Having defined a fairly broad capability set the means of getting it into theatre has to be considered.
Although they aim to achieve different things CONCEPT 2 is a natural extension of CONCEPT 2 and much of the equipment and personnel required would be involved with both.
CONCEPT 1 calls for a rapid repair and/or augmentation of existing ports such that medium sized RORO or container vessels can be offloaded within a 48 hour time period.
CONCEPT 2 calls for a deployable pier head and shore connecting pier that can offload medium sized RORO or container vessels in a 48-96 hour time period.
CONCEPT 1 comprises the following components;
- Survey and Munitions Clearance
- Repair and Debris Removal
- Dredging, Security, Aids to Navigation and Mooring
- RORO Linkspan and Cargo Handling
The survey and munitions clearance equipment and personnel could be carried by A400M or C17 should the need arise. It would be more difficult to airlift some of the heavy plant, modular pontoons and workboats but there is nothing on the kit list than cannot be lifted by a C17 and most of it can be lifted by A400M.
Ordinarily, CONCEPT 1 would be hosted on a single Bay class LSD(A) and RN survey/MCM vessels.
In practice, this would mean taking an LSD(A) out of the logistics plan for an embarked force but that would be traded against a more rapid force build up by allowing the follow on phase with the Strategic RORO and other civilian vessels.
In a coalition operation, this loss of deck and dock space could be compensated by spreading or using other members of the coalition force.
New equipment includes a small amount of heavy plant, containerised survey workspaces, a modular pontoon system, linkspan, sheet piling rig, portable lighting towers and generators, a Meercat workboat, tower mounted surveillance equipment, modular dredging rig, landing stage and a number of yard trucks and trailers. This is an extensive shopping list but it is not an expensive one. A quick tot up of estimated costs would suggest no more than £50m capital. On top of that would be the usual support, training, documentation and training costs but even applying a fairly generous three times rule of thumb the introduction costs would be in the order of £150m. This is of course not a small amount of money but it is not huge either.
Most of the personnel and other resource costs are already within the MoD.
CONCEPT 1 could easily be a sovereign capability and unique, even when one includes the US.
If it costs £150m to establish then somewhere, someone would be seeing that amount coming off their project line so this is not as simple as saying ‘want that one’
I will leave it to others to argue what that would be or whether this is sufficiently worthwhile to cause pain elsewhere, my opinion is, it is.
Given the dual use nature it might even provide some opportunity for a bit of trickery re the DFiD disaster response budget. I know this is often raised as the great white hope of anything vaguely related to logistics and I would certainly not be opposed to this kind of thinking, surely it can’t be that difficult.
CONCEPT 2 on the other hand is much more that a tweak here and a small purchase order there, it requires the following;
- One or two self propelled jackup pier head ships
- Shore access pier with range of pier supports
- Construction jackup
- Deployable breakwater and wide range of equipment handling machinery.
It would also need extensive design, testing and system integration.
Assuming a single Pier Head with the same 3x rule of thumb for non equipment purchase costs I don’t think there would be a great deal of change from £500m which a major project in its own right.
The personnel uplift would not be huge but probably in the order of 200-300 including the Integrated Project Team so this would add more to the ongoing costs and training/exercise costs would also be substantial.
There is no doubt that if realised, the capability on offer from CONCEPT 2 would be unique and the UK might consider delivering this as a sovereign capability (even with raiding the DFiD piggy bank) as an area of specialisation, declared to NATO as applicable.
As Europe seeks to become, even a little, more self sufficient in military enabling capabilities some shared or pooled arrangement would also be worth exploring with NATO and/or European allies.
Across Europe there is a wealth of experience in every single aspect of both concepts, collectively it is an area where Europe leads the world.
Exploiting this expertise, maximising Europe and NATO’s soft power, providing a unique and worthwhile military logistics capability in an area that is likely to see increasing demand seems a good decision to me.
So there you go, hope you enjoyed reading and commenting on this series as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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