About Repulse

Think Defence contributing author

351 thoughts on ““Hollow-Force”

  1. Gloomy Northern Boy

    In paragraph 25 he seems to go over to the Dark (Blue) Side…for goodness sake nobody mention it to @Red Trousers…he’ll have a stroke…


  2. Chris

    Interesting to note in CDS’s view the development that has the potential to become the most damaging of all is the creeping aversion to risk in the employment of our Armed Forces. This goes for the nation as a whole – the almost phobic aversion to allowing people to just get on with life without some Auntie Quango declaring what they may or may not do (Health & Safety being the excuse; fear of litigation being the real driver). Most of my childhood was spent engaged in activities that would send modern H&S experts into a frenzy of panic; I survived with not so much as a broken bone. I learnt what I could and could not do, I pushed at the boundaries, I questioned as many “that can’t be done”s as possible. Climbed trees. Fell in rivers. Went on day long bike rides without the tether of the yet-to-be-invented mobile phone. Used the slippery sewage pipes that crossed high over the canal as bridges. Played with electricity. Played with chemistry. Played on building sites. Went exploring in scrap yards. No harm resulted.

    The same no doubt applies to the armed forces. I would wager the formal risk assessment is now the most important of the planning activities, and it will insist that eye guards and ear plugs are worn at all times; that harnesses be used for working at height; that vis-vests be used unless in tactical situations; that checklists be used and logged at every opportunity; that initiative may only be acted upon with senior officer concurrence and and and. Its hideous. Whatever happened to common sense? Humanity survived without H&S experts for millenia, making individual judgement calls on the right course of action for a given situation, and assessing risk using basic common sense. I fear with the current deferral to the H&S man on all things, if a situation arises where our Armed Forces cannot find the H&S expert nor find a procedure in SOPs that explains the approved safe way to tackle the situation, the personnel will be paralysed by indecision and fear of legal action.

  3. Ant

    I thought it was an excellent appraisal of the situation we find ourselves in, and am pleased he was so forthright, and in so short a space too.

    Looking forward to a modest expansion of Naval capability, plus focussed attention to enablers.

    He must be reading this blog.

  4. Peter Elliott

    This man is a thinker. And a good one. Probably the best we have generated for a decade or two. How does he compare to professional giants of the armed services like Fisher or Wellington?

    Will we lose him once his customary term expires? Or is it worth stretching the rules to keep him for a double shift?

    If he went ‘upstairs’ to become Defence guru to one party or the other would he still be so effective? Or would it dilute the impact of his deep but politically impartial insight into the future of defence? Wellington was a genius soldier but failed both as PM and political head of the Armed Forces.

    The thing I like most about this address is the people focus. Read in the context of Heloise Goodley and the Quiet Revolution at RMCS. We need agile, agressive, risk aware officers. Are we generating them? Do we know how? Can we captalise on a decade of operational learning to feed back into the peacetime machine?

    At the end of WW1 we had some superb officers who had been there and done it and had a huge amount to give: Brooke, Slim, Montgomery, Alexander were all there. The dead hand of conformity cut them all back from wartime to their substantive regimental rank and it took a them all 10-15 years to get back to the top of the tree. In 1939-41 we paid a heavy price for those 4 being Divisional rather than Army commanders, as they should have been if their development had been properly proritised.

    Who are the rising stars of the next war? They are the top captians and majors coming out of the sandpit now. Clear the way for them. Make sure they don’t get eased out for being awkward like Tim Collins was.

    Houghton makes me feel optimistic. Let’s hope he gets a fair crack of the whip.

  5. dave haine

    Seems to have realised that he’s chief of the defence staff, rather than the top shouter for his own service…which is a good thing I think.

    As well as the hollow force comment….

    “We are critically deficient in the capabilities which enable the joint force. Such things as intelligence, surveillance, compatible communications, joint logistics and tactical transport.”

    Hmm….Sentinel into the core budget, more watchkeeper, more containers for loggies, Uplift in A400m orders perhaps, more Wokka’s or a new small airlifter? Medium lift heli?

    Dunno about comms- don’t really know about them, would like someone more in the know than me to enlighten me.

    And he identified the financial buggering about, that the MOD is so good at. I bet he and Phil Hammond get on right well.

  6. martin

    I think we can welcome his comments but I hope his desire for personnel does not simply turn into a cap badge maintaining exercise and how we need more infantry battalions.

    The cut to the Army down to 82,000 was long over due and one of the sensible points from SDSR 2010.

    With new technology in the navy manning numbers for warships have been reduced quite substantially and the UK cannot compete with other poorer countries on manning levels if we want our soldiers sailors and airmen to experience rising living standards. We can only compete with poorer countries on technology at least in peace time.

  7. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Peter Elliot

    He sounds good and is clealy a thinker but I would not rush to have his babies quite yet. An important part of his job is how he actually delivers on his thinking and that is very much unproven.
    Am hopeful that he is the real deal but still a lot to prove.

  8. Bob

    Yes, some of us are listening and noticing but the RAF No.II Squadron thread domonstrates the problem. Too many people living in a fantasy land dreaming of fantasy fleets tomorrow rather than accepting the reality of the situation.

    See this comment:

    “One of the Conservative party’s most influential voices on defence has conceded that Britain can no longer be regarded as a “division-one military power”

    From: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/15/tory-james-arbuthnot-trident-doubts

    It is time to accept just how devastating the 2010 cuts have been to the British Armed Forces rather than just clinging to a hope that something will change.

  9. Peter Elliott

    So developing your point further Bob would we be better off increasing the readiness and effectiveness of our 7 FJ squadrons by increasing pilot numbers, engineering support, Intel gatherers and analysts and accelrated weapons integration? And following Houghton is this actually more urgent that expanding back up to 8 or 9 squadrons?

    Get Storm Shadow, Brimstone, NSM, and Metoer into service with both F35B and Typhoon. Get some simple satalites up there. Get a few more rooms full of Int Corps to sift the pictures and pick the targets. And train enough pilots and maintainers to enable crew rotation and more deployments per airframe per year.

    Massive increase in credibility and force posture without spending a fortune on more Fast Jets.

  10. Bob

    Peter Elliot,

    But you are spending a fortune on everything else. It is not just hardware that is expensive- operations are too. All the suggestions in this thread require additional funds.

  11. Sir Humphrey

    Very interesting points made.

    I’d read it as a fairly clear shot across the bows of the T26 programme and a strong hint that the RN should focus on less complicated vessels in future.

    Additionally it felt like special pleading for an army of 82,000 regardless of whether we actually need it or not.

    I will try and type detailed thoughts up in the next couple of days.

  12. TED

    @dave haine I think hes hit the nail on the head there.

    Heard this on the radio this morning, would love to know what he think our really good kit is. Maybe T45?

  13. martin

    @ Sir H

    “I’d read it as a fairly clear shot across the bows of the T26 programme and a strong hint that the RN should focus on less complicated vessels in future.”

    I did not see it that way but now you mention it it does. Fits in well with past complaints about billion pound destroyers chasing pirates. And makes sense why he is talking up navy personnel numbers, is it a way to justify scrapping high end ships that are only justified by what he sees as “defence industrial strategy” or providing jobs on clyde side.

    Also fits in well with his comments and what seem like complaints about the British people not being prepared to put boots on the ground (because it worked really well the last two times) Can we justify an army of 82,000 if we refuse to ever use more than a battalion or two in peace keeping operations.

    I know its abit of a conspiracy theory but many of hits comments make sense from an Army centric view looking at it like this.

    Personally I think if having billion pound destroyers chasing pirates is an issue then just don’t bother chasing pirates.

  14. Chris

    SirH – when on another thread I suggested buying many basic platforms capable of general escort/combat duties was better value than buying a few top rank state-of-the-art ASW/ASuW/AD vessels, those in the know declared such simple vessels were pointless; outclassed; a waste of money. I still think lots of simple platforms beat a few complex ones, if only because the loss of any one platform has much less effect on force capability. I think the same applies with land assets; not so sure about aircraft though.

    For years now it has been recognized that tactical comms needs to be spread spectrum of some form, such that a single frequency jammer cannot deny communication. It seems strange that while comms has moved away from using methods that can be taken out by single opposition action, the platform requirements have moved in exactly the opposite direction. A bit of a gift to the opposition really, significantly increasing the overall tactical effect of removing a single platform.

  15. martin

    @ Bob the UK is and has been since the end of the second world war a Division 1 Military force along with the Russians, Chinese and others. The USA has been playing in its own Premier Leauge for some time on its own and will stay there for a long time to come. SDSR 2010 did not change that fact although I agree that we are all still coming to terms with it and the larger affects will probably not be felt until the 2020′s when we are trying to pay for a new SSBN out of the core budget.

  16. martin

    @ Bob – Its interesting to note that on the Guardian article the UK having the fourth biggest defence budget does not count, nor does the training and capability of the armed forces. All that counts is that we will only have 82,000 soldiers. By this metric the USA barley makes the top ten and North Korea becomes the world’s undisputed super power.

    I am afraid as with most things in the press its simple cap badge justification about why we need less capability and more guys standing around in red coats and bear skins. He even talks about the smaller military foot print and the lack of connection with communities.

    I will stick with smaller numbers and more capability I think.

  17. rec

    Interesting speech, and maybe a clear shot across the bows of BAE, it clearly doesn`t help only having one major arms company.

    On equipment budget, how’s about this as cost savers

    1) Only 48 JSF F35B and just for the carriers, so soley RN badged
    2) Keep T1 Typhoons and upgrade some T3s with conformal fuel tanks and rely on them and drones for long range strike. Have a 3 rd Typhhon operating base ? leeming
    3) On Type 26, (ideally I would like 18,) but if the funding isn`t going to be there then either 10 or 12 with the balance made up by 6-8 Holland class

  18. Peter Elliott

    OK Bob – so we’ve got a really clear understanding of the problem. We’re skint and can’t afford EITHER more planes OR more enablers.

    What’s your prescription? What shoould we do?

  19. Bob

    Peter Elliot,

    The answer is simple- scale back national ambitions. The CDS speech hits the nail on the head- the UK can not afford to be a global power and increasingly the UK public does not want to be one either. So give it up, halve the defence budget and spend the savings on civilian industrial R&D and plant modernisation.

    All the suggestions in this thread just involve spending more money.


    Unfortunately the UK does not have more capability- it has less. SDSR 2010 reduced the UK’s ability to deploy force and sustain operations, that was made very clear. Please stop with the fantasy and denial.

  20. Bob


    That’s just more fantasy and denial, look at the change in the defence planning assumptions that accompanied SDSR10 for a start.

  21. wf

    @Bob, why is @martin’s point denial?

    If we don’t have the numbers to staff 25 regular infantry battalions (ex Para), then we reduce to 20 and staff those fully. Painful but necessary.

  22. Bob


    Because martin is pulling the classic deniers trick of claiming that somehow the UK can sustain capability even with an ever smaller force. This is nonsense and the MoD admits it every-time it revises down the defence planning assumptions- as it did in 2010.

    The UK can now do much less than it could before 2010- this is made clear in the defence planning assumptions.

  23. Sir Humphrey

    I am in full agreement with Bob. Looking at the front line figures it is easy to go ‘oh we need another 3 of this and 4 of this’. People continually forget that when you look at the underpinning cuts made to the logistics, support and training areas that ramping up in a short order is almost impossible.
    Take a look at what MOD is planning to do now and over the next few years and it is clear that it is able to a LOT less than before.

  24. Mike W


    “Because martin is pulling the classic deniers trick of claiming that somehow the UK can sustain capability even with an ever smaller force. This is nonsense and the MoD admits it every-time it revises down the defence planning assumptions- as it did in 2010.2

    Bob, of course you are 100% correct. Can’t really understand Martin – he talks a lot of good sense normally. We need both more manpower and better equipment and that means an increase in the defence budget. We couldn’t even re-take the Isle of Wight with what we have at the moment. But of course people will keep on repeating the fatuous mantra:”Can’t see the threat, can you?” and other inanities and rationalizing our severe loss of capability.

  25. Chris

    Sir H – I don’t like the restricted capability, I really don’t. But if planning assumptions are in accord with the capability reduction, the obvious question is: Are the planning assumptions valid and rational? Do they restrain ambitious politicians from making greater commitments than we are scaled to meet? Do the assumptions retain adequate measures to defend our small rock in the Atlantic? What of commitments further away (Falklands etc) and NATO support?

    Its all fine having documents that justify smaller armed forces but if the political expectation isn’t similarly constrained then it will all fall apart.

  26. wf

    @Bob: indeed. But you could ask why we need 7 adaptable force brigades if they are not properly staffed. Perhaps reduce them to 5?

  27. Tom

    wf – There are 3 actual AF brigade HQs that can actually be considered true deployable brigade HQs. the other 4 are purely regional force HQs, required for civil support and regional management.

  28. IXION

    It is time to start eating mayonnaise with our chips. What this man is saying is that you can call it ‘capability gaps’ ‘front line first’, ‘reducing capabilities’ ‘reducing commitments’ etc etc.
    We have to makes sure what we have works and is usable, otherwise its just willy waiving.
    It adds up to The Imperial dream is over, and so is its bastard offspring ‘We are still a world power you know’.

    No more elective wars- the British end will just have to hang loose.

    It’s not just that ‘By Jingo we don’t have the ships the men or the money’ anymore. The general population sees no merit in sandpit wars for ungrateful bastards who don’t want us there.

    The PM despite what people say, is no political fool. When he lost the Syria vote he could not get to the despatch box quick enough to say ‘Soz can’t come out to play the mother (of parliaments) says no’.

    ‘We are Belgium, more mayonnaise anyone’.

  29. IXION

    It pains me to say this but agree with BOB..

    I have spent my share on fantasy fleets, but mine, (whether the maths adds up or not), have always been set against reducing budgets, or at best static ones aimed at getting more usability out of what we do, rather than something extra or impressive looking.

    To many on this site see the answer as more cash for (…insert favourite service here), or services in general. Very few actually address the what are we trying to do and why are we trying to do it? Question.

    If they do they couch it in fatuous terms – ‘we are globally engaged’ being my favourite self licking lollypop of meaningless bollocks. Coz it means the Germans and the Dutch and the Brazilians and the Koreans, etc aren’t. We are you understand but Johnny foreigner just doesn’t get it like we do.

    So I will repeat my own supposedly fatuous mantra ‘ Where’s the existential threat that needs all this kit? what land warfare threat means we couldn’t cut the army to say 3 times the size of the Irish Army and loose the tanks. 6 squadrons of properly manned typhoons with all the necessary back up should deal with any conceivable air threat. And my views on elephants are well known.

  30. wf

    @Tom: agreed. So why have they got battalions assigned? Do we need the regulars for anti hooligan patrols or the prevention of bread riots? I’d say we don’t :-)

  31. martin

    @ Bob and Mike W

    Not sure what I am being accused of. Fact is that we could not do much except contribute to US led coalitions before 2010. The same is true after SDSR 2010 only difference is we can contribute a bit less.

    If your talking about my comments regarding the CDS speech then I would hold by my statement of emphasising quality over quantity. I would rather the UK be a well equip hard as nails David instead of a unwildy Goliath able to do little more than parade my forces aka Russia, China France etc.

    I would also much rather have a small fleet of very high end Frigates and Destroyers with two massive aircraft carriers and top of the range SSN’s able to surge a substantial force if needed for soverign action than have a flotilla of OPV’s able to do nothing other than chase fisher men armed with AK’s. I have no issue with the RN chasing pirates but I do disagree with spending our scarce budget on special vessells to do this. At the end of the day piracy is a civil matter and an international problem not a UK defence one.

  32. Observer

    It’s a fallacy that smaller numbers means that you lose capability. No, you still have capability. For example if you have only one UAV, you can still say that you have an ISTAR capability, or if you only have one AAR tanker, you can still say you have AAR capability. Only when you hit the magic number of 0 do you actually lose capability. :) It’s going to be a fragile capability, but it’s still there, more or less. The reverse is also true. There is a limit to the number of enablers you can have before you hit diminished returns, e.g having 2 AWACs in the same area is a bit redundant or having 2 air refuelling tankers refuelling when one is enough to top up the entire package etc.

    What you really lose with less numbers is the strength in numbers, the endurance to take losses that numbers give and the ability to cover larger areas or multiple areas at once. It’s not an insignificant consideration.

    And isn’t it Easter and Lent where there is supposed to be a gnashing of teeth and tearing of sackcloth and not Christmas?

    wf, sometimes units are also left deliberately short for slots to fit any reservist troops in. If the command structure is in place, you can easily slot new men in, but if you reduced the command structure numbers to totally top up a force structure, any call up of reservists would mean assignment to a totally new unit with a totally new inexperienced command team and structure. With all the balls up that it implies. Not sure if that is the reason the UK is doing it this way, just pointing out possible reasons why they might do it.

  33. Bob


    Not entirely accurate. With a smaller force you lose the ability to undertake certain types of operations and thus restrict the freedom of action that the government has.

  34. Tom

    wf – Bns are garrisoned in that brigades area of control, therefore falls under that brigades command. This is actually makes some sense since the reg bn will be paired with nearby reserve Bn – the brigade HQ can co-ordinate the training activities better….

    … or something.

  35. martin

    @ Bob a smaller force can lose capabilities but a larger force with less capability will definatly have less capabilities. UK forces are small and always have been but our capabilities are much broader than almost any otherer military force outside of the USA.

    I think retaining as many capabilities as possible is the best thing a peace time military can do because its much harder to regain lost capabilities than had to exisitng ones.

    Enablers like ISTAR platforms, AAR and strategic lift are no longer just force multipliers. it’s almost impossible to employ force with out them.

  36. Observer

    Bob, which capabilities do you have in mind when you say that less platforms restrict certain operations? The broad brushstroke ones are AAR, ISTAR (IAR), AEW, all of which are single platform enablers, not network based.

    martin, I think you overstate the case a bit, even without force multipliers, the basic bread and butter FJs can still do the job, just not to the point of optimum efficiency. In reverse, a lack of fast pointy jets is also a big problem. No point having all the enablers only to have the enemy steamroller you through mass and AEW or no AEW, a plane going 1v2 is always going to be in a bit of trouble.

  37. martin

    @ Observer – Thats true if you have enough of them and you can base them close enough to not require AAR

  38. wf

    @martin: I tend to agree with you with regard to loss of capabilities. However, given the budget, we cannot retain the ability to develop and produce all of them: we must pick and choose. Personally, starting from the top, I rather wish we had the ability to maintain our own Trident D5′s, rather than relying on the USN to do so. Farming out parts of AWE to the French also seems highly unwise.

    However, national or collaborative programs to do things like develop and produce specialised low volume roles like transport and surveillance aircraft, or at the other end, relatively simple products like torpedo’s, missiles seems like a waste of resources.

  39. Chris

    I have always thought numbers to be important. Attrition is a given in conflict; without significant numbers of platforms attrition is rapidly a major problem. In my humble opinion too much emphasis has been given to Force Multipliers; the assumption seemingly made is that platforms carrying many Force Multipliers are invulnerable; and that any basic platform is instant toast. A lot of trust is being put in high tech defensive/offensive gizmos, and force numbers are being ground down as a result.

    Sadly (for the planners) such gizmos find their way to other nations’ armed forces, including those not necessarily friendly. Having reduced numbers because own forces have a specific gizmo where others do not, when other nations get hold of the same sort of gizmo you would imagine there would be a swift purchase to rebuild force numbers? There never is. Indeed with T45, reduced from 8 to 6 ships because CEC was going to make each much more effective, when CEC was dropped the other two hulls never came back.

    So given a budget I would set a proportion aside to buy lots of basic platforms – a mix of lots of basic and a few whizzy platforms would seem sensible. More so than just a few whizzy ones anyway.

  40. All Politicians are the Same

    Will everyone take a chill pill. What he actually says is that we are approaching the stage of being a ” hollow force” and if we have further cuts then we may as well sell the kit as I will have neither the man power to man it nor the budget to train them.

  41. Martin

    @ Wf – I see nuclear weapons and missiles as the last thing to waste money on for sovereign production. Massively expensive to create almost certain to never be used and zero export potential. The D5 gives us a top notch capability at an affordable price and near 100% sovereign operating capability.

    @ Chris

    The problem is with so few whizzy platforms if we need to spend money on basic platforms then we will have even less whizzy platforms. if the s**t hits the fan then it’s the whizzy platforms we will need? Just look at 1982 lots of basic platforms able to do little else than catch bullets and only two whizzy platforms with sea wolf.

    Today a force of three or four T45 and six or seven T23 would be almost invulnerable to argentine forces.

    agreed on CEC but it was £500 million. if given the choice between CROWSNEST or CEC I think I would take CROWSNEST. This was basically the position the RN was in. I see CEC as a force multiplier but CROWSNEST as a enabler in that I would not want to undertake a 1982 style op without AEW no matter how good and well connected the T45′s were.

  42. Phil

    Not entirely accurate. With a smaller force you lose the ability to undertake certain types of operations and thus restrict the freedom of action that the government has.

    Yup but we’ve always had restricted freedom of action. Nearly (in fact now all) nations have that restriction. Hence alliances. It still baffles me why people give these the cold shoulder – even with a WWI or WWII level of mobilisation we’d still need an alliance. There is no getting away from the fact. They are a perfectly normal part of the international world. To rely on an alliance is simply reflecting reality and not fantasising.

  43. Phil

    Take a look at what MOD is planning to do now and over the next few years and it is clear that it is able to a LOT less than before.

    But as you well know drawing the line around UK military capabilities is an artificial delineation that does not correspond to the real world. Certainly the UK has less mass than before and it will rely on allies to get anything more than a bushfire battle done, but so it always has been.

  44. dave haine

    @ wf

    Thinking about what you said, and I certainly agree with you on the loss of capabilities….I just wonder, wouldn’t it be more sensible to be able to produce low end stuff rather than high end?

    What’s prompting me to think this way, is not, not having high end capability, it’s more the relative attrition and usage rates.
    For Example we only have 6 Sentry in service, with one parked up getting algaefied. As these are high value assets we wouldn’t use them in a high-risk environment without doing something to mitigate the risk either by escort, or operational procedure.

    Whereas in any conflict, munitions are used at prodigious rates, often greater than we had planned for and tactical airlifters by their nature will be in harms way, because that’s where you use them.

    So…we either make sure we maintain vast stocks of munitions, to cope with the expected usage rate, with all the problems of controlled storage, shelf life, protecting them etc, or we have the industrial capacity to rapidly ramp up production to sustain usage rates and replace such ready-use stocks as we do hold.

    Otherwise, we have the situation where we are reliant on another country, to ramp up production for us- not a problem if their in the current alliance, but it could be a prob if they’re opposed, say, to the campaign.

    Similarly with tactical airlifters, or light attack, or whatever relatively simple airframe, we want to talk about. Do we hold an reserve against expected attrition, or do we maintain a capability to build replacements at need…a sort of just-in-time policy for operations.

  45. Bob

    Observer, martin,

    There is no such thing as a “single platform enabler” less platforms can be in less places, can generate less sorties, move less things, etc, etc, etc. If your amphibious force shrinks you can land less troops, if your air lift fleet shrinks you can carry less stuff and so it goes on.

  46. Observer

    Bob, I disagree, some things are single platform enablers, for example a single AAR tanker is a single platform enabler for AAR, or even something like the SR-71 is a single platform for strategic recon. You hardly see 2 of these examples up at the same time in the same region as having more than 1 is redundant.

    And I think you are talking about capacity and coverage, not capability. In the example of airlift that you chose, the country X HAS the capability to do an airlift, the capability is not lost, just rather pathetic. Think a better term for capability might be “ability” instead. I agree numbers matter, just clarifying that the discussion should not be “loss of capability in a smaller fleet”, but “lack of coverage, flexibility and attrition endurance due to limited numbers”.

  47. John Hartley

    DH Is there a third way? I am thinking of making better use of equipment being retired early. For example the T1 Typhoons. If we retire them early then rather than flogging them off for peanuts or scrapping, I would suggest keeping them in good nick. Say we get stuck in an unexpected war & our T2 & T3 are getting shot down, but we are recovering the pilots. Then dig the T1s out of storage & our pilots have something to fly.
    Same applies to ships. We got peanuts for scrapping the Invincibles & T22 batch 3. I would have mothballed them for a few years as a precaution. Even if it takes nine months to get them back into service, it is still a lot quicker than building from scratch.
    Of course storing retired equipment costs money, but it is cheaper than keeping it in front line service, or paying through the nose to a foreign source when they know we are desperate.

  48. jedibeeftrix

    @ GNB – “Any Soldier concerned about the Royal Navy has to be a good thing…”


    Re: Arbuthnot – “I don’t think that we are a division-one military power any more,”

    If we aren’t, is the term itself rather meaningless… unless the US exists in a First Division of one.

    I do sympathise with him on the deterrent; it will draw funds from conventional capability and we are very close to losing any useful sovereign and strategic capability for power projection.

  49. Mark

    It gd to see mr Arbuthnot comments on the ssbn replacement some people have been making that case for some considerable time!

    the generals comments are interesting but nothing really new. Is the military ready to accept the 75% solution to to its capability requests is the government willing to accept a higher risk of casualties by not driving round in 100tn super tanks? Are we prepared to ditch high end state on state capability to go after the irregular warfare. I don’t know but a sure warning the 2020 force structure is based on real rises in the defence budget and if doesn’t happen the equipment budget will feel the pain and its majority is stealth jets, ships and subs in 2015 onward.

  50. Repulse Post author

    With a reduction in funds something has to give. I don’t believe anyone seriously strives for the UK to be a global power, but I think most believe we should have a global reach when needed. If the UK cannot afford to have a full spectrum of high end capabilities then should it have the high end with gaps or a lower level end to end coverage.

    My view is that the UK should have a defence capability which can defend the UK Mainland against any peer, and limited offensive capabilities aimed at giving a peer a bloody nose or can be combined with other nations under the UN or NATO.

    Therefore, if i was the decision maker i would prioritize the following high end offensive capabilities:
    - A 100% available RFTG based around a CVF (&F35B) with necessary escorts / RFAs with the ability to deploy a RM battlegroup anywhere in the world in high threat operations. Also, with notice the ability to deploy 2 RFTGs together if needed (Falklands style).
    - Inserting and supporting a airborne battlegroup anywhere in the world in 72hrs.
    - The ability to get a TLAM armed SSN on station anywhere in the world within one week.
    - World wide ISR capabilities based on a network of satellites, UAVs and manned assets.
    - Ability to launch a cyber attack against any peer nation.

    To the expense of the following:
    - Nuclear deterrent.
    - Ability to support a brigade deployment on an enduring basis.
    - Purchase of F35B beyond that required for the CVFs
    - Any GP T26s

  51. Gloomy Northern Boy

    The “No CASD equals more conventuional capability ” idea is completely illusory…any Government that abandoned CASD would be “making a statement” about their internationalist/non-intervention/self-defence only/pacifist stance NOT freeing up cash for doing more out there in the world…the politics would be completely wrong…

    Oddly, that would be an even stronger impulse if the SNP evicted us from Faslanr…the UK Government couldn’t afford to be seen to being lectured by a group of self-righteous CND Jocks…so would need to make out they thought it was a good idea all along…being seen to be rogered up the fundament by Wee Eck would finish any party in the UK for at least a generation unless they could find a way to spin a different meaning to the event…



  52. Think Defence

    Some good points made here, nice one chaps.

    A point I, Jed, Mark and many others have made right from the beginning of this place and others have made the same as they started commenting is there is nothing at all wrong with reducing size/capabilities as threats decline or national spending priorities change and it must be said that debt and the financial crisis is the largest single real threat the UK faces.

    So the very real reductions defined by SDSR2010, accompanying Defence Planning Assumptions and subsequent planning round induced change are all fair enough.

    The problem though is that no one seems to have told the politicians who still seem to fantasise about the UK not enjoying the joys of ‘strategic shrinkage’ They continue to claim that SDSR2010 would be a bit of tinkering and better able to face the challenges of the new security situation.

    It is this that we have always complained of, becoming all fur coat and no knickers. Maintaining the bluff and bluster and strutting on the world stage when in reality (although we are still much better placed than our European peers and that includes France) there are significant gaps in the enablers.

    A bit of honesty would go a long way and that honesty might conclude that a smaller Army is indeed OK, for example. As for Trident, I am still of the opinion that in a world of priorities, that comes first. If that means an Army of 20,000 and a Navy with 6 frigates and 6 destroyers, so be it.

    Talk of divisions, thats for idiots like Mr Arbuthnot

    Phil makes a good point about coalitions, look at defence planning assumptions about we are able to do alone and it is clear that if that were it, the capabilities we have in place are vastly over sized. So anything else is ‘with others’

    The problem here is those others are possibly looking elsewhere (the USA) and even less capable or willing than we are (Europe)

    No easy times ahead but the CDS’s speech seemed to be to be the same old business as usual stuff we have been hearing from the same old people for years.

  53. Phil

    No easy times ahead but the CDS’s speech seemed to be to be the same old business as usual stuff we have been hearing from the same old people for years.

    It’s always going to be though. Speeches like this I find interesting but people in those positions can never just spout what is really on their minds. He sets out the challenges and I think he is bang on the money. He’s made about as big a point as his position allows him to in public.

  54. Fedaykin

    In the end with all this talk of honesty and looking at things realistically what I want going into the future is stability in operations and procurement. Remember even after the horrors of 2010 SSDR and the upcoming joys of SSDR 2015 the UK has one of the largest defence budgets in the world. We have unfortunately been getting poor value out of that budget in many respects.

    I want the three services along with the MOD to stop treating defence procurement like a science fair! I remember a documentary in the 90s about DERA in their pre QuinetiQ days where one of their engineers was talking about their concepts for future soldiers. He then proceeded to talk about how Robocop and Aliens influenced their thinking, they even went and talked to the people who put together the smart gun in Aliens carried by Vasquez. He never mentioned that the Ari steady-cam mount used for the gun costs tens of thousands of dollars at the time, also heavy, unwieldy and highly complex. Hardly an ideal piece of kit out in the field for your average soldier.

  55. IXION


    Given who this guy is actually I think it is news worthy.

    He is saying give us the budget you have promised or some of our kit becomes white elephants. He is also pointing out we will have to pay our war fighters more, and treat them expensively better in future. That has not been provided financialy for. He worries about our increasingly risk averse nature.

    But he has no answers in this piece. Pointing out the lack of existential threat, and rise of the non state actor, is trite. The question is what’s that to do with the price of fish, or FRES. For that matter?

    Most of this speech is a bit ‘no shit Sherlock’.

    What he does do is plead for more money which he won’t get. But what is a first is he is saying if he does not get it capabilities will HAVE to disapear.

    His point about NATO is bollocks. NATO powers will never agree to share out tasks on a national speciality basis.

    Also he has an unambiguous pop at the defence budget as industrial subsidy.

    But he has no answers except more cash or else.

    Oh and the UK defence est has sent years being snotty about UN peace keeping, its a bit rich to start saying can we play now.

  56. martin

    @ TD

    “A bit of honesty would go a long way and that honesty might conclude that a smaller Army is indeed OK, for example. ”

    Agreed but the CDS seems to be going the other way complaining about high end capability and enablers at the expense of head count. For an island there is little point in maintaining an army if we cannot use it as its sole job will be to invade other’s or defend others.

    I still think that UK thinking needs to move towards a more naval centric environment and accept that well we can’t do everything we can do what is required really well. So no large armoured division but the ability to land an amphibious brigade anywhere in the world and support it with aircraft etc.

    I also think we need to give the RAF the ability to conduct at least a limited air campaign like Libya without US support so we need better ISTAR which means keeping Sentinel and Reaper after 2015, Better ELINT and the ability to conduct jamming operations and SEAD.

    I think the Army post 2015 should re task back to high end warfighting with the ability to rapidly insert 16AAB into a theatre and the ability to deploy up to three brigades with sufficient notice. If there are to be cuts to the army then i think the axe should fall on the sustainment forces. Because I am really not interested in sustainment operations ever (accept very small deployments and training missions) If the job can’t be done rapidly and handed over to someone else to deal with then the job’s not worth doing period. Europe has 2 million + soldiers capable of such missions but can barley deploy a few brigades in a contested operation away from its shore’s.

    I think this is affordable inside the budget that we have and are likely to keep but it will need new thinking and I don’t think the MOD is there yet. They still look to bench mark themselves against the USA. Who if we are being honest spends with its $650 billion dollar a year budget should probably get allot more bang for its buck. We need to look else where. Just look at what Italy manages to do with just 30% of our budget.

    I also agree about giving up CASD. International politics is as much about appearances as anything else. China is being hailed as a super power now although I doubt their current ability to conduct any operation beyond their first Island chain. Much the same for Russia. Giving up CASD is akin to giving up. If the people want to do this then that’s fine but removal of CASD should be accompanied with the removal of 75% of the defence budget and a pacifist constitution and resignation from UNSC.

  57. martin

    @ Fedaykin

    “UK has one of the largest defence budgets in the world. We have unfortunately been getting poor value out of that budget in many respects.”

    Agreed as I said before just look at what Italy does with its budget vs us with our’s ( I previously misquoted there budget is closer to half than a third of ours. They even manage to fly the exact same aircraft as us and in some way have higher capability i.e. operating F35a and F35B as well as Tonkas and Typhoons. They also have a pretty decent carrier.

  58. martin

    To summarise my point If SDSR 2010 was about anything it was that the illusion of SDR 1998 of being a mini US style force is a fallacy. Our politicians are simply unwilling to fund such a force in peace time (even when the economy is doing well) but I don’t think this mindset has reached the top brass and the politicians have also failed to change their ambitions on the international stage. But going back to Bob’s earlier point I don’t see that SDSR 2010 made a major material change in UK capability other than the “capability holidays” which should mostly be closed again by the end of the decade.

    Its worth noting that all western militaries at present face the same issues. Even the USA has some severe capability gaps with only two combat ready brigades for instance.

  59. All Politicians are the Same

    I really think that a lot of people on here have unusually grasped the wrong end of the stick. Had a chat and quite a debate yesterday about this with a few ” colleagues” yesterday.
    The consensus was that CDS was firing a warning shot to Politicians that any further cuts and indeed no real term increase in funding post 2015 would render the equipment procurement plan meaningless as he would neither be able to man the platforms nor train in order to maximise the potential.
    He was not saying that he does not like having the equipment we do and are planning to procure. Remember he was VCDS and highy involved in this for some time.
    We have accepted for a long time now that we have lacked persistence and are suffering from capability fragility.
    CDS was making the point as clearly as he could that any further cuts would see us lose the capability not merely the ability to persistently employ it.

  60. Phil

    Agreed as I said before just look at what Italy does with its budget vs us with our’s ( I previously misquoted there budget is closer to half than a third of ours.

    We shouldn’t be blinded by force structures and kit. If you can’t employ what you have effectively then you may as well get rid of it. I’d love to see a line by line analysis on how we and other European countries actually spend our military budget and how much is spent on personal kit, fuel, training ammunition, exercises and facilities etc etc etc

  61. martin

    @ Phil

    “We shouldn’t be blinded by force structures and kit. If you can’t employ what you have effectively then you may as well get rid of it. I’d love to see a line by line analysis on how we and other European countries actually spend our military budget and how much is spent on personal kit, fuel, training ammunition, exercises and facilities etc etc etc”

    This is true and there are far too many paper tigers around the world. However with a peace time military arguably the most peaceful time we have ever lived in should we maintain a high state of readiness and be prepared to sacrifice numbers and capabilities or maintain numbers and capabilities and sacrifice readiness. Its a balancing act but one I wonder if our mindset is still on the wrong side of still following the USA’s lead but without the budget.

    @ APATS

    “The consensus was that CDS was firing a warning shot to Politicians that any further cuts and indeed no real term increase in funding post 2015 would render the equipment procurement plan meaningless as he would neither be able to man the platforms nor train in order to maximise the potential.”

    I hope this was his main thrust and not that we need to bin high end capability to have more basic platforms especially on the naval side.

  62. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Martin

    Trust me if CDS was advocating binning high end Naval Platforms then you would have heard from 1 SL by now as he is very very firmly in the FFs can pretend to be a high end OPV but the reverse is impossible. Looking at it logically, having more lower end platforms is not going to save you much in the 2 areas he highlights, manpower and training.

  63. Phil

    should we maintain a high state of readiness and be prepared to sacrifice numbers and capabilities or maintain numbers and capabilities and sacrifice readiness.

    As you say it’s a balance.

    I think the thing to bear in mind is that holding even small force elements at a high readiness costs a lot of money in terms of the kit, the investment in resources the rest of the force has to put in to getting that high readiness force to readiness and keeping it there and the logistical enablers to actually get them from A to B: not to mention the ready reserves of kit and supplies needed for a whole host of potential theatres from desert to arctic and the duplication that involves (for example you don’t need 10,000 pairs of spare boots, you need 10,000 pairs of desert boots and 10,000 pairs of cold wet weather boot and so on and on).

    If we don’t keep a good chunk of the Army at high readiness, with a lack of existential threat, we should logically simply drop it down to a regeneration only force completely.

  64. Think Defence

    Having a pop at the defence industry and our buy British policy….

    He should pop over to France, Germany or the US to see examples a hundred times worse.

    The UK has a remarkably diverse and open defence market and the SDSR 2010 was actually very clear that this would continue and any future programmes would consider exportability before investment decisions.

    Everyone thinks we only buy from BAE but last year, BAE accounted for 14% of the MoD’s procurement spend

  65. Simon

    Well it’s nice to see that this chap has a brain and is not afraid to say it how it is.

    If it really is as doom and gloom as all that then all I can suggest is that we specialise. We do not have the numbers or finances for a broad spectrum capability so should cut the spectrum otherwise we’ll end up with an ineffectual air force, army and navy.

    The only thing I sense from the speech and the ether is that Trident replacement might not happen. This saves us such a lot of money, enough probably to do the other things properly. In fact (although this is a total guess) it probably allows us to concentrate on a decent ballistic missile defence system and associated rocketry to put satellites into orbit to do some bloody proper intel rather than relying on other people for the most basic of military requirements – intelligence.

  66. BigDave243

    As I don’t think its been mentioned yet, yes we have a fairly substantial defence budget (double that of Italy I think someone mentioned?) and it’s been said that we aren’t same bang for our buck with regards to this budget and our procurement of equipment.

    However compared to Italy and probably many of our other allies we (those of us serving and ex serving) probably get paid a significantly higher wage and get a significantly better pension etc. The standard of accommodation (certainly at Brize Norton) is pretty decent so once again a large part of the budget is probably being swallowed up with infrastructure projects like ‘SLAM’ among others.

    So don’t get me wrong equipment is important but so too are the people who use it, giving these people decent wages and accom etc is all part of retention. Without that retention we wouldn’t have an armed forces anyway.

    As for the the ‘hollow force’ stuff……I still think (perhaps wrongly) that the UK armed forces has massive prestige around the world, and our standard of equipment is still pretty high. Like for like we’d give most nations a damn good kicking as we are still one of the best trained armed forces in the world.

    Anyway that’s just my opinion and i’m sure i’ll get shot down soon enough.

  67. Phil

    The only thing I sense from the speech and the ether is that Trident replacement might not happen.

    That decision is WAY above him.

  68. dgos

    As matter of interest do we still have adequate domestic capability to produce sufficient explosive , propellants and even ammunition.( I get impression that we import a lot now.)

    Can this be ramped up in time if we get in high usage state

    I include nitric and sulphuric acids in game.

    Similarly with electronic / computer components!

  69. HurstLlama

    “I still think (perhaps wrongly) that the UK armed forces has massive prestige around the world, and our standard of equipment is still pretty high.”

    We certainly have some very good kit, not much of it, but it is jolly capable stuff. As for the prestige of UK armed forces around the world, I fear you may be a tad optimistic. Fallen far and still falling, might be a better description, particularly amongst those who do not wish us well.

    Decision makers in the chancelleries of Europe and Asia will have looked at the events of the last decade or so and drawn their own conclusions, totally uninfluenced by HMG spin-doctors. Good people, good kit but not much of either and a lack of political will to actually do (and spend) what is necessary to achieve what we say are our aims, might be the lesson some may, reasonably, draw. A toothless old lion who dreams its dreams but no longer has the energy or will to hunt and will run away if seriously challenged.

    Mind you that’s not just us. The same could be said for all of Europe and, increasingly, of the USA.

  70. Phil

    A toothless old lion who dreams its dreams but no longer has the energy or will to hunt and will run away if seriously challenged.

    Three interventions in 13 years one of which has involved boots on the ground and fighting for 12 years yet we run away when seriously challenged?!

    I’ll grant you we bit off more than we were willing or could chew in 2006-2009 but it’s quite some running away if it takes 13 years!

    I turned 18 in 2001 – my entire adult life so far, has been coloured by over a decade of continuous combat across two continents in three separate theatres. My boss’s sisters husband is dead. My other half’s friend is dead. This is without my military connections. Former members of my local TA detachment are dead. Immediate military colleagues are dead. Again, this is quite some running away.

  71. BigDave243


    There many words my friends would describe me with….optimistic isn’t one of them ;-)

    On the matter of our reputation, there are still alot of countries who come to the UK to train, using the likes of Cranwell, Sandhurst and whatever the Naval equivalent is (please excuse my ignorance). The pessimist in me says they are taking advantage of us…..the optimist in me says that we still train the very best.

    Even the RAF’s basic training is 10 weeks long now, thats only 2 weeks shy of the USMC training the ‘elite’ of the US armed forces.

  72. wf

    @Phil: I’m afraid @HurstLama is right. We’ve suffered, but our politicians and top brass have developed a “peacekeeping” mentality, where our word is given freely, but it carries an indeterminate expiration date. We won the Cold War because we were believed when we said we would fight, and we proved it in the FI.

    I’m sure we are admired when it comes to the tactical level, where no one doubts we are amongst the best. But wars are not won by doing platoon and company attacks, and having seen examples of the British Army being challenged to “bring it” in Iraq, and having our top brass (including the then COS!) basically say, “we can’t, please can we fight somewhere else instead?”, no one still thinks we’re something to be feared long term. We will have to “prove it” again, probably rather sooner than we would wish.

  73. Phil

    We’ve suffered, but our politicians and top brass have developed a “peacekeeping” mentality,

    Where’s the evidence of that? Brimstones firing at Libyans, drones smashing Talibans, soldiers advancing to contact from over a hundred check points and bases in Afghanistan and an armoured division driving into an Iraqi city. Where’s the peacekeeping mentality? I don’t see it. It was there in the 90s when we could afford to have a blue beanie mentality but I really see little evidence of it since then. Well over a hundred thousand servicemen have rotated through operational tours in the last decade, the vast minority wearing blue.

    Army being challenged to “bring it” in Iraq, and having our top brass (including the then COS!) basically say, “we can’t, please can we fight somewhere else instead?”

    Because politicians wanted out and then sent resources to Helmand. If you read into the campaign you will see that the CDS etc were given what they were given – there was no political will to hang around in Iraq because it was a political shitstorm from D-Day minus 365 let alone D-Day + 1000.

    You’re confusing perfectly normal (if lamentable) political forces with a lack of desire or willingness to fight. A decade of fighting shows clearly that we will commit when we need to – but nearly all commitments will be highly political.

    Honestly – I doubt there are many states out there betting their existence on Britain running away like a girl from a fight. The same Britain who risked her entire fleet for a bog nobody previously had given two shits about. The same Britain who invaded a sovereign nation because of the moral compass of its Prime Minister. The same Britain who fought for 13 years in Afghanistan for its fourth party over there.

  74. wf

    @Phil: it’s easy to do quick “some fighting, then home for tea and medals” campaigns, especially when your casualties are minimal. What counts, and what has been missing over the last couple of decades (hence why I noted the Cold War and FI as exceptions), is the determination to achieve the stated political objectives, whatever the cost.

    The last decade has seen a lack of commitment to meet our stated objectives. There’s not much we could do about Afghanistan once Obama grandly declared he was going to withdraw in 2009, but we ran away from Iraq as soon as we could get away with it despite our position being entirely recoverable, as the Yanks promptly proved. When the Army COS says “get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems” he was both wrong and an idiot: you cannot gain allies in COIN that way, and the effect on our current allies was and still is disastrous.

    Countries don’t need to bet their existence on us fighting or not, because we are very unlikely to ever threaten the former. As the Iranian’s have proved more than once, there’s precious little downside to attacking the British armed forces, and once you’ve let that slide, our formerly “critical interests” will suddenly become “negotiatable”. Firing missiles with no risk to our people doesn’t impress anyone.

  75. Bob

    And the greatest denial of all raises it’s head. The UK has very little militarily in the last 12 years. The US had to clear up it’s mess in both Iraq and Afghanistan- and that was with the pre-2010 force.

    The toothless old lion comment above was the most accurate and realistic in this thread.

  76. Phil

    What counts, and what has been missing over the last couple of decades (hence why I noted the Cold War and FI as exceptions), is the determination to achieve the stated political objectives, whatever the cost.

    The invasion of Iraq occurred and was pushed forward even though it was very nearly fatal to the politicians in question. That shows determination to gain the objectives stated. That things went tits up does not show a lack of determination, it shows politicians making a political calculation that a war that started out as a shitstorm was going to remain a political sword of Damocles hanging over their heads the longer it went on.

    The objectives in Afghanistan have been pursued at the cost of billions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of troops and nearly 500 UK lives in a decade of engagement and almost endless tedious news about failure and wasted lives and neo-colonialism. But when push came to shove, beyond the media types most people are happy to let the Government get on with it and so the Government has got on with it.

    That Afghanistan must end at some point is common sense, not running away.

    but we ran away from Iraq as soon as we could get away with it despite our position being entirely recoverable, as the Yanks promptly proved.

    I’d check fire on any pronouncements about the Yanks fixing fuck all in Iraq unless being off the news and no more dead soldiers is called fixing (which it so often unfortunately is considered to be).

    Firing missiles with no risk to our people doesn’t impress anyone.

    If Gaddafi was alive I’m sure he’d be sticking his hand up in the air at this point.

    Again you’re mixing up political decision making with a lack of determination when we have shown anything but when the issues have been clear cut.

    Iraq was never clear cut but we still invaded.

    The Falklands were and we risked the cream of the Navy.

    Afghanistan was and we spent 13 years there.

    The Cold War was the very definition of an existential threat hence a 50 year presence in Germany.

    It’s quite obvious to me that the risk aversion he was talking about was in the political domain – that politicians shouldn’t put their necks above British interests and bottle it because things might not go well or all according to plan. Not in how the armed forces conduct their operations. When things are pretty clear cut and the interest clear the politicians send Tommy on his way and they keep him there for decades.

  77. Phil

    The toothless old lion comment above was the most accurate and realistic in this thread.

    Bob just fuck off. I don’t agree with wf but at least he’s making an argument unlike you, you complete turd.

    TD feel free to roll my dummy spitting back!

  78. Bob


    And there is denial in it’s extreme form. It is a fact that the UK screwed-up Basra (corrected by the Iraqi Army with US support) and it was the massive USMC build-up that stabilised Helmand. The pre-2010 force, in terms of achieving definable objectives, proved inadequate and now that force as been further reduced.

    You can get as angry about it as you like and throw around every expletive you can think off but that is the harsh reality.

  79. All Politicians are the Same

    One of the isdues we have faced and now face to an even greater degree is force level planning. It is fine to say we can almost indefinitely rotate a Brigade Plus force on Ops but what happens when you have to reinforce or “surge” midway through to get out of the shit?
    Twice we have seen this and twice the US has stepped in. We need to ensure this is taken into account in future planning, especially if we decide to embark in any more US led elective COIN Ops with dubious objectives and zero exit strategy.

  80. Phil

    And there is denial in it’s extreme form. It is a fact that the UK screwed-up Basra (corrected by the Iraqi Army with US support) and it was the massive USMC build-up that stabilised Helmand. The pre-2010 force, in terms of achieving definable objectives, proved inadequate and now that force as been further reduced.

    It was the build-up in general that stabilised Helmand Bob. The stabilisation was done as part of an alliance – which is precisely how alliances are meant to function. It is the purpose of the alliance – being part of the alliance was in itself a key capability that has been maintained at great expense.

    That troop density was a key element to get anywhere there is a week one, day one staff college lesson.

    But that wouldn’t fit in with your tedious troll agenda would it?

    You can get as angry about it as you like and throw around every expletive you can think off but that is the harsh reality.


  81. Bob


    Interesting attempt at spin but you can’t hide the truth. The UK was responsible for Helmand and could not generate the force to meet the objective- so the USMC had to come in and bail them out.

  82. Phil

    Twice we have seen this and twice the US has stepped in.

    Twice the US has deployed capabilities in mutual interest as part of an alliance to achieve mutual objectives.

    This is precisely how alliances are meant to work.

    On what planet do we have to feel shame that we achieved (for the sake of argument) objectives with the assistance of an alliance? An alliance is a capability as much as an aircraft carrier is. Do you think the Russians would get all sentimental and shameful or give a toss as long as the job was done and they came out with a big tick in the box? Nope. In fact it is such a second nature train of thought to them that they constantly accused us of exploiting our alliance with them from 41-45 and using them to achieve our object.

  83. wf

    @Phil: “The invasion of Iraq occurred and was pushed forward even though it was very nearly fatal to the politicians in question. That shows determination to gain the objectives stated. That things went tits up does not show a lack of determination, it shows politicians making a political calculation that a war that started out as a shitstorm was going to remain a political sword of Damocles hanging over their heads the longer it went on.”

    Some of that is true, although the Nelsonian ability to draw down forces in Iraq despite the obvious need for them to remain is hardly “determination”. The initial war was not unpopular either, despite all the marching. The trouble is that you are assuming political will is something different from national will. We elect politicians to manage the state for us, and their decisions are national ones, not sitting in some mythical “political sphere”. Blair’s decisions are rightly seen as British ones, and will be remembered long past the time his perma-tan has faded. When he said our objective was an Iraqi democracy, then he has to behave and act as though this was the case. He did not, and so everyone else to whom we address warnings and concerns from here onward will take them with a large pinch of salt. They wouldn’t have done that in 1983….

    Gaddafi is actually not an example of us impressing everyone, because the risks to us were low, and despite some SF operations, we worked to keep them so: we were never going to land an armoured brigade at Benghazi and said so repeatedly. Very PC to hamstring yourself while your enemies would never dream of doing the same….

  84. Phil

    The UK was responsible for Helmand and could not generate the force to meet the objective- so the USMC had to come in and bail them out.

    Bailing out, working together to achieve mutual aims.

    I mean you could look at it like the USMC were our little bitches and you came running when we called.

    Or we could just think of an alliance in the same manner countries have thought of them for a thousand plus years – as adjuncts to security and a perfectly valid and useful tool of statecraft, membership of which is a defence capability in itself.

  85. Phil

    Some of that is true, although the Nelsonian ability to draw down forces in Iraq despite the obvious need for them to remain is hardly “determination”.

    You could say the opposite if we get pedantic and discuss the nature of determination. Not withdrawing every soldier on May 1st when Bush proclaimed victory and keeping them in the field for 5 more years despite things going south might be said to show determination. In the end the decision was political – Iraq simply did not have the legs Afghanistan did. So we switched fire.

    The initial war was not unpopular either, despite all the marching.

    That is wishful thinking – it was unpopular where it counted – in the Chamber. Not to mention constant criticism from the media. Iraq was a huge thorn in Blair’s side and its completely tainted him beyond redemption in most people’s eyes. He wanted out as soon as he possibly could – he wanted a strategic raid by driving a division into Basra and then pissing off for tea and handing out medals. The whole campaign was a gross military and political miscalculation.

    They wouldn’t have done that in 1983….

    You’d have to be pretty retarded to ignore the fact we invaded the place in the first instance. I think we forget now just what an incredible decision that was. Pre-emptively invading a sovereign state in the 21st century by two democracies. It was a stupendous decision to make. Far more ground breaking than 9/11 was. That it went tits up doesn’t detract that we did it in the first place and thereby crossed a rubicon and also that we remained engaged somewhere else for 5 years after pulling out of Iraq.

  86. Bob


    Your level of delusion is a wonder to behold, it really is. But you can not change the facts- the UK could not generate the required force to meet the objectives in Helmand so the USMC had to come and bail them out. This is because, even prior to 2010, the UK was too militarily weak to meet it’s ambitions.

  87. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Phil

    If the theater level planning nominated US assets as the “reinforcements” for UK led areas then I have no issues. That is how ops on that level should work. If we let it be known or even thought that we could surge to support our own assets then had to go cap in hand to the US then heads should have rolled.

    I am in the wrong service and too far down the food chain to know which it was.


    The initial war in Iraq was anything but popular and that was before we discovered Tom Clancy (RIP) had written the intelligence estimate.

    The UK impressed a lot of people in Libya making a huge contribution to the Command Infrastructure, especially organising the set up and battle rhythms as well as niche capabilities. Staff Legal advice was almost solely UK, the reorganisation of merchant traffic in and out was achieved by some very talented RNR Officers.

    I could talk about SSN contribution but will refrain.

    Of course none of that is bloody enough for you?

  88. Phil

    This is because, even prior to 2010, the UK was too militarily weak to meet it’s ambitions.

    Those ambitions were never framed in a unilateral manner. Afghanistan was always going to be a coalition effort and the intervention was undertaken in that vein.

    The lengths you go to to troll, including making the self-sacrifice of deploying arguments of a High School student level that make you look incapable of any sort of nuanced thought, are a wonder to behold also Bob. You are a very determined troll to the point of being quite happy to make yourself look dense in the process.

  89. Bob


    You efforts at diversion and spewing of insults are all very telling- that even you know you are wrong but can not bring yourself to admit it. The UK took responsibility for Helmand- that was it’s coalition role, then could not generate the force necessary to meet that objective so had to be bailed out by the USMC. It needed to be bailed out because of it’s military weakness and it thus failed in it’s role even within a coalition.

  90. All Politicians are the Same


    My point stands and I do not know the answer, what was the theater level contingency plan to up scale Ops in Helmand? It had to exist (assuming a semi competent command staff overseeing whole country ops). Was it alwsys going to be US forves if required?

  91. Phil

    Bob I’m not repeating myself.

    If it calms you down and makes your carers job easier then sure, the USMC bailed us out.

  92. Bob


    I have been perfectly calm, you were the one spewing insults and expletives. But yes, your admission of reality is certainly an improvement.


    The situation was exactly as I described. The UK took responsibility for Helmand, there was no plan for a greater US involvement, but the situation deteriorated rapidly and the UK could not generate the required force so the USMC had to come in.

  93. All Politicians are the Same

    Have you ever served on a Command Staff? There would have been a plan for contingent ops in Helmand. I would merely be interested in what it was.

  94. Phil


    It would be interesting to know. And as we know the initial idea of what was going to happen down there turned out to be a bit wrong.

  95. wf

    @Phil, under international law Iraq is just fine and dandy. Iraq had not complied with the ceasefire agreement (ratified by three Security Council resolutions) and hence GW1 could restart at any time. Blair even got Westminster to vote approval (a mere two days in advance!). The fact that Blair (unlike the Americans, who were planning, however incompetently, for a 4-5 year occupation) wanted to hit and leave ASAP merely demonstrates he lacked the qualities to be a British PM.

    @APATS: Iraq is now a very dodgy democracy. But unlike 1990-2003, it is now, 2 years plus after the last foreign troops have left, not a threat to the wider Middle East and it does not require a British and US garrison stationed on it’s borders at all times. It, thanks mainly to the US, is a qualified win. Afghanistan, on the other hand, will rapidly revert to status quo ante within a few years of us leaving. No one is going to look back in 2020 and say, “qualified win in Afghanistan” . Even the results of the old colonial wars will look better then, with the exception of Elphinstone’s expedition, naturally

  96. MrBeanCounter


    I’m new round here so I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember this:


    Now I don’t for a moment consider this to be an example of the US needing to be bailed out by the plucky Brits, more like sensible allocation of forces in theatre as needs dictate. But I’m happy to have your thoughts….

  97. HurstLlama

    @Phil December 20, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Please re-read what I said. I make no criticism of our people, they are good, very good, have done and always will do everything that is asked of them. That is one part of the UK defence force’s reputation, its prestige.

    However, from an outsiders perspective, which is what I was replying to, it doesn’t matter that you and I (and I go back a long way further than you) have lost friends in action, people who died doing what they joined up to do bravely and to the best of their considerable abilities. People outside look at a wider picture, and what they see is not Tommy Atkins doing his bit with the same dogged bloodymindedness he has displayed since Senlac Ridge. They might look at numbers and they will certainly look at what happened.

    With the best will in the world, I cannot see how our performance in Southern Iraq could be described as anything other than a failure that culminated in us running away. Nothing to do with the calibre of the troops on the ground, everything to do with the lack of will by our politicians to a) commit the resources necessary to do the job that they didn’t plan for but committed us to anyway and b) stomach the casualties that would have ensued if they had. So a deal was done by us with the bad guys and we fucked off leaving them in charge.

    In Afghanistan we see a similar sequence of events. No proper planning, massive optimism, insufficient resources committed, too many casualties for the Nation to stomach, failure of strategic aims (in so far as they were ever declared) and withdrawal.

    As for Libya, technically a very proficient campaign that has left the country in chaos, big chunks of it in the hands of our enemies and apparently created the biggest supply of black-market arms (including surface to air missiles) non-state actors have ever seen. Our enemies are pissing themselves laughing, our friends are in despair.

    At sea, well the Iranians tested us a few years ago and what they found cheered them up no end. Full respect to our RN members here but the state of our Navy is a disgrace, again no fault of the lower deck or even the current wardrooms.

    Now, you and I can debate the finer points, but we are both on the side of the angels and what we think don’t matter when it comes to the prestige of British Forces. It is what the others think especially those who do not mean us well. So, unpalatable as it may be, I think I’ll stand by metaphor of the toothless old lion dreaming his dreams.

  98. Fedaykin

    The thing is Bob you are right the UK made a mess of Basra and the USMC had to bail us out in Hellmand but you are being rather dismissive of the blood sacrifice made by my country. The UK could of not got involved at all in either conflicts yet there are still troops in Afghanistan now, we didn’t cut an run like some countries globally. In the 1990s somebody could join the army realistically thinking that they might never see combat. In the last decade an eighteen year old recruit was guaranteed combat. Regardless of the decisions made by the politicians or the often naivety of our senior officers our troops have seen real combat and we have suffered many casualties. That is why people are getting a bit upset at you. When we have been watching this over the last thirteen years:

    It is hardly surprising that people are going to be a bit sensitive, the problem is you are coming over a bit like you want rub are noses in it. Now I am not insulting you are dismissing you points about Basra or Hellmand just asking you understand the sensitivities. Yes the UK is far more militarily weak in comparison to even ten years ago but please understand that we haven’t cut and run, we have offered up the lives of our young men and woman as an ally to America. American domestic public opinion required it to be seen that there were other countries supporting those operations, we have done that at great cost. Finally have a look at this website and then consider if the UK has cut and run:

    Finally before you put finger to keyboard again have a look at this first Bob and then consider what sacrifice means:

    Again I am not shouting at you Bob, I agree with some the strategic points you are making, I am typing this completely calmly and I am not dismissing your points but you do need to understand that there are some sensitivities around this matter.

  99. Bob

    My understanding was there was no contingency plan for a large US troop deployment to Southern Afghanistan- this was a direct consequence of British military failure. Just as Charge of the Knights was in Basra.


    Great analysis.

  100. Phil

    under international law Iraq is just fine and dandy.

    I’m really not arguing it’s not. But it was a hand grenade. I’m again not saying it would have bought down Blair or anything like that but from reading sources and even Blair’s autobiography it is quite clear he wanted in, photo op, then out. The rest of the campaign was gradual build up of tension which developed into a bun fight over resources and then things really dropped in the shitter in July 2006. Blair was like a schoolkid pacing up and down waiting for his parents to finish getting dressed before taking him to Disney land – he was very impatient to walk away as soon as he conceivably could and Afghan added to that pressure.

    wanted to hit and leave ASAP merely demonstrates he lacked the qualities to be a British PM.

    You partake of too much Churchill! He wanted to hit and run and intelligent people in the armed forces on both sides of the pond still think you can hit and run (strategic raiding…). It’s hardly his fault as a non-specialist that he couldn’t see he was walking into a web.

  101. HurstLlama

    “as we know the initial idea of what was going to happen down there [Iraq] turned out to be a bit wrong.”

    Masterly understatement.

    “There would have been a plan for contingent ops in Helmand. ”

    I think you mean there SHOULD have been a plan for contingent ops in Helmand. Given that it all started to go horribly wrong in 2006, when we first committed overt troops onto the ground and almost immediately thereafter tore up the plan for their deployment (from which situation we were only rescued by that base bloody mindedness of the Tommy Atkins – in that case displayed by the Paras), I don’t think there was ever any proper planning above the tactical level. Force levels in those days were decided by that one-eyed maniac in the treasury not what was required to do the job his boss had committed us to (e.g. one RM Commando was forced to leave people behind because to take the whole lot would have contravened HM Treasury spending limits).

  102. Phil

    Please re-read what I said. I make no criticism of our people, they are good, very good,

    I’m not saying you criticised people, and even if you did it’s fair cop. What I meant was even though outside of my time in the forces as it were, I do not move in military circles I still know people who have suffered losses. A decade of fighting has affected the country more than I think we realise. It sadden me how many people I know genuinely know someone who hasn’t come home alive. The effects are deep and they have been sustained.

    With the best will in the world, I cannot see how our performance in Southern Iraq could be described as anything other than a failure that culminated in us running away.

    I really haven’t made my final mind up about Iraq yet. All I know is that it was a fuck up of biblical proportions from the get go and there’s enough buckets of shit to be poured over everyone’s heads several times over. The grand context was we dipped our toe into Helmand and then just didn’t have the political will to remain in Iraq. The history of the insurgency is a history of us trying to get out because after a short while it became obvious where it was all going. The Americans again won lots of battles but Iraq is hardly looking like a healthy country at the moment – the only difference is it is now looking too inward to be a bother to the US. But really the US didn’t need to spend 7 years and 4,000 dead achieving that.

    Prestige is a straw man in my view. Capabilities are what counts and the facts are except for a few neo-colonial interventions, upstream engagement and possibly the bog down south we will always be bringing along our friends (and us with them) and that is a huge capability right there.

    Any enemy sees a country with a powerful say in the most powerful alliance in history with a decade of invasion and fighting behind it. People talk about “oh we’ll never do another war like Afghan”. Well in 1999 people were saying we’d never be able to withstand a few tens of dead and that our enemies knew this. They were wrong.

  103. Phil

    Force levels in those days were decided by that one-eyed maniac in the treasury not what was required to do the job his boss had committed us to

    Always has been, even in WWII there was no blank cheque until the Americans began lend-lease. There were serious concerns about foreign currency reserves and finances in general – no money, no swiss.

  104. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Bob

    If there was no plan for contingency ops of any sort then heads on staff should have rolled. That is gross incompetence. My interest is in who signed up to support any such ops.


    The Iranians tested the RN on a few occasions post Cumberland and came off 2nd best. Including 1 CO driving a 22 Batch 3 between the IRGC and a merchant vessel they were attacking and using the 4.5 to force a rethink. The Cumberland episode was embarassing although other than conduct after capture they did the right thing. However the inquest was very bloody and the outcomes in training and procedures profound.
    Easy to smirk about Libya but would you have let Gadafi massacre the population of Benghazi? That was where we were before the French decided to intervene. We acted iaw a UN Security council resolution. It was also a NATO op so any and I detect little despair is equally shared.

    Reference the respect for the armed forces. I sat in a room in Kuwait Naval Base in 2006 and the Head of the Kuwaiti Navy would have signed a training contract there and then but he wanted uniformed training personnel. mOD wanted to use bloody Flag Ship :(

    This thread has become a ” we are all doomed thread” notably not by those actually serving though.

  105. Phil

    This thread has become a ” we are all doomed thread” notably not by those actually serving though.

    That’s because you’re indoctrinated and in denial ;-)

  106. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Hurst Lama

    Afghanistan was a NATO mission, having worked in NATO command HQs it is a failure at the top not to have had an ISAF plan for contingency ops.

  107. HurstLlama

    Mr. APATS,

    Re the incident in the Gulf, I think you meant HMS Cornwall, not HMS Cumberland. You might want to clarify your post.

    The problem with the Cornwall incident was what it showed us and the world about the quality of the RN people, then. I am aware that measures have been taken since, but by the cringe they were embarrassing and not just the people involved but right up to the admiral who met them with their goody-bags. Very few people will have heard of the other incidents you mention, but they lots will remember the conduct of HMS Cornwall and her crew and the response of the RN. Cunningham (“it takes two years to build a ship and two centuries to build a reputation. The Navy stays”) must still be spinning in his grave.

  108. All Politicians are the Same


    I am neither in denial or delusion. I have a full understanding of our capabilities. I also understand our issues with persistence and some of our capabilities are fragile.
    In order to avoid exacerbating the situation we need to avoid further cuts ( the point CDS makes). IMHO and as I pointed out earlier we also need to be careful about being dragged into elective wars and if we do so we should have clear plans to reinforce troops on the ground and an exit strategy.
    None of that makes us doomed nor me in denial or suffering from delusions.

  109. All Politicians are the Same

    @ HL

    No need for Mr in front of monikers.

    Sorry Cumberland was the other T22 B3 I was referring to. Yes was embarassing but your phrase branding the entire Navy a disgrace today in 2013 was an unfounded and ill informed slur.
    Trust me the IRGC has noted the difference.

  110. HurstLlama


    I am very pleased to note that HMS Cumberland was at the forefront of correcting the IRGC’s idea of the RN’s capabilities and attitudes. A proud ship and a worthy successor to her WWII namesake, with which I have family connections and whose story I have been researching for years and will, one day, finally publish.

    Nonetheless, I did say that the current state of the RN was a disgrace and I will stand by that remark. Good kit, some very good people. Not enough of either.

  111. wf

    @APATS: so…regarding the Cornwall incident. Did the presence of a female inhibit their response to the IRGC ambush? Just setting the cat amongst the pigeons, you understand :-)

  112. dgois

    Suggest that a study of the Endurance enquiry gives a worrying view of current competence in RN. in what I always thought was core competence. ie control of critical engineering work.

    Most ex RN engineering personnel I have worked with have been very good.

    I would have been well and truly bollocked for far less what went on there. (and I might add was!)

  113. Lord Jim

    For decades the Government/Treasury has looked upon the Defence as only needing to spend the “Minimum Wage” on it and going to Wonga.com or UORs to hold things together on operations. In the 1990′s there was the major rethink in the MOD and the introduction of “Capability Managers”. Unfortunately the focus has always been on the capability and not Capacity. On a recent Question Time in Portsmouth a Government Minister countered claims that the Royal Navy was too small by saying with the new carriers Portsmouth would be hoem to more Naval tonnage than ever!!! I wonder which Spin Doctor came up with that one?

    Well since the 1990′s the Treasury has used to golden Egg of Capability to drasticall reduce our capacity of our armed forces and their effectiveness. Yes we have some fantastic kit but it can only be in one place at a time, it will not be in sufficent numbers to be effective and we won’t have the spares to keep it operational. Add to this there will be insufficent kit to allow proper training especially for Reservists and Territorials so only a limited pool of personnel will be able to use it, inreasing the number of choke points in the Armed forces personnel skill sets.

    CDS’s speech was a breath of fresh air, with him steering as close as he could to the edge without declaring war on the Government. Will anyone take notice? Probably not as defence will not even appear on the radar at the next General Election.

    In a previous rant I stated that the balance of FF2020 was wrong and I stand by this. Enduring operations are Toxic to our Armed Forces and as CDS stated we seem preoccupied in planning to fight top tier state on state engagements. Yes I know the arguements about crystal balls and not knowing what the future holds, but even a basic risk assessment shows we are far more likely to be involved in mainly intervention against low tier opposition and COIN operations. For this we do not need Heavy assets but rather light and medium formations backed up by sufficient air and naval assets to provide air superiority, air to ground support, air and sea mobility and air and sea logistics. If you control the air you do not need a tank to take on the enemy’s armour, a Hellfire or Brimstone does that for you. Sufficent ISTAR assets allow you situational awareness that limits the need for aggressive patroling and airmobility reduces the vulnerability to IEDs. Medium Armour provides acceptable protection form IEDs and RPGs as well as effective fire support.

    WE have a budget and cannot have all the toys we want. I said before the 2010 SDSR we must concentrate on what we really need. To work that out we have to be realistic about what threats we will face and stay focused. The CDS seems to agree with this chain of thought. His worries about FF2020 are very real. To meet its target we need to speed up the removal of redundant eqipment to free up funding for essential equipment. An example would be the Artillery. GMLRS and the AS-90 are great pieces of kit but what we really need is a light weight 155mm able to fire GPS munitions and a much lighter GMLRS like the US HIMARS. Army kit costs peanuts compared to the major air and naval programmes and if the MOD can retain its underspends then this is a feasible programme especially as the logistical tail of the new systems is far smaller than what it replaces.

    DO we need FRES SV, NO!!! we have the Warrior 2 comming on line and the infrastructure in place to support it. We need a medium APC to equip the majority of our Infantry battalions, using a platform that can be used for a multitude of roles. The Modular Boxer fits this perfectly and was designed to UK requirements.

    These are two examples of where the Army needs to go. As for the RAF, well its future is the Typhoon and UAV/UCAVs for its spear point with more of each than is curretnly planned. The F-35 needs to be a Naval programme but obviously RAF personnel will swap into the system. As for the Navy, the T-26 should be the platform we need but I would rather have a few more than have just 13 “Gucci” platforms. The new OPVs are a good sigh, but additional platforms to allow rotation to permenent overseas station would be better, say 6-8 instead of just 3. Crowsnest need to be accelerated to be in service the same time as the new Carriers as does an order for sufficient F-35s to allow them to operate as Carriers and not simply a replacement for HMS Ocean.

    So we need to focus on who we are likely to face, what we really need including manpower and ensure at the very least there are no further cuts to the Defence Budget upto and beyond 2020, Oh and teh Trident replacemnt must be funded outside the Core Budget or scrapped!!!

  114. martin

    The US had to clear up it’s mess in both Iraq and Afghanistan- and that was with the pre-2010 force.

    I might agree in Iraq Bob but we are still in the stan and as your best Marines needed bailed out by the RAF regiment no so long ago I would not be too quick to throw stones.

    As for Iraq we may have headed for the door early as we were not overly keen on a massacre of civilians storming into Basara but who were the muppets that caused the post war Iraq mess in the first place. Who were the as*holes that disbanded the Iraq army and left the country in chaos. Who thought they could invade and hold a country the size of Iraq with a handful of divisions. That was not on us and given the decent job we were doing in Basara until the entire sectarian mess blew up you could understand our frustration at the lead partner and our unwillingness to get sucked in further. fourteen years fighting your wars with you side by side you would think we might expect a little gratitude. We have certainly given you more support that your “greatest ally” Israel or your “oldest Israel” France.

  115. martin

    “Yes we have some fantastic kit but it can only be in one place at a time”

    But for a peace time military who has only fought ellective wars for the past 70 years do we need to be in more than one place at a time. Yes we will only have 7 Astute submarines but if we sent them all to the same place at the same time we could probably sink almost any battle fleet fielded by any navy with the exclusion of the USA (and we would make a bloody mess of even that)

    We can’t justify invading a country unless we have a UN resolution and broad coallition so we don’t have a need to deploy a corps anywhere a light division will do. Same goes for enduring ops. Sustaing a light brigade is enough. What we do need to have because no one other than the USA has it is the ability to hit hard and fast with a resanably sized force in a single theatre and be home in time for tea and medals.

  116. martin

    @ Lord Jim – I agree that the Trident project should be funded outside of the core equiptment plan. Perhaps the CDS and other senior staff should make a point of this i.e. scrap successor or fund it out of the treasury or we will resign because the core budget cant handle it. I think nay government will role over on a threat like this especially if new in office. Having a mass resignation of all senior staff for the want of a billion a year would seem like a pretty simple political face saver.

    If we can get a steady budget atleast increasing with inflation and no successor program to pay for then we are not in too bad a shape.

  117. Red Trousers

    Re HMS Cornwall,

    What happened was disgraceful, but I would focus more blame on the ship’s Captain and those above him in the chain of command resposnsible for intelligence threat assessments and ROE. You don’t blame the sailors.

    I’m pleased to read APATS’ response that things have tightened up since. I don’t know what happened to the Captain and others, but hopefully they were court martialled and got rid of.

  118. Topman

    Not sure but I think CM are publically announced, not sure anyone would want a media frenzy over that particular incident. I think in the case of the RN it would be let sleeping dogs lie at least publically.

  119. x

    @ Red Trousers re F99

    No sorry you cannot blame the captain. You can start your blame chain further up.

    I would say blaming Cornwall is like blaming a infantry battalion CO for sending his men out in Snatch Land Rovers and shooting only when under fire.

    Yes you are right about the intelligence. How the Iranians operated around the Shatt Al Arab shouldn’t have been news at all.

    What was needed at the minimum were additional ship’s boats to provide additional cover, and for the boarding parties Marines not dabtoes or loggies or clankies wanting the occasional boat ride to break the monotony of ship’s routine . What should have been provided was a dedicated depot ship (say Galahad), proper boats (initially RIBs t small PBs to built), a few Mk10, a commando, and something should have been done to mark out Iraqi waters (though problematic).

    I know I bang on about frigates being ultra flexible. But for a sustained task within a sensitive area with limited sea room not the right tool beyond the first year. But as we all know there was no post war plan, the Admiralty is bereft of leadership and imagination, and Blair was reluctant to spend money that didn’t buy votes at home.

  120. WiseApe

    @Simon – I think perhaps Martin is just “rubbing it in,” not behaviour I condone towards our new bestest allies.

    “Syria vote was an out break of common sense.” – here here.

    What hope the next SDSR will actually live up to its name? Given the lack of run away success of IDS’s plans to reduce the Welfare State, I am expecting another round of pruning here, nip and tuck there. Same carry on.

  121. All Politicians are the Same

    There were Marines in the boarding party but I do not blame any of the actual boarding team. Other than for some of the behaviour post capture.
    A few thoughts of mine.

    1. The RM Officer was correct to decide that heavily outnumbered engaging HMGs with small arms was a losing proposition.
    2. We were in a period where we were being non confrontational, we did not want to escalate the situation. What would the fall out have been over a short sharp firefight resulting in 15 dead RM/RN personnel?
    3. We had got into complacent routines and had not even completed a Command Estimate for the boarding. No thought given to enemies most dangerous course of action or a response.
    4. Why did we not withdraw the team when we had to recover the helicopter?
    5. Yes we probably could use more suitable assets but see point 3.
    6. There had been no conduct after capture training completed?

  122. Mark

    You know if the general is correct and less state on state conflict is likely and more irregular warfare is the future and that the RN is short of manpower and were too kit centric then why not flog pow to brazil (there in need of a new carrier ) and run on ocean and with the manpower saved from needing to run 2 carriers you may even be able to keep the rivers to take up some frigate strain and we don’t have to buy anymore f35 ticks all the boxes.

  123. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Mark

    I will be shocked if we see both Carriers running simultaneously. I think we will have an LPD cycle with the ability to run the 2nd in a limited way in a crisis or work it up properly over a longer period should the geo political landscape change.

  124. Simon

    Anyone know it there is a “light” crew designed for the carriers when operating as an LPH?

    I find it hard to believe that it would need the full 600 when pootling around as a floating copter pad.

  125. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Simon

    Somebody would have to write the Scheme of Complemen or (SOC) for a Carrier as an LPH. This was done when we started using the Invincibles in this role.
    This is very difficult to do until we refine the Carrier SOC so unlikely to happen for a few years.

  126. Red Trousers


    Respectfully, I think you have misread what I wrote, and misinterpreted accordingly.

    I said that the Captain and others above him should be blamed.

    A bit of Google reveals that the Captain Commander Jeremy Woods was relieved of command (ie sacked) several months later. Not immediately by flash signal, but several months later. The Admiralty themselves need to answer why, as well as asking which gold-cuffed utter twonk thought it wise to let the sailors sell their stories to the press.

    Sailors are no longer fighting people. It’s not their fault, the last 20 years of recruiting policy have chosen technicians to operate complex equipment. They don’t have a spit in the enemy’s eye mentality. They should not have been put in that position by their Captain. He should have been better supported by accurate Int, decent ROE, and an embarked squad of RM from the old FPG RM, and also given some training in common sense.

    Officers, particularly COs, of all 3 services have responsibilities not only for their soldiers/sailors/airmen, but when deployed for our national reputation. Commander Jeremy Woods RN appears to have got away very lightly indeed for his utter and total failure to protect either his sailors on the day, or our national reputation. Only he decided upon that course of action, and he has not been court martial led. Frankly he should have been, along with others above him for their contributing parts to a systemic failure.

  127. All Politicians are the Same

    @ RT

    The boarding party was a mix of RM and RN. The ROE and desecalatory policy was HMG. Look at my points, it was a systemic failure at several levels but a Court Martial of the CO for following laid down SOPs ( as flawed, stale and complacent as they were) would have had no chance of success.

    Out of interest what should the CO have done?

  128. Red Trousers


    He should have used his common sense. The sea was calm enough to launch 2 RHIBs, so it was calm enough for his on board systems to conduct a horizon scan that would have detected the IRGC fast boats. He had a helicopter that he choose not to employ. He appointed as the boarding party commander a junior officer untrained in boarding, while he also had on strength an RM Captain who was, but who was given no official role among the 15. Read the BoI: it is a shocking catalogue of errors, and to my mind, certainly mounts up to CM level incompetence.

    Now, a very good point to be raised against what I say above is “we’re all human, no one makes no mistakes”. True, and I will happily admit to more than a few in my service days. None resulted in my court martial, because I was lucky enough that my mistakes did not cause huge national embarrassment. It goes with the job: cock it up big time and expect to get it in the neck.

  129. All Politicians are the Same


    The helicopter was up but had to return to refuel. Again legally it is not required to cover boardings with a helo. So yes we do not like it but not grounds for court martial. In the NAG you regularly have more than 150 surface contacts within 3 miles and heat haze makes it a nightmare ( been there done it).
    I have read the BOI, trust me but my point remains he did not deviate enough from the admittedly useless procedures to allow for a Court Martial. Legal advice was sought. He was levered out of his role administratively.
    The sad fact is that the system was not fit for task :(

  130. x

    @ RT

    I read what you said. As I said the “blame chain” should start above the captain.

    As for him being relieved of command that is the modern day forces for you where politics come into play more than they should.

    Agree about sailors selling stories utter disgrace, but it is the age we live in.

    As for,

    Sailors are no longer fighting people. It’s not their fault, the last 20 years of recruiting policy have chosen technicians to operate complex equipment.

    Sailors have been mostly technicians for the majority of the 20th century. I have said lots of times here that there is a lack of, um, fighting spirit. The modern RN is more concerned with political correctness than having sailors ready to fight physically. We can’t say the latter isn’t needed because if not so they shouldn’t be placed in situations like boardings. Do the police drag beat bobbies away from their day job, give them cursory training, and then throw them into deal with sieges and such like? No. Doesn’t the Army drill and drill and drill again for FIBUA? Sailors aren’t trained to a sufficient level to do boardings as it is a specialist job its own right. We have RM for that work, the USN has its Masters At Arms branch. Ships are unique environments. You can’t go into such situations believing they won’t go south. Unfortunately that is what the RN did, and really still does, believe that boardings are benign. And that is the framework in which the captain would have made his decisions.

    I want to be quite clear I am not advocating that the boarding party should have fought back. The RM officer made the right decision, and standing down in the face of threat isn’t something that RM do naturally. But they shouldn’t have been put in that position. Look what happened afterwards where are RN boardings were covered by U heavily armed USN boats. No boarding should have taken place without 5 boats present. Two to cover the boarding, two on the other side to secure the blind side, and one standing off/orbiting in overwatch. FFS it is like no of them have ever sat in a boat next to even the smallest of ships. And as I said ship’s boats RIBS may be have been adequate as a top gap measure but once it was apparent the UK was there for the long haul something better should have been fielded. Yes there was money to do that if there had been the will do it, both politically and militarily. But the RN doesn’t push it isn’t going to get is it?

  131. Red Trousers

    APATS, not good enough excusing. A planned boarding operation and he doesn’t think to synchronise a heli refilling with the critical moment? And as for the multitude of contacts, that’s weak. If it was a problem, he should have had all hands manning binos, radars, bridge wings and so on. He didn’t, it’s in the BOI. He was actually asked about it. No excuse.

    And no excuse either for “it’s a nightmare”. Just not good enough. I’ve been sacked from both a military and a civvy job for cocking things up, but never for making a completely girly excuse about weather conditions or information overload. I have myself sacked young officers and once a civil servant programme manager, but it was because they were useless and tried to make excuses.

  132. All Politicians are the Same

    I actuall think that in the last 5 years RN Sailors have become more comfortable with and experienced in operating outside their comfort zone than ever before.
    Before 2009 we would send matelots to augment land ops with about 6 days total training. We now have a 2 week course just for the L85-A2 culminating in the trained Soldier shoot.
    OPTAG expanded to 2 entire weeks run by RM and culminating in 4 days out in the ” field” practicing what you have been taught.
    A 9mm course is completed by the vast majority and conduct after capture training is mandatory.

    You will always get those that simply look awkward and will never be comfortable but that is no longer a result of lack of training.

    Boardings are split into 3 categories.
    1. Compliant- Able to be undertaken by trained RN boarding teams.
    2. Non Compliant but not opposed (welded doors, mvring etc) – RM task.
    3. Oppossed- SF only.

    Procedures have been revised in terms of pre boarding Command Estimates and classifications.

  133. Observer

    Wasn’t there also comment on how the draft in the area was too shallow to bring the frigate in closer?

    RT, I’m not really sure I’d blame the CO too much as well. For one, they did send 2 RHIBs with RM and RN personnel, which was a point of yours.

    Another point was that he was ordered to hold fire.
    http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/blair-convenes-cobra-team-as-crisis-in-iran-escalates-1-1425343 Assuming this is correct.

    A third point is also that Iranian interference can be considered “outside interference” to the mission, which was I believe a search on a freighter for suspicions of smuggling. One of the points that the search party could have done better was radio contact with the frigate. IIRC, the captain only knew of the boarding party’s predicament only after they had been escorted deeper into Iran, which pretty much took away any response he could have made unless he wanted to do an invasion of Iran.

    Any way, that incident is over and done with. Think of it as a learning experience.

  134. All Politicians are the Same

    @ RT
    I am not making excuses for his actions, merely explaining why he was not court martialled.

    As much as you and indeed I do not like it he did not break from the stupid SOPs by enough to justify a Court Martial. That was the legal opinion and we may not like it but it is a sad fact.

    You have never tried to maintain a surface picture plot in the NAG, I have but again whether he should have or not it still did not deviate enough to justify a Court Martial.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the fact is that he did nothing different from what we had been doing for over 3 years. The sytem was not fit for purpose and he was the one who got caught out.
    However trying to Court Martial would have failed.

  135. Red Trousers

    APATS, no I have not tried to maintain a surface picture in the Gulf, but it strikes me as not too complex. I have maintained a picture for 1st (UK) Armoured Division when I ran G3 Current Operations for over 2 years. When on exercise, we typically had over 10,000 “entities” from section level upwards in around 20,000 square kilometres to keep track of (and most with no comms to my position commanding the bird table), and in Bosnia the same but with added civpop and 3 warring factions all operating in multiple languages. So I’m not much impressed with your NAG example, because I know that competent officers can cope.

    I also don’t give much credit to the “it was within the SOP” argument. That does not excuse incompetence and a lack of common sense. The truth is, if someone senior wanted to make an example of him, then it would have happened. And it should have done. Personally, I think the HMS Cornwall debacle was of sufficient magnitude that CJO and CDS should have resigned, and CNS and FOST should have been court martialled and stripped of their pension rights, along with multiple subordinates.

    I’m in agreement with you on all of the measures put in place since the incident.

  136. All Politicians are the Same


    You talk about a strategic picture of units. Now try and imagine being able to see 4-5 miles in a haze and sand. You have 150-200 contacts in that space dhows, fvs, small speed boats moving within the area. You have to monitor and label everyone in real time. Continual tracking as they all move, pass behind each other, stop change direction etc. It is very very difficult and totally different from kaintaing a large area but limited update plot.
    I have worked in a NATO Maritime HQ maintaining a world wide plot and fully understand the difference. However even disagreeing on the difficulty it still doesn’t earn him a court martial.

    Your second para is you letting off steam. Funny but not very practical. You would have gone to Court Martial his Defence Lawyer would have produced the patrol and post boarding reports for the last 3 Units in that area and asked the prosecution to demonstrate what their client had done differently and why he should have. Would have been a short Court Martial.

    A good CO may have done things better, would and should have but unfortunately being dull, unimaginative and doing the bare basics is not enough to court martial somebody.

  137. Observer

    Post got eaten up, so I’ll summarise.

    RT, if I recall correctly, there WERE 2 RHIBs deployed, with RM personnel too.

    And I believe that the captain was ordered to hold his fire by higher command.

    So you are going to court martial someone for following orders? Think that’ll only wash if the order was illegal. “Hold your fire” is going to be hard to prove as an illegal order.

    As for alternatives, the other ones are using the helo for an intrusion into Iranian waters, which the boarding crew was already in when the captain finally found out about their predicament, god knows how their air force would have responded, and bringing the frigate closer was out as the draft in the area was too shallow IIRC.

    It was just a bad area and a bad time that Iran chose to flex their muscles.

    The boarding crew’s behaviour post capture was a bit sad though, especially the book sales.

  138. Simon

    Simply put, the HMS Cornwall incident was the Royal Navy (and the in-place ROE) being outmanoeuvred in an almost non-military way.

    If our rules are not to engage and kill any small threat because it might escalate into a full on war, then so be it.

    Personally I think there was a lack within the frigate’s capabilities. Two Lynx would have given us deployable force which the threat of may have stopped the event happening in the first place. Faster RHIBs would also have stopped the problem happening. Even a few star-bursts could have changed the course of action, either forcing the Iranians hands or neutralising the situation.

  139. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Simon,

    If the boarding part had engaged the Iranians they would all have died. If we tried to engage them after they were taken we would have killed our own people.
    Remember ROE is driven by Political Considerations but I do not see a military solution here.

    The procedures were flawed.

  140. Think Defence

    I think it was a systemic failure from top to bottom, the Army, by the way, is not without its own massive failures, arguably with a greater impact but that matters not in this discussion.

    That the SOP’s were in place and wholly inadequate is one thing but the captain was supposed to be a Captain of a Royal Navy warship, not some team leader in a call centre shackled by a script and unable to act outside of that. If the Captain’s training, character or leadership qualities were found to be wanting and eased out when the dust had settled then that is abject cowardice on the part of senior leadership in avoiding a courts martial.

    The blubbing sailors and fat biffas selling stories cannot be shrugged off as ‘the times we live in’ and they should not have needed a course on how to behave when captured either, another excuse for mediocrity, it wasn’t their fault, bollocks, its the fault of anything else, typical bollocks.

    The RN, in its lust for the elephants decided to let other important equipment needs wither on the vine because don’t forget, proper warships can do the job of coastguard vessels or corvettes not the other way around.

    So not enough aviation, not enough small craft and no small UAV’s providing wide area situational awareness. I mean its not like these things are actually expensive is it or available off the shelf.

    Rotten, from a top that accepts mediocrity whilst lusting after being back in the big leagues (second only to America TM), all the way down to the matelot blubbing because he had his iPod stolen.

    And so we come to today, no doubt things have changed and so they should but still we have the cringe inducing knuckle biting displays like flowers in gun barrels on mothers day, sailors posing with love heart hand gestures on valentines day and the latest vomit fest called Yule the Waves

    Overweening political correctness and a media team who think the Royal Navy are some vast social media experiment designed to make the nation feel sorry for them because they away from home over Christmas, are just the latest incarnation of an organisation in trouble.

  141. All Politicians are the Same


    Do not hold your true colours back. Cornwall was the Carriers fault, fing priceless!

    How can it be abject cowardice not to proceed with a court martial that the Legal Advisors informed there was no chance of winning.

    The fact that you do not think conduct after capture training is important is really shocking. The kids that are recruited these days were not brought up on a diet of name rank and number, or Steve Mcqueen in the cooler. They have to be trained and in this instance the training let them down. They did not help.

    This was a cock up of quite serious nature and identified some seriuous issues but to listen to drama queens like you, you would think we had let them cross the Channel.

    I do not like the current media ops drive but you obviously have a huge issue with it.

    It is amazing that those that no longer or have not served are so obsessed with appearances.

  142. Think Defence

    APATS, let me explain (and as I said, don’t for one second think I don’t think the Army and RAF are without their own brand of failures either)

    When I said the elephants I meant something that I have been saying from day 1, that is we pursue high end top flight equipment for use in scenarios that are increasingly unlikely whilst allowing their rapacious lust for finite resources kill off any equipment that is used in the day to day. So in this case, the pursuit of high end as personified by QE’s meant that on the day, the captain of the ship was unable to call on properly resourced boarding teams, a decent set of small craft that could overmatch some half arsed lashed up go faster with a heavy machine gun or a simple UAV like Scan Eagle to provide advanced warning of what and who was operating in the area.

    i.e. the very personification of a hollow force, or all fur coat and no knickers.

    The RN was operating in an area with a collection of resources that were patently not up to the job and no one was screaming about it

  143. All Politicians are the Same

    A quick TD poll, blubbing and lack of conduct after capture is an excuse for mediocrity according to TD. I must admit I have been critival as well.

    So just wondering how TD and others responded to being captured by IRGC or other similiar organisation, being taken to an unknown location. Blindfolded and pulled from a cell at random times to be put face up against a wall and have an automatic pistol dry fired in your ear?

    Must admit, has never happened to me. How did you avoid mediocrity TD?

  144. wf

    @TD, I think that’s a bit overboard. If the boarding party had sentries out they would have noticed IRGC speedboats approaching in plenty of time. I really cannot see how the possession of carriers or otherwise is supposed to affect this.

    @APATS: no one talks about the Jervis Bay at Dartmouth anymore? Or, to be more recent, Ardent?

  145. All Politicians are the Same


    You are right and wrong. This happened in 2007, all the coalition forces were doing the same. A week before this happened nobody was screaming about it, you were not either.

  146. HurstLlama

    “The procedures were flawed.”

    Fuck me. That’s what we get all the time these days, “It was nobody’s fault there were flaws in the system, the procedures, though correctly followed, were, with hindsight, inadequate”. And, of course, “Lessons have been learned”.

    Good post at 17:14 Mr. TD. There are many in the RN who would agree with every word.

  147. Think Defence

    And, I did not say conduct after capture training was unimportant, I said they should not have needed a course to know how to behave, they should have absorbed the fighting traditions of the Royal Navy through their training and very existence on board and developed a backbone. If their career was so short that they did not understand the organisation they were in then they should not have been on that boarding operation.

    Tell you what, lets blow it off as the blusterings of an old drama queen, don’t panic Mr Mannering because the alternative is to recognise the problem lies beyond and within.

    You know why I have a massive gripe with the current media operation, because it belittles and demeans those serving in the Royal Navy and the proud traditions it is built on.

    Perhaps concern at appearances is a luxury I can afford as I sit here in my piss soaked strides but I genuinely have a concern, I genuinely worry about the Senior Service and those that serve it because

    appearance = reputation

    reputation = advantage

  148. Think Defence

    APATS, I probably would have pissed myself, but my point was, blaming the lack of a training course is a crap excuse. I would also like to have thought I would have maintained a bit more of a stiffer lip when on camera and then not cried to the Sun about it after.

    I was not screaming about it because TD was not even open and I am not a naval professional

  149. Mark

    The only time I can think off of something similar was the pilots being shot down in the gulf war and being on tv. Aircrew do an escape and evasion course I assume they do post capture training. Don’t remember the army lot in serria leone getting put on TV.

    Think the point is how much of the little project away from the headlining grabbing ones are cut to ensure the big ones are funded for the particular year. I guess the mission bay in the type 26 my have its roots in this type of thing. Or an rfa bay class ships is particularly useful for this type of mission.

  150. All Politicians are the Same

    No, the lack of a training course is inexcusable, not a crap excuse. It may also have drummed into them that their behaviour post return was unnaceptable. Unfortunately the youth of today are the youth of today :(

    I also hate the current media shit that is going out, would not and will not be happening anywhere near me!

    @ HL

    Really? I know lots who will agree with the bottom part, me included, the first part less so.

  151. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Mark

    You would hope a Type 26 with mission bay would not only be able to employ better boats but also a more persistent surveilance capability. Shame it all takes so long.

    The end of the escape and evasion course is apparently pretty tasty.

  152. Topman


    ‘I also hate the current media shit that is going out, would not and will not be happening anywhere near me! ‘

    What sort of outcome are they trying to achieve with the recent sort of PR? Everything has been said so I won’t add my thought’s. But I am trying to understand the reasons for this type of PR.

  153. Observer

    Actually, you do need some training to resist certain types of interrogation, for example, the dry firing can be countered by teaching people that the enemy interrogator’s job is to make you talk, not rack up a kill count. Of course if the pistol was loaded, well, you’ll never know your error, but at least you died without giving anything away. For water torture, exhale slowly when underwater to prolong your oxygen supply, their job is to make you talk, so struggle when forced under, but when you want to be let up, go slack and make them think you ran out of steam so they’ll fish you up. Remember, their job is information and you are an information source, not a kill score count, they won’t kill you deliberately. And NEVER, NEVER inhale underwater, you can die even if they let you go after that with your lungs flooded. We had a case of that here, idiot inhaled water and after the exercise died of asphyxia due to flooded lungs.

    APATS don’t think the procedures were really flawed, just that the entire situation was FUBARed, which happens. Both RHIBs were deployed, RMs were deployed, helo was up before needing to refuel. Unfortunately, the procedures were for “search of vessel”, not “stand-off the Iranian Revolutionary Guards”. If you wanted to stand-off the Iranians, you need more than a single frigate on station. Unless you did the Aussie solution, bunker down in the freighter and wait for extraction, but we don’t really know if the boarding party got intercepted near the search target or away from, so we can’t be sure if that was an option too.

    As for a court martial, I doubt you can make it stick, no laws were broken, just a lacklustre performance (maybe). That is a performance review problem, not a disciplinary one. Right gun for the right job.

  154. Red Trousers

    There was a course available in the Joint Servicestraining handbook, although whether standard sailors on a warship would have done it I suspect not. But then the Captain should perhaps have thought about that (along with the staff of FOST, more systemically) and put a couple of people on it before deployment, and then made sure the boarding party at least had some informal introduction while on the cruise to the Gulf.

    There used to be something called a “Prone to Capture” list which meant you could go on RtoI courses. I did mine in 1985, before they scaled it back and pansified it (the backlash of some tribunal about being mean to Paddies we nabbed in Belfast). Fuck me it was realistic. Spent 5 days being screamed at, demented Alsatians, stress positions, White noise, RAF Police allowed to do virtually what they wanted, and some bird blowing fag smoke in my eyes while commenting on the fact that my balls were small (it was winter, and I was repeatedly doused in cold water: I’m surprised they were visible at all).

  155. Observer

    Damn my post got eaten up again. Scroll back for a read if it comes up, some things I think people might find interesting, especially on E&E and interrogation.

  156. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Topman

    You guess is as good as mine but maybe they are trying to give TD a heart attack?

  157. Topman

    A course consisting of such things still exsists at St Mawgan. I haven’t been myself, I know those that have. Certainly still includes the second part not so sure about the first.

  158. Gloomy Northern Boy

    The one thing that does strike me about this is that everybody – everybody – in HMAF (including Volunteer Reservists) should do Basic Infantry Training in cross rank and service batches before doing anything else (up to and including Officer Training)…that training should include some version of the activities the Paras and the Royals do to inculcate aggression one on one…and it should be updated regularly and routinely; combat sports should also be encouraged and supported as the preferred route to maintaining fitness (leave the Gym Bunny stuff to the Village People); with so few in uniform developing the “Every Brit a Bulldog” version of the USMC “every Man a Rifleman” trope seems to me to be self evidently good thing…

    And before anyone comments on the diversity issue, could I draw your attention to the Women’s Olympic Boxing…and if that doesn’t convince you I’ll buy you a pint down West Street any Thursday, Friday or Saturday Night…

    Would it cost money, yes…although if we approached some modern pre-occupations with a bit of imagination (fitness, physical courage, authenticity)…and rounded off three months graft with a month-long expedition to somewhere fearsome doing something useful…we could probably sell it as a “Gap Yaah” experience, with refunds for those who sign up for Reserve or Regular Service

    Anybody who thinks the youth of today lack backbone hasn’t seen the mad little bastards mountain biking, skiing or rock climbing…throw in guns, punch-ups and the company of your peers over a few beers at the end of a hard week and you might end up with Basic Training as a profit centre.


  159. x

    @ TD

    Utter figgy pudding. Most of the Army’s equipment in the Sandbox came from UOR’s. Where was the naval equivalent spend to cover work in the Shatt Al Arab? Total cost to the UK of the Iraq War about what £8 billion? We would have needed about 12 (4 here for training, 8 out there) these at about what £5 million each if that,


    We had LSL’s in service or about to go out of service to act as a depot ships. Some barges filled with sand to add some protection,


    and three or so of these for boarding parties (no need for great speed, maneuverable, robust, armoured containers on tank deck, etc)……,


    And a helicopter or three. Some UAV.

    I would say £120 million all in if that. As I said above I see lots of Army UOR spend but where is the RN equivalent?

    Anchor the LSL out at the farthest corner of the Iraqi side of the water way. Surround it with barges allowing access for the LCU and PBs obviously. And then get on with it. All of it could have been passed on to the Iraqis afterwards. Anything to do with CVF,? No. But everything to do with Tony Blair not wanting to fund a war he was keen to fight. Are Their Lordships at fault? Yes. Failure of imagination and hiding behind the RN’s can do spirit, fighting with what we have, Silent Service, etc. etc. chocolate Yule log of myth. I am no grand naval strategist; honestly no I am not. All of the ideas came come from readings on the USN’s and USCG’s green and brown water campaign in Vietnam.

  160. Chris

    GNB – Google tells me there are 16 bars on West Street and several more within easy staggering distance – are you sure there are enough? Ref youngsters and mountain Bikes, one of my friends was living up your way until recently; but has moved to British Columbia for an intended stay of two years or more. One of the nicest and most intelligent young* girls I know, save for a persistent insanity when it comes to riding bicycles at idiotic speeds through forests peppered with obstacles – even gaining life-threatening injuries didn’t cure the madness…

    *Politeness ensures I have never asked her age, but everything is relative – relative to me she is *very* young

  161. Topman

    @ GNB

    you are right about it costing a bob or two. To have any sort of impact you would need to make it ongoing, I’m not sure how realistic that is. Looking back over, say the past 5 or 6 years in the posts I’ve been in, it would be near impossible to get any sort of useful training in on a continous basis in. If I were to put up the training courses down, it would be seen as minimal on here, yet even that was a real push to squeeze in.

    That’s not to knock your idea at all. There are benefits to your idea, but you hit the nail on the head with ‘Would it cost money, yes’ It’s getting the people in blah Sqn to keep working while the others in blah Sqn are doing such a training course that is the problem.

  162. Simon

    Not wishing to fan the flames but I can’t really understand why we’re all getting hot and bothered here.

    We were out-played. Just like the theoretical Argentine air attack used to lure out the pitiful number of Typhoon in the area with silly British ROE so that they need to refuel and then follow-up with the real attack.

    I’d love to know if it was planned that way by the Iranians, or that they just took advantage of a favorable situation.

    I’d also like to understand why the personnel of HMAF are not armed more. They are political targets and should be able to hold their own in just about any situation. Someone (on the RHIB) should have been watching their backs. The fact that the RHIB couldn’t outperform some crappy Iranian craft is appalling mis-deployment of equipment.

  163. wf

    @RT: I’m waiting for the inevitable conclusion where the heroic cavalryman shags the interrogator during the debrief despite his frozen wedding tackle :-)

  164. Repulse Post author

    Going back to the RN manning concern, if the RN is to operate both CVFs then looking at front line numbers (e.g. no allowance for multiple crews etc), the RN needs about 3,000 (inc air element).

    Assuming both Illustrious and Ocean are scrapped, this would free up about 1,600; leaving a short fall of 1,400.

    Assuming that there is no new money how could this be filled?

    The T23s have approx 2,500 front line crew (13 × 195). 13 T26s would have 1,500 (13 × 118), freeing up 1,000, short by 400.

    An alternative of course would be to have 8 T26s (950 crew) and 8 OPVs (3 already ordered ;)) requiring 300 (8 × 35); totalling 1,250 still 150 short. Scrap HMS Argus and use the 2nd carrier for aviation training would free up the needed 150 FAA…

    I know it’s not that simple as roles and skills will be different, but gives an idea of the options.

  165. Topman


    ‘ As I said above I see lots of Army UOR spend but where is the RN equivalent?’

    Not a loaded question, but did the RN ask for UOR in that area? If you don’t ask you don’t get.

  166. Observer

    Simon, you are assuming that

    1) Iranian gunboats are crappy


    2) There were no Royal Marines on board the RHIB, which there were.

  167. x

    @ Topman re RN & UOR

    Actually I wrote about three or four paragraphs on that which I scrapped.

    And on a few more on women at sea; upshot professional competence doesn’t cancel out that in evolutionary terms we are still hunting and gathering…..

    And a few about how the RN doesn’t need simple platforms but needs its complex platforms to have (simple) systems to combat simple threats.

    But I scrapped them

  168. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Observer

    Yes some of those Iranian gun boats are anything but crappy. High powered speed boats and well armed. It is even more difficult to outperform a 50 cal round.

  169. Think Defence

    Ha ha, just re read my original post, was a bit strong wasn’t it

    Can I invoke the Stella and mince pie defence!!

    Anyway, the underlying points remain

    1. As the other services, the RN has prioritised its high end platforms for increasingly unlikely use, many of them more to do with keeping up with the Jones and prestige than anything else. This has meant funding for the kit that would make it much more effective in the kinds of operations it does day to day gets frozen out. I know it is a balance but re read right from the beginning of this site and you will see me arguing that the balance between the possible future and current reality is too far skewed to the possible future.

    2. I may be sensitive to the current media bollocks from the dark blue but that is because it is a symptom of something more serious

    My opinion on UOR, in general, is that they have been good but the bragging belies the general situation that for the absolute majority, they are a big fat failure to properly plan for entirely foreseeable threats and requirements

  170. x

    @ APATS re small arms training

    I am aware that there are levels. But the only boardings I would class as being “compliant” would be fisheries protection (and customs work). Anything outside that really should really be left to those doing the work fulltime.

    Two weeks training with a rifle for self defence and sentry duty in secure or benign harbours is one thing. As long as there is regular re-qualification. You are basically saying that RN small arms standards are about the same as the TA. Two weeks training with a pistol is really not enough. Pistols skills degrade rather rapidly there is a need for near constant practice.

    Would you let somebody stand a watch in ops or on the bridge with only 2 weeks training and a Thursday War under their belt? And that 2 weeks could have been a few months back? No. Though not. Firearms handling and FIBUA//CQB are degradable skills. You know better than I ships are complex environments. The firearms skills need to be second nature so that crew can be dealt with competently.

  171. Red Trousers

    Observer, I think there were only 2 RM among the total 15 boarding party. If the senior people in Northwood had understood things a little better, there would have been rather more than that and the sailors would not have been put into such a position that they have neither training nor the personal attributes to cope with.

    I really do believe that the senior end of the Navy need to take a bloody long hard and critical look at themselves in the mirror. They are frankly becoming an embarrassment to the history and traditions of a fine service.

  172. x

    @ Topman

    On UOR because I was starting to blur the lines between what I know and ranty opinion.

    As for women at sea whatever way you approach it you come across as sexist.

  173. All Politicians are the Same

    @ X

    The training is designed to allow the personnel to deploy on an Op Tour shore side. Once deployed weapon skills should be maintained. Driving an entire platform is slightly more complex than a rifle. You can learn to fire a pistol in 2 days, it is a simple bit of kit. After that it is practice and range time that is required, some people never get very good, really is all about hand eye coordination. I have spent some considerable time living with one ( more than I should have).

    Well you are not in charge of boarding classifications and neither am I. The Cornwall incident and a lot of NAG boardings are strange in that they are physically separated from the launch platform.
    Most routine compliant boardings are covered by the ” mother ship” and some 30mm HE from 200 yards.

    You have to draw a line somewhere, kit onboard these days is very complex and training courses are long and intense. Where, when, how much and who pays to turn everyone into ” soldiers”?


    There were 7 RMs in the boarding party. It was quite a large team and a mix of the Blue and Green teams.

    If your last paragraph is about media pictures I agree, otherwise not certain what you are getting at, this incident happened 6 years ago and an awful lot has been taken onboard.

    We have been conducting boardings, in the NAG, GOA and Caribbean for the last 6 years without a repeat ( mockers) so hopefully we are not getting complacent and continue to drive standards.

  174. Topman


    fair enough.

    on your earlier post

    ‘The firearms skills need to be second nature so that crew can be dealt with competently.’

    I’d agree wit you there, everyone needs to be competent with a rifle, however if the thrust of your point was to have specialists ie RM in this matter rather than RN electricians than I agree. That’s not to knock those sent to the job. we’ve all been sent to do roles we weren’t trained for, I include myself for that. However far better to increase what we have for such roles than retrain other from scratch.

    @ APATS

    As Afghan winds down and looking back to Cornwall, do you think the RM will conduct more boarding ops rather than using members of the ship’s company ?

  175. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Topman

    43 Cdo was extremely stretched during the Afgan campaign, hence the formation of P Squadron which has now been disbanded as RM finishes in the rotation.
    Ships deploying E of Suez or to an area where they are expected to conduct boardings should have an embarked 43 Cdo Boarding Team. They should also have a trained RN boarding team. In fact all FF/DD should have a boarding team according to the SOC. Often this team is not fully manned until the Ship gets ready to deploy.
    Other Nations have similiar issues, I remember SNMG1 being tasked to conduct a boarding in the Med and a team having to be flown out as neither the German Frigate, German Tanker, Greek or Turkish Frigate could muster a team.

  176. x

    @ APATS

    That is why the RN has the RM. To take the heat off the RN perhaps we should ask, why if the Army is so good at planning its resources why does it have to call on the RM so much? As Phil said a day or two back the RM wouldn’t have wanted to sit on the sidelines, but the Cornwall incident has shown the RN were left open to attack in a war without frontlines because they didn’t have “sea soldiers” available (in the right numbers).

    As for boardings being close to mother that is true. But as I said further back up why didn’t your superiors take into account limited sea room in the upper Gulf and the role the RN was expected to perform?

  177. Topman

    @ APATS

    I understand they were stretched. Is that likely to be so post afghan is what I was getting at. Will the RN be able to reduce the number of dark blue for green, or will the same pressures continue?

  178. Simon


    I’m not assuming that Iranian gunboats are crappy per se. I’m assuming that a Royal Navy interceptor RHIB which is essentially optimised only for high-speed planing has enough installed power to do 50-60 knots and “get away” if necessary.

    As for outrunning a .50 cal, well, I can’t honestly understand why there wasn’t a .50 cal on a gantry on the RHIB for the on-board RM to use. Is this just another thing we do on the cheap?

    US Special Forces RHIB

  179. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Topman

    Sorry was rambling, in short yes we should be able to have a 43 team onboard all units deploying on Maritime Security Ops.

    A very simple reason, complacency and routine. We had been doing it since 2004 with no issues, as had the other coalition partners. Not defending, just explaining.

  180. Topman


    I do have understand what you are saying, however before Cornwall wasn’t there a similar incident where a party of RN RM were held for a shorter period about 2 years before? I might be mistaken but I think it did happen.

  181. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Simon

    A Ships RHIB is a compromise. It has to be small and light enough to store onboard and launch and recover from the Ship. It needs decent capability in slightly rougher sea states. It needs a certain range which dictates propulsion system. Reliability is important. That drives us to an internal diesel variant. Plus storing petrol on Ships never popular.
    So we tend to use Pac 22/24 a good solid all round design but only does 35 Odd kts.
    The rhib at your link is too big for an FF/DD, the T26 mission bay should allow more specialised boats to be carried when required.

  182. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Topman

    There was an incident up the river not long after the war. Some of the team training the Iraqi Navy wondered into the Iranian side of the river.

  183. Topman

    The circumstances were different, however the intent wasn’t. I don’t want to seem to jump on the bandwagon but it does seem that that incident wasn’t taken very seriously. If it had I think it may have worked different out later on, it seems not a great deal of importance was given to that first incident?

  184. All Politicians are the Same

    The first incident took place up river from Um Qasr and not far South of Basrsa. The river is quite narrow up there and the team were delivering boats to a new Iraqi riverine police.
    They did stray into Iranian waters and were detained but released inside 48 hours, I do not think the Iranians planned anything.
    Tensions post war were high and the numpty commanding the team massively over stepped what he should have done.
    The Iranians reacted as you would expect and it was all very civil.

  185. Z

    @Repulse December 21, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Hahahaha …. nice try Repulse but the hounds, despite an initial good burst, have long gone chasing off excitedly after the scent of rabbits … or was it about how best to make use of skiffs or RHIBs and the like? Perhaps apropos in a way, given the ‘hollow force’ topic and the potential manpower shortage you (& CDS) are concerned about; a few dozen small (but oh so nice) boats might be all that the navy can properly man before long ….

    Might have to expect a boo hoo and possibly a snap or two in my direction for having a go at stopping the riot in acting as a whipper-in and trying to bring them back after the fox/topic … ;-) .. think I better go to ground myself. Goodnight!

  186. Topman

    @ APATS

    Funny you should mention Um Qasr I ended up there quite a bit. Anyway I digress, I don’t pretend to be an expert at close to the shore incidents. However even if the circumstances were different and although the intent was seen to be different it surely should have rung a few bells, although personally I’m not sure if anyone could swear to their intentions with any great conviction.
    I do think it a failure that after the first taking and holding of RN personal no-one thought a second might happen and plan accordingly. Was it a bit beyond compared to what had happened, yes? However it wasn’t fantasy land either.

  187. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Topman

    Well the first incident was unplannned, it had to be because the blasted team should not have been doing what they were doing. They violated Iranian waters carrying weapons and were rightly detained but treated well. We asked for them back and they were returned. Our fault!
    Not sure how you take that incident and work out that 3 years later the IRGC will use 6 gun boats to detain a team that are conducting a boarding in Iraqi TTW and ship them off to be humiliated.

  188. Topman

    @ APATS

    Well if it were me I’d be thinking what if our requests weren’t so politely accepted? What could we do, how could we avoid getting in that situation in the first place. I do have some sympathy, however to my mind although the details weren’t the same, as I said above, I’m surprised it rang no bells in the RN CoC. I understand there were differences, but I do struggle to understand that it didn’t penetrate those in Command with the thought, what if this had happened a little different? Like I said it’s not the same and I understand that, but it’s hardly a huge leap really

  189. All Politicians are the Same

    It is the leap between legitimately policing your border with a country that has very recently been invaded by countries not friendly to you. A river border 55 miles from the sea and acting very reasonably and.

    3 Years later sending forces into your neighbours TTW to commit an act of wanton aggression against coalition forces conducting their day to day business as they had been doing for years.

    Even if the first incident had raised threat levels it was so different that any measures introduced would have been to revise river transit procedures which didnt exist when the priginal guys were acting like cowboys.

    I have little sympathy for them.

  190. Topman

    @ APATS well cannot quite agree on the idea nothing could be learnt between the two incidents. However i dont want to play the internet expert on something i dont know a great deal about, so ill leave it there.

  191. Simon


    I stand corrected/informed.

    I was not aware we had such (relatively) small craft on board. Especially not diesel powered.


    Thanks for the pic of the T45. I am surprised the boat pocket turns out so small. I imagined it to carry a larger vessel.

  192. Repulse Post author

    @Anixtu: Glad someone was paying attention :) Of course I meant RFA Argus… though if i’d have scrapped HMS Hood there would be no gap from just one ship…

  193. Observer

    Ok, for those that are looking on the Cornwall Incident and disliking what you see, please lay out the alternatives.

    Scenario: Both RHIBs with RM and small arms intercepted by Iranian interceptors. Frigate can’t close in due to draft. What would you do?

  194. Anixtu


    There are about 40 RN on Argus, some of whom are FAA. You may need to consider an alternative PCRS.

  195. martin

    @ Repulse – A surprisingly well balanced article from the telegraph there which seems to mirror our discussions here. Obviously along with the CDS Lord West also reads Think Defence.

  196. Repulse Post author

    @Anixtu: My source (“British Warships & Auxiliaries 2014/15″) suggests 137 FAA. Additionally would be the RN personnel on RFA Victoria, stated as @ 120.

  197. dave haine

    I have to say I don’t think the Um Qasr incident has much bearing here…..someone was buggering about and got found out….

    And as Observer intimated- short of blatting away with whatever arms you have on one RHIB, so the other can get away….or just blatting away until everything is a smoking ruin, there is little else that could be done, by the team themselves, so they took the line of least escalation- the right one IMO, given the circumstances, (and the consideration that maybe the Iranians were looking for a ‘robust’ response- to either justify them taking ‘robust’ action, or so that they could play the victim)

    There are issues though, some systemic some tactical.

    Tactical- Given that there is no such thing as a ‘routine’ operation, I wonder whether the task was fully thought through:
    If the weather/vis was so bad as preclude proper observation- should it have even gone ahead? or should another method or gameplan been used?
    With the draft issue, was that the best place to carry out the task? If the main craft cannot exert an influence if needed, should the task have been carried out elswhere, or should the gameplan have been changed?
    I am concerned that the heli wasn’t fully fueled and available…a bit of aggressive flying could have been ‘handy’.

    Systemicwise: Why didn’t the Captain feel he could/should depart from SOP’s? Had the possibility of intereference been assessed, either by the ships command, or by higher command.

    As to the post capture debacle-
    IMO, the problem is that as a nation we’re still training our people for a ‘big’ war….where at sea it’s all about keeping the vessel going, or surviving a sinking… And It was only aircrew and special forces that were trained for escape and evasion.

    We need to recognise that our people are facing a different set of challenges, and the training needs to be updated to reflect that, maybe not the full E&E course, but certainly an E&E light, with an emphasis on dealing with being detained- there are plenty of companies out there, doing exactly that sort of training, so the expertise is there…make it part of the basic training syllabus.

    Finally, I like GNB’s ‘Every Brit a Bulldog’ programme, install some ‘Nails’ in all our servicemen. Incidently, when I was in the RAF we had to do MFT (Military Field Training) which was all about soldiery and basic infantry work…..mainly ambushing vehicles, funnily enough…but a week of sleeping with rifles, covered in max factor black and green, in green maggots and being all green and fierce. Do the andrew do similar?

  198. Dunservin

    Back to familiar territory with TD having his usual pop at the QEC and RT castigating the Royal Navy for not training its sonar operators, radar maintainers, gas turbine technicians, communicators, missilemen, stores accountants, etc., as Ninjas. Reportedly, some Type 45 PJT (pre-joining training) packages are already up to 14 months long because lean-manning means that each member of the ship’s company has even more new systems and equipment to master as an operator and/or maintainer. As ever, compensating reductions would have to be found somewhere else to accommodate further training in military skills so what to give up?

    The maximum speed of a Pacific 22 RHIB is about 26 kts (30 mph) in reasonable sea conditions; less when laden:


    With a crew of 2 and any more than 7 or 8 pax + personal gear + search equipment, it can get very cosy on board:


    RHIBs stowed on board HMS Cornwall:


    Patrol craft like the C-14 China Cat patrol boats, used by the Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) since 2002, have a top speed of 55 kts (63 mph) and are armed with 23 mm cannon and 12.7 mm (.50 cal) HMGs plus missile launchers:


    The IRGC boats could easily have reached the disembarking boarding party within 10 minutes of leaving the Iranian coast and within 2 minutes of leaving Iranian TTW. The mouth of the Shatt al-Arab is a hive of activity so it is unlikely they would have been detected and identified as a possible threat in the reported 4.5 nm visibility until almost alongside. Once they had the vulnerable RHIBs and their lightly armed occupants boxed in and covered with their heavy weapons, there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome, particularly in view of the prevailing de-escalatory ROE. They and their captives would have been back inside Iranian TTW within minutes.

  199. Simon


    Both RHIBs with RM and small arms intercepted by Iranian interceptors. Frigate can’t close in due to draft. What would you do?

    Dangerous waters ;-)

    Even though I claim that I would not undertake the initial task without being better armed and better backed up (i.e. the copter ready to go on deck, rather than going back for fuel) and although I claim that I would have fired a shot from the main gun (indicating an intent and capability to “kill” the Iranian craft), I expect that I would probably, and genuinely, have let the same thing ultimately happen.

    Just a shame we seemed so ill-equipped to deal with something so relatively trivial.

  200. Observer

    Dangerous waters indeed.

    Dunserve, ty, interesting information indeed. My take on it is if that there was any indication of Iran going to make a move like that, I would have simply declined to go anywhere near the disputed coastline, smugglers or not. Unfortunately, hindsight is always 20/20, and there was simply no indication that the Iranians were looking for hostages or a caucus belli.

    Simon, anything short of a squadron of frigates or a carrier would have been insufficient. And frigates don’t usually deploy in squadrons. Hell, even with a Burke, I still can’t think of how the situation could have been different.

  201. HurstLlama


    “… some Type 45 PJT (pre-joining training) packages are already up to 14 months long …”

    What are we talking about here? Someone from fresh from basic training or Able Seaman Scroggins who has served for years but is being posted to a T45 for the first time? The mind boggles at the complexity of such training requirements combined with such a small pool of individuals. It is a wonder any ship ever gets to sea.

  202. Red Trousers

    Dunservin, I’m castigating senior RN officers from Cornwall’s captain upwards for being bloody idiots, not the RN generally for failing to train sailors as Ninjas. I made the explicit point above. Sailors are technicians, not fighting people. You don’t expect them to be able to fight, and they are not mentally equipped for it. They should not have been put into that position at all.

    It is why the Marines exist.

  203. Observer

    RT, and the marines were put in that position and did not fare too well either.

    All in all, it was the geopolitical situation that suddenly turned on them, can’t see anything that could have been predicted beforehand unless you happen to have a seat in Ahmadjinejad’s inner council. As a rule, I try not to ascribe godlike powers to mortals, which means that yes, people will be caught unaware at times, because they do not have omniscience.

    And if you do have a seat on Ahmadjinejad’s council, the CIA would really love to have a talk with you.

  204. All Politicians are the Same

    ref, sailors and technicians, many are but there are still enough right hard barstewards on every FF/DD and above to have an effective boarding team after training. The issue is that the Departmental Coordinators do not prioritise it. Also the concurrent activities associated with a boarding rule many people out.
    It requires greater prioritisation and careful management.

  205. Red Trousers

    “the departmental coordinators”. The modern Royal Navy.

    Oh FFS. I’m saddened that you can write such words. Nothing about command, leadership, taking responsibility. The very first thing the Captain of one of our nation’s warships should have done on assuming command is to ream out such thinking. Sack any lazy fucker with a position of responsibility who thinks that way. If they are not prioritising the right things, get rid of them.

  206. All Politicians are the Same


    Steady, you have to understand how a Warship works and the sheer number of complex tasks personnel have to be trained in. As Dumservin pointed out some PJTs for T45 are over a year long.
    Prioritisation is crucial and manpower and training courses have to be carefully managed. In order to prioritise one thing you have to deprioritise something else. Some of the courses you have to send people on are weeks long and may be required for core roles.
    You then have to balance Departmental contributions to whole ship activities. Ensuring personnel are reaching Operational Performance Standard. Personnel who will be promoted but need to attend a leadership course. Rotation of junior rates within Departments to ensure that personnel complete their task books and have a fair shot at advancement.
    Priorities will also change dependent upon future tasking.

    It is a bit more complex than you realise. Read my post again, I did not say that the Departmental Coordinators should prioritise it. They are very experienced SNCOs and in the whole produve very efficient departments. In order to prioritise boarding teams something elsewhere would have to give.

    They are neither lazy nor thinking the wrong way. You have fictionally sacked about 15 people since yesterday.

  207. x

    @ RT

    Sailors fight a ship. They may be technicians. But there still needs to be an underpinning of a (I can’t believe I am going to say this) a “warrior ethos”. Whether it is pushing buttons to launch missiles, operating pedals on guns, pulling triggers on the mount or in ops, fighting fires in a DC situation, or indeed fighting the sea and weather. All of this happening some distance from home. It should be considered that in an emergency even a few yards of water is a long way. So you are wrong by saying they are not expected to fight because that is what the RN does. As I keep saying the sea is a special environment just to dismiss casually displays ignorance to the point that any following comments are invalidated. I don’t expect every matelot to be a ninja but I expect a crew to display a certain hardiness that is missing today or better to say on the decline.


  208. x

    APATS said “there are still enough right hard barstewards on every FF/DD ”

    Yes. True. But there used to be a lot more………….

    (Btw in not on please……….. :) )

  209. Red Trousers


    All that you say is fine: we’ve all juggled priorities.

    But it boils down to something quite simple: the captain of the Cornwall committed his sailor’s lives and our national reputation to an operation which he had not adequately trained for, and which per the detail of the BoI the ship’s company appear to have cocked up.

    Try “prioritising” that.

  210. Red Trousers

    APATS, previous post disappeared, so more briefly, what was the role of Cornwall during that particular operation? To do a bit of boarding. And so I’d have expected the Captain to have made sure his crew were adequately trained. Prioritisation.

    If he couldn’t do that, then FOST should have not allowed them to be given the operationally ready tick.

    You seem to think me joking with comments about fictionally sacking 15 people in 24 hours. I did not put a figure on it, but you are about ball park.

  211. HurstLlama

    “Departmental Coordinators ”

    Dear God. That it should come to this. They will be having a Human Resources Manager on each ship soon, to more efficiently coordinate the departmental coordinators, you understand.

  212. All Politicians are the Same


    How else would you propose managing the training and employment of Departmental manpower within a hugely complex multi depsttment warship. Allowing for departmental and whole ship responsibilities. Training and advancement, courses that require absence from the unit. The future manpower plot etc.

    On a 7 month deployment boardings will be part of it. They obviously had an FPGRM team which may have influenced priorities.

    As for sacking people, you should write a column for the daily mail.

  213. Red Trousers

    APATS, you still appear to be in denial, and making poor managerial excuses.

    Cornwall was doing boardings. The thing got cocked up to huge national embarrassment, largely due to failings by the ship’s senior officers, and more systemically by a completely jaded and useless set of SOPs which no one back in the UK appears to have noticed. No one was held responsible, which should have happened.

    The modern Navy appears, by their public offerings on Twatter and press releases to want to reinforce the notion that the service is led by utter fuckwits whose main aim in life is to win the diversity prize. The reality of their piss poor procurement decisions is that we are going to pay expensively for capabilities such as carrier strike and T45 that we as a nation neither need nor can afford.

  214. HurstLlama


    “How else would you propose managing the training and employment …”

    You mean you think the idea of an HR manager is a good one?

    In my humble ignorant army way I would have thought that the officers would be in command of their people and responsible for their welfare and the efficiency of their commands. Seemed to work OK for a battalion of about 800 and not a departmental coordinator in sight. Running a crew of 170 with 20 officers (8.5 men per officer) as on the T45 wouldn’t seem impossibe, but if you say the RN can’t now manage such leadership tasks without relying on “Departmental Coordinators” I’ll believe you. I also will feel free to wonder what the RN has become (see @X up-thread) and to take the piss.

  215. Dunservin


    “@Dunservin … some Type 45 PJT (pre-joining training) packages are already up to 14 months long …

    What are we talking about here? Someone from fresh from basic training or Able Seaman Scroggins who has served for years but is being posted to a T45 for the first time? The mind boggles at the complexity of such training requirements combined with such a small pool of individuals. It is a wonder any ship ever gets to sea.”

    - We’re talking about the full spectrum of warrant officers and ratings from, say, a junior WE (weapons engineering as opposed to ME (marine engineering)) technician the Royal Navy has already taken through at least Part 1 (New Entry) training and Part 2 (Career Course) basic specialist training which involves the learning and application of electronic and electrical theory and being able to perform basic testing, maintenance and repair of everything from an electric kettle to a radar, ASW sonar or helicopter’s avionics right up to a senior nuclear charge watchkeeper with special responsibility for safety software who needs refresher training for a particular reactor and steam plant (or gas turbines and power train in the case of a Type 45). The same applies to specialist commissioned officers of every rank and role.

    - Next time you look at a modern warship bristling with weapons, electro-magnetic, electro-optical and acoustic sensor arrays, communications antennae, RF and IR decoys, hangar, ventilation ducts, exhausts, davits, boats, winches, windlasses, anchors, etc., think of the electronic, electro-mechanical and mechanical systems on the other end including propulsion, steering, pumps, power generation, conversion and distribution systems. Then think of all the other systems required to accommodate, feed, heat, light, cool, wash and provide sanitary and recreational facilities for the ship’s company. Then think some more about internal communications, navigation, combat management systems, command information systems, water production, quality monitoring and treatment, refrigeration, magazine safety arrangements, fuel storage and transfer systems, ship stability, signature reduction, damage control, firefighting (including firemains, compartment sprays and inert gas drenching), chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear monitoring and defence systems, etc. Each one one requires qualified people (often the same people) to operate it, upgrade it, perform planned maintenance and repair it when it breaks down. While some of the training is bespoke, much is taught on scheduled courses (in-house and commercial), not all of which run sufficiently frequently or at the most convenient time. Training planning for so many different combinations of courses at different levels is a nightmare for any first lieutenant and his/her fellow departmental coordinators and it never stops. Woe betide any line manager after an accident or incident if the person he/she tasked to perform an operation was uncertified. The SofS for Defence will be most displeased:


    - I haven’t even touched on universal mandatory annual range courses, sea survival courses, elf & safety training, equality & diversity education, first aid refreshers, individuals’ professional advancement courses, etc.

  216. Engineer Tom

    On a RN vessel there just aren’t the crew numbers to have crew members designated to jobs which aren’t day to day. So they have to train in secondary roles, such as firefighting/damage control and combat roles such as manning small arms on deck and as boat crews. I have personally witnessed many firefighting and DC exercises on RN vessels, these tend to be run regularly, but I am unsure on how regularly they train the in ‘combat’ roles.

  217. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Hurst Lama

    No I do not think an HR cootdinator is required.

    So you never had platoon sergeants, CSMs, RSMs? Of course HODs and Officers have an input and as Dibisional Officers are responsible for the welfare of their people.
    You completely confuse day to day leadership with career management and planning. No offence but we have to send people on courses longer than a squaddies badic training.
    As your response to Dunservin illustrated you do not grasp how technical some of these platforms have become.


    I agree on the SOPs and have said so. Boardings were part of Cornwalls tasking, I will not 2nd guess the decisions made on training. I was not there.

    Your last para is quite funny and ref press u r preaching to the choir. Your last sentence is a little rant. You are of course entitled to your opinion snd at xmas I have better things to do than argue with you.

  218. dgos

    I do not have the experience nor competence to credible comment on the unfortunate incident in the Gulf.

    However I did read the report on the near loss of Endurance – I am competent to judge on the control and specification of critical operational engineering functions on process plant.

    I was horrified at the poor design of equipment , the lack of proper work control and supervision.

    I have worked with many ex RN tiffies and always been impressed by their high standards.

    Not to check auto operated valves after messing with impulse lines is not on not having proper work plan and authorisation is worse.

    The general engineering standard of design appears pretty doubtful. (to be fair a bought in bit of kit not RN specified)

    And why did someone not stuff a mop in the intake from over the side

    Having said all of this when I think back !- there but for grace of god go I!

  219. IXION

    I love this sort of stuff.

    It was a major league screw up. Such screw ups are rarely one person efforts.

    It really does bespeak of an RN who have lost it completely.

    Navy Rules 1 part 1 subjection (a)

    Don’t fuck about where a potential enemy is likely to stick its oar in, say such as off a hostile coast unless you are ready for most likely responses.

    I really don’t give a shit about who was line managing whom, or what or when. That day the RN was caught with its trousers round its ankles and its dick in it hand. The most embarrassing moment in post WW2 RN History.

    Like a lot of these things like the loss of the Ice patrol ship, the more you look at it the worse it gets.

    Sorry but TDs mince pie aided piece earlier. A little less time dreaming Elephant dreams, and a bit more time and money on boarding kit and training and perhaps we won’t all be able to sing.

    (To tune of ‘Drunken sailor)

    ‘What shall we do with the captured sailor…

    Take away his IPod till he blubbers.…’

    I joke about the square jawed sons of Nelson.. Well they’re not fit to kiss his Hardy…..Wrap some wire arround the body, Stick a couple of magnets on each side of the coffin and run the national grid from his insanely fast rotating stiff.

  220. All Politicians are the Same

    I do find it amusing that my Defence of army failures in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to a critique of an RN fuck up that happened 7 years ago. Led by 2 retired pongos and a bloody lawyer.
    Expert witnesses :)

  221. Red Trousers


    A sterling effort, but sadly you were defending the indefensible.

    I’ll do you the honour of not trying to defend equally spastic performances by the Army, which are at least equally prevalent.

  222. wf

    @APATS: we all expect high standards from matelots. I think one of the most impressive recent examples was the air controller in Brilliant in 82 who was directing some SHAR onto an Argentinian raid when he was hit by 30mm cannon shrapnel in the back: he asked the pilot to wait five seconds, and then carried on. I can’t imagine the same sort would really give a fuck that his iPod had been nicked…..

  223. All Politicians are the Same


    I was not trying to defend it. Merely offer some insight into the reasons and background. Also why unfortunately a Court Martial was a non starter.


    Unfortunately the youth of today combined with more constraints in how we are allowed to train them has an affect.

  224. HurstLlama

    “Led by 2 retired pongos and a bloody lawyer.”

    Oi! I hope you are not including me as one of those retired Pongos. I maybe ignorant and incredulous to the point of laughter over the RN being actually run by “Departmental Coordinators” rather than its officers, but I have made criticism of the RN over the Cornwall affair. I merely said, “At sea, well the Iranians tested us a few years ago and what they found cheered them up no end.”

    Let this be said quietly but I am a great fan of the RN. I married into a naval family and my only son was seduced by the dark side and will not follow his paternal line into the infantry, so I could hardly be anything else. However, Mr. APATS, sometimes you don’t help your cause.

    Departmental Coordinators, I am still chuckling. Do they get to speak on the miscreants behalf at the defaulters’ table?

  225. IXION


    One of the things about being a bloody lawyer, is you hear weaseling bullshit every day. You tend to get to know it when you hear it.


    Army just as guilty. The point is that all the services have seemngly got their eyes trained on distant bright tomorrows, whilst tripping over the bleedin obvious and mundain everyday.

    Perhaps this is proof that high end warships actually are not much cop as patrol ships? Because the crews of all the flash stuff are in effect and by necessity floating geeks.

    Less: -

    England expects every man to do his duty. More Microsoft expects every man or women will try turning it off and on again…..

  226. DavidNiven

    There is nothing wrong with ‘the youth of today’, they have been doing the fighting for ten years, the blame lies in the decisions by their senior commanders on how to train them.

    Neither arm of the British armed forces have had decent senior leadership since the mid nineties.

    But there is a conspiracy within the armed forces of blaming systems or processes rather than poor senior leadership. The incident with the death of the prisoner in Iraq is a perfect example of punishing the lower ranks but not the seniors. The Sgt of the platoon, the CSM, RSM and Adj along with the CO should have all had to answer for the way their unit behaved.

  227. IXION

    Sorry spats read my last post the bullshit bit is about all the RNs “mistake what mistake” stuff not personal at you.

  228. All Politicians are the Same

    @ HL

    You can laugh but you offer no constructive points at all. Yes we have Departmental SNCOs who speak to each other to ensure that whole ship responsibilities are met and coordinate absences on courses so they do not affect whole Ship Operational Effectiveness. They ensure personnel rotate through sub departments in order to allow for career progression.
    They then report to their Head of Department or Deputy Head of Department.

    Your inability to undestand that says a lot more about you than what is a very effective system.

    At defaulters the “misvreant” can choose who speaks for him, it would normally be his Divisional Officer or sometimes his Divisional Senior Rate.

  229. HurstLlama


    It was the 14 month pre-joining package that I was interested in. Of course, I expect there to be lots of training but 14 months before one can take up a posting seems an awful long time.

    As an aside lots of the systems you mention are not unique to RN ships. The life support/damage control stuff must be common to the merchant navy as well. How do the likes of P&O manage? They have radars and electric gubbins too and when it comes to lean manning I should have thought the profit motive will trump MoD ideas every time.

    Do you know if HM submarines suffer from the same syndrome? To an outsider we seem to be running two different navies.

  230. IXION


    The youth of today stuff is the usuall old tossers refrain

    There is nowt wrong with them. There are no bad dogs just bad owners. If you can

  231. wf

    @DavidNiven: Col Mendoca certainly suffered for reporting prisoner abuse. No special knowledge of the circumstances on my part, but when we kick responsibility ever upward we aren’t doing the necessary, we’re ensuring no one is ever punished. After all, how can someone several levels away have direct responsibility? Attempting to enforce it will end up with a zero defect military who want a chitty everytime they jump over a wall, let alone kick down a door.

  232. All Politicians are the Same


    What syndrome? I never mentioned DC but Merchant Vessels are built to much lower specs in terms of ability to sub divide the hull into water tight compartments and rely on automated systems. They also do not man for Ops, just cruising :)
    A merchant vessel would be abandoning ship for an incident that an RN ship would expect to deal with. They do not have the anywhere near the same level of complex systems, simple COTs radars is their lot.

    Submarines have some massively complex courses, they do have their own Nuclea Reactor and on some Nuclear Weapons, they have to attain the ability to paint a pucture and if necessary fight from it using passive sensors.

    In terms of complexity of systems etc, an Infantry Battalion would be a 3, something like T45 a 7.5, an SSN an 8.5 and an SSBN a 10.

  233. DavidNiven

    Its not about Col Mendoca, I also mentioned the Senior NCO’s and the buck does stop at Mendoca after all if the unit had an excellent tour the rewards would have followed.

    The senior levels of management within that unit failed to instill the levels of discipline required, which was in essence no more than the Geneva convention and common sense.

    Now we have the ridiculous yearly power point presentation of values and standards to every member of the army due to a unit not having the leadership and common sense that should be second nature, and the senior levels of management blaming the system and ‘we now have put systems in place so that this will not happen again’

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