This is a proposal based on the following beliefs;
ONE; That the UK Government has a wholly sensible and integrated strategy for Building Stability Overseas that uses resources from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence.
TWO; That this strategy is backed with cash, and an not inconsiderable amount of cash.
THREE; Air Power, in all its forms, can magnify activities conducted on the ground and offer unique advantages that exploit the key attributes of air power; height, speed and reach.
FOUR; For a number of reasons, the RAF currently focus on Defence Engagement on a non-enduring basis and with overseas nations that are generally more technologically advanced than those the British Army (and to extent the Royal Navy) work with.
So, this is a proposal for SDSR 2020
That proposal is to establish an enduring and air focussed defence engagement capability with the objective of building stability overseas and crucially, can work at the lower end of the capability spectrum on an enduring basis to build a SUSTAINABLE national capability.
It is this last sentence that lies at the core of this proposal, the ability to apply the undoubted advantageous of air power but at a lower cost on an enduring basis.
It is not a proposal to replace Typhoon with Super Tucano or cease the already considerable activity the RAF does with more sophisticated allied nations.
A central core would consist of regular personnel from the RAF, FAA and AAC but this would be relatively small. Grafted onto this would be personnel from NGO’s, other nations, DFiD, FCO and former service personnel on a contractor or sponsored reserve basis.
By having a flexible and creative approach to manning, the capability can be delivered on a sustainable and economical basis without placing more stress on organisations that are already under severe manning stress.
Once the core staff have been established, each country would have a dedicated team that in conjunction with the overseas government/ministries defines a long term plan to establish and/or improve their air power capability. This plan would be based on an assessment of current capabilities and aspirations. It does have to be realistic though, and this may well be a significant and delicate challenge but that is why we have diplomats!
Moving forward in partnership, underpinned by guaranteed funding through ODA, gifting and long-term loans, each nation plan would have a different start and end point.
The start point will probably begin on the ground in all the boring but essential subjects of logistics, operations planning, engineering, communications, airfield construction, instrumentation, documentation, intelligence and of course, training. Much of this training and development can be carried out in the UK.
Creating appropriate facilities and infrastructure is then the next step, again, we can carry this out in conjunction with local construction companies and resources, supplemented with selected equipment and expertise from the UK public and private sector.
One the building blocks are in place, aircraft and operations come next.
The diagrams above show a range of roles that exist on a spectrum; safety, security and combat. In lower threat environments, the safety and security areas encompass everything from search and rescue to mapping, counter poaching and illegal fishing interdiction, medical evacuation and light transport. As threats increase, more combat oriented roles emerge as being of importance.
I have specifically excluded unmanned and rotary from this proposal because of a combination of complexity and cost issues but both would have a role, even a role that makes more sense than fixed wing, perhaps a follow up article.
As I have shown above, there are many aircraft choices that reflect differing roles and capabilities, each having a different support burden. Some of these aircraft are very cheap, some less so, but look at the numbers involved with ODA projects from DFiD’s tracker, click here, £266m for Nigeria, £75m for Sierra Leone, £160m for DRC, £184m for Tanzania, £40m for Lebanon and £300m for Ethiopia.
The Army has made a fundamental shift to developing overseas capacity with the Adaptable Force model, this would simply mirror that.
My point is a simple one, we can use joint ODA and Security Assistance funding to establish and maintain air capabilities that contribute to safety, security and stability disproportionate to the costs involved, especially if we have a modest outlook and pick appropriate equipment.
Is that a Good ThingTM