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

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August 1, 2014 10:11 pm


The Other Chris
August 2, 2014 7:59 am

Hmmm. Genuine breakthrough or a configuration that interferes with the measuring device?

“Nasa validates ‘impossible’ space drive”:


NASA’s paper:


Skylon to launch a package, EMDrive to power it? Or, as the article suggests:

In hindsight, it may turn out to be another great British invention that someone else turned into a success.

August 2, 2014 8:17 am

Apparently the negative control produced thrust too, which kind of invalidates the experiment, though maybe not the entire theory.

Slightly more detailed write up; http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/08/dont-buy-stock-in-impossible-space-drives-just-yet/

August 2, 2014 9:08 am

‘With Excalibur N5, a 5 inch/127mm variant of the projectile, Raytheon is setting its sights on the maritime environment. A live fire demonstration of the Excalibur N5 is planned for later this year.’

Excalibur Ib cleared for full rate production


August 2, 2014 12:10 pm

As the header picture of this month’s Open Thread seems to indicate yet another air centric month :-) ….

Another air force to select F35?

The Belgian Ministry of Defense has formally launched its Air Combat Capability Program.
This project will replace the remaining 54 F16 fighters (4 squadrons on 2 air bases) of the Air Component of the Belgain Armed Forces in the early twenties.

As a first step an offcial Request for Information has been issued to 5 potential bidders. As Belgium apparently prefers a state-to-state buy, the RFI is adressed to State Agencies rather than manufacturers:
the Joint Program Office (USA) for the Lockheed-Martin F35 LightningII
the Navy Integrated Program Office (USA) for the Boeing F/A18-E/F Super Hornet
the Direction Generale de l’Armement (France) for the Rafale from the Rafale International consortium (Dassault, Thales, Safran)
the Swedish Defence and Security Export Agency (Sweden) for the Saab JAS-39 Gripen
the MoD (UK) for the Eurofighter
This is the start of a process that should produce an order for the first aircraft towards the end of 2018.

Defence Minister Pieter De Crem earlier spoke about 40 or so new aircraft to replace the F16’s. That number must allow the Air Component to maintain its current ambition level: 2-4 aircraft for QRA and upto 10 aircraft on a more or less enduring foreign deployment.

This whole project no doubt will be on the table when political parties currently trying to form a federal goverment after the June elections tackle defense related issues. Although all parties involved in principle would not be against such a buy, it will be extremely difficult to find the money for this project. Under EU scrutiny, Belgium has to make an important effort to balance the budget (currently deficit of around 3% of GDP) and to reduce its public debt (currently at >100% of GDP). The current level of the defence budget simply does not have the potential to absorb the 4B or so Euro for the F16 replacement over a 8 to 10 year period. To illustrate, the amount earmarked for investments in the 2014 budget is around 250M Euro. On top of that, other big defence projects are looming on the horizon (e.g. the replacement of the 2 frigates of the Naval Component, also in the early twenties).

Within the Air Force the preferred choice apparently is for the F35. F35 also seems to be the favourite of the outgoing Minister of Defense. This would also allow for Belgium to co-operate with the Netherlands and to go for a closer integration of both air forces (similar to what is already done for the Navies of both countries). Holland plans to order 38 F35’s. That number sheds some doubt over the ambition of Belgium to purchase 40. Holland is about 50% bigger than Belgium in a number of areas (population, GDP, …). A Belgium buy of say 26 F35’s would make more sense for a total combined and integrated fleet of about 64 aircraft: e.g. one Dutch squadron, one Belgian squadron and one combined squadron/OCU/maintenance pool where both contribute pro-rata. A reduced project budget of about 2.5B Euro for those 26 aircraft also makes it a bit more feasible.

There is another reason why the F35 may be the preferred choice and why other contenders do not make much chance getting the deal. Under NATO’s Nuclear Sharing Agreement the belgian F16’s are earmarked and fitted to deliver B61 tactical nuclear bombs, together with units in Holland, Germany, Italy and Turkey. In todays world, this is more of a political than a military statement, but still an important aspect of NATO policies. In the future, the F35A will be the only aircraft adapted to deliver the B61 bomb. Selecting another aircraft thus also means unilaterally ending the ¨solidarity¨ between NATO partners. That will not be appreciated. No wonder Holland selected the F35 after not much of a competition (Italy and Turkey also selected the F35 and Germany still has some time to decide until Tornado bows out).

One can also wonder why yet another country has to select a first-day ¨kick the door¨ capability. Of course, solidarity and all that, but maybe NATO (or Europe for that matter) is better off with some countries opting for serious second-day capabilities (e.g. combat helicopters of more numerous cheapish figher bombers such as the Korean A50). Still burden sharing, but in different and complementary areas. A meaningfull contribution in a few areas instead of a small contribution in several areas.

August 2, 2014 1:07 pm

Pssh, crane centric I think you mean. They are brill those little things.

Excalibur for the RN. Yes please. Apparently type 26 will have 127mm as opposed to the 113 on the T45. Increment III(the self guided one) could make a hell of an anti ship weapon if it ever happens. Shame the RN never got that 155mm. Always thought that was a very sensible idea and would of been in service this year without the SDSR. :(

Can’t see us getting the Belgian deal. Think you’re right on that one WW. Unless their budget is really tight and we sell the older T1’s super cheap for some reason, but in that scenario I can’t see us beating out Gripen. I think they’ll eek out the F16’s until the F35 becomes tenable one way or another.

August 2, 2014 4:17 pm

‘Interest Rises in EU Acquisition of Mistrals Sold to Russia’


“It is being discussed in Paris as an option,” Tétreau said. “It is gaining traction in Paris. There are diplomats and politicians in Paris who see that as a possibility.”

The Other Chris
August 2, 2014 4:46 pm

At least there’s serious discussion. Would prefer a NATO role or a non-military EU role rather than the EDA get them.

August 2, 2014 7:28 pm

@WW I think this is a great time for NATO to have a very serious look at its structure. But I dont think anyone wants particuarly to be AH only or FJ only.

But I think your sort of on the same wavelength as me… even if neither of us know it :D

Never mind army 2020 lets have NATO 2020

August 2, 2014 9:17 pm


Good luck to Enterprise, but it should really be a proper warship :(

August 2, 2014 10:16 pm

Perhaps Topman or others can shed some light on this but:


Five years in training to reach a frontline squadron? That seems a little excessive.

August 3, 2014 7:38 am

@WW: If Russia is the big “new” threat, would Belgium be better off with an order of Eurofighters for QRA and air superiority? Perhaps, if the Netherlands and Belgium continue with closer defence ties, a joint Eurofighter / F35A structure is also feasible.

August 3, 2014 8:56 am

There’s some interesting articles at http://army.newsdeskmedia.com/home including one by GOC 3 Div identifying the 6 types of operation they need to prepare for, including the associated level of casualty acceptance.

August 3, 2014 9:30 am

Thanks Obsvr,

A very interesting read, this one in particular got me thinking especially with all the talk of resurgence in the maritime domain.

No easy wars: future conflict at the world’s seams

‘Britain’s dilemma is that it is too powerful to hide from conflict but too weak to dominate. It can either engage or disengage, but it cannot occupy the kind of strategic no man’s land into which the government seems to want to withdraw – using the EU as an excuse for future British inaction’

‘In fact, the new Joint Forces Command must become far more than a mere proponent – it must drive change and become the core of a British strategic hub that can lead and support missions across a global mission spectrum that covers six domains vital to prevailing in future conflict: air, sea, land, cyber, space and knowledge. Fail, and sooner or later the big war will come and Britain will lose it.’

I hope they are listening.

August 3, 2014 10:51 am

Oooh interesting journal. Cheers Obsvr.

August 3, 2014 11:06 am

As so the old game begins again anyone for an sr71?


The U.S. plane had been flying in international airspace, conducting an electronic eavesdropping mission on the Russian military, when the Russians took the unusual action of beginning to track it with land-based radar. The Russians then sent at least one fighter jet into the sky to intercept the aircraft, the U.S. official said Saturday.
The spy plane crew felt so concerned about the radar tracking that it wanted to get out of the area as quickly as possible, the official said. The quickest route away from the Russians took them into Swedish airspace. The U.S. official acknowledged that was done without Swedish military approval.

The Other Chris
August 3, 2014 7:29 pm

HMS Enterprise evacuating Britons from Libya:


August 3, 2014 8:58 pm

State of the art!


Stand by for all the negativity…

August 3, 2014 9:15 pm


Those sound effects were bad, the missiles massive and the side door hangar an ergonomic nightmare, but the ice cream was shocking! that was definitely no ‘Mr Whippy’ thats for sure. ;-)

August 3, 2014 11:05 pm

The County class destroyers were good looking ships though!

August 4, 2014 8:17 am

Got to love that “computer ‘ music in the background

Brit Pathe just keeps on giving ….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75r2bOB95h8 ” Action Navy “

The Other Chris
August 4, 2014 9:31 am
The Other Chris
August 4, 2014 9:42 am

More details on the UK’s Dstl stimulus program for autonomous maritime systems:


August 4, 2014 9:49 am

ToC don’t read too much into it, India is a place where such allegations are tossed about on a daily basis and treated as fact. By now, India has blacklisted most of the world’s weapons manufacturers without trial. I don’t think they are going to modernize any time soon at this rate.

The Other Chris
August 4, 2014 10:28 am

In this case RR admitted guilt back in December. Just disappointing to be honest.

On the topic of Indian modernisation, the VVIP corruption issue is really a shame. They’re desperate for non-Russian maritime helicopters and the only real competitors to the Seahawk range are the AW lines (AW101, AW159 and NH90).

August 4, 2014 11:05 am

@Observer re Indian corruption , they are no worse or better than Anyone else
India has some blossoming industries were projects seem to wither on the vine due to internal political decisions over budget allocation to which state etc. They build their own nukes , both kinds , launch their own home built satellites , build their own aircraft and ships . They could be a major arms supplier if they wanted it bad enough but don’t.
It might seem a bit mad but only recently has money been made available to fund solar power to the long term burden of buying diesel for local domestic power generation for home and agricultural use.

The Other Chris
August 4, 2014 11:16 am

On that note, I quite like this solution of theirs to solar power generation:


A double-whammy of elegant innovation.

August 4, 2014 12:13 pm

Nice link on the solar power on top of existing irrigation canals, no valuable land covered over , , no forced land purchase , water retained , existing concrete channel to support the frame work , liner build distributes the power for you. Great piece of innovation which is a great example of what you can do if you have a leader like Modi in charge of a state.Gujarat is the most developed state in India ,all happening under his tenure , perhaps now it will spread to the rest of the country.

The Other Chris
August 4, 2014 1:27 pm

Hybrid Air Vehicles news.

HAV304 to start flight trials in May 2015, a little late. Certification to take two years. ITAR lifted on the HAV304 for Airlander 10 development to lead into Airlander 50. US Army being kept informed of developments.


Earlier this year, prior to the round of fund raising being extended, HAV were talking about trials with the MOD before taking the vehicle on a commercial tour of America:


James Bolivar DiGriz
James Bolivar DiGriz
August 4, 2014 1:56 pm

@TOC, @monkey,
The problem is that PV power generation is (currently and certainly in the near future) of marginal utility and that this design makes it even more so.

The price of PV panels has come down due to manufacturing in China (which has driven other manufacturers out of the business) but all the evidence that I have heard is that the quality of these panels is variable to say the least. Also the quoted efficiency of any PV is at optimal conditions, which includes being perfectly (i.e. laboratory) clean, being on or close to the equator and being oriented to get the most sun (typically a bit west of south).

Rainfall (or dust) leaves material on the surface that had reduces the amount of light getting through a so has a measurable impact on the output. Panels that are tilted to face west of south have some chance of the rain and dust falling or blowing off, horizontal ones have a much reduced chance.

Even if the surface is clear, being horizontal means that the impacting sunlight is spread out and so the efficiency drops again.

Then of course you have the common PV problems (most of which also apply to wind power); the expense of building and subsequently maintaining something that is hundreds (thousands?) of time bigger than an equivalent power station; no generation at night and no or little generation when the weather is bad; the problems of connecting intermittent power generation to a distribution grid; the cost of the backup that has to be running but not generating; the environmental damage done in the associated refining & manufacturing processes.

August 4, 2014 2:36 pm

With you on all your points but in terms of panel efficiency variance ,does it matter when you have such huge available surface area to play with , just buy what comes in cheapest ( I understand there is a trade off curve re installation/superstructure costs but bear with me) . The angle thing again for optimum but same again they are close to the equator, the canal goes where it needs to so live with it. In terms of output India is famous for intermittent supply and they alter their working patterns to suit. Regarding cleaning , labour is cheap and with a ready water supply , just look down

August 4, 2014 2:56 pm

You have probably seen this but in your field of interest.
The UHAC can move 3 times the mass of the existing LCAC and beach where they can’t including climbing 10′ high sea walls . The one in the video is a half scale technology demonstrator. It will have the same plan as the LCAC getting its extra lift from it foam filled tracks and hull.

James Bolivar DiGriz
James Bolivar DiGriz
August 4, 2014 3:23 pm

I understand what you are saying and if the basic PV cells were efficient & reliable then the large area might work okay.

My understanding is that commercial systems are less than 30% efficient and are only that good because they track the sun. Domestic, static, systems (which this essentially is) are less than 20% efficient. Also, from what I have read, cheap PV panels supposedly from the same manufacturer can be excellent (five years w/o a problem) or rubbish (lots failing within a year). So the output could be really quite low, even with a huge area.

Gujarat is c. 20 degrees from the equator which, AFAIUI, is about the limit for system efficiency. I only mentioned that as emphasizing that the quoted efficiency is optimum conditions.

I think that intermittency is a different sort of problem than you are allowing for. Because the grid is a distribution one then (for reasons that I don’t understand) it does not cope well with power flowing the ‘wrong’ way, and this is exacerbated by more power and by more intermittency.

As for cleaning the panels, if there is a thick layer of dust then the canal water would help but will leave a thin layer of scale that impacts on the efficiency.

Solar (& wind) generation are best used when the power is consumed at that location. I know of someone who is doing work in rural South Africa to develop small units with maximum efficiency for villages that won’t be on the grid for ages. One of the areas of study is how much efficiency gain can you get from the minimum of manual sun-tracking, and from what I have heard turning the units by hand (again cheap labour) five or six times a day can boost the efficiency from c. 15% to north of 20%.

The Other Chris
August 4, 2014 3:29 pm
August 4, 2014 3:39 pm

I have colleagues in Texas who love solar PV, since their biggest daytime use is due to aircon. Not sure we do quite so well, and fitting aircon to homes will make the average greenie puke since they think BO helps squirrels or something :-)

The Other Chris
August 4, 2014 4:14 pm

URFC for the latest batch (FY2015 IIRC) of F-35B’s were $139. The Pentagon F-35 program office also confirmed that the URFC price includes engines as well as systems in that cost.

That means we’re currently looking at £4.5b for 48 F-35B’s at the current price. Add UK (not USA!) Program costs to get an idea of UK Program Cost.

If the project can achieve the $85m URFC target (almost certainly an A model price) that is discussed separately in the Australian order, Korean competition and the recent LM press releases, that would mean the F-35B is looking at around $95m-$100m (a guesstimate) or just over £3.2b of our British Pounds. Plus Program Costs.

Maybe plus VAT… ;)

Under the most recent production contract with Lockheed, the department in 2013 agreed to pay $112 million per F-35A, $139 million per F-35B and $130 million per F-35C, DellaVedova said. Those figures, known as unit recurring flyaway costs, include the airframe, engine, mission systems, profit and concurrency, [DellaVedova ] said.

Interestingly, and this hasn’t been widely discussed in the media:

The [US] government has also shifted from bearing all the financial risk in the program to sharing it with Lockheed and Pratt & Whitney, which makes the F135 engine for the single-engine fighter, DellaVedova said in an e-mail. The contractors now cover 100 percent of any cost overruns and 50 percent of concurrency costs, he said.

All emphasis mine.


August 4, 2014 5:00 pm

Toc if the cost of our 48 f35s is guarenteed at that price of 4.5b pounds I’d say buy now. But much more likely you’ll need to add a couple of billion to that price.

August 4, 2014 5:18 pm

Regarding failure rates that’s is a contractual issue with the OEM, if they are guarantees of 5 years , for instance , and it fails before then over to them.
Regarding cleaning I understand what your saying but inclined at 20deg for max fixed efficiency so run off will occur the rest is down to (very cheap ) elbow grease and whatever techniques that have been developed in the rest of the world. Good access seems to have been provided.

Regarding distributing the power I was thinking more of the existing local grid feeding no more than a village or to nearby to the canal. Much of rural India has no electricity but what local diesel generators produce. Except for the larger towns and the cities there is no grid .Tapping off the local length of canal for your needs I would think is the way they go using their existing isolated grid with the existing generators coming on at night only. The next length of canal feeding the next nearby few villages grid etc. The canal network is for rural irrigation not to feed towns and cities their water.
Again it is an interesting idea and if made to work could be expanded globally as a concept , say too California experiencing its worst drought in many years and farmers looking to a federal bailout and fines being imposed on domestic wastage .

James Bolivar DiGriz
James Bolivar DiGriz
August 4, 2014 5:46 pm

“Regarding failure rates that’s is a contractual issue with the OEM”
Well yes, but if there is one failed panel in the middle of a block of, say, 50 this week and you have to take the whole block offline to replace that one panel, then there is another failure somewhere else next week, and so on and so forth, then even if the maker replaces the panels the impact on the system is considerable.

“but inclined at 20deg”
Where do you get that from?

“Regarding distributing the power I was thinking more of the existing local grid feeding no more than a village or to nearby to the canal”
That would make sense to me but from the article:
‘Assuming a utilisation of only 10 per cent of the existing canal network of 19,000 km, it is estimated that 2,200 MW of solar power generating capacity’
1,900km and 2,200 MW sounds more like industrial scale generation to me.

August 4, 2014 6:13 pm

@ California Drought.

One of the reasons that California suffers from Water Shortages is that the state refuses to build more Reservoirs.


Although not on the same scale, Yorkshire had a similar problem. The local Water Board solved it by building 3 large reservoirs.

August 4, 2014 6:34 pm

Re the failure rates again its contractual , punitive fees for down time ‘should ‘ be included but this being India ?
Regarding the inclination from the images about that seems to be in place , you set the nominal angle of fixed panels at your latitude.
On the projected output for Gujarat of 2.2Gw again its spread over a state of 200,000 sq km so distributed locally no need to feed into the main grid but could be achieved , on 9th June this year Germany generated over 50% of its power at one point via solar. This is causing them as you said earlier big problems distributing this and is requiring large investment in the grid to ‘balance ‘ this out. France is experiencing similar problems as is large parts of the US.
(one of the reasons hybrid car prices are not coming down is the batteries suppliers competing for materials against vast battery energy storage systems sometimes using the same technology http://www.aegps.com/en/smart-grids/battery-energy-storage/).
This is somewhere India need not visit as yet but hey if it comes up with a cheap solution to that to good for them.

August 4, 2014 6:45 pm

Isn’t $139m actually £82m?

Putting 48 of the blighters at just shy of £4b.

What am I missing (apart from a pint of Doom Bar)?

August 4, 2014 7:04 pm

Just gonna chuck this down here again. Anyone know if this is correct, 5 years to get a pilot from Cranwell to a frontline squadron?

August 4, 2014 7:05 pm

I’m all in favour of waiting for more mature software (and someone else to ante up for weapons integration!) but at £82 million per we should bite their hands off. What are we paying for tranche 3A Typhoons – which come without many of the integrated systems of an F35?

I suspect though that some journo has got his sums wrong or gotten the wrong end of the stick.

Edit – @Simon – while your at the bar, I’ll have a Speckled Hen. Cheers.

August 4, 2014 7:09 pm

Chrisb 3-4 years is what I had heard in the past topman or mike may know better.

WiseApe Saudi bought 72 typhoons for 4.5b pounds.f35 has less things integrated than on typhoon

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 4, 2014 7:13 pm


That was the 2007 price, a lot went on after that. the UAE was quoted £6 billion for 60.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 4, 2014 7:18 pm

While we are at Think Defence, I’m sure that we will all think on that ghastly centenary now only 3 hours away.

I’m sure that we all have family who died in that dreadful conflict which so utterly changed the world. I have two particularly in mind: a great uncle killed commanding a company of the 26th Royal Fusiliers in the 3rd Ypres, and another from my mother’s side shot down over Arras. Their particular centenaries I will mark privately, but at 1100 tonight I will blow out my candle in memories of millions.

The Other Chris
August 4, 2014 7:28 pm

Ooh count me in for a Doom Bar!

I used a 1.5 exchange rate USD/GBP. I know it’s not the current rate, it’s just an easier value for ball-park figures.

I’m still unsure about the URFC including engines, it’s not the norm for US reporting and this year’s SAR lists them separately:

F-35A: $11.7m
F-35B: $28.0m
F-35C: $11.5m

Although at these figures you’re close the $96m discussed for an A model in the LRIP 6.

Definitely heartened by the cost overrun covering and concurrency cost sharing with the contractors. Biggest risk now is American cold feet towards their own Program Costs which are much higher than ours in amount terms. Ironically maybe not as high in Program Unit Cost terms!

August 4, 2014 7:40 pm

@ Mark,

Seems like a bloody long time? Granted it’s a very complicated job, but even then.

August 4, 2014 7:58 pm


UAE wanted some special things but yes Saudi have asked for a few add ons now and the price has changed.

Korea are taking 40 f35a for 6.8billion dollars in 2018, the likely hood of us getting the b in the same time frame for less than the A they’ve been offered is remote at best.

ChrisB yep it does.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 4, 2014 8:03 pm

@ Mark

I never suggested we would or could but all the signs are encouraging that the prices are going in the right direction and at the 1.69 on offer today the Korean price is very encouraging.

August 4, 2014 8:11 pm


Exchange rate moving in our direction is always a bonus. Ramp rate of the lrip will be buying into is very important in pricing terms (and on certain technical fixes) as were starting run out of time for ordering jets to meet declared IOCs. I find it odd our follow on order for f35 has so far not materialised.

August 4, 2014 8:41 pm

@Challenger – I agree on the County class, a quantum leap in technology, even if it was rapidly overtaken

August 4, 2014 8:55 pm

sorry i missed it first time around. yes 4 years is about right. lots of gaps inbetween each part of training.

August 4, 2014 9:23 pm

HMS Enterprise arrived in Malta:


Edit: re HMS Glamorgan: “…a quantum leap in technology…” – and twin turrets!

August 4, 2014 9:36 pm

Its a rough old place Valleta that we need this to land.

No not nearly, a wonderful people and place.
Malta is the Jewel in the Middle Sea.

August 4, 2014 9:40 pm

“War, Germany, act”

August 4, 2014 9:43 pm

Thought about this scene today which if it ever can be summed up in short simple tv message


Would also say the images of the poppies at the Tower of London is simple stunning and as thought provoking piece of artwork I’ve seen in a long time.


August 4, 2014 10:07 pm

@mickp & Wiseape

Ah twin turrets, lovely stuff! Were they the last class to get built with them?

The County class were lovely looking vessels but looking back via some internet surfing it’s amusing but impressive to see how Heath Robinson Sea Slug, then later Sea Cat and the associated Type 901/965 radars all were.

Not that surprising most the systems and thus the County class themselves were very quickly overtaken by the pace of technological development. I’m sure you could argue that they had barely entered the water before the world moved on.

August 4, 2014 10:20 pm

My 2 Grandfathers were in WW1. I am named after the Scottish one. He volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps. He lied about his age. His parents got him out. He later ended up as a machinegunner.
The other was in the AustroHungarian Army. Became a prisoner of the Russians just as they had their revolution. So the prisoners were freed, as the Russians wanted to fight each other. Meant an epic walk back home through a lawless land full of bandits. Amazingly, he came across his brother also walking home & they looked after each other til they got home.

August 4, 2014 10:43 pm

@ Topman,

Just seems like an awfully long time for someone to spend in training before reaching a frontline squadron. 4 years.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 4, 2014 11:07 pm

@ Chris B

I know there were choke points and hold overs affecting fast jet training a few years ago but when I joined the RN it took anywhere from 26 months to 32 months between Dartmouth and your first OOW job.
Non grads did extra 3 months at Dartmouth and each class was split into 3 OOW courses starting a month apart which explains the range.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
August 4, 2014 11:08 pm

@Thread – Modi; very good for the economy of Gujarat, and maybe for India as well… but I’m a touch concerned about the Hindu sectarianism; not likely to help the World’s largest democracy make their Centenary in my view.

Not sure about solar panels…but if the price of photovoltaic tiles can be pushed down, I believe they offer great promise…and if I win the big one on the lottery I’m offering a big cash prize to the first team who come up with a financially viable plan to take a village of all the grids and turn it into an energy producer; and even bigger one in respect of pulling off the same trick in respect of Gloomyville…and personally I’d be happy to see a field or two full of nodding donkeys as part of the solution….

Great War – had one Great Uncle who was in the Imperial Yeomanry in the South African War, and then rejoined and rode with Allenby…and another (estranged) who joined under a false name and disappeared in front of Serre on the first day of the Somme. I shall most certainly remember them regularly over the next four years…

@Simon – I’ll have what you are having…do they do scratchings or warm pork pie?


40 deg south
40 deg south
August 4, 2014 11:30 pm

Just passing through!

RNZAF’s first new trainers pass through Stanstead on their delivery trip. Anther nine to follow.


And some trip it is – click on the linked map for a bigger picture. Any delivery run that takes in both Reykjavik and Honiara (Solomon Islands) is one to remember for the grandkids.

Thy’ll arrive in a couple of weeks and ground crew traininjg will begin. Official handover to NZ isn’t until November, Beechcraft probably waiting to see if the NZ government’s cheque bounces.

Good illustration of the benefits of buying off the shelf from an active production line. The contract was signed in late Jan this year. In about six months they’ve been built, given a snazzy black coat of paint and flown out the door. If only our gov’t can manage replacement of the maritime surveillance (P-3C) and transport (C130H) fleets in such an efficient manner. Slim hope, sadly.

August 5, 2014 7:03 am

Any delivery run that takes in both Reykjavik and Honiara (Solomon Islands) is one to remember for the grandkids.

Couldn’t anyone get them on a ship ? This is a mental way of using the first XXX hours of serviceable life. Not to mention the, fuel, landing fees and T&S bills for the crew. Just because it can fly doesn’t mean it has to !

August 5, 2014 7:43 am

@ chris b yes it is a long time but its always been a long time. even going back to the war, heavy bomber crews would often spend lots of time inbetween phases of training, 2 + years was common then. Even with a war on, its a difficult training course to manage at the best of times. even when they get on a frontline sqn they still have even more training to get upto CR.

August 5, 2014 7:59 am
August 5, 2014 8:08 am

@ TD
Aircrew booking their own hotels? Have you gone mad, the very thought of it!


Still there’s a cost to stripping them down and boxing them up, sending them by sea. Then you have to have blokes sent down to NZ from the factory to rebuild and test them when they get there. Plus they are ready when they get there

The Other Chris
August 5, 2014 8:13 am

They conducted a test firing, destroying one of their own weather satellites, in 2007:


It’s why projects such as the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node are gaining a lot of traction lately to expand the number and variety of aerial nodes beyond Sentry and similar:


Northrop Grumman equip Global Hawk and the rest of the family (Triton, Euro Hawk) with the system by default:


Although not BACN, the USMC use the Insitu Integrator (RQ-21A Blackjack) to carry communications relays:


Reaper (General Atomics MQ-9) and Watchkeeper (Modified Hermes 450) also carry communications relays:



RPAS seem natural platforms for relays due to their persistence and I can imagine the MOD interest in the likes of HAV304 as well, though going forward we’re going to find more ways of protecting these data links viciously.

Slightly Agricultural
Slightly Agricultural
August 5, 2014 11:51 am

@ TD
Aircrew booking their own hotels? Have you gone mad, the very thought of it!

Quite. One of course has a travel clerk for that. Who will promptly use the centrally-mandated travel contract with HRG and ask them to book it, at great cost to the tax payer.

You also forgot “Flight Suits, appropriate wearing of” and “Nicknames, appropriate use of”. Which are admittedly very short classes, because the answer is “Constantly, regardless of circumstance”.

@Chris B
I can believe 4 years. You’ll spend most of the first one playing silly buggers at Cranwell I would imagine, before starting on your actual training. And having sat in a Typhoon cockpit, it could take you every bit that long to get up to speed with the sheer amount of stuff going on in there.

August 5, 2014 12:30 pm

@ TD,
I hear the correct arrangement of a moustache is quite the task for a true artisan.

It’s conceivable of course that when they said 4 years, they meant covering 4 different calendar years, while the training itself might have been less than the 48 months that such a phrasing suggests.

@ Topman,
I was reading a few months back some accounts of pilots during the second world war whose training was very extensive. Ground work, theory, navigation and some basic flying here in the UK for several months, before shipping off to Canada or the US to do the more advanced work, then coming back to do conversion. even in wartime like you say there was as much as two years. 4 years now just seems like a very long time (and bloody expensive). Is it beyond us to shortern this perhaps?

@ Slighty Agri,
I can well believe that a Typhoon conversion would take considerable time. I just wonder whether the course could be shortened safely?

August 5, 2014 12:43 pm

@ Chris B

It is a long course it’s looked at all the time and no doubt many times in the past. Yet it’s still a long course. I know it’s being looked at again now. I doubt it will make a huge difference. The typhoon OCU courses are being looked at. More simulators I think will be the answer. For FJ crew I doubt it would be reduced by something dramatic, say a year, a moderate reduction in costs is more likely.

August 5, 2014 12:45 pm

@topman: why not do a Luftwaffe and do your training in the US, or Australia for that matter? Perfect flying weather more often, reduced training time.

August 5, 2014 12:52 pm

I would think the cost of setting up overseas would be larger than the savings in time. There’s not that many days of flying lost at, say coningsby. It must cost the GAF a bob or to to have a tonka sqn overseas all the time. Not that I’d knock an overseas tour to the US :) I know about 18 months ago every single post overseas was looked at to reduce them to the very minimum.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 5, 2014 1:06 pm


” I know about 18 months ago every single post overseas was looked at to reduce them to the very minimum”

That coincided with the Single Service Chiefs being wheeled in and told that it was no longer acceptable to gap any NATO post.

August 5, 2014 1:12 pm

Interesting, the review I should have said was only RAF wide (that I know of). No doubt a bit of robbing peter to pay paul with regard to NATO posts. Who wheeled them in, SoS?

August 5, 2014 1:20 pm

@Topman: I’m sure there’s not many flying days lost by trained pilots, but we are talking trainees here. I’m assuming that means visibility of 5-10km and winds of less than 10 knots, a combination you don’t see much outside of summer. Never done any flying outside of the UK, but I can confirm the weather in Arizona is insanely good 330-340 days per year (convenient for parachuting).

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 5, 2014 1:23 pm

@ Topman

I had heard it was the PM himself. NATO got a bit silly a few years ago, just before the “transformation” went through and all sorts of bids were placed for roles and responsibilities without proper thought as to who or even which service in some cases would take them on.

August 5, 2014 1:39 pm

With basing aircraft overseas for training/conversion… rememberer that you also lack immediate access to attrition replacements, both airframe and aircrew. Having them on home soil means we can surge, much like we did for Libya. Also a longer logistics trail for a type not used, nor any major parts produced, over there.

Then again, would mean instant access to Red/Green/Maple flag and a whole heap for DAC and exercises. But costs would run up… unlike the GAF, we have plenty of sea to train over. Though imo our F-35B conversion unit should stay state-side, tied with the USMC’s Fleet replenishment squadron. Means aircrews will get the CAS and Carrier experience.

We had Goose bay in Canada for N.American training, along with NATO, a mere shadow of its former self now.

August 5, 2014 1:49 pm


What level of trainee did you mean, something like elementary training or like the GAF FJ training?


Sounds like bitten off more than they can chew. I’ve only been on the fringes of NATO postings, seemed to me to be very ‘territorial’ and any perk/post rather (wierdly) guarded. Seemed very noticeable on exercises,a bit of a divide those from a NATO country and those in a NATO post. I thought it was strange, perhaps just me.

August 5, 2014 1:58 pm

@Topman: I’m referring to the Tucano phase rather than the Hawk phase. I assume once you’ve completed the former, UK weather is something you should be able to cope with, and indeed, coping with it is part of the training :-)

The Other Chris
August 5, 2014 2:18 pm

Conversion in the UK is likely to be at Marham, assuming that becomes the UK’s ITC and converted into the European “F-35 Hub”. Norway already signed up with Holland, Denmark and Italy in discussion.

Will still have the exchange programs with the USMC, USN and USAF.

Most recent snippets:


August 5, 2014 2:22 pm


OK, I’m not sure how many days are lost at that level and if it would be worth upping sticks to sunny oz/arizona.

August 5, 2014 2:42 pm

@ Topman,

If it’s been looked at many times with no significant shift then fair enough.

August 5, 2014 3:08 pm

Think I might have cracked the answer. From a piece last year about the new training stream on the Hawk T.2;

“The four RAF students to graduate were the first to complete the challenging and rewarding new course that downloads many aspects of training from front line aircraft into the UKMFTS provided syllabus.

This includes the teaching of air to air radar and beyond visual range air combat with simulations of advanced missile systems and radars. The students have also experienced realistic air and ground scenarios, simulating sophisticated surface to air missile threats and smart weapons. This training is completed in both flight simulator and live flying sorties.

The combination of state of the art simulation and flying training ensures that trainee pilots will progress to the front line with a far greater degree of training than ever before.”

So it seems they’re shifting some of the burden for advanced training from the frontline back to the training squadron, which would probably save money in the long run.

August 5, 2014 3:39 pm

@ Chris.B – Re training time for FJ Pilots

Also worth bearing in mind that there maybe limited flight hours per pilot for cost reasons.

August 5, 2014 4:27 pm

@ Topman.

Aye, true.

August 5, 2014 4:40 pm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28666287 Bugger. US Major General killed, German General injured and 14 others.

August 5, 2014 4:57 pm

Did they not talk about shifting the hawk training all to cyprus due to the better weather and hotel accommodation.

August 5, 2014 4:58 pm

Did they not talk about moving the hawk training to Cyprus a while back

August 5, 2014 5:05 pm

Bugger indeed!
Condolences to all…

August 5, 2014 8:14 pm

Probably worth dropping in here:
40 percent reduction in weight over 15-20 years.
I wonder how long it will take to fill the void thus created with additional systems and armour and other sorts of mass.
It seems to me that the US want a one size fits all solution when it might be more sensible to have a number of different options. Light stuff for deployability and heavy stuff for real tough work. Maybe even some medium weight vehicles for robust but deployable, although in my mind medium weight is the result of a light vehicle gotten lazy and fat.

August 5, 2014 8:22 pm

@mr.fred – Reading the article, it looks like they’re considering new materials as a way to save weight. Think aerogel only strong!

August 5, 2014 8:41 pm

Yes, I got that.
Suppose I can make a vehicle with the protection of the Abrams but weighing only 40 tonnes. What would stop me (or anyone else) adding 20 tonnes of appliqué armour to protect against side and top-attack weapons?

I think even now one could get an appreciable increase in protection on most legacy vehicles simply by building them using modern materials and manufacturing techniques. However, even if you save weight it will be added back to the limits of the drivetrain.

August 5, 2014 8:52 pm
August 6, 2014 7:02 am

mr.fred, Kent – ref US going lighter – its a sound move in my opinion (well it would be) but might be a case of ‘wait for weight’…

In the early 90s I had the opportunity to watch the Lancers exercise around Imber village. I asked the weight of their Sultan command vehicle as it seemed low on its springs, 12t they said. Sultan Gross Vehicle Weight by design was 9t – the Army were cheerfully overloading the vehicle by 33%. I came to the conclusion that the only genuine weight limit was space – only when there was no more space left would the Army stop stuffing stuff in. Although there might be realisation too much stuff stuffing had occurred if the vehicle physically broke as in the case of the trials of full Bowman fit in LandRover.

The Other Chris
August 6, 2014 9:29 am

Japanese annual defence white paper released:


The Other Chris
August 6, 2014 10:22 am

Flight Global have an article (print, iPad and online) analysing India’s air force modernisation and options:


Registration required, but it is free.

The Other Chris
August 6, 2014 12:41 pm

Think there’s problems with WordPress log in.

If the comments box isn’t “logged in” try checking if you’re logged in at the top right and if so log out fully then back in again.

August 6, 2014 1:53 pm

The Chinese have won the opening round of the World Tank Biathlon in Russia. Twelve nations are taking part using locally supplied T-72’s except for the Chinese who brought their own T98’s.Perhaps they did not like the colour option left to them as this is the first time they have attended , bright pink !?w=960
This kind of ‘loading the dice’ is something to expect from the Chinese in any future conflict

August 6, 2014 3:41 pm

NATO fears ground invasion as Russia masses troops on Ukraine border


Lights set to go out in Kandahar after U.S. aid winds down


‘When the United States stops funding power generation in Afghanistan’s southern city of Kandahar next year, the lights are set to go out and factories will fall idle, playing into the hands of Taliban insurgents active in the area.’

August 6, 2014 3:56 pm

DN, I find it a bit suspicious that power generation report. For one, are they talking about infrastructure or fuel, and for another, the Taliban owning a hard target? Shouldn’t that have been the target of an attack or a JDAM by now?

August 6, 2014 4:18 pm


Infrastructure mainly, the Kajaki damn was one of the major projects to get going so as to improve life and show the Afghans that their government could deliver something beneficial. We lost a few blokes defending it, and launched a major operation to deliver the turbines, but alas they are still not installed (from last reading).

The Taliban do not own the Damn ( well I hope they don’t) they hold the ground from the damn and along the distribution route.

August 6, 2014 4:33 pm

Hesco Bastion awarded flood defences contract


‘The Flood Lined units, based on the same Concertainer concept used in Hesco’s military defensive barriers’

War huh, what is it good for? ;-)

August 6, 2014 5:38 pm


While Typhoon helped sustain BAE’s supersonic aerodynamics capability, a new challenge emerged in the early 2000s when the U.K. began looking toward a stealthy unmanned combat aircraft. The result was two small U.K.-funded demonstrator UAVs, Raven and Corax in 2003-05, that gave engineers their first taste of designing for low observability. “The U.K. put in place plans to mitigate the risks and collect data. With the flights of Raven and Corax, a large-scale mission-representative demonstrator became feasible,” Lee says.


The current concept for the new mission system is called Overseer, and it is among the items that will dominate discussions between the contractor, the squadron and the defense ministry over where the new money will be spent. The squadron and Raytheon also have a prioritized “shopping list” of other work to carry out. This includes refinements to the radar and an evaluation of additional sensors.

“We’re considering the implementation of a long-range optical sensor, which we can then integrate with the radar and provide a much better surveillance capability,” says Paul Francis, Raytheon U.K.’s business development director. “[We are also considering] the implementation of a signals-intelligence capability on the platform, to pick up and highlight some of those areas where, just with the radar, it’s difficult to form identification.”

The Other Chris
August 6, 2014 5:48 pm

I thought that BAEs first overt experimentation with LO was Replica?

The Other Chris
August 6, 2014 6:09 pm

The continued development of Sentinel is very good news.

Makes you wonder if it’s success means we’d sprinkle Boeing MSA into a P-8A order if that’s the direction we take or if we’d just stick with Sentinel. Hopefully bulk out the fleet of the latter should MSA/MRA be a genuinely desired task routinely.

August 6, 2014 6:23 pm


Nothing new about LO work as a concept. The British were testing radar absorbent materials in the 1950s and the original TSR-2 requirement contained a weight allowance for radar absorbent material. British designers produced low RCS versions of design studies in the 80s including a derivative of a pre-JSF British only STOVL design.

August 6, 2014 6:26 pm

As an idea, Sentinel might make an interesting platform for EO sensors, or bits of sensor, removed from the RAPTOR pods when tornado goes out of service.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
August 6, 2014 6:30 pm

@DN – “Hesco Bastion” – quite bright lads at Hesco – for Leeds… :-)


August 6, 2014 6:40 pm


Visited their factory a couple of times now, they are always very helpful and informative. They used to run a competition for the most intelligent/improvised use of Hesco for construction purposes out on tour, plus they employ a lot of ex service personnel too.

A nice British success story, good to see they are not sitting on their laurels and finding other uses for their product.

It’s obviously the national recruitment policy that is helping on the intelligent front ;-)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
August 6, 2014 6:56 pm

@DN – Certainly the Yorkshire-wide recruitment policy… :-)


The Other Chris
August 6, 2014 7:05 pm

Thanks Hohum. I meant it in the latest generational sense in contrast to the UAV work mentioned in the article but you’re quite right.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
August 6, 2014 7:15 pm


You certainly can’t blame Raytheon for pushing for all sorts of upgrades, it is what Business Developers do and I know the people there reasonably well and have respect for them. They are not without precedent either, so the ideas have some reasonably well developed intellectual input; it was only 8 years ago that Raytheon put together a fairly coherent case to use the Bombardier GX in a SIGINT role during the early days of the R1 replacement process, bringing a fleet commonality approach to the emerging ISTAR Hub ideas at Waddington.

But with a perspective from the other side of the fence, we looked at these concepts as part of the ASTOR programme back in the very early 2000s, and did lots of DSTL modelling. The conclusions were that so much else had to change to accommodate dual usage for role, or multi-sensor fits on a single platform, that the benefits began to be outweighed. Flight profiles, tasking, accompanying protection as you got closer to the FEBA, training needs, different personnel for different mission types, different response times, even a limit on the total number of electronic counter-measures programmed into on board systems….

What we decided was better was to coordinate analysis capabilities, so that ASTOR ground stations could receive and work on raw WATCHKEEPER imagery, and vice versa. Same effect achieved (largely…. Some devil in that detail).

Of course, that was all against hot war scenarios, preceding GW2 and Afghanistan. Different scenarios may come up with different results. I suspect the MoD will listen politely and say “let’s see what SDSR 2015 decides before committing any new money”.

The Other Chris
August 6, 2014 7:58 pm

@Hohum and @RT

Posted last month (by Mark IIRC) on the site but covers what you both describe regarding the DB-110 sensor from the RAPTOR and multi-roling (scroll down for EO bits):


At the same time, UTC and Selex announced development of TacSAR which incorporates a Selex AESA based SAR on the UTC DB-110:


A number of the smaller Selex AESA’s are boasting ISAR modes as well.

Whether the UK would want the SAR features on the DB-110 turret or whether RAPTOR pods would be cannibalised and ASTOR provides similar cuing, the two stories haven’t been linked. Would TacSAR instead of a “vanilla” DB-110 be desirable in it’s own right? Would it free up ASTOR sufficiently for multi-roling or are the operation of each task sufficiently different?

August 6, 2014 9:17 pm

Russia bans all U.S. food, EU fruit and veg in sanctions response; NATO fears invasion


‘Russia imported $43 billion worth of food last year. According to the European Commission, Russia bought 28 percent of EU fruit exports and 21.5 percent of its vegetables in 2011.’

Isn’t putting sanctions on food a bit like cutting your nose off to spite your face? and what are the Russian people going to do once the food prices rise and then shortages begin? Would that force Putin’s hand or is he going to invade Ukraine regardless?

August 7, 2014 6:59 am

Picked this link up to a RN promo video on another blog: HMS Queen Elizabeth: How will she be used?: http://youtu.be/fEIH_2lEHCQ

Nothing new of course, but I am interested that they are still using relatively old footage where the CVF is operating with 2 T45s, a SSN and what looks to be a tanker. I may be reading too much into it, but if the RN wanted to promote it beyond high end ops why are there not any pics / video of it operating with the Battlestar Galactica style ragtag RFTG? It would seem to be an easy way to enhance its cause with the liberals :)

Apologies, i know im verging on fantasy fleets, but it then got me thinking about if the CVF were to operate in a standalone carrier battle group what would be the optimal surface escort structure in respect to the broader navy capability.

I’ve always thought of 2 T45s and 2-3 TAS T26s operating from a pool of 6 T45s and 8 TAS T26s. However, with the 1SL confident that the politicians will be seduced by the carriers enough to promote the need for escorts, would an option be to assign the GP T26s to the carrier group instead? This would mean the CBG would need to run in an active ASW state using the 2050 bow sonars – however with the relatively noisey T45s and CVFs wouldn’t that be the best way anyway? This would leave the TAS T26s to operate independently hunting subs or act as escorts for RFAs etc. Would mean that the navy would need to get a pool of 6 T45s and 6 GP T26s.

August 7, 2014 7:10 am


If you can understand their strategy (and I cant) then there might be sense in there somewhere (perhaps).

As it seems the Ukraine government is poised to defeat the separatists (perhaps) then it would seem the last few months of Russian support, imposition of sanctions etc will have been for nothing at all, unless Russia bails them out again now. I’s tend to expect more covert equipment and troops as this would have the least repercussions followed by “peace keepers” as a final resort. If Putin’s end game is to bring Ukraine back to his table (probably next spring after a cold winter driven by energy shortages and collapse of support for the government) then the current civil war needs to continue for a while yet. I’m not convinced the strategy is a good one.

You might find this article interesting (there’s nothing in here that isn’t obvious if you’ve been following this from the start last autumn and understand what’s driving the Ukrainian people – as opposed to their politicians)



August 7, 2014 7:18 am

VTOL developments

I came across this from a few weeks ago


and wondered what we might use something like this for in 10 (or whatever) years time (on QE/PoW ?) if it can be made to work.

The Other Chris
August 7, 2014 8:24 am

Russia have placed orders for 32 Ka-K2k’s to use with their Mistral’s:


August 7, 2014 8:37 am


I would have thought you’d always need a couple of 2087s sprinting and drifting otherwise you won’t pick up anything below the thermocline.

So an ideal escort force of two T45, two T26-ASW and a couple of additional T26 (either type) would be my favoured solution. However, I’d go for one of each for peacetime ops.

August 7, 2014 8:41 am

I have a very important contribution to make to this thread.

I am currently on holiday and using my iPad to access Think Defence. When the site loads I find myself unable to make the text larger. The site refuses to scale. TD what can I do? I can barely read the text. Is it possible to load the full site on an iPad instead of the mobile version?

August 7, 2014 8:59 am

Re Hesco, IIRC it was originally conceived as a flood control tool. The inventor was a redundant mining engineer who got off his arsse instead of sitting around whinging about the sainted Maggie.

August 7, 2014 9:02 am
August 7, 2014 9:09 am


Not really, Russia has been invading other peoples countries, fomenting civil wars and handing out heavy weapons like candy. Any exposure to the propaganda now being spewed by the Russian media will also demonstrate a level of hatred for “the west” (including the usual combination of zionists and masons etc) that would make your average Islamist blush. They have already shown a propensity to engage in cyber attacks.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
August 7, 2014 9:20 am

Not an over-reaction. A welcome recognition that “That Nice Mr Putin” is not our friend and that we may actually have to plan on doing something other than make vacuous press statements.

Most welcome of all (if actually adopted) is the hands-on involvement of pollies in crisis management rehearsals / CP exercises. Might actually make them think about strategy and real capability rather than reactive PR soundbites.

Not holding my breath though……

August 7, 2014 9:22 am

Time to get the Meteor and Aster30 block 2 into service…

August 7, 2014 9:23 am


Perhaps a link for the SDSR special pleading thread?

August 7, 2014 9:25 am

Rory Stewart Chair of the Defence Select Committee said “Above all we need politicians to practise decision-making as they did in the past…”
He mention senior level politicians used to be run through what if scenarios so they could practise under intense pressure , and then an analysis of the decsisions fed back to them base on the projected outcomes.We used to run these exercises (WINTEX) regularly it seems but why did we stop just because the wall came down and now we can relax and put our feet up?
The world will always be a complex and dangerous place so our leaders need to be ready and informed to make those hard decision’s. Perhaps by running these exercises (starting now ) the scope of SDSR 2015 may be different if the politician’s were to experience the frustration of having to few and under equipped spread to thin . Or maybe that’s why they don’t , with an Ostrich mentality.

August 7, 2014 9:29 am

@Simon: Agree with your comments on the Thermocline, what I am referring to is the core CBG. We are probably agreeing anyway, as I’d see the ASW T26s doing a broad ASW sweep with other assets (SSNs, UAVs, even MPAs) rather than being tied directly to the sailing close to the CVF.

August 7, 2014 9:30 am


I was also bemused by the Russian risk assessment moved from Tier 3 (2010 SDR ?) to Tier 1 (now), plus the statement that the MOD considered (my words) “UK forces could meet all contingencies had been brushed aside”.

In any case, doesn’t this seem to negate the 2010 SDR assumptions and suggest that 2015 will need to be a much more significant exercise than previously thought and discussed here ? It is now a given (surely ?) that post Ukraine it would appear that NATO must actually be able to deploy significant forces into Poland and the Baltics to dissuade Russia from attempting another Ukraine like operation (or perhaps consider permanent basing). It seems to argue the UK thinks this is a serious game changer for NATO (plus with the US pivot, we can not expect as much assistance on the ground going forward).

August 7, 2014 9:35 am


I would agree if SDSR10 had had any assumptions beyond “we now have less money so we can have less stuff….”

August 7, 2014 9:44 am

@Nick: Yes, but… Recent interviews of relevant ministers have talked about other European nations manning up to the Russian challenge rather than the UK increasing defence spending.

If I was of a suspicious mind part of this could be to prepare forva part reversal of the Army 2020 strategy as it’s proving too difficult to get enough TA volunteers.

August 7, 2014 10:10 am

A bit of manning up on both sides of the channel would be good, as most nations see countering the threat from the north as a job for the Scandinavian countries and us, with a little lift from the French, can’t see that changing really, a little uplift in Spend from those nations would be token as to deterrence at best I feel. We do need to step up a bit more if only to prove our worth to the rest of Europe and unfortunately the US. should we?
Well that’s a debate in itself!
As has been stated previously, there may be a little less help from over the pond than we are used to I feel.
Given that the Government aren’t going to spend a lot more money any time soon, how can we get the best bang for what little we may be able to realistically put forward, be interested to hear your thoughts, on how we could try to re-shape the Navy/RAF Force structure…
I totally agree, with your thoughts on Army recruitment, well they did give it to Capita!
Seriously though I think it is a lot more difficult to engage the young of today into the possibility of fighting for something they know little about and care even less, I’m being a bit generalist, and maybe disparaging here, I know.
If it doesn’t pick up soon, I too expect a re-think along the lines of Hoorah, we found some more money and we can now have 95,000 Soldiers, and don’t need nearly so many reservists! At the same time bang goes any chance of force multipliers for the Navy and the RAF I reckon…

August 7, 2014 10:13 am

Good to hear a Commons Select Committee actually up to speed and leading the debate. SDSR15 just got an awful lot more interesting.

I can see the light rapid reaction brigades being bulked back up to fighting strength, rather than simply force generators for high readiness battlegroups, and maybe more investment in Atlas and Atlas transportable vehicles to get them depolyable into the Baltics fast. The line is open and there are slots up for grabs. Maybe add back a couple of FJ squadrons, go to 6 Typhoon and 3 F35B, and press the ‘go button’ on the Apache rebuild / upgrade.

Its all going to cost. But the economy is now on the up and the political calculation has changed. UKIP is now the politicial threat to the Conservatives and there is now an existential threat from Russia. So suddenly there are votes in Defence. And that’s even before we look at what’s going on in the sandpit.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
August 7, 2014 10:29 am

“We do need to step up a bit more if only to prove our worth to the rest of Europe and unfortunately the US. should we? Well that’s a debate in itself!”

What. The. F8ck?

One or two pertinent figures (regrettably from Wiki – short on time), bear in mind proposed 82000 regulars in Army 2020.

Poland army 60000
Boxhead army 65000
Hungarian Army ~26000
Czech Republic Army <20000
Danish Army ~10000
French Army 119000

While noting that many of these countries have made significant contributions to Op Herrick, I'd suggest with the exception of "The Foul and Most Foreign", that it is the rest of Europe that should be proving their worth to us. Not least as they're closer to that nice Mr Putin geographically……

August 7, 2014 10:30 am

@Peter Elliot
“there are votes in defence ”
Could this be the big delay in FRES? In all likleyhood the number of UK jobs in the tracked and wheeled versions is likely to be minimal with the bulk of the work being overseas with the UK input being a few bits and bobs.

August 7, 2014 10:31 am

And no – I don’t see the Navy being cut either. Equipement and manpower for: Crowsnest, P8, 2 QEC and 13 Type 26. And Successor at 4 boats.

Am I smoking something? No. I really do think the political, fiscal and strategic furniture has been re-arranged.

August 7, 2014 10:35 am

I don’t necessarily see the Army headcount increasing above 82,000.

What we might see is the requirment for sustained Brigade Level stabilisation force quietly downgraded. So manpower and quipment spend switched from the Adaptable Force to bring 16x and 3x back up to high readiness fighting strength..

The Other Chris
August 7, 2014 10:35 am


Just emailed screenshot from Android mobile. Will be able to test an iPad at lunchtime.

August 7, 2014 11:17 am

Hohum and others

I always thought the political logic behind SDSR 2010 to make reasonable political sense given the economic environment. Very simplistically, it seemed something like

Q: What are we likely to be actually doing in the next 10 years ?
A: Supporting the US (alongside some other allies) in low intensity operations like Afghanistan (etc)

Why then do you need a big heavy army (Challenger 2, etc) – we need lighter, more mobile forces at smaller numbers plus Airforce/Navy to provide support [oh and we’re stuck with the carriers (plus we’ll fund the SSBM/SSN out of the same budget)].

Right now the conclusion seems to have changed to all that plus we’ll need to support NATO in CEE to deter Russia. We haven’t quite (it seems) got to, but that needs a bigger heavy weight Army (I notice Cameron specifically said we didn’t need Tanks in Europe at Farnborough less than a month ago), a more effective Air Force (more Typhoon squadrons surely) and Navy.

If we don’t strengthen our forces along these lines (and it does seem we can’t afford to right now and I expect that @NAB is completely right regarding European spending), aren’t we implicitly telling European NATO that we aren’t that interested in chipping in to support CEE Defence and that we’re all going to rely on German Army (sic) plus support the modernization of Poland (which is just about the only major CEE country that’s actually seen a strong economic renaissance post joining the EU). Somebody has to do something surely ? Especially given the other back drop is (it appears) we can’t expect more US forces than are deployed today, because the US isn’t going to prop-up under-spending European NATO members anymore.

I might argue that that sort of fits in with the EU exit and the apparent reversion to the British political and economic policies of the 1820s to 1880s that it sometimes seems the UKIPer mindset wants. Sorry I fully expect to be told off about that comment.. and it is clear that they all – especially Germany – need to open their checkbooks. Where is our national defence in this newly emerging cold war if it isn’t with NATO in the East ?

August 7, 2014 11:30 am

The balance I see is that the manpower heavy European nations need to pick up the requirement for sustained operations. Whereas we need to strenghten our rapidly deployable light formations to get them to the point of a crisis fast, possibly followed up by a heavy armour formation for 6-9 months. After that if the crisis is still bubbling we expect our allies to take up the slack.

So for me its the Adaptable Force that gets cut back. Capbadges can be moved into the Light Brigades. But the ability to do a Herrick style op might just be pushed down the capability list.

We still need to keep the North Atlantic and have a strong Task Group. So ASW-MPA and Type 26 are as essential as ever. And the RAF will make a strong case to support the Light Brigades with incremental buys of Atlas, Typhoon and F35B.

August 7, 2014 11:57 am

Peter Elliott

These are wiki numbers from different years (so big health warning), but I have to say, apart from Germany and (especially) Spain, we aren’t that far apart rally if you’re using the 2 % GDP bench mark.

Population (Millions)
Russia 143
Germany 81
France 66
UK 66
Italy 60
Spain 47
Ukraine 45
Poland 39

GDP/head ($000)
Russia 12.5
Germany 40.7
France 45.5
UK 45.7
Italy 41.2
Spain 41.5
Ukraine 4.4
Poland 12.2

Defence spending (% GDP) 2012
Russia 4.4%
Germany 1.4%
France 2.3%
UK 2.5%
Italy 1.7%
Spain 0.9%
Ukraine 2.7%
Poland 1.9%

August 7, 2014 12:10 pm

@Not A Boffin
“We do need to step up a bit more if only to prove our worth to the rest of Europe and unfortunately the US. should we? Well that’s a debate in itself!”

What. The. F8ck?

New that would draw someone oot!
Debate is good!

New that would draw someone out!
Debate is good!

August 7, 2014 12:11 pm

“We do need to step up a bit more if only to prove our worth to the rest of Europe and unfortunately the US. should we? Well that’s a debate in itself!”

What. The. F8ck?

New that would draw someone oot!

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
August 7, 2014 12:21 pm

For me, the lesson of the last year is that NATO is a spent force because most of the participants are unwilling to take it seriously…with the exception of the easternmost members, who must be uncomfortably aware that there is far less standing behind them than they ever imagined. In an increasingly dangerous world (Russia and China increasingly assertive, the Middle East a slow-motion train crash with a top-dressing of medieval religious lunacy) there is obviously a need for us to look to our own defences, which means securing the moat and the westward trade routes against the possibility of a slow but potentially very grave European Crisis moving form East to West…

That suggests that the current balance of forces might be about right, but everything we have needs to be fully tooled-up…no more “for not with”, a rapid acceleration of the ship-building programmes and the planned purchase of F-35, making decisions on Army equipment, closing the capability gap in respect of MPA and possibly taking a look at the strength of the RAF in respect of both fighter and transport numbers.

With a growing economy and an increasingly obvious need this is all perfectly achievable…most easily by shifting CASD out of the Defence Budget into a national-strategic one, allowing an only quite modest up-lift to the headline MoD figure to achieve quite a lot of growth.

Given decent political leadership, these would all be priorities and might ideally be developed on a cross-party basis through the good offices of the Commons Defence Committee…not least because their last report touched on many of these very issues. :-)

As it is, we are run by a worthless and historically illiterate set of self-serving snake oil merchants, whose only preoccupation is with getting or holding power by bribing the electorate with their own money and lying to them about the state of the world every time they open their mouths…so as usual absolutely nothing useful or coherent will be done at all! :-( :-(

Deeply Gloomy

August 7, 2014 12:38 pm


I’d put MPA with CASD in terms of budget.

And before you all kick off, I know there is benefit in MPA for other things other than just the SSBN defence ;-)

Oh, and in regard to “a worthless and historically illiterate set of self-serving snake oil merchants”, I think you need a revolution to change that, which is only possible with a useless and undermotivated armed force… :-)

PS: Dear GCHQ, I use the word “revolution” only for a bit of fun ;-)

August 7, 2014 12:41 pm

@Nick – Re: VTOL