be that the money saved would be used to better support them and their aircraft.

    Inter service rivalry will be with us for ever after with the marines the Yanks get it 4 ways. Cutting 3-2 gets rid of one whole set of arguments.

    After all If! (And I do say if). The (Im)famous Blackhawk conversation, is true, Then that alone is almost enough reason to do it.

  173. The Other Chris

    @wf

    Can’t we move back to more constructive lines? The discussion’s getting a little, err, non-constructive.

    e.g. Do we need to restructure the Armed Services at all and, if so, why?

  174. Simon

    The Other Chris,

    Combat Lynx for the BEEB?

    Carrier Command for Atari ST, Amiga, C64, etc – great game but I seem to remember the little planes flying in tight circles rather too often.

  175. Chris.B.

    @ wf
    “I’m still waiting for replies to my arguments”
    — You don’t have any arguments left. Your sole argument was “RAF should go because all it does is support army”. You were countered with “fine, all Carriers do is support army, carriers go to army too”. And all you’ve done since that point is avoid answering the question, because you know you’re up shit creek without a paddle, and no matter how much effort you try and expend deflecting the attention from this, I’m going to keep bringing you back to this. Answer the question.

    @ Pete Arundel
    — “Well, they are ONLY used by the ARMY”
    If ONLY you had a clue what you were TALKING about.

    “They are flown by and maintained by the RAF but their only function is to move the army around and so, logically, they could be flown and maintained by the Army Air Corps”
    — I occasionally get on a train. Ergo, by your logic, I could drive the train and maintain it because I use it. Oh wait no, that’s bollocks isn’t it, like a lot of the arguments on this thread.

    In fact, you know what, I give up. Fill your boots lads. Pat yourselves on the back and talk shit about the RAF to your hearts content. I turn this thread over to you. I’m not wasting more time repeating myself. Most of you don’t appear to have the first fucking clue how large organisations work, yet you all talk like your Lord Sugar.

    You keep going on about these massive savings you’re going to make when you don’t even have the first fucking idea about the organisations you’re talking about, having not bothered to do any of the underlying research that’s required, I mean why would you when you can just come straight here and talk shit about your fantasy theories without bothering to do any study into the actual realities.

    You seem to think that you can release great swathes of experienced technical staff and managers while handing equipment over to people who don’t have the first fucking clue how to manage it, and you expect it to all go swimmingly.

    There is optimism and there is even things like misguided naivety, that can be set right fairly easily. But some of you are just being willfully fucking retarded. Last time I counted you’d been through about sixty mergers or whatever it was you claimed, yet none of you seem to be able to demonstrate having the first idea what a merger actually involves. I’m smelling copious amounts of bullshit.

    So enjoy your thread. Enjoy talking to each other about your wet dreams that are never going to happen, for reasons that are clearly beyond your comprehension. You’ve had it explained to you in great detail now and you’re still not getting it, so fuck it, I’m not going through it all again.

    Stay here, remain ignorant, enjoy yourselves.

  176. Phil

    Chris B – your posts are golden!

    Everyone else, I propose what you all really want to see happen:

    The United Kingdom Marine Corps and the Royal Navy.

    Much cooler and much more Mobile Infantry like.

  177. wf

    @Chris.B “Answer the question”

    Read http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/05/the-post-they-tried-to-kill/comment-page-4/#comment-58309

    @The Other Chris: sure. On what basis should we assess whether we need to restructure? Chucking some thoughts into the pile, I figure we could assess things on the basis of:-

    – Operational effectiveness: can we make the administrative organisation more closely reflect the operational one, thus making training easier?

    – career opportunities: do the existing organisations provide a clear path for advancement for potential generals/admirals/air marshals? Nothing worse than joining an organisation where you know you can never aspire to the top job

    – purple thinking: in what way can we promote thinking purple? Can we permanently organise multi-service formations, large ones, in which promotion and ratings are multi-service?

    – duplication: what can we remove to de-duplicate?

  178. James

    Am I out on a limb again by having a fit of the heebie jeebies at even the thought of the RAF joining the Army?

    (Not very serious bit). They are Kevins with a completely different, and mostly work shy, ethos. And they wear polyester. We don’t like them and no one gives a toss as to whether they like us. They also use the stupid lat long system and park their helicopters in the wrong field. They have far too many excuses for not flying, like the moon is in Sagittarius or something.

    (More serious bit). Operating multi-£M flying machines is massively complex, with logistic systems that would terrify the Army and require a huge change in how we work. The Army can just about stretch to a few Regiments of AH, but that is taxing and not really what we are geared up to do logistically. A great deal of what the RAF do is integrated into coalition and multi-national command systems that the Army has little experience over. There is a fundamental mismatch in between normal Army operations (close battle, tactical), and strategic national operations.

    Judgement: They are Kevins, and we’d let ourselves down both socially and operationally if we took them on. Like any normal dog, they need the occasional bit of stick to make sure they know who they work for, but also a bit of love now and again, and the odd run around the park chasing tennis balls (AKA doing something completely light blue with fast jets).

    ;)

  179. Pete Arundel

    “I occasionally get on a train. Ergo, by your logic, I could drive the train and maintain it because I use it. Oh wait no, that’s bollocks isn’t it, like a lot of the arguments on this thread.”

    Yes, you may occasionally get on a train but you are not the sole user of said train. The train provides services to lots of other users. If, however, you were the sole user then I would suggest buying yourself a car and saving what, as the sole user, would be a really big train fare.
    Chris B. you have just proven yourself unworthy of my time.

  180. Pete Arundel

    “Some other uses for Helicopters (not exhaustive):

    – ASW (Anti Submarine Warfare)
    – AEW (Airborne Early Warning)
    – VERTREP (Vertical Replenishment)
    – SAR (Search and Rescue)
    – ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance)
    – Ferrying, transport and diplomatic tours around the city/bay
    – CAS (Close Air Support)

    I’ll let you decide if the RAF and RN can make use of these roles too.”

    A lot of those roles are naval so the RAF don’t perform them anyway. Those that are currently performed by the RAF could, at least in theory, be performed by the AAC – as CAS already is.
    Which is rather the point I was making.

  181. Chris.B.

    Just had to come back for one last stroke at the wicket,

    @ wf
    That link you provided is not an answer. That’s the written equivalent of you putting your fingers in your ears and saying that you don’t care what the MoD or the Navy does with its Carriers because that’s not how you see them, thus it is wrong.

    Or in other words, your just being a knob.

    @ Phil,
    I hope that’s golden in a good way!

    @ James,
    You could organise a new service day; “Hug a Light Blue” ;)

  182. Jed

    James – ref those strange blue beret wearing army aviators – do we truly think that if they can manage Lynx AH7 with TOW and Lynx AH9 that they really can’t handle the additional complexity of Longbow Apache and perhaps re-built Pumas ?

    As for ships – well I have sat in a scorpion and holy shit that is claustrophobic ! Plus my father was wounded in Korea when he (and the rest of the crew) had to bail out of their Centurion, so even joining the Andrew after the graphic details of HMS Sheffield crew and Welsh Guards burn victims etc – I rather fancied my chances a bit more with the damage control !! Which brings me to the obligatory dit…..

    On the Bicester, two of those “young stokers” were in the main engine room (3 big diesels) taking readings or whatever when someone in the MCR decided to test the Halon drench warning system – so down in said engine room big ceiling mounted police car type red flashing light starts up – your warning to get the hell up the ladder and gone while you still have air to breath – so their “colleagues” in the MCR, knowing there was no real problem, rush out and dropped the hatch on them, dogging all the clips (imagine as you pooh your overalls on the ladder trying to knock clips off, someone above is putting them back on!) – after thirty seconds of screaming panic they obviously realized there was no actual gas being released…… however as you can imagine they were not happy chaps — I expect flashing lights may still give them a bit of a shudder….. :-)

  183. James

    @ Chris B,

    I’d need a course of preventive vaccinations before I could ever hug a light blue***

    Jed,

    I am bemused as to what “dogging clips” may be. The only thing that comes to mind is home video snippets captured by some adventuresome couple and filmed at the back of the ASDA car park, but that seems far too heterosexual for the Andrew.

    *** well there was a rather pretty RAF lawyer who shared a potentially dull weekend on Divisional Staff Officer duty, and who rather fell for the splendour of the surroundings and the Mess Kit. But as she was a lawyer and not a Kevin, and on the mid 90s experimental scheme where the 3 services swapped lawyers (on the ridiculous grounds that “March in the guilty bastard!” somehow implied that the chain of command was a bit biased in favour of the prosecution), she could be forgiven.

  184. ArmChairCivvy

    The post they tried to kill…
    – well, I printed the post-Suez part of it, to keep inside the appropriate book, for further reference

    Has sort of lost its way? But good points here:
    “@The Other Chris: sure. On what basis should we assess whether we need to restructure? Chucking some thoughts into the pile, I figure we could assess things on the basis of:-

    – Operational effectiveness: can we make the administrative organisation more closely reflect…

    – career opportunities: do the existing organisations provide a clear path for advancement for potential generals/admirals/air marshals?…

    – purple thinking: in what way can we promote thinking purple? Can we permanently organise multi-service formations, large ones, in which promotion and ratings are multi-service?[ CFR. the new one?]

    – duplication: what can we remove to de-duplicate?”

  185. IXION

    All

    Re Chris B ‘You seem to think that you can release great swathes of experienced technical staff and managers while handing equipment over to people who don’t have the first fucking clue how to manage it, and you expect it to all go swimmingly.

    There is optimism and there is even things like misguided naivety, that can be set right fairly easily. But some of you are just being willfully fucking retarded. Last time I counted you’d been through about sixty mergers or whatever it was you claimed, yet none of you seem to be able to demonstrate having the first idea what a merger actually involves. I’m smelling copious amounts of bullshit.

    So enjoy your thread. Enjoy talking to each other about your wet dreams that are never going to happen, for reasons that are clearly beyond your comprehension. You’ve had it explained to you in great detail now and you’re still not getting it, so fuck it, I’m not going through it all again.

    Stay here, remain ignorant, enjoy yourselves.’

    Wow, how lucky we were to such an expert on site on RAF organisation and deployment.

    What a pity he has decided not to enlighten us further.

    Meanwhile back amongst the non swivel eyed tendancy…

    James

    I think implicite in the merger idea is a huge change in the AAC and FAA. There would be all those technical trades (which no one except our jibbering friend has suggested anyone wanted firing) joining.

    I suspect it is once, and only after the initial merger that significent changes in how things were doing would follow.

    Reorganisation would be a huge undertaking, and not to be done in a half arsed fashon.

  186. James

    ACC,

    meteorology is one thing that needs de-duplication if it has not been already. We discovered on the Joint UAV Experimentation Programme (2003) that all 3 services had separate Met systems, and worse that all 3 had different bases of estimate and ways of presenting the info. Wind speed, temperature and pressure are all pretty service agnostic I would have thought.

    As a final shocker, this problem even became international. The NATO Armaments Ballistic Kernel (NABK), the piece of software that did the computation for indirect fire was calibrated in Celsius and KiloPascals with no facility for manually inputting Fahrenheit or standard atmospheres which the US Navy used. It has probably changed now (I’d hope so), but even so, how much duplication and international nonsense is needed for basically what is the functional equivalent of looking out of the window and observing that it’s a bit rainy outside, and somewhat chilly?

  187. ArmChairCivvy

    he-he, that was quick:
    -de-duplication done
    -ditto for purpleness (just that the new Command has not been much mentioned on this blog?)

    Only the easy (?) stuff left: operational effectiveness (or was it efficiency, meant?) and career opportunities to hit on the head

  188. IXION

    ACC

    Are you imply we should keep and more importantly pay people to do jobs in the military we don’t/ no longer need them to do, just to keep a career path open?

  189. ArmChairCivvy

    Not at all, would sort of contradict the “operational efficiency” point.

    “Career opportunities” in this discussion, I take it, means a structure (and career paths that come with it) that can attract, at the junior intake stage, the level of candidate that will be of any use at Staff level, and higher. Obviously only a small fraction… wheat and chaff and so on

    When I was in Accenture, they realised the Up-or-Out can be taken too far, and started nominating Directors (unheard of in a partnership)
    – call them Unit Command to clarify the parallel

  190. ChrisM

    Re the idea of cutting back to just RM and RN…

    We are apparently not going to do occupation forces again, and instead just concentrate on the ability to smash our way in from the sea and our lovely new floating bases then leave it to locals/UN/AU/anybody-but-us to tidy up.
    I keep wondering whether we should be increasing the RM and moving the Army to a more home garrison role? You could then have different terms of service – join the RM and expect to be deployed a lot/bob about on boats much of the year, join the army and you get to stay at home for a career in one of the garrison towns, with the occassional deployment.

    A version of this concept would have the Paras on similar terms as the RM. Is it culturally feasible for ex-Paras to move “down” into the rest of the army when they want to settle down a bit and stop bouncing around the planet kicking in doors?

    Happy to hear why this wont work, though preferably deconstructed sensibly rather than a foaming at the mouth ranting green version of our resident RAF disciple!!

  191. x

    @ Chris M

    To be honest our forces were tokens in global terms for the last decade or two of the Cold War.

    If WW3 had come NATO wouldn’t have lasted long and the “button” would have been pressed.

    Conventional forces are caught between three competing tropes. We have nuclear weapons which on theoretical, if not applied, level make conventional forces redundant. Then we have asymmetric force whose ingenuity is aided by Western liberal concerns for human rights (which some take as an absolute which it isn’t just the current over arching trope). And then we have globalisation and interdependence which many, even here, trot out that conventional war on world scale is unthinkable; again this is just an idea and ideas have their own time; this it the tension between realism and liberalism; the cost of armed forces is set against social and commercial concerns.

    Another idea I beat to death is that we in the UK view defence through, understandably, a 20th prism of a large army opposing a continental foe. And “we”, even with 1982 and GW1, don’t realise that an army is difficult to move and isn’t a strategic service in that unlike a navy or air force it can’t reach out for 1000s of miles. The tongue-in-cheek rant by a certain red trousered individual reveals the depth of that lack of understanding as he speaks, understandably, from his training and service culture. Tomorrow’s wars will be fought outside Europe, the need for force will arise quickly, those who mass force the quickest (even if it is light in Cold War terms) will win the day, and the conflict will rapidly end meaning those forces can be withdrawn. The idea of armed force will follow a pre-Napoleonic or early modern model in that forces will be small, expensively equipped and trained (so hard to regenerate), and be needed to fight another day so force preservation will be a driver.

    Something I tried to articulate to Chris B and failed is how we view expenditure on platforms is eschewed because of 20th century lens. And we will have to re-evaluate what we buy and why. I will try another example without much hope. We are about to 20 or so A400m and a project cost of £100million a copy. That is seen reasonable by many and goes unquestioned. But if I said by £2billion of shipping instead many here couldn’t cope with that shift. To be clear not saying that they are wrong; we need transport aircraft. But the idea in itself jars as it just goes against the accepted norm.

  192. James

    X,

    I resemble that remark…. :(

    Here’s me banging on across numerous threads and several months about needing a proper ARG for rapid interventions, and I am called out for not understanding about speed to theatre and rapid intervention. Fair enough, you may have missed a comment I made about FRES should be based on an ARG, while 16 AA Bde and Spearhead remain air deployable. That would give us the ability to rapidly deploy a Brigade within the rapid timescale needed anywhere in the world. The rest of the Army need to trundle along to bulk out the deployed force if the initial rapid deployment does not do the trick. Don’t see how any of that fits with your description of me.

    There’s another point, possibly of mutual confusion, and it is the definition of the world “strategic”. By your writing, I infer you are mostly talking about great distances. My view – which I believe to be the service definition, but I am happy to debate further – is that strategic instead means “outcome achieved”. By and large, the majority of conflicts only culminate in strategic outcomes after land forces are employed, but to be fair there are some that really are maritime or air based entirely. That’s why we have three services, and I’m not ever going to advocate that one is disbanded and split between the other two.

    I do however reserve the right to keep referring to Kevins as Kevins, and to deliberately mix up ship and boat when referring to the gin palaces the Andrew bob about in. I expect little different from them, and it’s pretty normal for people to gently mock the other services until we’ve got a proper enemy – be they civil servants or Saddam – to unite against and fight.

  193. Challenger

    Wow, just when I thought Chris B couldn’t have got more irritated I come back after a few days and there it is!

    The overarching theme of a lot of our discussion here seems to be driven by the desire, arguably the need for ‘thinking outside of the box’.

    To me the idea of transferring assets across from the RAF to the other services is no different in intention from Multi Role Brigades, the idea of moving the Royal Marines to the Army or part funding new LPH’S from the foreign aid budget.

    It’s about inventiveness, not sticking to the old conventions but rather trying to look at new ways of increasing effectiveness and flexibility. Getting more bang for our buck! That’s important in the current situation.

    Banging about not doing something just because it’s radical, difficult or unknown just isn’t good enough, it’s the kind of stagnation that has got us to where we are now.

  194. x

    @ James

    I was a tad harsh. I was interpreting your sheep-munching, 50 ship flotillas, cutting flap in the aft end of CVF, etc. etc. as more light hearted dig than actual support for an amphibious army so to speak. Once more a sincere apology.

  195. James

    X,

    that’s quite all right. I am absolutely supportive of a proper ARG.

    I’ve got a half-hearted spreadsheet going to compare total time to deployment of 3 Cdo Bde equipped with 2 Cdos of Stryker (or it could be two Battalions, really does not matter), 2 Cdos of light infantry, and all the rest of the gubbins like guns, helos, logs, stores, etc, in comparison to a force of the same size using an air bridge (i.e. the FRES concept). So far, deploying anywhere further than Kenya is quicker by sea. (I choose Kenya purely as an example). However, that is with dedicating every C-130, A400M, and C-17 to the Cdo Bde, which would not happen in reality.

    I reckon that if we want to put a vehicle equipped Brigade any further than the eastern Med it’s going to be quicker by ship. Clearly, a Brigade without wagons just hitching a ride on aircraft would go further quicker, but you have to wonder what they’d do when they got there. Walk, presumably, and not that far.

    So, as part of my FRES concept, I’d pre-position stores on Ascension and DG, and have on-call contracts for cargo shipping to go and lift it. I’d have an ARG pre-loaded somewhere on the south coast.

    Here’s the thing. Using round numbers to within £100M tolerances, I reckon I could get us the FRES capability below on a cost neutral basis, in comparison with QEC and F35B budgets as they currently stand, and it would be a fantastically more powerful and flexible force****. Here’s the breakdown:

    6 x JC at £1B each, to guarantee 4 in service at any one time.
    Ocean and Albion – no change.
    36 x F35B, of which 20-24 embark able on one of the JCs. Saving of £3B on current plans.
    3 Cdo Bde spread around the JCs, Ocean, Albion.

    Spending: the £3bn saved on the reduced F35 buy on 1000 bog standard Stryker. That equips 5 MRB, and we keep the Warrior and Challengers we already have.

    That’s the sea-deployable FRES element. The air deployable element is 16 AA Bde. Each of those two Bdes does turn and turn about for 6 month periods on high readiness (3 days for leading Bn, 10 days for the rest). One JC is also on 3 days, highly trained up and exercising somewhere close to the UK. If one of the 2 Bdes actually gets deployed, one of the MRBs comes to reduced notice, so that we’ve still got 2 Bdes on standby. A piece of heresy – the MRB is trained to embark on the ARG shipping as an Army Cdo Bde. Was done in WW2, can’t not be done now, and if Royal gets upset and not being the only special one, he can lump it.

    **** I fully appreciate we cannot turn the clock back on QEC. We could however drop down to 36 F35B.

  196. x

    As keeping saying UKNL needed 17,000tons of stores for 30 days. My source is Brassey’s volume in the Sea Power series edited by a colonel RM.

    I can’t see how the UK could lift that with its air transport fleet.

    Post WW2 the Army has had considerable input into UK amphibious doctrine, systems, and concepts. If you look through the “what-ifs” and “might have beens” there were concept drawings for a class of LST to lift an assault battalion of 1050 men carried in 16 tanks, a battery of SPG, and 60 “3 ton” equivalents which as we both know refers to cargo not vehicle weight (and the word amphibian is mentioned too so these could be DUKW like vehicles or even track based vehicle.) Amphibiousity should have been a driver for FRES not air portability; not for obstacle crossing in the field more for rapid unloading across the beach.

    I don’t think Royal would have too much trouble with an Army amphibious brigade. I think there are two distinct needs that require different scales of equipment operating as needed out of the same classes of ship.

    1) There is what now is the traditional role of the RM that is operating on the extreme flanks. RM commando + 1 battery of guns + a cavalry squadron. Vehicles would be Viking/Bronco as now. Towed/heli-portable guns. And the cavalry would even use Vikings or other light tracked vehicle.

    1a) I would raise an extra commando from volunteers within the Army infantry and not continue with 1RIFLES. Does anybody know if 1RIFLES do the commando course? I would base the new unit around a backbone of RM officers, NCOs, and ORs taken from the three others. And implant some of the new volunteers into the three others to make up some of the gaps. Culture is important.

    2) The Army amphibious brigade is more a question of kit than organisation. There are plenty of amphibious 8x8s available. For the cavalry regiment I would use something like CV90 as they are light and have good mobiity. Towed heliportable guns.

    3) As for 16AAB I would get rid of the none red beret elements to become a specialist demi-brigade to support the ARG and SF. Has anything been done about the lack of parachute training? If not why not? Just as RM has Commando 21 I think the Parachute Reg would be better organised if they followed US Army style company organisation; 3 x rifle platoon and a heavy weapons platoon for a strength of 150. Even a C17 can’t carry much more than 100 paratroopers. A see this altered structure as compact but covering all eventualities; discrete teams able to act on their own. More plane friendly numbers wise. We can’t drop brigades but parachuting isn’t a capability we should loose.

    3a) We need more C17, C130 and even BAe146 and C27. Though TD convinced me of A400m usefulness it isn’t much good if it is more expensive than C130 and still not in service. (I won’t mention the Belfast. Another example of how allies do us over…..)

  197. James

    X,

    not sure what good it would do to sack 1 RIFLES and replace with all volunteers. 1 RIFLES are a good bunch, tough as nails. Don’t know if they do the Cdo course, would be surprised if not, and I’m sure would give proper Marines a very good run for their money. What’s going to be better with replacing a formed unit, all of that morale enhancing stuff etc, with some volunteers? Plus, most Army individual volunteers are heading to SF, SFSG, Pathfinders and SRR, so you are just further diluting.

    I don’t think I’m ever going to agree that Viking / Bronco is going to be a good recce wagon. It’s utterly fucking crap at being sneaky, pants ISTAR sensors, and guzzles the juice so much so you need extra jerrycans for more than an away day, and breaks down every 100 miles. Bugger all gap clearance, and a top speed like a stunned slug. Plus why do you need a caravan on the back for doing recce?

  198. tsz52

    James 13:59: I’m glad you posted that, since that might allow an actual discussion to happen (the stated aim of this site), given that you’re (very rightly!) respected because you’re in the trade.

    The usual suspects who’d be wheeling out their discussion-killing BS (‘stuck in a previous era’, ‘a bit pro sea power therefore RAF hater, and a bit stupid’, ‘Mobile Infantry Lol!’) might just be able to hold onto their righteous fury and scorn for the duration, in a way that they never do when one of us poor saps tries to suggest something similar. Cheers.

    I know that you’re not the biggest fan of CVF as is, and neither am I to be honest, but looking through your wish list, this is the problem [as I see it, backed up by policy and lots of intently reading what the professionals with a clue, in other fields, keep on writing]:-

    You have only one JC configured for F-35 ops, with 20-24 F-35Bs on her. A fair few professionals have assured us that Cavour (primarily a proper carrier) would struggle to operate 20 F-35s, so we can expect it to be much less for a JC.

    In terms of sortie generation and persistence (small decks, shallow aviation fuel and magazine pockets) you’d probably need two JCs there operating something like a squadron each; so your ~24 Dave-Bs are spread over the two ships.

    However much the ultimate justification for carriers might be to support troops on the ground, the primary mission (and what she spends most of her time doing) for a carrier (more precisely CBG, with everything working tightly, in concert) is *always* Sea Control. You establish your Sea Control sphere first (which is defined as encompassing everything from the sea bed up to the air space above), then (and only then) extend that sphere to overlap the enemy, in order to project power. [Apologies for the slightly didactic-seeming tone; but I’ve found that I need to be incredibly, ludicrously, precise here; and this is addressing a misconception that somebody else repeatedly made.]

    Since the escorts have only standard aviation facilities (most likely a single Merlin each), then you need a fair few ASW Merlins on a flat top too, plus (hopefully) some AEW helos; especially if you’re actually going into harm’s way.

    They’ll interfere with the JCs’ F-35 ops (small decks), so you’ll be better off configuring a JC for the Sea Control (minus F-35) role.

    So you really need 3xJCs to do what you want to do, in addition to however many you might need to transport/deploy your ground forces. As all of the rigorous studies found: 1xCVF > 3xJCs, in all ways (including all-in costs).

  199. Chris.B.

    @ X

    Couple of points;

    1) I agree with James in that I think you’re confusing the tersm “ability to self deploy long distances” with “Strategic”. Take this slightly Tom Clancy example for what it’s worth;

    In a dust up with the Argies over “them Islands” an SAS team is deployed onto mainland Argentina by a Royal Navy Helicopter. Their objective is simple – to locate and disable the two KC-130 aircraft that represent the sum of the Argentine tanking force, with secondary objectives as appropriate, without which the Argentine’s would find it almost impossible to provide air cover to the Islands

    Just because those forces are deployed by someone else into their area of operations, that does not detract from the fact that they are performing a task with strategic implications. The same applies to the army of North Africa in ww2. It was shipped there and supplied in many cases by the other services, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that the ground campaign was a strategic effort that had an important impact on the war.

    “The idea of armed force will follow a pre-Napoleonic or early modern model in that forces will be small, expensively equipped and trained ”
    — Apart from the fact that pre-napoleonic forces often consisted of a very, very small core of what might only be dubiously called “professionals” and were for the most part supplemented by large numbers of men who were a long way from being professional soldiers, why do you discount the future role of the TA to significantly boost our forces at times of need? I find that strange.

    “To be clear not saying that they are wrong; we need transport aircraft. But the idea in itself jars as it just goes against the accepted norm”
    — Your sentence makes the argument against you. It has nothing to do with the idea of spending £2 billion on shipping being jarring, but more to do with the fact that you’ve just supported the idea that we need transport aircraft, yet you’re proposing at the same time to spend the money allocated for that on shipping. You can’t preach something as being needed and then start flicking through the catalogue to find other ways to spend the assigned cash. Perhaps you could spend the CVF money on Amphibious lift…

    “Amphibiousity should have been a driver for FRES not air portability; not for obstacle crossing in the field more for rapid unloading across the beach”
    — I agree that air portability was a phantom need for FRES, but did I really just read that last sentence right, that you would place the ability of FRES to be deployed by landing craft over concerns of how it would perform in the field? To me that seems a rather bizarre requirement to have.

    @ Challenger,

    “Banging about not doing something just because it’s radical, difficult or unknown just isn’t good enough, it’s the kind of stagnation that has got us to where we are now”
    — The problem is not that something is radical, difficult or unknown, is that you’re trying to solve problems that by and large do not need solving. Any reform of the military, like the reform of any government department, must be focused on outcomes. This is what most governments don’t understand about the NHS, because they’re more concerned in achieveing something that looks right on a spreadsheet or sounds right during a powerpoint presentation instead of focusing on how to achieve the best outcomes for patients at an acceptable price.

    You want to shift helicopters from the RAF to the army, but so far nobody has even come up with a valid reason as to why you need to do that in the first place. The system as it is right now happens to be working pretty well if you actually stop and listen to the people involved. You’re just proposing change for the sake of change, because it sounds better in theory, regardless of the actual practical application and outcomes.

    That’s not an acceptable method to go about suggesting major organisational changes.

  200. x

    Even though I can play fantasy fleets with the best of them sometimes I like my fleets to have a hint of reality hence Viking/Bronco. To be honest I would prefer CVR(T)/Stormer type vehicle. I don’t think a twin-hull vehicle is ideal for a cavalry vehicle. And even though you doubt the need for a big gun in intelligence gathering as you know sometimes that firepower is needed. And a turret on a single hull is the better form factor for that work because of the need for manoeuvre.

    No slur meant about 1RIFLES IRL; far from it. It was just a flight of fancy. Saying that a while back when I proposed turning the Rifles in to the Army’s light infantry specialist formation in a proper division with the Paras (my demi-brigade) and 3 Cdo (enlarged to 4 all RM units) I was laughed at here. I can’t remember who did the laughing. Always been impressed with RGJ or LI bods I have come across. In some ways they are like Royal. As I said culture is important.

  201. James

    X,

    others will have their views, but after 10 years of doing the formation recce and a subsequent 20 years of refection, I still believe what I thought back then.

    You want something accurate and terminal. Call it a Javelin on a pintle mount. You also want something spray and pray in case someone catches you unawares and you need to bugger off sharpish whilst chucking out some hatred. Call it a 40mm AGL. Given that the ideal recce wagon is completely open with some roll bars, you’ve got a shedload of mounting options, all of them demountable if needed.

    Not ever cropped up, but I’d love to have a discussion on the right small arms for a recce crew. Personal pistol on a drop leg mount with the ability to go covert and be worn under the trews, and a 7.62mm Scout rifle in semi-auto with a 1x/3x ACOG is what I reckon. Don’t like the SMG type of solution. Also, a biggish knife, not a bayonet. The old short-handled billhook of English medieval days is quite an interesting concept. You can get them for £17 in SCATS, but by the time Shabby Wood let the full lifetime maintenance contract, they’d be nearly £1,000 each, which is still cheap enough.

  202. Jim

    @Chris.B. You want to shift helicopters from the RAF to the army, but so far nobody has even come up with a valid reason as to why you need to do that in the first place.

    Hmmm no one however disputes the move of the Merlin force to the navy to support one brigade 3 Cmdo.

    The army should control its own transport be it HGV’s or Helicopters. When the purse strings are drawing closed will the RAF spend their share of the pot on state of the art fighter jets or helicopters to transport the army around? We have seen several examples of the RAF living it up in hotels instead of a hole in the ground or even on an airbase. Don’t get me wrong several RAF Chinook pilots have deservedly been awarded DFC’s for going in to pick up soldiers, but Heavy helicopters should be an integral part of the future brigade structure, with the brigade commander not the RAF deciding just how and where to use them.

  203. James

    Jim,

    that’s exactly how it already works. No single service buys kit for their own exclusive use – it is a Joint board that decides on how to provide the capability. When things get operational for helicopters, the assigned commander has control.

    You do have a point on the hotels though, and you don’t mention the 1,001 Excuses Not To Fly book**** that is issued to every Kevin on graduation. All we need to do is to only fight wars beyond 500 miles from the nearest hotel and so therefore not commutable for Kevin, and to issue the Army Commander with the “top trump” card that says “Fuck off Kevin, you’ll do what you are told”, and all will be sweetness and light.

    **** I really don’t get it. These Kevins spend most of their school days swotting up on maths and physics and playing X-boxes so that they can pass the flying tests, and then seem to spend all of their careers coming up with reasons not to fly. Oil temperature, or the moon being in Sagittarius, or something baffling like that. WTF is the point? Either have some balls and fly, or join the Women’s Institute and spend your life making cupcakes.

  204. x

    @ James

    I wasn’t doubting your professional opinion. What I was saying was the cavalry unit for my RM ARG equipped with the CVR(T) would need a gun because it would be doing more than just FRR work; it would be screening, fire support, etc. I was justifying to you why I wanted to apparently contradict you when you said that such vehicles didn’t need their cannon. Wouldn’t it be easier if they just called MBT armour and everything else cavalry? What you said about equipping recce formations made tremendous sense. So I didn’t want to be seen to be going against it. Light formations in weight and numbers needs lots of firepower. I want a light tank that can swim and takes up little volume on the tank deck not a scout. So though I say CVR(T) ignore the R I just want the CV(T) bit….

    As for small arms for cavalry formations I think a good variation on the AR15 carbine is sufficient. Perhaps a SASS system in 7.62×51 if you had someone of sufficient skill. But wouldn’t opfor officers suddenly dropping because of a lead overdose sort of draw attention to the formation and defeat the stealthy nature of the work? Pistol shooting is a perishable skill and a pistol means extra weight, why bother? If you wanted something exotic that bridges the gap between 5.56rifle and 9mm pistol can I humbly suggest the FN P90? As for bayonets the SA80’s is very good. The only thing it requires is producing in a better grade steel.

  205. James

    X,

    children and Mrs J now back from their day out in town doing Jubilee things, so last post of the day.

    Recce crew weapons. Never sure about the 5.56. If you want to shoot at someone, kill the f*cker properly, don’t try to wound him. Sniping Opfor while trying to remain hidden is a fool’s errand, so don’t do it. Pistols may be perishable skills but by Christ it’s better than nothing. I did an exercise with the USMC and later spent a week as a guest of my USMC oppo with his family at their cabin in Colorado. He had – I shit you not – a Glock pistol with a mini-bayonet that mounted under the barrel. Now that really is desperate, particularly in a society which is reasonably stable and you live 20 miles from the nearest small town.

    Problem with the SMG FN P90 family is that you don’t really get any reach or accuracy, and yet it is about 80% of the weight and length of a proper rifle in 7.62. Looks good on Italian parades though, and I imagine the RAF Regiment would love to have a few for similar posing reasons. That’s fair enough for recruiting, as they don’t have any combat role.

    Recce Wagon Weapons: If you fire, you’ve lost. Basic rule.

  206. Chris.B.

    @ Jim,

    “Hmmm no one however disputes the move of the Merlin force to the navy to support one brigade 3 Cmdo,”
    — I do believe a fuss was kicked up, but over turned, on the principle that the Navy needed a Sea King replacement, despite the need for more transport helicopters in Afghanistan, something which the Merlin does reasonably well. But I’m sure it’s not true, after all, apparently the RAF doesn’t have any interest in helping others.

    “When the purse strings are drawing closed will the RAF spend their share of the pot on state of the art fighter jets or helicopters to transport the army around?”
    — The purse strings have been drawing closed for a while now, yet the RAF has consistently been lobbying for more cash for Chinooks, which has now finally been approved.

    See Jim, this is where I get annoyed. People say these throw away statements about ‘oh the RAF wont spend money or this and that’ at the same time as they actually are spending money on those capabilities and trying to improve that area, while also spending part of the tight budget trying to get Puma’s life extended to help keep the capability alive.

    To me it just seems stupid to acuse the RAF of not being interested in helicopters when they’ve spent a large some of money trying to purchase or upgrade helicopters.

  207. IXION

    CHRIS B

    It is the assumption that just becuse something works, that it cannot be made to work better/ cheaper/ more efficently by doing it a different way, or someone else, is a council of despair..

    In any event I for one see a big part of it as getting rid of one set of admin/ special pleading in it’s entirety; a UK style USMC.

    For the sake of emphasis, I will repeat myself: –

    We talk on this sight as if we dealing with vast organisations, with fleets of vehicles/kit.

    Given the limits of our budget, and the numbers of people and types of KIT involved a comparison.

    THE RAF has 560 (ish, give or take a few gliders and such like); fixed wing aircraft with a service strength of approx,and 43,000 staff (give or take some reserves).

    Now given that many or the RAFs aircraft are in storage etc….

    It’s worth noting that Britsh Airways flies about half that number of aircraft, but they spend vastly more time in the air, going to vastly more places, and emplosys slightly more people, at about 48,000.

    Securicor emplyes about 630,000!

    Just some perspective. There is nothing vast or unique about the armed forces from an logisitcal point of view.

  208. IXION

    Sorry edit function has disappered, that last bit about the UK USMC an unfinshed comment.

    The idea has some attraction, I do not propose it Certainly not a direct copy more a ‘purple’ Army/Navy structure.

  209. James

    IXION,

    have you seen those stewardesses on BA though? Lady RAF lawyers are easier on the eye, and don’t make you buckle up for landing. Now practising as a Barrister and QC in Cardiff, if you want an introduction.

    (Serious note) I’m quite happy to get involved in the “one Admiral per boat – is it not ridiculous” argument (delete as per service favourite – they’re all much the same), but to be honest, even the Kevins get involved in some stuff that BA wouldn’t. Like not having to build their own airfield, or to shoot down Lufthansa.

  210. x

    @ Chris B

    There is a difference between transporting by sea and amphibious warfare or operations.

    In your example you mention the LRDG who operated from Egyptian (and other state’s) territory controlled by the British. Yes they got there by sea and they conducted reconnaissance and other missions that may have had strategic bearing. But they weren’t operating at strategic distances. Even though Egypt is a long way from the UK we were in de-facto control; the Empire still covered a third of the globe there were lots of similar instances. In a similar way as one of the Four Powers we had forces in Germany both as part of NATO but to exercise our treaty rights. Again just because West Germany was abroad a quick shufty through binoculars over the Inner German wasn’t strategic.

    There are three levels; tactical, operational, and strategic. Tactics is playing the sport. The operation is the game. And the strategy is to win the league. Strategic can be used to discuss scope. In WW2 NW Europe was one theatre in which operations took place. SE Asia was another theatre in which operations took place. Interplay between theatres and how they influence the overall war aims is strategic too. Stopping the Germans over running the Middle East (one theatre) had bearing at a strategic level on the Soviet’s ability to use Central Asia as a base to support the Eastern Front (another theatre)

    But it is an entirely different thing to operate 8,000miles away from the UK with the nearest friendly port 4,000 miles away. That is operating at strategic distances. As for flying off a carrier. Well maritime campaigns can have land elements, like the US campaign in the Pacific or the Falklands War. And land campaigns can have maritime elements such as the various battles over the Dutch ports in NW Europe at the end of WW2. Just because the campaigns conducted mainly on one element contain operations on the other element doesn’t mean those elements in themselves become discrete or separate. The Pacific War was a maritime campaign without the ships the island battles wouldn’t have happened. Similarly the campaigns against the Dutch ports though amphibious wouldn’t have happened unless there was a need for them because of the land campaign. In your scenario without the aircraft carrier, escorts or fleet chain your SAS team wouldn’t be there. And though destroying those tankers would have an affect on the campaign it isn’t strategic in and of itself but an operation that helps towards the strategic end recovery of the islands. Now if that SAS team flew an A-bomb into downtown BA and set if off that would be strategic. Lastly the fact that they sent the SAS and not the SBS shows that the mission couldn’t be that important.

    As for pre-Napoelonic or early modern warfare. Well this was a period of the centralised nation state able to raise taxes to pay for an army. Armies needed cannon and rifles which were expensive. Soldiers needed to be trained to use these weapons which meant infrastructure. To be identified on the battlefield soldiers needed to be provided with uniforms. High costs also meant small forces. The new efficient states, just like today, wanted to protect their investment. Consequently wars weren’t entered to lightly. And if it appeared a state was going to loose badly they would invariably sue for peace. Remember Europe in this period was a patchwork of states. Nobody could afford to loose their army. And keeping a balance of power was important today’s enemy might be tomorrow’s friend. How you manage to jump to meaning I wanted a large TA from that I don’t know. Modern European armies are tiny. The Army’s current combined strength is less than which Belgian started WW1. With our small armed forces, highly technical, very expensive, and reluctantly used (against peers) we are entering a period that mirrors the pre-Napoleonic period.

    As for spending £2billion on shipping well you proved my point in that idea jarred. To propose spending on it shipping goes against the 20th century defence lens that many here view defence matters. Same amount of money. Spend it one way and it is acceptable. Spend it another way and it isn’t. FYI I spend billions here each week……….

    As for obstacle crossing. The field I am talking about is the “field of battle” or alternatively “tactical camping or not being in barracks”. In the field there obstacles such as hills or trees or BODIES OF WATER SUCH AS RIVERS AND LARGE LAKES. The Soviets were fond of making their vehicles amphibious so they could clear water obstacles. In the West making vehicles amphibious while not unknown wasn’t taken up to the same degree. The Soviets fitted propellers and water jets. The West preferred bridges and making vehicles use tracks and wheels for propulsion (mostly). I am interested in vehicles that can go from landing craft or ship without the vessel having to be completed beached so extended the range of possible beaches. Making a vehicle amphibious can impact on its off road ability, eg AAV (big and rounded), but that is an extreme example. Most of the 8x8s on the market today have Soviet levels of amphibosity and high off road (and on road) mobility.

  211. x

    @ James

    I think CZ do a bayonet for their pistols too.

    The P90 is super device as long as nobody is shooting back at you…..

    So you want a compact non 5.56 round that can reach out but you don’t want to shoot anything….right?

    You want an AR in 300 Blackout. But if you are wedded to something short in 7.63×51 you need to google Kel-Tec RFB.

    Time for tea.

  212. paul g

    possible kit for recce, (IMHO of course) sticking with TD’s theme of commonality how about the land version of the apache’s 30mm non electrical feeding system ie mechanical,(stipulated by the US navy who are looking at it) and extended 60″ barrel for greater range. The feeding and barrel changes lower the rate of fire to 200rpm but if that was coming my way i’d keep the noggin down!

    pistol wise i’d take the FN 57, more rounds in the mag, don’t want to be doing a mag change when abdul mcshagnasty is inbound clutching a backpack. Plus the rounds are HV and will drop someone. Carbine i’d take the kel-tec rfb, in any of the calibres they offer (5.56-7.62 and all inbetween those two) ambidextrous bullpup, and if it really was xmas i’d have their 15 round pump action so i could really ruin someone’s day!

    With Bae announcing the closure of newcastle maybe they’re trying to push the UK govt to making a decision to buy something, ie the CV21 or maybe some wheeled kit. (me, cynical never) I was thinking of attempting a post entitled “make do and mend” where some of the points made earlier come up, i might do it in semi bullet form and let TD fill it out. Writing not my strong point, volts and milliamps (and now IPv4,IPv6 and the such)!!

  213. All Politicians are the Same

    James, not sure why you would want to carry covertly in rig. Spent a few months in a country that contains a former British protectorate a few years years ago and we had to carry concealed in civvies. Weapons to be civvy sourced pistols in concealed carry holster that clipped to your waistband longs in a day sack. The immediate problem we hit was the large frame of current up market pistols. Sig 226, Glock 17 did just not fit comfortably into that area at the bottom of your back and trouser line. We ended up with FEG Browning 9mm copies and AKMS 7.62mm short. Browning copies proved more reliable than any original I had ever had and the benefit of having 450 rounds of 7.62mm short in your day sack with a weapon system we couldn’t make jam! was the right mix.

  214. James

    Paul G

    (Got a half hour extension due to Mrs J being a bit upset with me for a mix up, so taken her G&T off to the Sky+. It’s only because she’s the lifetime main squeeze that I don’t employ the Schermuly flare to alert her to her mistake)

    Not sure about the land version of AH gatling. Seems complex and requiring training. As far as I’m concerned, there is only one User Requirement: ability to fire it with one finger in full auto mode, while in high reverse at speed, looking over your shoulder, and trying to map read and send a contact report all at once. Rounds heading off approximately in the direction of Opfor a bonus, lots of noise and scary bangs definitely a plus, extra points for enough smoke that there’s some obscuration as well. It’s the bug out weapon. Sod it, a dozen Claymores wired in parallel and bolted on to the roll-frame might be good enough.

    Not really an expert on pistols – will take staff advice. Got to be small enough that you can strap it to the thigh under the trews (so you can mock-surrender with the rifle), then reach through the cut off trouser pocket lining to extract it. You also need a very small stiletto without a handle strapped onto the inside back of your belt, and the handle looking innocent somewhere else in a pocket that will pass a search.

    Abdul McShagnasty? Doesn’t he have that extraordinarily large postal vote as “Head of Household” in some Godforsaken part of Glasgow, that a “friend” of his with a red rosette tells him how to cast?

    EDIT: APATS, just seen your latest. It’s about survival, not what HMG would like to present as the publicly acceptable face of the forces. so long as it is just about within the GC, covert carry of secondary weapons gives you options.

  215. x

    You just buy a Glock 33.

    We need Sol to show up. He doesn’t leave home without his long slide 10mm Glock and at least 20 magazines.

    Actually he has a bog standard 9mm Glock but when I suggested single column magazines were adequate for a CCW he got upset…

  216. All Politicians are the Same

    James, it was about not really being there no ID cards in country civvy sourced weapons US money UK specialists. Hence the choices made we couls source Big frame Glocks and Sigs easily but the FEG gave us 13 9mm rounds in a frame that went into the small of you back under a polo shirt and onto a clip on holster.

  217. Chris.B.

    @ x

    I’m not entirely sure what point the majority of your post was meant to make, but hey ho. The SAS team taking out the Hercs is an opertaion with Strategic importance. Taking out the Hercs serves no immediate tactical benefit to the team itself, it’s done for the benefit of the wider campaign, hence it is an operation with strategic benefits. I hope the point about the SBS was a joke.

    The point about the tankers is simple. You’re trying to portray it as people being a bit uneasy about spending £2bn on transport ships. Nobody I think would be uneasy about that, providing it was needed and the money existed. What makes people scratch the head is when you say in one sentence that the money is needed for air transport and then in the next start proposing to spend that money on other things. You either think the money for air transport is needed or its not. If you do think it’s needed then why would you be planning to spend it on something else?

    As for FRES, in the same vein as making it air transportable I don’t understand why you would make compromises to the end design just so they could all be driven off landing craft, on the off chance that deployment method might be used. It just seems to be a waste to me, like a single man buying a people carrier on the off chance that one day he might need to drive 7 of his friends somewhere at once, and suffering the performance issues on a daily basis as a result.

    @ IXION,
    The problem is, and what I and others have tried to point out, is that the plans put forward by some would save nothing and improve nothing. In a best case scenario you might lop off a couple of senior heads and save maybe one or two million a year? That’s unacceptable as justifcation for completely overhauling (top to bottom) a multi-billion pound organisation. If you could make a massive improvement then it might be worth while, but that’s blatantly not going to happen.

    “It’s worth noting that Britsh Airways flies about half that number of aircraft, but they spend vastly more time in the air, going to vastly more places, and emplosys slightly more people, at about 48,000.”
    — First up, British Airways would be considered a large organisation by most comparisons. Secondly, British Airways flies all its aircraft from one fixed point to another, along fixed paths, to a fixed schedule. It does not get a phone call at 3pm one Tuesday telling them “right, we’re going to bomb Libya in the next couple of weeks, get ready”. It doesn’t have to worry about things like Afghanistan. It’s aircraft can be operated in the most cost effective manner at all times and just generally speaking is in no way, shape or form similar to the RAF, unless we’re going back to the old “well, they both fly planes, it can’t be that hard” malarky.

  218. James

    X,

    a half house brick is often adequate as well. Not a comment on this site or any posters, but some people around the redneck part of the world get so bloody obsessional with trigger pull weights, tritium sights, this or that magazine, X vs Y grains of charge per round, self-loading, and all of the other nonsense that they forget that none of it matters.

    When you need a pistol, it is in a panic. 99% of people will have their chests heaving so much that aiming the thing is a lottery. Many of them won’t remember the correct order of operation of slide, safety catch etc. Most won’t even think to count rounds. Most won’t hit a door at 5 yards. For civilian emergency purposes, most assailants and pistol-equipped defenders will be drunk, anyway. Against all of that, does it really matter if a Sig has a chequered grip or a Glock a three-way safety? Now, I bow to the marketing departments of Sig and Glock that make people try to evaluate these things, but they still don’t matter in real life.

  219. Phil

    Pistols are terrible self defence weapons unless you drill with them relentlessly and you’re a bit of a Commando
    Comic chap. I carried mine on Ops due to one unpleasant experience but it was more of a placebo effect.

  220. x

    @ James

    99% of the time you shoot where you look. And as Blashford-Snell says if you need to shoot fire thick and fast at the middle.

    Sol was upset about the new S&W Shield only having 7-shot mags. I did sort of point out that most CCW never ever get used. And if they do get pulled from their holster they rarely get fired. And if they do get fired it is normally one shot. I thought we were going to have an interesting chat but he does what he always does when somebody disagrees he gets a bit heavy.

    Handguns are like any piece of equipment. You can make even poorly designed stuff work if you need to. Cheapness or value for money is another matter. And unless you are adequately trained no piece of equipment is never going to perform.

  221. x

    @ Chris B re FRES

    I think the YouTube video showed quite clearly the Mowag performing very adequately on and off road before it went for a swim in some very deep water. I don’t think the design was compromised. And most 8x8s available today offer similar performance and capability. I am sure, but I am prepared to be corrected, that the FRES specs never mention amphibious capability at all. All I am concerned about is a few hundred metres of water between LC and shore.

  222. Phil

    Yeah a P226.

    You don’t tend to shoot where you look with a pistol though. The wrist makes for a poor mechanism to lay a barrel onto a target with. You can miss by a surprising distance at even 10 metres if you are not well practised. In uber flappage mode I can easily see average joe schmo taking out everything but the target. That was my SOP with a pistol anyway.

  223. Chris.B.

    “I did sort of point out that most CCW never ever get used,” — True

    “And if they do get pulled from their holster they rarely get fired,” — False. In fact the opposite is true, statistically speaking.

    “And if they do get fired it is normally one shot.” — False. Again, pre-meditated murders aside, the exact opposite is true. Statistically speaking almost 100% of civilian shooters and almost 95% of police officers will expend every round in the magazine, regardless of what happens to the target.

  224. Chris.B.

    @ Phil,

    “The wrist makes for a poor mechanism to lay a barrel onto a target with,” — and then some.

    “You can miss by a surprising distance at even 10 metres if you are not well practised. In uber flappage mode I can easily see average joe schmo taking out everything but the target,” — Over 90% of Gunfights take place as distances of less than 12 feet. About half of those start at less than 5 feet. On average less than 0.1% of rounds fired actually hit what they were supposed to.

  225. Phil

    If I had to have a pistol for self defence rather than a dawn off double barrelled, I’d have a revolver. Pistols are for when you are up shit creek, last thing you need is a miss-feed from a sticky magazine. Webley I think would do rather nicely. Bit of style. Complete with lanyard of course.

  226. Phil

    Chris I can imagine. It’s why I don’t get the whole CCW permit crowd in the states. Unless you drill SAS style, you’re just making noise. Yes that can be effective but one worries about collateral damage. Fire arms self defence to me is a slung pump action, home defence a double barrelled, very reliable, very effective at likely engagement ranges and can have a bayonet attached. In theory. Hench.

  227. All Politicians are the Same

    A wise man at Joint Counter Training Advisory (JCTAT) taught me that an average pistol combat obeyed the rules of 3. Range less than 3 metres. 3 rounds fired and lasted less than 3 seconds.

  228. Chris.B.

    I’d go revolver too. If you can’t hit with the first quick six then you’re unlikely to hit with another six more. More reliable by far, still can be reloaded relatively quickly with a speed loader and some practice after the initial exchange has clamed down a bit. But yes, not sure if I’d even want to carry one in the first place due to the collateral issue.

  229. x

    @ Phil

    Yes “limp wristing” is a problem or would be if we civilians were allowed handguns other than blackpowder (too much weight) and air.

  230. Brian Black

    It’s been raised that some suggested force reshuffles are change for change sake without any cost benefit. How about a RM MRB, chopping one of the Army’s five MRB in the process. The planned MRB structure involved two light, one mech, and one armoured infantry battalions – 3Cdo’s three commandos could form light, light/amphib, and mech units; and blue-beret marines (initially army) could form the heavy component with the tanks and IFV.
    You’d retain five MRBs and the commando force – the Marines are utilized as regular infantry when not ‘commandoing’, just as they do now. You’d obviously lose some capability features -simultaneous deployment, but you’d gain a more potent and varied amphibious package. And you cut a brigade command, three army battalions, and various bits and bobs, for minimal loss of effect over all when compared with current plans.

  231. James

    Brian,

    you’ve either got 3 Cdo Bde, or you’ve got a Cdo-based MRB. You can’t have both. You may not have noticed that to MoD planners, 3 Cdo Bde is already only counted as a light Bde alongside other Bdes. There’s nothing very special these days about being a Marine – the training is pretty identical to the infantry’s, and the capability of the individual Commandoes is about on a par with any other infantry Battalion. Yes, they do Arctic stuff, but they don’t do armoured stuff, and those are two equally valued skill sets. Being amphibious is slightly specialised, but only for those completely new to it. I can guarantee you could take a battalion of any infantry cap badge and after 2 years they’d be just as competent on amphibious stuff as the Marines are. It’s just training.

    What you are proposing is a cut of one Army Bde, pure and simple.

    It wouldn’t be more potent and amphibious, as you declare, because it is one Brigade less than we currently have and no more amphibious than we currently are.

    6/6 Bdes = 100%, 5/6 Bdes = 83.33%. Is that a minimal loss of effect?

  232. IXION

    CHRIS B

    Yea I get it, I was not suggesting BA in same job as RAF, But if you think what BA does is simple …

    Also BA spend a great deal of time working out ecomonomic running of aircraft. I picked up some knowledge of cargo airfield oppporation from a case I did some years ago.

    A huge anmmount of the airlift for Gulf 1 was private contract civlilian. Arms were flown into Afghan to the Mujaheedin by civilain contract aircraft – I have seen the picures and spoke to the aircrew….

    Another example –

    As a lawyer we get some people who come to us for a taster of all that Ivory towered easy money that everyone thinks we earn. After all how hard can it be to buy/sell a house. Money for nothing etc etc ( I get to listen to shit like that every day). The usuall reaction of being shadowed for a couple of weeks is one of stunned incomprehension. One 30 odd year old managment graduate who was thinking of changing career shook my old bosses hand and said..

    ‘Thank you very much. I have no idea how you withstand the presures of this job, you have put me off being a lawyer for life’…

    What I am getting at, is that in the modern business world complicated, strssfull, emergancy problem solving, is the norm..

    Now OK no one is shooting at us or activly trying to kill us… But I do not buy it that the Armed forces are organisationaly or logistically THAT big or especialy difficult to run.

    And I am not talking about a few million saved…

  233. IXION

    Chris B

    As for hand guns modern auto’s generally out perfoe revolvers in reliabilty tests.

    All

    But given that fact that most people with a pistol are a danger to everyone arround them puts me off the idea of giving them to anyone. Why armed police are given them rather than Mp5’s is a mystery.

    I once after half a days traning (having already fired well over 100 22 rounds, and then 3 mags of 9 mil), unloaded a full Browning HP mag at an 18” by 36” target at about 7 yards. I was probably lucky to hit the backstop sand, never mind the target: and no one was trying to shoot me and I had all the time I needed to aim between each shot!

    Pistol has almost no place on a battlefield.

  234. Challenger

    @Chris B

    ‘You want to shift helicopters from the RAF to the army, but so far nobody has even come up with a valid reason as to why you need to do that in the first place. The system as it is right now happens to be working pretty well if you actually stop and listen to the people involved. You’re just proposing change for the sake of change, because it sounds better in theory, regardless of the actual practical application and outcomes’.

    See I think the problem a lot of us have with this is that, at the very least you are being as vague and inconsistent in reply. The attitude of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ is absolutely fine if you truly believe it. You VERY clearly do believe this and I think we should all strive to respect one another’s views in what is, after all a debate based entirely on guesswork and assumptions between for the most part amateur spectators.

    The problem arises however when you factor in the reality which is that many of us in this conversation DON’T think everything is fine and do believe that their is room for improvement. No one is disputing the skill and courage of RAF helicopter crews or denying the important role they have played, but that doesn’t excuse complacency.

    Of course there are caveats tied to the kind of changes that have been suggested. I would however say, taking the moving of helicopters to the AAC as an example, that actually many of us (myself included) aren’t advocating this kind of shake-up purely with the notion of saving massive amounts of money or cutting out huge swathes of waste. I think we are instead suggesting that putting equipment in-to the hands of the service that overwhelmingly use it most can have other benefits besides saving a bit of cash (although this would of course always be welcome). Chinooks put in-to the hands of the Army would have the potential (remember, potential) to be more efficiently operated and be at the behest of Army requirements and Army decisions. I know id rather be a soldier in a MRB that has integrated helicopter support then rely on totally separate RAF assets, no matter how good the crews may be. The fact that they are on paper part of a joint command wouldn’t particularly impress or reassure me either (so were the Harriers, look how that went!).

    ‘To me it just seems stupid to accuse the RAF of not being interested in helicopters when they’ve spent a large some of money trying to purchase or upgrade helicopters’.

    I accept that the RAF has spent SOME money on upgrades, but id really take issue with the idea that it has done it’s very best in spending money on it’s helicopter fleet. Afghanistan went ‘hot’ in 2006, however between then and 2009 the only new acquisition to my knowledge was of 6 2nd hand Danish Merlin’s (hardly a major investment). 22 Chinooks (now 12) were eventually ordered but that was 3 years ago, when are they going to be delivered? By the time they are it will be a case of too little too late, especially for all of the brave but deceased or wounded soldiers that could have seriously done with some more support for the 8 or so years they would have been fighting out there.

    Furthermore just how many helicopters has the RAF deployed for Operation Herrick? Please correct me if I’m wrong but I’m thinking it’s around 8 Chinooks and 5 or so Merlin’s, albeit on rotation and with AAC and FAA additions. Even so that’s a pathetic amount considering the number it has in its inventory. This could be equally said of the fact that they consider deploying roughly 24 Tornado’s on Ellamy and Herrick a stretch of resources, out of a fleet of about 120! It’s also at the same time as billions has been pumped in-to Typhoon and various other hugely expensive, bespoke projects.

    So no, I don’t think the RAF does it’s best in putting money in-to the procurement of and upgrading of it’s helicopters, (if anyone has any information that I’m not aware of here then please enlighten me!).

    I just simply don’t think it’s good enough. Maybe moving assets from 1 service to the other won’t solve the problem but something needs to change and it doesn’t hurt to look at this from all the angles.

  235. Chris.B.

    @ Challenger,

    “The problem arises however when you factor in the reality which is that many of us in this conversation DON’T think everything is fine….”
    — Okey dokey… why not?

    Where’s the evidence? Other than a lot of complaining about the seemingly universally hated RAF staff that organise the long distance personnel flights (it would appear hated even by many of their own service colleagues!) and the occassional josh about five star hotels, there is little evidence to suggest that anyone actually has a beef with the RAF’s current provision of transport helicopters. In fact a cursory bit of Google-Fu throws up many examples of begrudging respect for the skills and attitude of the pilots.

    If people think the RAF are not up to the task and are not delivering what is required, or could do more, then fine. Show me some examples. Find me some data points of why the RAF is not meeting expectations. Show me some the body of evidence that proves why this task could be better handled by the AAC.

    People also automatically assume that if the Helicopters go to the AAC then a) the pilots and maintenance people will go with them and b) suddenly the army will have full control of the assets, thus allowing there more efficient usage and allocation.

    Except that a) in the case of Merlins being taken from the RAF and handed to the RN, for the most part the crews are not going with them. The helicopters are being transferred but the RN is responsible for finding new pilots and new ground crew. The AAC would have to do the same for Puma and Chinook. Bye bye all those experienced pilots, off to other streams inside the RAF or indeed I imagine the RAF would offer an early redundancy package that would see all those fellas disappear off the commerical sector to earn three times the money for a third of the work.

    You now have to rebuild from square one again.

    And 2) as has been pointed out already, the control of these assets essentially already rests with the Army commanders. They decide when they need the helicopters, how many they need and where they’re going. The RAF essentially then just uses its expertise to handle the organisation and execution. Moving this to the AAC would add no additional benefit in flexibility.

    Intergrating helicopters permanently into an MRB is also precisely the kind of thing that you want to avoid by having an indepedent air force. Tying the helicopters to the MRB would stop them being used elsewhere. It’s much easier to just assign the needed units when they are needed.

    Now as for the purchase of new helicopters, don’t forget that part of it is out of the services hands. In the same way that I imagine the RN would prefer to just have the 8th Astute instead of paying the equivalent for playing out the construction of the final few examples, so the RAF only has a limited say in its own acquisitions. It all still has to be approved at a governmental level, which is something that the last government was repeatedly hammered for not sorting out.

    Regarding numbers in theatres, don’t forget that until recently the services were pulling double duty having to provide assets to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Now things have mercifully calmed down so all the effort can be focused on Afghanistan, but that still doesn’t solve the same issue that exists within all the services of having to rotate both men and kit through periodic tours.

    Helicopters – like all aircraft – have set hours between maintenance schedules. You can’t keep them permanently deployed or you’ll simply shag them into the ground. That’s unavoidable. It doesn’t matter who owned them, they would be bound by these constraints.

    Of course over the next few years the Merlins will be withdrawn from the theatre making things worse, because a certain other service needs them as Sea King replacements. Partly what angers me is because I don’t see fingers being equally pointed and demanding to know why this move could not wait until after the full conclusion of OpHerrick. The Merlin might be a bit shit in Afghanistan, but at least it’s there.

    Ellamy was a one off, wham, bam and thank you mam. Had the deployment been extended for another six months then the juggling act would have well and truly begun I suspect.

  236. Observer

    @Chris

    Think Challenger was only looking at putting the assets closer to whoever uses it most. Which makes a bit of sense, however, your point on duplication of logistics is also true.

    The specific allocation of the aircraft to the Army unit it supports is something of a similar problem, yes, the guy using the equipment most often gets easier access to it, but as you pointed out, it breeds “MINE!!” mentality and reduces other people’s access to it.

    All in all, think you have a very good point in keeping air where it is.

  237. Chris.B.

    Talking of logistics and swerving this debate in a slightly different direction…

    I’ve been sitting down and looking at heavy lift and wondering just whether the A400M is the best choice? It costs almost as much as a C-17, but with half the max payload. A C-17 can carry 70 tons about the same distance that an A400m can carry 30, so presumably from that a C-17 could carry the same load out to an even greater distance.

    In the A400m’s favour is that it can do air to air refuelling, something the Globemaster can’t, but then enters the Voyager (A330). Not only can Voyager tank over a greater distance than A400m but it actually has a bizarre advantage over the C-17 due to the result of a split deck; the proper cargo variant of the A330 (i.e. not the one we’re buying) can carry 34x 463L pallets, nearly double the amount that a C-17 can carry.

    The disadvantage is that the A330 can’t carry vehicles other than those that can be lashed to a pallet and lifted up through the side door (so basically a land rover and fcuk all else) but then how often do we actually air lift things like Warrior or a semi-disassembled helicopter? Could the 8x C-17’s we have now handle that, while cargo variants of the A330 do most of the pallet lifting?

    Something that needs investigating me thinks.

  238. Observer

    @Chris

    Don’t forget distances, speed and landing space needed :)

    It would be really ironic to fly 5,000 km only to find that the airfield is too short for the plane to land on.

  239. ArmChairCivvy

    Hi Challenger, a very considered post, not that I necessarily agree with all of it.

    Funnily enough these machines “between then and 2009 the only new acquisition to my knowledge was of 6 2nd hand Danish Merlin’s (hardly a major investment” became available, because the Danes
    – concentrated the operation into one service (army & navy SF lost their dedicated helos, too)
    – and cut down on the number of types operated

    About A-stan: the better (hot & high) 9a Lynxes hardly ever get a mention? I agree that for the heavier helos the numbers deployed seem very small (if they really were a priority; but what do we know about sharing of assets within ISAF)

    On the whole, I think that A-stan has skewed the priorities and the 60 Chinook we will end up is a disproportionate number relative to what else is on the books. Hence the ‘make and mend’ with Merlin marinisation and Puma LEPping make sense, as in about 10 years time a considered decision about the fleet structure can be taken, without expanding the number of types operated

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