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SDSR – Analysis #01 (The Road to SDSR)


In 1998 the new Labour government published the well regarded Strategic Defence Review. It was a well regarded and well-written piece of work that took nearly a year and a half to produce, setting out clearly a strategic vision for the armed forces.

Apart from the rather dodgy production values, basking in the confidence of the new government’s popularity it was greeted with near-universal praise. Central to the 1998 SDR was a number of themes but the main one was the need to modernise to better reflect new threats

the confrontation of the Cold War has been replaced by a complex mixture of uncertainty and instability

Is any of this familiar?

It also recognised that the previous governments Front Line First and Options for Change reviews had neglected logistics and combat support capabilities and that this had reduced the overall effectiveness of the armed forces. Resultant structures included the Joint Rapid Reaction Force, Joint Force 2000 (Joint Force Harrier) and the Joint Helicopter Command, the beginning of joint working structures.

Key missions were identified to cover priorities; Peacetime Security, Security of the Overseas Territories, Defence Diplomacy, Support to Wider British Interests, Peace Support and Humanitarian Operations, Regional Conflict outside the NATO area, Regional Conflict inside the NATO area and Strategic Attack on NATO. However, it did not seek to define these priorities in impact or likelihood terms, capabilities would be based on flexibility to respond to any within a specified scale and duration.

Nuclear weapons were also included, no dodging the issue there.

Despite saying all the right things in all the right places, the problems with the 1998 SDR were fourfold;

  1. It was never adequately resourced by a Treasury headed by Gordon Brown
  2. Events overtook it
  3. It was seduced the promise of the Revolution in Military Affairs
  4. It relied on too much European integration for major equipment

When it came to funding the equipment and structures proposed in the SDR the Treasury simply never followed through. Defence spending declined and defence inflation increased, the forces were starved of cash.

This is a simple fact.

Tellingly, some large programmes highlighted in the document like the carriers were never ordered until far too late. Putting off various decisions until the next day meant the next day build up a bow wave that came crashing down a few days ago.

Clearly, the world since 1998 has been a turbulent place with a greater range of threats than envisaged in the SDR, the most obvious being Islamic terrorism and Al Qaeda. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated (yet again) the lethality of simple explosive devices against the hi-technology equipment as envisaged in the SDR. Our enemies in these conflicts have gotten inside our decision cycles and exposed both a military and political weakness, the vulnerability of our conventional force structures and the increasing, media-fuelled casualty sensitivity. Conventional thinking was that rear echelon forces, operating far from the fighting in a conventional sense could quite happily use soft-skinned vehicles. Insurgencies do not have front lines and insurgents will choose to attack soft targets because their aim is not force destruction but casualty creation. This shift came as a real shock and it is only now that we are seeing a realisation that the IED was a game-changer.

The revolution in military affairs postulated that a high technology vision of warfare could create an environment where rapid manoeuvre, supported by advanced sensors, total situational awareness and precision weapons would supplant the need for protection, persistence and mass. Again, Iraq and Afghanistan put paid to this PowerPoint fantasy but not before costing a huge amount, in all senses of the word.

Finally, the naturally European friendly Labour Party placed great emphasis on European cooperation and joint ventures across a number of organisational and equipment development areas. Many of these simply failed or produced costly outcomes that had little grounding in reality.

A number of revising mini-reviews, Delivering Security in a Changing World and SDR New Chapter were carried out but they did not result in any fundamental strategic shift.

After a promising start, the New Labour record on defence has been poor, reducing funding, capability shrinkage, a rash of poor decisions and a continuous stream of operational commitments without the fundamental organisational change needed to deliver a responsive organisation.

Too many sacred cows have been allowed to graze freely.

Despite publishing a green paper on defence prior to the election it was always likely there would be a change of government and after the coalition agreement was concluded a defence and security review was announced.

Making the job of creating a successful strategy almost impossible is the financial situation. Many people fail to grasp the seriousness of the debt issue and the need for urgent action. After decades of underinvestment in comparison with other department’s one might make a strong case for exempting defence from the general austerity measures being taken across public spending and the ring-fencing of overseas development is especially galling but cuts were always going to have to be found.

As a backdrop to the need for national austerity measures were a number of other significant factors; a change in the Anglo/US relationship, uncertainty about the future of NATO, an increasingly Euro friendly Conservative party, the complication of a coalition government, a bow wave of unfunded commitments, enduring operations in Afghanistan, new threats, a highly charged political environment and many more.

It would have been nice to sit back and create a more balanced strategy but given the need to make the SDSR arrive co-terminus with the Comprehensive Spending Review meant there was an immovable external deadline.

In the run-up to the election and the aftermath, Liam Fox was clearly committed to his brief and despite a couple of stumbles he was saying all the right things, but as the scale of the cuts required became more and more obvious there was a realisation that it was becoming less and less about strategy and more and more about cutting.

There then followed the disgraceful spectacle of leaking, briefing and fighting like children. A serious business set against a backdrop of service personnel being daily on a two-way range was marred by the conduct, at least externally, of the review. We might have to wait for the memoirs but one can imagine the behind closed doors activity was equally unpleasant.

If nothing else comes out of this it must be that future reviews enjoy stronger leadership and be conducted with greater respect for the nation and service personnel. Instead of arguing that their service was of a higher value and therefore should be less vulnerable to cuts, it would have made a nice change if sensible and coordinated suggestions for reductions could have been aired.

We need to talk less about which service has won and lost and more about a coherent strategy for the future.

It was indicative of a lack of leadership, a lack of cash, a lack of coherence and a lack of clear strategic direction that a single equipment project was allowed to dominate the thinking and consequent headlines. Naval carrier strike even warranted a section on its own in the SDSR, a clear sign that something had gone badly wrong. A strategic defence and security review should deliver more clarity on strategy and less on equipment; the tail should not wag the dog, we should not fixate on equipment.

Throughout the process was a commitment to having a sensible review with no sacred cows and a clear statement that those well worn difficult decisions would be made, the result was anything but.

We cannot criticise the Government for having to make cuts in public spending but we can question the details.

In summary, it was not an ideal time to conduct a serious and considered review but circumstances dictated that a hasty review was unavoidable. It was always going to be tough and it could have been worse, but it could have been better.

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73 Responses

  1. I agree entirely and hope that better things may come out of this in time, but history tells me that it will probably not until we have a Chancellor that takes an interest in Defence matters.

  2. It’s the same old Tory jargin over and over again. It’s all Blair and Browns fault don’t blame the Torries. £38 billion over spend lalala. The over spend was only there if we built everything planned and cut the military budget over 10 years. Cancelling FRES alone would instantly cut half of the theoretical £38 billion. The torries are the ones who decided to cut defence. The Tories are the ones who decided to ring fence international aid. The Torries are the ones who decided to ring fence the NHS. The Torries are the ones who have decided to keep us in Afghanistan. I am no fan of Grodon Brown’s but we can’t keep blaiming the guy for the end of the world. Atleast Blair and New Labour had the balls to dream of something better. If the world had not gone to hell in a hand basket after 9/11 they might have succeded.

    To say the defence budget should not bare the costs of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq is like saying the NHS budget should not pay to fight cancer. The Army fu**ked up in not having the right kit in the first place. Am I wrong or did the IRA not use IED’s with great effect in Northern Ireland since the 1970’s. Did we not think that maybe the Islamic Terrorists would figure out the same thing? Tactical desciions like this are not down to politicans they are down to generals. Getting it wrong then having to beg the treasury for extra cash for “urgent operational requiremnts” to do a job that you were suppose to be able to do and have been doing for 30 years is what got us into this mess. Unfortunatley the ones who caused it ” the Army” are getting away almost scot free as they still have not been able to win the war they have been fighting for 10 years. The service which did it’s best to conform to the ethos of the SDR 1998 and actually got rid of it’s cold war paltforms like lots of ASW frigates is the service which is now being bitched slapped out of existance. Let’s see what happens to the Army when the eventually have to fight a real war and they look over head to see no harriers and behind them to the see no frigates. Guess what, urgent operational requirments aint going to help you there.

    While Brown and Blair have caused many issues in defence lets not allow Cameron the excuse of blaiming it all on them. He could have easily ring fenced defence. The country would have supported him, The media would have supported him, his own bank bench’s would have supported him. The markets don’t care about a saving of £3 billion per year with a budget deficit of £160 billion. This is Cameron and Kleggs decision. Lets hold them to account.

  3. Martin
    I agree that the Tories should have cut FRES, or another big project, but you can hardly blame them and forgive Labour when both have comitted the same sin.
    Kicking spending down the road.

    The Tories have at least cancelled the F35 program (mostly), saving £6bn of procurement and £20bn+ of operating costs.

  4. Hi Dominic, Great no joint combat aircraft or just a few of them. No pilots to fly the thing’s. I am delighted. Honnestly if we don’t have JCA in some half decent numbers then what the point. We become america’s poodle. No independat operating capability. What a waste of $60 billion a year on defence. For that kind of money I could build a new M6 or north south high speed rail line or 2 crossrails every year in the UK. That would be a much better use of the money than subsidising US foreign policy in the hope that we get a few crumbs from the table. Make no mistake, no carriers means no independace no matter what army and airforce BS every one spouts.

  5. TD,

    This is a brilliant article. Congratulations on an exceptionally well thought-out and well-written piece. It’s unusual that such high quality content is available free of charge online. Perhaps this is why Think Defence is one of my favourite websites.

    With all due respect, Martin, I think your views are somewhat wide of the mark. We can’t cut FRES when no money is currently allocated to the UV version of it. You can rightly complain about the £377 million that was wasted without a single vehicle actually being fielded, (sorry but this was definitely Gordon’s fault). But, in terms of future spending decisions, I believe that this vehicle is absolutely essential to the Army’s future capabilities because it provides supreme mobility and flexibility, something that is completely lacking at this time. If we had kept the faith with our German allies and stuck to the Boxer programme, we’d have FRES now instead of spending close to £1 billion on a load of heavy armoured trucks that are certainly IED proof but about as agile as an elephant in ballet shoes. The Mastiff fleet will be close to worn out by the time we withdraw and will have little use beyond Afghanistan. The Army wanted FRES 10 years ago not last week. Anyway, it will get this vehicle, but funding is unlikely to be approved before 2015, when we start to come out of this black hole.

    A point about IEDs. In a very poor country like Afghanistan, do you ever wonder how on earth the Taliban manage to lay their hands on so much explosive and sophisticated detonators? The answer is simple: Iran willingly provides it. In essence, we are fighting this war with one hand tied behind our backs. If we were serious about winning, we’d eliminate the source of IED materiel. Unfortunately, that would entail military action against Iran which as we all know is busy developing its own nuclear weapons. (Kind of makes you wonder who they’ll be sharing those with too, doesn’t it?) What I’m saying is that he situation is highly complex and it is absurd to blame the Army.

    That said, I share your view that the number of Harriers and Frigates we have is absurd. I mean, 19 surface combatants? 19? If you’re only going to have 19, why bother?

    Dominic, F-35 hasn’t been cancelled. We’ve simply switched from the B version (STOVL Harrier-replacement) to the C version (Navy). I think this is actually very clever, because it eliminates uncertainty about performance and reduces development costs required to get it in service. That means it should arrive more or less when expected. The F-35C will be an excellent aircraft. If they manage to iron out the F-35B wrinkles and it lives up to expectations, then I think we would almost certainly buy it too. That’s why the initial order for F-35Cs has been reduced. Right now, the STOVL version just isn’t looking good. If the US cancels it, then this would open the door for EU developed Harrier replacement. I think we do need such an aircraft and hope TD will make a case for it.

    I share TD’s view that Labour’s 1998 SDR was a well thought-out analysis of the situation, priorities and choices. George Robertson was an able Minister of Defence. This review put in motion FRES, CVF, Apache, upgraded Harriers until JSF arrived and other measured force realignments. What a shame that those who followed him made such a hash of implementing it.

    The real test of Tory defence policy management is what happens after 2015.

  6. Martin
    I meant the RAF part of the JCA. If the Navy gets 50 FrogPhoons, and the RAF just get Typhoon, that saves almost the entire procurement gap

  7. Monty
    The £35bn “black hole” is future spending.
    Thats the problem.
    All the projects on the armed forces procurement list are £35bn more than the armed forces procurement budget, before anything clusterbleeps and needs additional funds.
    We either cancel some procurement items or increase the procurement budget, either by cutting elsewhere within the military or increasing defence spending.
    Mastiff (and Fres) isnt IED proof, its IED survivable, the vehicle is written off, the crew survives. Thats acceptable (LMAO) for a £500,000 Mastif, its not acceptable for a £5,000,000 Viking(Where the crew dont survive) or a £15,000,000 FRES (where they might, depending on what FRES actualy is).

    Explosives arent hard to make.
    Groovey stuff like Plastique isnt the easiest thing in the world to make, but the majority of explosives used in Afghanistan are ANFO, Ammonium Nitrate (Fertiliser) and Fuel Oil (Diesel). You can make Chlorine Gas with the contents of a half stocked cupboard under the sink.
    Detonators are another matter, but some are as simple as a bloke olding two wires.
    It would be eminently sensible for Iran to be arming the Taliban, and no doubt some of their more exotic kit comes from that direction, but there arent hundreds of trucks driving east every few days, we’d be blowing them up for fun.

    As for JCA, If we buy 50, enough for a full carrier and spares, that means we’re cancelling 88-100, which comes in close to £6bn and we’re saving close to £20bn in running costs over the next two decades.
    Something big had to go, was it the RAFs second platform?

  8. Several things about this whole thing piss me off. The MoD has unlike the NHS and the Social Security suffered cuts in reel terms, whilst ar the same time fighting 2 major conflicts, if that was not enough reason to not only be spared from any cuts but to actually get a hefty increase the. I’M a Chinaman !!

    With regard to the CVF fcukup, much as I welcome the switch from b to c versions of F35, the order of only 40 is crazy. I understand thus means an embarked force of just.12!!

    What a complete waste of money 5-6 billion on carriers to only every deploy 1 with 12 aircraft. Still hearing rumours that QE will not be converted but sold or scrapped. This is starting to make the chinook hc3 look like a model of military procurement.

    As for cancelling nimrod mra4 & withdrawing sentinel is utter folly. The capital costs have been made what savings can be made now?? Very few I would have thought

  9. While I was happy initially about the change from B version to C version I then realised the big problem. Not to be cynical but there is zero chance that an F35 C will ever fly off of a British carrier. SDSR 2010 was simply drawing the battle lines for SDR 2015. While the navy thinks it got away with it’s carriers the RAF dealt it the death blow. The fleet air arm is gone. It’s aircraft are gone and its pilots are gone. Never to come back. The only option in 2020 will be to take tornado drivers and stick them into F35 C. Maybe the navy could lend out it’s FAA pilots to the US Navy or the French so they could keep their hand in but what about the mechanics, engineers, weapons handlers and pretty much every one else who works on a carrier. They are all gone. No work for a decade. Are we to expect the RAF in 2020 to transfer it’s ground personnel as well as pilots to the Navy. Would they even go. We might envisage a pilot of the RAF wanting to go to sea so he could keep flying but would an RAF technician. Someone who has spent all his time on an air base near the wife and kids. Is he now going to go to sea for 6 months at a time.
    The RAF has always and will always seek to kill carrier aviation. How does it make the RAF look when a Navy with only 60 planes shows up in theatre with 36 and flies twice as many sorties. Will the treasury not ask why an air force with 300+ can only send 36 as well.

    All the RAF now has to do in 2015 is squawk up about the training costs for the new carriers and that will be the end of the story.

    While I am not doubting the Armies need for FRES surely a defence review who’s entire purpose was to maintain operations in afghanistan should have canceled or delayed a program which is not going to be used in Afghanistan. The war will be over one way or another long before any substantial number of FRES vehicles appear. Honestly guys I don’t mean to sound bitchy hear but after cutting the heart out of the armed forces is there any point in pissing more money up the wall on them. Surely a small defence force would now be a better option than a still expensive completely incapable military.

  10. Hi Phil you are rigth about MRA4 and Sentinel. How much could we really save. Tornado going now and canceling FRES that would have been £24 billion. Would any one have noticed? Harrier going svaes £1 billion. HArdly worh the bother. P.S does any one know why FRES cost £16 billion for 3,000n £5.5 million a piece. I know the Army wants something thats lighter than air but can with stand a niuclear blast at 10 ft but really £5.5 million. It was not that long ago we would be getting a fighter bomber for that price.

  11. It’s time we bought off the shelf, half our equipment and fiscal worries would be solved in a nanosecond. What i don’t get is now i’m outside the wire i’ve been involved in upgrading IT facilities and it seems the opposite to military buying, ie people actually come to you with the kit they’ve developed cost bourne by themselves and then incentives to buy their kit rather than the rival!
    £140million and 4 years to come up with a ship design, that’s a drawing, not 4 years meet you in pompey docks, show what you’ve built!! So that’s 3 years and 50 weeks on the pop with the wedge of govt cash then pop over to the absolon shipyard take some photos and back to whitehall, absolute bollocks!
    Do we need vertical take off? Our scandinavian chums have built a top aircraft that needs about 600 metres of public road, doesn’t even need to be pothole free, and you can buy 3 for the expected price of one dave-b.You’d never get the light blue in the forests anyway, not unless the hilton start doing glamping!!
    Oh and on a political note seeing as bob crowe wants france style riots to protest against public sector cuts can i recommend we test the new 5.56mm bullet on the fat £120,000 a year bilious tw@t!

  12. Phil Darley
    “much as I welcome the switch from b to c versions of F35, the order of only 40 is crazy. I understand thus means an embarked force of just 12.”

    Or perhaps a new way of working?

    Flight Instructer: Sorry Gentlemen, flight trainings cancelled for three months
    Trainees: Why Sir?
    FI: The Jets on Board HMS Prisoner of War beating the piss out of Foreignistan
    Trainees: That makes perfect sense.

  13. Not that it will ever fly but I think if we are talking one airgroup then 40 would be able to translate to 24 embarked for half the time. If the one air group is to be spread across two carriers then we are talking 12 embarked. Still as the RAF was only able to deploy 36 for Gulf War II. It will likley only be able to send 24 to a theatre with it’s all Typhoon fleet of 160. The navy could still make the boy’s in light blue look bad.

  14. Good point Dominic. Can we really justify having £100 million jets doing pilot training. Espically if we need 8-12 out of a fleet of 40. Need a cheaper way to do things. Send them to the US Navy for carrier training. Keep as many of our planes as possible for fighting.

  15. Monty

    FRES wasnt Brown’s fault it was the MOD/Generals Fault, they started the FRES program as a rapid reaction force to be able to be airlifted in, halfway way the top brass deceided that that BOXER was becoming too large and heavy and went for the Piranha V instead, but problems with its sister varients (stryker) in Iraq and Astan have lead to the program suspension until someone can acutally decide what they want.

  16. “We cannot criticise the Government for having to make cuts in public spending but we can question the details.”

    Put all the waffling and Jam aside, that statement is true…we dug our own hole and its up to us to claw ourselves out. Hopefully we’ll live, learn and evolve for the better from this episode.

  17. It doesn’t matter how air transportable a vehicle is if there aren’t the ‘planes. Compare our 6(+1) C17s to the US’s 192. And of course all those airframes won’t be available all the time.

    I am now of the opinion that CVF won’t happen. One to France, perhaps one to India, and the RN to be solely a frigate force by 2016.

    I am going to take a small furlough from commenting. I have nothing to add of any use; not that has stopped me. But this post-mortem is going to get us anywhere.

    Bye for now……

  18. Mike

    Be careful in your use of the royal ‘we’- as in we dug the hole.

    As I have said all along, I was not against an outcome that said, our priority is not defence of the realm, it is international aid, therefore Army is reduced to Gendarmerie and Navy to CoastGuard – that would have been “honest”.

    However they just waffle about the biggest peacetime deficit since WWII – but I thought we were at war ! So it’s not the biggest peacetime deficit is it ? All comments about putting defence of the realm first were just empty soundbites in the context of an international aid budget that has been increased by over 2 billion pounds from last years budget.

    So whether all the woes are Gordon Brown’s fault from when he was in the treasury, President Blair’s for over committing etc etc, the current government could have made different decisions if they had wanted to. So in the end this has nothing to do with the cost of Boxer, the cost of F35C or the cost of building carriers – all of the above could be afforded if the ‘we’ (the nation) wanted to. However that would mean less foreign aid, less money for the NHS, and higher University fees. Modern politicians whatever their party affiliation are gutless, middle of the road, “grey men” who are only worried about fickle public opinion and winning the next election.

  19. I don’t know, nor need to, of whom you are Admin/ThinkDefence but I read – and re-read – this paragraph a number of times:

    Clearly, the world since 1998 has been a turbulent place with a greater range of threats that envisaged in the SDR, the most obvious being Islamic terrorism and Al Qaeda. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated (yet again) the lethality of simple explosive devices against the hi technology equipment as envisaged in the SDR. Our enemies in these conflicts have gotten inside our decision cycles and exposed both a military and political weakness, the vulnerability of our conventional force structures and the increasing, media fuelled [sic] casualty sensitivity. Conventional thinking was that rear echelon forces, operating far from the fighting in a conventional sense could quite happily use soft skinned vehicles. Insurgencies do not have front lines and insurgents will chose to attack soft targets because their aim is not force destruction but casualty creation. This shift came as a real shock and it is only now that we are seeing a realisation that the IED was a game changer.

    I am glad that I stumbled upon this site (and am still allowed to post). Such insight seems lost within our [sic] mainstream-media.

    Your site makes me think about how I’d like our defence to be structured. I don’t always agree with you (Naval Wildcat should be a humdinger of a seller) but I learn more from here then I will ever know. Many thanks TD!

  20. Fluffy, thanks you for your kinds words and I equally learn a great deal from the commenters.

    In fact, I generally steal all the best ideas from those that take the time to comment and shamelessly recycle them as my own!!!

    its all part of my green credentials

  21. Hi Jed, I agree if the priority is not defence of the realm then just say that. Slash everything pull out of afghanistan and spent the money on social programs or cutting the deficit. The force we ae now left with is a total waste of $60 billion per year. All that money is now doing is subidising US foreign policy and plugging the gaps in NATO left by almost all of the EU. Almost zero benefit to us.

  22. Congratulations. The fuhrer would be proud of the Prime Minister. After all, Nelson and the boys of RAF died in vain. Next war, the chinesse will get what the others do not. But the banks will be safe always. This Prime Minister should be axled.

  23. I’ve just heard about astute on the news you couldn’t make it up. That’s one or two of the redundancies for the navy sorted then!!!
    Also nice to see on another defence site that india are just crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on their purchase of 10 c-17’s three more than we can manage buying in dribs and drabs, must’ve been spurred on by the announcement thatwe’re going to continue to sort their poor for them at the expense of our ships and aircraft, rant mode off

  24. Re: Astute…….

    I am definitely not posting now for a week or three; my nerves can’t stand much. What a week……

    @ PaulG

    Yes I agree about India. But there is more obvious point and it is nothing to do with all that rising super power crap. The Indians actually have real palpable security concerns. Not abstract, high political, grand strategic rubbish like the Global War Against Terror. This goes back to what I think Clegg said about people on benefits not understand why we should spend money on Trident. The semantic gap that the great unwashed fail to jump is that with the state there are no benefits. Then again with the universities in the hands of the left who spend their decrying the West, eulogising the EU, and predicting the imminent end of our civilisation no wonder Britian’s leaders and coming leaders place no importance on security. Was there any rationalising of URNU’s in the review, because if their purpose is to influence Britain’s brightest and best to the importance of the UK as maritime power (stop laughing at the back) there are utter waste of f***ing money……..

    I am not going to (try to) post for a week or three this is getting really silly.

  25. x, go and have a beer mate, it helps! I’ve started playing a new game which might help as well, all you need is a computer and google maps it’s called “relocation,relocation,relocation”
    Kinloss is a cert giving all the media hype the BBC afforded it, nice private beach (for landings),and good site for a decent range complex, lakenheath bloody huge and close to thetford training area (STANTA) fairford closer to brize than cerney (and bigger) leeming, nice new ATC tower, now where’s that list of BFG units. Admin i can see a post here!!!

  26. oh forgot did anyone else see the rather quiet feature about sharing design for nuke subs rather than patrols, handy when the french are just putting the finishing touches to the “bucceneer class” sub which is the approx same size as the vanguards!!

    totally off thread google sikorsky S-97 that’s an interesting bit of kit, could screw up the competitors

  27. In all the announcements of scrappings on Tuesday, one announcement also made a few hours before the SDSR was the collapse of the Defence Training Review Package 1.

    A good day to bury bad news? I think it bears some consideration – for if the MoD can not put together a deal for what is essentially a Further Education Technical College what hope does Private Finance have in future procurement?

    I wonder if the OGC/NAO/PFU will be conducting a thorough analysis of the reasons for failure? Doubtless some will blame the “global financial crisis” as a previous PM was fond of saying or perhaps the “property price collapse” which may have fundamentally changed assumptions underpinning the procurement. But these events occurred literally years ago now.

    How can a project like this limp on for so long, soaking up precious resources? How much was spent on external advisors over the period the project limped on? When the Defence Reform Unit commends the greater use of Private Sector commercial people in Defence procurement next year, it would be nice to think they are not talking about people advising this programme, which has dragged on for so long. Personally, I imagine they are precisely the sort of people who will be expected to deliver greater success.

    Perhaps the procurement in both process and method was too ambitious and flawed from the beginning. Evident over optimism about what was achievable and affordable seems to be a first class example of the conspiracy of optimism that the MoD specialises in. I wonder what MoD’s PFU will make of it? Doubtless people (both MoD and its advisors) will be exonerated, and it will be a case of circumstance and bad luck.

    How could a project like DTR get through the scrutiny stages to the point where a Preferred Bidder could be announced and then spend four years dancing around handbags before each party going home alone?

    On a day when the PM criticised the absurdly expensive PFI refurbishment of MB it was odd that another cherished flagship PFI was sunk seemingly without trace or comment.

    In summary, the DTR procurement seems to be an example where there has been lots of private industry involvement in making (or not) decisions, which at the end of the day have resulted in yet another failure. I will be interested to see how greater private sector involvement will deliver success in the future.

  28. The RAF does seem overly blessed with airfields; while HMG would be glad to see RN reduced just to Faslane and Pompey.

    During the BoB coverage I was surprised to see Biggin Hill had buildings, I would like to know how much of airfield remains.

    And as you point out many of these are centrally located. It is a shame HMG government couldn’t have found a better use for that 2billion increase in overseas aid and sorted out the accommodation for service families. That 2bn would be a good investment for the UK’s moribund building industry.

    FYI paulg I am teatotal….. :)

  29. I continue to enjoy the wide range of comments made here and, echoing Monty’s comments am grateful it remains such an easily accessed resource.

    The comments about the death of the Fleet Air Arm hide another consequence of this review, one that may just be worth the price. The RAF has been hacked deeply, true, but I have ever felt that the RAF are the service most divorced from the realities of joint operations (unless forced!). By deleting Harrier and effectively lining up the F35C as the replacement for Tornado, the Junior Service is going to be forced to cooperate much more closely with the other two, more so than it has ever done before. The Fleet Air Arm, if many will remember, originated as the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force – we haven’t really had a truly independent naval air arm bar the RNAS. We will have a closer, more integrated RAF and that I believe is worthwhile.

    Astute afloat now – can’t quite believe just how close to the beach she ended up. Even I wouldn’t go that close in!

  30. RAF on more ops has that’s the hiltons profits set to rise then! (yes i am bitter have spent too many ops/ex watching the RAF drive in from the hotel as i get out of the tent,however straw that broke the camels back sitting next to girl with the same op medal as me difference being i was in the sand sh*tting in a hole she spent 3 months in a 5* in sunny europe) {it’s friday i’ve had a beer,}

  31. I am trying not to comment……..

    But its that word “co-operate.” It implies a two way relationship.

    RAF helicopter squadrons move the Army around the battlefield. I see what the Army gets out of the arrangement, but what does the RAF gain?

    RAF provides CAS for the Army on the battlefield. I see what the Army gets out of the arrangement, but what does the RAF gain?

    RAF transport ‘planes deliver stores (and perhaps even paratroops) to the battlefield. I see what the Amry gets out of the arrangement, but what does the RAF gain?

    Strictly speaking the RAF are working towards the same goal as the Army which for UK forces to win. But the word “co-operate” troubles me. Why don’t the RAF have Army support squadrons? Again I think this is due to inter-service rivalry. But as I have said here now on at least three occasions the armed services are made up of people. People are tribal. Organisations like any other organisms have a natural disposition towards survival. “Support” would imply subordination or a secondary role. And the RAF can’t be seen to be secondary.

    As for the Fleet Air Arm coming from “Fleet Air Arm of the RAF” I find you logic slightly skewed. During that time you are talking about maritime aviation in the UK withered because the RAF saw no value in it and were to concerned with land based air power. So when WW2 came around the UK which once the world leader in this area lagged behind at a considerable cost to the country. (Though the “RAF” were aided by the RN gunnery cabal.)

    I have also said here before there is a big difference in the way the RN and the RAF go about their difference. They aren’t two rival supermarkets who could be merged with cost savings and efficiencies. Most RAF personnel live a very civilian life style. RN personnel have to live and fight in steel box that is subject to the wants of the sea. It is their home. And it is their weapon. In today’s small navy sailors really are sailors. If I were you I would go over to the Phoenix Think Tank and read their article on this. Going to sea in a warship isn’t like going on a cruise with Cunard. People don’t join the RAF to go to sea, but if the RAF handle the fast air of the RN this is what happens. Again it is to be question as to why the RAF don’t appear to be interested in the RN helicopters? And I should also like to ask what is special about jet aircraft that they have to be handled by a separate service? Aren’t frigates driven by gas turbines? Don’t frigates have radars, radios, and electronic warfare equipment? Don’t warships carry missiles and other ordnance? Why should jet aircraft have to be handled by one service? What is the logic? There is none. The RAF controlling jets seems to be more about keeping the RAF going and its supporting infrastructure. Why is keeping the RAF logical while letting the FAA keep jets illogical? We have a navy since 897AD, we have had the RAF since 1917 (1st April how apt…) a blip in history.

    I don’t know why I am getting so worked up. Come 2015 they will do away the carriers anyway….

  32. I’ve decided to give up commentating on the whole SDR it’s total rubbish, for too many reasons to get into.

    Can I comment from the point of an outsider about the RAF living in hotels etc.

    Why do our units on tour live in such squalor. I appreciate on patro, you can’t be followed by a portaloo, and a field kitchin/ shower unit. there will always be a lot of shitting in hole moments.

    However every base with more than a platoon in it should have showers toilets cooking facilites etc provided.

    This is not constant mooving high intensity mobile warfare.

    Having sand in your cracks, is doubtless very ‘Ally’ and gives lots of stories for the pub, but I do not see how it improves your aim, awareness/effectiveness as a soldier, or the servicability of equipment.

  33. @ IXION

    You are right. As TD as pointed out here on more than one occasion you can fit all sorts of stuff into a shipping container. There is no reason for patrol bases to be little more than bivvies with a gas stove and BV. All that money spent on testing FRES concepts could have gone on this.

  34. X, weirdly air dispatch is army. Not sure where that fits in with your comment i was just thinking about jointery,We tended to do a lot of their recovery as well, (big freddy foden it’s a shoe free kinda truck)!

  35. I think my biggest disappointment with the entire SDSR was the lack of any for of strategy. Weather the UK should follow a land type doctrine or a maritime one. All we have done is to delay the entire thing. I seriously doubt that in 2015 we will fair any better. Just more salami slicing of an already depleted and spent force. I doubt in any politician will ever have the balls to pick one over the other. I have had a look at it myself on my blog.

  36. @ paulg

    That is sort of where I was driven in my over generalized (over admiraliszed?!) rant.

    I like to think of myself as person of logic. And that is where my naval orientation comes from. But the more time I spent researching and talking and learning about the RN the fonder I have become so my rants not aren’t perhaps as objective as they should be. I am not really anti-RAF or anti-Army or see things as simplistically as these bashed comments suggest. Deep down I wish there were money for everything.

  37. @ Martin

    I was going to comment on your blog, but my name would be visible…..

    Your article over there is super. But not every state has armed services, look up Costa Rica.

  38. @Monty:

    “do you ever wonder how on earth the Taliban manage to lay their hands on so much explosive and sophisticated detonators? The answer is simple: Iran willingly provides it.”

    That’s BS. Iran is actually opposed to the Taliban both in terms of ideology and in terms of policy. They were on the verge of a border war around 2000.

    The Pakistani intelligence service is controlling, training and equipping the Taliban. Its officers even lead TB cells.

  39. sven
    it wouldnt be the first time enemies have become allies over a decade, think japan/america 45.
    Or the ussr in the same year, the uk was shipping them arms whilst preparing operation impossible.
    We know iran was arming militias in iraq before the inasion, and continued afterwards, it would be rather stupid of them not be doing whatever they could to tie down us forces wherever they can.

  40. Has anyone else realised that the transport fleet is being halved. The plan WAS 25 C130ks replaced by 25 C130Js. Then the second batch of 25 C130ks to be replaced by 25 A400m. It now transpires that when the A400M is delivered and we are only getting 22 not 25 the C130Js will be retired early!!!

    So from 50 C130s we go down to 22 A400Ms plus the handful of C17s!!!

  41. Hi X thanks for your comments. I was not aware Costa Rica did not have an armed forces. Looks like we will be joining them soon.

    As to Taliban supplies, I think it’s clear that not only Iran but elements within pakistani intelligence are arming them. To put up the fight they are they need finaical support as well as weapons. It can’t all be just old ordinance sitting around. Think the main question to ask is why is pakistan supporting them. Are these elements simply trying to keep India our in a post America Afghanistan or are they hoping to stage something bigger in future like an Islamic Pakistan. That would be scary Al Queda with nukes. However I am reasured by both David Cameron and Sir Jock who have informed us all that this will not happen in the next 10 years until the first of the carriers is ready, Few thank god for that.

  42. @ Martin

    Good pub quiz fact, good essay topic too! I think Sven asked here once why the UK felt it needed all these big platforms when Sweden got by with small platforms. I responded why Sweden felt it needed armed forces when Costa Rica had none. Thankfully Sven as well as being well read is also a good sport.

  43. On explosives, the answer is complex.

    1. The Taleban are not a uniform homogeneous mass
    2. Iran does provide some, how official this is??
    3. No doubt Pakistan does provide as well, again, how official??
    4. Most of it though is simple home made explosives

  44. Hello, I’m all shiny and new and all that. Just wanted to say what an outstanding article and comments. Congrats to TD for an insightful thought provoking analysis, and kudos to all the commentors for a polite, considered and intelligent debate.

    As I haven’t had a chance to look at every topic on this site yet, can I canvass you all for opinions on joint-forces (JHF, etc) and ask if anyone considered reducing the role of RAF to long range strategic bombing and air defence, leaving the Army to run CAS and CAP, plus interdiction/strike, and the FAA to carry on doing whatever it is they do in conjunction with Army?

  45. Hi Dom, welcome to TD

    Jointery is the way to go but personally I would go a bit further whilst still preserving the single service ethos that is so important. Why do all three services fly fixed wing and rotary aircraft, why do we run three logistics systems and why do we have so many different types of 30mm cannons!

    The problem with definitions like yours is where does one mission stop and another start, you forgot ISR as well, what is the difference between interdiction and strategic bombing?

    Too many grey areas I feel

  46. @X,

    (I assume the @ symbol is the current directive for referring to a previous contributor!)

    Thank you for the steer towards the Phoenix Think Tank, and the Inter-Service Rivalry paper by Sharkey Ward – much appreciated and the cause of several hours reading when perhaps I should have been working!

  47. Thanks for the welcome, and the reply!

    I was hoping someone might have already had a similar idea and done the tricky thinking for me, but my solution (and I accept there is more than one way to skin a cat) would be to pool maintenance resources, as we have been doing with Joint Helicopter Force, but have one organisation (a sort of uber REME) look after all assets. Absorb RAF and FAA armourers and technicians into it, and incentivise people to deploy at sea with extra pay. The flyers are badged, but the ground crew (and the airbases) are not.

    With regard to missions, a little overlap at the edges is probably inevitable, and maybe even useful, but (and here’s where we will each have our own opinion) I like the Soviet model of dividing assets by task, and subordinating all to the prime objectives of home defence, strategic attack and ground (expeditionary) operations. Everything supports those three planks, including the Navy. I also applaud the USMCs self-contained expeditionary force (MAGTF) organisation too.

    Therefore, I’d take the battlespace, and everything above it, to be Army. That means (in conventional warfare) everything right out to enemy rear echelons is the realm of Army Air Support.

    The traditional role of strategic bombing (economic warfare, writing down production capability) plus strat recce can stay with RAF. Shouldn’t be much overlap there.

    National air defence and airbase defence could be a RAF responsibility, but for the sake of friendly co-operation with Army Air Support, battlespace CAP would be Army too. The only people who want dedicated interceptors are the RAF, so let them keep them.

    Strategic and tactical airlift – all Army. Maritime Surveillance – FAA.

    SEAD is trickier – both Strategic Air Force and Army Air Support have a case for it, so I would have make an allowance for duplicated effort (and sometimes two teams on parallel tracks find different solutions to the same problems, so a benefit there).

    While we’re at it, Naval Gunfire Support doesn’t exist to keep BAE Land Systems’ Vickers factory in business, so press on with the navalised 155mm.

    So, effectively what we have is an Army (RM and RAF Reg’t is army, ain’t it? ;-) ) force, supported by Army and/or Navy with RAF poncing around somewhere else, as is there wont.

    A pilot reserve, formed from commercial aviation pilots, and a greatly expanded TA with real responsibilities in key-point defence, logistics and REMF jobs, to free up regulars for the front line.

    I hope you can make sense of that. It’s a bit of a stream of consciousness, I’m afraid, but I’d like to know if there’s mileage in some of the ideas.

  48. @ Dom

    You seem disappointed nobody commented on your suggestion so…

    I think the steady stream of commentators has dried up now SDSR has been published as much for reasons of anger and disbelief as fatigue. I am only tied to the computer for family reasons, I can’t stray far from the ‘phone and car.

    1) As am at pains to point out there is a significant difference between being a sailor and an airman. Going to sea simply isn’t a cruise. A sailor has to be effective at other roles for a ship to work. The average RAF technician leads a life not to dissimilar to a civilian with regular hours; this isn’t the same for a sailor. Though with a shrinking establishment and the war in Afghanistan the average RAF can still expect a very settled life.

    2) The Soviets didn’t split forces purely for expediency. Creating different competing services meant that the Party never faced a single power block. Note how in today’s Russia the VDV are well funded and kept separate from the Army.

    3) Strategic bombing is best done with long range cruise missiles. These can be launched from a variety of platforms. There isn’t really a need for aircraft carrying these to be “bombers.” The Army could launch them from the ground. And the Royal Navy launch them from submarines and surface warships.

    3) If you are giving the Army fighters to control the air space above the land battle there is no real need for their to be an RAF protecting the home base. Imagine we are still in the Cold War. There would be Army fighter squadrons in Germany. And there would be Army fighter squadrons at home. Their organisation could be either trickle drafting (squadron stays put personnel slowly rotate) or the whole squadron (aircraft and everything) rotates back home. If you were to extend this scenario to include a couple of carriers those FAA not deployed to the ship or working up could be used for homeland defence too with a squadron in Scotland to cover the North Sea and one in the South West to cover the Western Approaches. These would be coordinated by joint air defence HQ with a jointly owned AWACS. No need for a RAF.

    4) All heavy lift as you say to the Army. The RN would have to be Army customers just as they are now RAF customers.

    5) SEAD would be both Army and Navy. (That is SEAD for carrier supplied obviously by the carrier……..)

    6) NGS Why a modern company like BAE takes years and years to develop a 155m gun is beyond me too…..

    7) The reason why the RAF Regiment survives cuts is because it produces good infantry. Dissembling at time when boots are needed on the ground would be a shame. And this could equally be said of the RM (only RM produces first class infantry.) But without an RAF the Army could perform the airfield protection role. Should the Army then have the Marines? No. As I said above Marines expect to go sea; with odd exceptions (RLC) nobody joins the Army to go to sea.

    8) All in favour of increasing the TA.

    9) Jointery (jointary?) It seems this term always implies RN, RAF, and Army. Suggestions that the RAF be done away with are treated as illogical, it will never work. Just having RN and Army doesn’t sit well in the defence blogging psyche. Yet when everything is stripped the pro-RAF lobby is saying a special service needs to exist to control one type of vehicle, the aeroplane. While the other two service pay the price and still have to provide their own organic air power to get their jobs done.

  49. Does anyone have any insight to the reason / pretext to the cancelation of the MRA4 and Sentinel? Cameron said, in reference to MRA4, that it was the ‘wrong type’ of equipment.

  50. IF you go looking for what happens when you try to combine all a coutry’s armed forces in a single organisation look no further than Canada which did just that. However they soon realised due to major problems that each service still needed its own identity and infrastructure so althouth they are called the canadian armed forces they are still pretty much separate.

    However the idea of “Purple” organisations does make sence in some cases. A super REME wouldn’t work though unless everyone was trained to do all taskes as the Naval egineers would go to the ships the aircraft fitters to the airfields and the AFV mechanices to the army bases. At depot/depth level it is now almost totally civilian with service men and women operating forward.

    Areas yet to be purple are training and headquarters. Why do we need 3 Officer Training Colleges. We should only have 1 Operations Headquarters. The DE&S needs to be seriously slimed down and the Military assume an advisory role ceeding management to civilians.

    I do agree that the RAF’s Helicopter bar SAR should go the the AAC with SAR becoming a civilian agency. THe RAF should have a single type fast jet fleet of T3 Typhoons witht he F-35C going to the Navy. The RAF will recive UCAVs when they mature. The RAFs other key rolls will be aerial ISTAR and Transport/logistics. I would like the RAF Regiments capabilites expanded to that of a Ranger type unit adding to the planned growth in SF assets and their supporting units.

    One of the Key to the Army’s future will have to be the TA. High readiness units will still need to be fully manned by regulars but others could have upto 25% TA in their organisation, training with their units regularly. The other key will be the developement and purchase of a new fleet of medium AFVs, possibly based around the ASCOD2 to replace not only the CVR(T) familty but the FV432, and Warrior families. Those units currently equipped as mechanised (joke) with the Saxon will revert to light infantry but all light infantry units will have sufficient vehicles to maneover a infantry company plus their support company. Whether this is the Warthog or a wheeled vehicle is yet to be seen. The vast bulk of the platforms purchased by UOR for Afghanistan will be scrapped after the mission with maybe the Oselot retain to suppliment the Panther and the jackal retained for High Readiness formations.

    Nearly all of the above will have to come after 2015 and some as far off as 2020 unless funding is increased. Until then the Armed Forces will do what they always do and get by, and hopefully not have to pay the price of this Governemnts gamble with defence

  51. @ Dom good point about the airline pilot reserve for local air defence. This is exactly what the US uses with its national guard. If these guys are only expected to shoot down airliners with cannons then surley we can jsut equipt them with English Electric lightning’s or something else from the scrap heap. Can we really justify a Typhoon for a mission like that. We could save a fortune and the airforce might finally be able to deploy more than 10% of its fleet to a war.

  52. @ Lord Jim (all interesting stuff as per!!)

    There 3 colleges because there are fundamental differences between land and sea and air warfare. If it were up to me the last would be the only joint college and it would be what our American cousins term a post-grad school; that is only open to those who have learned the basics of land or sea warfare.

    SAR provides the helicopter pilots and crews with a home draft. Somewhere were they can keep up their skills. BUT HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE A STABLE HOME LIFE FOR A FEW YEAR WHICH AIDS IN THE RETENTION OF EXPENSIVE TRAINED PILOTS AND SENIOR RATES. Didn’t mean to shout, can’t do underlining!!!

    The RAF Regiment generates good light infantry that is all. Don’t fall the propaganda that the Rock Apes are up there with the Royal Marines and Parachute Regiment. They are good as are all British infantry but they aren’t that good….

    Why can’t Army and RN pilots and crewes fly ISTAR, AWACS missions and transport? Why is it you feel or think or both that there has to be a separate service to fly large fixed wing? As in my reply to Dom why does jointary mean preserving the RAF? Why can’t jointery mean RN and Army sharing the big aviation roles outside their organic needs? Here lots of people have commented about FRES and whether it should be air portable. FRES will be an Army asset. Most of the cargo stuff the RAF fly around belongs to the Army. Do we need all those parallel command structures, all those Air Marshalls etc.?

    I broadly agree with you about the TA. But I think that issue needs to be discussed somewhere else. For example would we benefit from the TA having elements similar to the Norwegian Home Guard etc?

    As always just shooting the breeze…..

  53. Richard W, I can only guess why these two platforms have been canned.
    Nimrod has gotten a really bad press. The MR2 for being unsafe to fly the MRA4 for being really badly manged and over cost and over time, then if that wasn’t bad enough, it too has developed safety issue. I thing, therefore that nobody wanted to have anything to do with it. As we were only going to get 9 it was probably thought it was one project that could be let go (short-term), I think they will need to replace the capability in the future.

    As regard the Sentinel, this was a shock as its just gone in to service (Late…very Late) but if reports are to believed its a very good system. I think the problem is that when this project was envisaged UAVs could not provide that capability, not they can, and probably cheaper and better (certainly in terms of persistance. So I guess they will replace them with UAVs (Reaper alreadu has a Sythetic Apature Radar) I guess there will be an investment in more of them or maybe something like Global Hawk or one of the new UAVs under development (Mantis, Taranis et al).

    It’s very bad news if these capabilities are lost for good!

    One thought I had (I know it will never happen but here me out). Why don’t we develop an aircraft about the size of a large Business jet, that was designed from the outset to be:

    Carrier Capable
    annd able to be configured for the following roles:

    This could replace or at least supplement the A330/AWACs, Nimrod MRA4 and R1, Sentinel and doall this from a carrier as well!!!

    One airframe to replace potentially 4/5.

    Just a thought…

  54. @ Phil

    The ‘plane you describe is one the US got rid of quite recently.

    Have a google for Viking…….

  55. With regards to offier training I still cannot see why we cannot do with just 1 College. Intial training would be common but then “Post Grad” course would move into more specialist ares but at the same location. Under current financial processes ie RAB the MoD has to take into account the value of its estates as well as other assets and if it exceeds an agreed target it is fined by the treasury with has been over £1Bn in some years, and given the value of the land occupied by certain Officer Training Colleges this is not an insubstantial amount.

    Why are helicopter pilots a special case? Nowadays people singing up know what they are getting into regarding disruption of home life etc. AS long as the Covenant is adhered to regarding time between deployments all aircrew should be trested the same and if there are sufficents aircrew etc for the Chinnok and Merlin fleets then it will be easier to achieve this.

    The RAF regiment needs to have an expanded roll to fully justify its existence in the current financial and political climate. Being tasked with only with base defence does not utilise their capabilities. What if a number of the Army’s infantry battalions were available purely in this rile? The alternative is to disband the Regiment and hand the task of providing air and ground defence operational bases overseas to the Army

    The airportability of FRES is something that should have little or no inpact on the Army’s future fleet of medium AFVs. As has been pointed out, except in a few limited senarios, these platforms will be transported by sea.

    On jointery, I accept that at Headquarters level the services should be one but the three branches of the Armed Forces must retain their identity. Canada tried to remove this and found it didn’t work and reversed their plans. If you transferred all RAF personnel to the Army you would still have an independant community within the Army with little in common except the rank structure. The main areas for consolidation are in the management and administration areas which would immediately reduce the number of “Star” positions buy between a quarter and a third as it is in this areas the Armed Forces are truely top heavy. Any change to these aareas will be vigorously opposed by the Military as it will seriously disrupt the career path, far more so that the opening up of managemetn posiption within the DE&S to Civilians.

    With regard to losing capabilities, the UK has a bad record of the past decades. A good example is the retirement of the Canberra PR9 without replacement. Yes the Tornado/Raptor combination does compensate some what but it nowhere near has the same capability. The sensor on the former was the bast available being the same as fitted to another well know US recce platform and the images I have seen are simply incredible. AS part of this years round of defence cut the Governemtn has simply carried out a cost/benefit analysis with “Expert” advise and decided that the costs incurred by Nimrod and Sentinal outweigh the percieved benefits. THis is a gamble and we will have to see if the declared rolling review leading to the retention of the Sentinal once operation wind down in Afghanistan. I personally would prefer to see the Tornado fleet further reduced at that time to one wing of 3 squadrons plus OCU at either Mrham or Lossiemouth.

    turning to the MRA4, I do think that this is a capability hole we will end up filling with possibly the Poseidon at a latter date. Multinational operations against pirates and smugglers require a MP platform as will patroling maritime choke points that could possibly be threatens by beligerent nations SS. However this would not take place until post 20202 and alot can happen between then and now.

  56. Helicopters aren’t a special case. I could have said the same about navy caterers. When I first started to visit HMS Excellent and other RN shore establishments the food was cooked by RN chefs. Now meals are provided by civilian caterers. Finding useful work ashore for older ratings keeps them in them in the service while they establish their families.

    I don’t know how you think I am pro’ a unified armed service. I don’t think from a position of logic that the RAF serves a purpose. All armed services have little communities that are quite tribal. Position for position, airframe for airframe, the FAA and AAC don’t have as many senior ranks as the RAF do. And most of the RAFs work is supporting the other two services.

    To say that you understand the need for separate armed services, but can’t see the need for separate defence colleges for young sirs is very contradictory. We haven’t mentioned staff college, but that is an entirely different thing. Perhaps you need to read up on what happens at Dartmouth, Sandhurst, and Cranwell?

    As for air portability of FRES as you say it is a non issue. I was just using FRES an example; picked out of there as an example as I bashed away. There was lots and lots of talk about whether FRES should be air portable. But why was it such an issue? Why is it always about what the RAF can move? For the price of 1 C17 you can buy 2 Bays. We don’t have the planes; an infantry battalion will have about 70 vehicles of this size. All I was saying that most of the stuff of the RAF moves about is to support Army operations.

    Sorry that was a bit rushed.

  57. C I am familiar With this s3 Viking. What I was thinking was something much bigger, more the size of a global express able to carry something like an erieye.

  58. Thanks Phil. The MRA4 cancellation conjures up a range of possible scenarios in addition to plain financial meanness:

    – The thing is broken and cancelling it is a face saving way out?
    – Locating Russian submarines can now be done by Astute?
    – Maritime patrol can be done by satellite, with search and rescue for kids lost on surf boards?
    – According to various newspapers the RAF apparently offered it up as a potential cut, so presumably they didn’t want it that much either?
    – Putting it in service may have entailed keeping Kinloss open with the aircraft therefore bearing all the Kinloss basing costs.

    I’m inclined to think you may be right about Sentinel. Apparently it will continue its role in Afghanistan but be retired after that, which seems to say its role will be overtaken by something else. This is the risk of high technology development projects – that by the time you get them into service there are cheaper and easier solutions available to the problem you were trying to address.

  59. Richard W said: “Does anyone have any insight to the reason / pretext to the cancelation of the MRA4 and Sentinel? Cameron said, in reference to MRA4, that it was the ‘wrong type’ of equipment.”

    Yes the wrong type of equipment for Air Marshall’s who want shiny Typhoon’s, not Maritime Partrol / ASW aircraft, with really useful overland NT-ISTAR capabilities. Perhaps the old “cold war relic” phrase was used with respect to hunting “Soviet” subs…….. frakking pathetic really, island nation, major maritime power (well we were) and not a single maritime patrol aircraft, not even a CN235 in “Coast Guard” colours – it beggars belief really.

    As for Sentinel – on time, not over budget as far as I know, being lauded for its capabilities in theatre, so here’s and idea, as soon as we quit the sandbox, we can sell them…… Perhaps the Fighter Mafia didn’t want to be consigned to flying modified business jets either !

  60. Lord Jim
    You dont join the Airforce to live on a Destroyer.
    You dont join the army to “Turtle” an airfield.

    The RAF regiment does most of its early training with the army (I think), but what they do is a specialised role, one that an infantryman in The Rifles just isnt trained for.

  61. @ Phil

    Good that you already knew about Viking. There is so much stuff out there we all miss bits. After posting I had enough thought. What you want is a jet powered Greyhound equivalent. As an aside I have thought since the CVF project was started that the plane it should have been built around was the E2. Forget the fighter!!!

    @ DominicJ

    What do you mean “Turtle”? People join the AAC to fly and work on helicopters, why can’t people join an enlarged AAC to fly fast jets? Going to sea or staying on land is the choice, not going to sea, camping out while underfire, or living in a nice barracks working an 8 till 4 day. One of my best cadets couldn’t bare sailing or boat work and when he turned 18 went and joined the RAF. (I cried for weeks… :) ;) ) Lots of army cadets decide to the join navy. Why is everyone fixated on jets being special, that require their own cadre of disciples to maintain and look after them, etx. etc? What am I missing? What is the gap on my understanding? Is my view so out of step? I know I am failing to articulate my thoughts. I will go off to think…….. (Mad at me, not you gentlemen!)

    As for the RAF Regiment having a specialist role, really? Can’t Army infantry patrol to protect a fixed point? The RAF Regiments role of air field protection is undermined in conventional war because it doesn’t have its own organic artillery. Once a conventional enemy is in artillery range they can interdict air field operations. I understand that sometime back in the Regiment’s history there was talk of establishing as corps on lines similar to RM. That would have been a useful formation. Of course in the current era of wars amongst people without front lines I suppose there is a need for heavily armed security force; probably more so than in the Cold War. Shame that one of the capabilities that first disappeared due to the Peace Dividend was the RAF Regiment’s light armour. But specialised role? I think not.

  62. The force protection role provided by the RAF regiment is specialised, and useful, but i’m not sure it needs to be provided by the RAF.

  63. “What do you mean “Turtle”?”
    In Real Time Strategy Computer Games, a much maligned but perfectly viable strategy is to fortify your starting position madly and either develop the game winning “super weapon” or expand your fortress to cover the map and squeeze the fast/light expansionists back.
    Turtles have hard shells, your base has a hard shell.

    “Can’t Army infantry patrol to protect a fixed point?”
    Its not what they’re trained to do. They’re trained to be highly aggressive and expansionist, constantly pushing against the enemy.

    “The RAF Regiments role of air field protection is undermined in conventional war because it doesn’t have its own organic artillery. Once a conventional enemy is in artillery range they can interdict air field operations”
    True, but outside their scope, their job was to protect airfields from enemy special forces, not enemy main forces.
    If the enemy is close enough for field guns to be hammering the runways, the fast jets should have been withdrawn long ago.

    “Shame that one of the capabilities that first disappeared due to the Peace Dividend was the RAF Regiment’s light armour”
    Cant argue with that.

    All I can say is that most of what I’ve read has said that the RAF Regiment was much better at protecting airfields in Afghanistan from attack than the Army units they replaced.

  64. @DomonicJ

    You dont join the Airforce to live on a Destroyer.
    You dont join the army to “Turtle” an airfield.

    That is exactly my point. I do not believe on having a joint armed forces as each service has a distinct identity.

    Regarding the RAF Regiment vs Army, in the current climate the former’s role is too narrow and the Army needs to expand its training as in the example given the Army is incapable of protecting its own bases as all the Infantry are out in the field aggreesively pursueing the enemy.

  65. @ dom

    Thanks I hear what you are saying re the Turtle.

    I see what you are saying to about RAF Reg and Special forces. Though I think many Army infantry OCs (especially those belonging to The Rifles!)would say there people were more than up to that job. I shall go and cogitate on that one a bit more……

  66. Dominic ref your response to X:

    “Can’t Army infantry patrol to protect a fixed point?”
    Its not what they’re trained to do. They’re trained to be highly aggressive and expansionist, constantly pushing against the enemy.

    What a load of rubbish – the Army is “trained” in more techniques that you can shake a stick at – an offensive patrol with a goal of finding, fixing and destroying the enemy is indeed not necessarily the same as a defensive perimeter patrol with a force protection emphasis – but your average squaddie is more than capable of doing both – the Army’s training is really not as narrow as you may think !

    I really cant believe I am going to use these words, BUT, if you really want to get rid of a Cold War Relic (TM) then you completely get rid of the RAF Regiment and adjust TA infantry battalion roles accordingly (airfield defence, Rapier / CAMM units etc) (apologies to my friends who are Rock Apes, but you know its true….)

  67. @ Jed

    It seems the TA is an area ripe for discussion.

    I note the RAF Regiment always seems to have a recruiting presence at events more often than the RM. And I don’t think I ever seen a recruiting stand for the Parachute Regiment (it being the main (the only?) British regiment tied in someway to a specific location.

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