Coming as no surprise will be the news of rumours of yet more cuts, reductions in Army numbers post 2015 and Tornado’s being the headline grabbers this week. As the MoD wrestled with Planning Round 11 it became obvious that the SDSR announcements were not going to be enough and yet more reductions would be inevitable. Various leaks and titbits have been surfaced but the fat lady hasn’t started her solo yet and if there is anything certain, it is that there is more bad news to come.
The real bad news will surface when PR11 has been finalised, right now the MoD is looking down the back of the sofa for a few quid that might have been left over from the last diversity seminar.
The Guardian is reporting that options include yet more surface vessels to be withdrawn, Army personnel reduced, reduction in the mythical Chinook order and the early withdrawal of the entire Tornado fleet. There will be a range of options presented these might well be on that list.
The MoD responded
SDSR implementation work is ongoing and the MOD is also undertaking its annual planning round, which is used routinely to look forward over ten years and ensure the Department’s commitments are in line with available resources. We keep a range of options under consideration at all times regarding future capabilities. Premature speculation is not helpful to that process, to our Armed Forces or to industry.
So, let’s not speculate or discuss eviscerating the armed forces because it might be unhelpful to them.
In a world of hard choices I think withdrawing Tornado earlier might well be the lesser of several evils. It is currently the only aircraft cleared for RAPTOR which is providing a significant capability in Afghanistan but there is no reason why other coalition aircraft could not use the pod (the Polish and Greek Air Force use RAPTOR on their F16’s for example) and the small number in theatre would seem to make them vulnerable. Close Air Support and ISTAR could be provided by other coalition partners and there is no doubt that even after compensating BAe and Rolls Royce for early termination of aircraft and engine sustainment contracts there is soem serious potential for savings that would relieve pressure on other areas.
Withdrawing Tornado early might even allow some funding to be found to accelerate integration of systems like Paveway IV, Brimstone and RAPTOR onto Typhoon. Now that the deal to sell RAF Typhoon production slots to Oman looks a bit wobbly the need to keep Tornado because Typhoon would not be available in sufficient numbers might not be as acute.
Also in the news recently is Liam Fox planning to deliver a speech to the think tank Civitas in which he will address the issue of budget over runs in major projects.
For years successive defence secretaries have failed to get a grip on the equipment programme and failed to hold the department and industry to account for delays and poor cost-estimation
These practices in the MoD would simply not be tolerated in the private sector, and they will no longer be tolerated in the MoD
Whilst there is an obvious need for the relationship between industry and the MoD to change and for the MoD itself to change I think the elephant in the room for major projects is politics and politics, is something that politicians need to sort out. In various news reports that trail the speech some of these major projects that are over budget are highlighted, including Astute, CVF, Typhoon and A400.
Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with these projects will fully understand the political dimension is the source of the serious cost over runs so we can all witter on about BAe and DE&S all day long but it will not make one brass farthing of difference to major project costs.
Political interference is the biggest source of acquisition buffoonery so unless, Liam, you can sort that one out, I suspect in 5 or 10 years time we will be planning yet another reappraisal of our relationship with the defence industry and bemoaning ineptitude at the MoD.