Heads Up

As the Charles de Gaulle moved out of Toulon last week and the contributing force list was published by NATO for Operation Unified Protector there is a lot of talk about the UK’s paltry contribution, especially when compared to France, evidence of just how far we have declined.

Operation Unified Protector (Libya) - Key Facts
Operation Unified Protector (Libya) – Key Facts

Hold on just a cotton pickin’ minute.

Lets get a few things straight before the doom mongers start doing down the UK’s contribution.

Afghanistan and Elsewhere

Whilst Libya has been hogging the newspaper columns let’s not forget the scale of contribution to Afghanistan, anti piracy operations, the Falkland Islands and plenty of other deployments.

The Libya deployments have been in addition to these.

Its Not About Numbers

Of course the main news point has been about a lack of carriers and Harriers, especially when compared to the French and Italians but instead of concentrating on what we haven’t got, how about a look at what we have, then compare that with the French and Italians.

Submarine launched Tomahawk, ASTOR/Sentinel, RAPTOR, significant tanker, intelligence and command and control support.

This in addition to combat air patrols and strike missions, whilst Afghanistan and other operations haven’t skipped a beat.

Not too shabby I think, concentrate on effect, not headline numbers and you will see a different story. Of course, having CVS and the GR9’s would have been a useful additional capability, no doubt about that.

Rumours of our demise are greatly exaggerated so lets stop with the doom mongering (me included!) and tip our hats to all three services.



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April 1, 2011 7:49 pm

Hear Hear! Whilst expertise (in people & process) are as much a key ingredient than raw equipment numbers when making capability soup; we still hold some uniquely valuable, albeit often expensively procured, kit (C-17, Sentinel, Tomahawk, WAH-64* etc) compared to what’s available -and deployable- from the rest of Europe.

Plus if Charles de Gaulle’s recent record on operations is anything to go by -expect a major fault to arise followed by a quick sortie back to home port ;-)

*- RTM322’s extra power is useful in keeping the longbow radar fitted during hot-n-high operations, compared to AH-64D

Phil Darley
April 1, 2011 7:54 pm

Absolutely even just looking that the numbers, never mind the quality if the assets I think we have done more than our fair share. Numbers alone do don’t tell you sh1t.. What about numbers of sorties, weapons fired etc. That combined with punching above our weight in Afghanistan.

April 1, 2011 8:22 pm

@ Wstr re CdeG

Don’t panic! They have fixed the wine cooler. :-)

April 1, 2011 8:38 pm

I have always been astonished by the habit that the UK has of always playing its capabilities down. I can ensure that, seen from the outside, the capabilities still available, even if in reduced numbers, are more than impressive. And there’s no doubt at all that the UK is, after America, the most important element of the coalition on Libya.

The worry is that things are changing: in a few months, more capability will be lost, and the moment in which there’s simply not enough stuff to do much of anything draws closer and closer. That is the real worry.

By now every service is stretched to bare bone: and further cuts are going to be devastating.

The Sentinel is enjoying a new moment of glory, by the way. Who knows, it might help save such a precious asset from a demented decision that i certainly hadn’t been expecting to see in the SDSR.
The Sentinel is truly an unique capability: in Europe, no one’s got anything comparable, and only the US can claim to be better covered in that sector, because of the Joint Stars planes.

April 1, 2011 9:43 pm

Here Here
Its also relevent that the warzone is south of France, we are North of France.
If France was providing more assets to bomb the shit out of Orkney, there might be a point!

April 1, 2011 9:58 pm

Thank lord – loss of the wine cooler counts as a mission kill in the Marine Nationale.

That got me thinking about what the equivalent scenario would be like, to that episode of RN: Caribbean Patrol when Manchester’s freezer broke and the crew had to scoff all the meat in a monster BBQ cook-fest

“Eat up now brothers all must be finished before it goes off”
“But mon Capitaine one simply cannot follow a slice of Chabichou du Poitou with a mere Camembert”

April 1, 2011 10:11 pm

“loss of the wine cooler counts as a mission kill in the Marine Nationale”

Wstr FTW.

So do the French have a psyops aircraft in orbit off Tripoli broadcasting the phrase “your mother was an hamster and your father smelt of elderberries” in Arabic?

April 1, 2011 11:01 pm

Now there’s an idea…

TD – NATO is missing an icon on their equipment summary

Gaddafi – “This zionist-imperalist-crusader-al qaeda [seriously, what the hell?] plot will be crushed”
Armee de l’Air Colonel – “Fetchez La Vache”
Airman “What?”
Armee de l’Air Colonel – “Fetchez La Vache!”
Gaddafi “Jesus C- I mean by Muhammad’s* beard!”

* salla Allaahu Alayhi wa Sallam

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 1, 2011 11:15 pm

Do you think the Killer Rabbit is Gaddafi’s secret weapon?

Tim: There he is!
King Arthur: Where?
Tim: There!
King Arthur: What? Behind the rabbit?
Tim: It *is* the rabbit!
King Arthur: You silly sod!
Tim: What?
King Arthur: You got us all worked up!
Tim: Well, that’s no ordinary rabbit.
King Arthur: Ohh.
Tim: That’s the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!
Sir Robin: You tit! I soiled my armor I was so scared!
Tim: Look, that rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide! It’s a killer!
Sir Galahad: Get stuffed!
Tim: He’ll do you up a treat, mate.
Sir Galahad: Oh, yeah?
Sir Robin: You manky Scots git!
Tim: I’m warning you!
Sir Robin: What’s he do? Nibble your bum?
Tim: He’s got huge, sharp… er… He can leap about. Look at the bones!
King Arthur: Go on, Bors. Chop his head off!
Sir Bors: Right! Silly little bleeder. One rabbit stew comin’ right up!


April 2, 2011 1:37 am


The french are rather desperate for tankers in particular, we complain about our position in that regard, for the french the problem is heightened, similar with their sole majour transport; the C-160 is really showing its age as much as our Herc Klassiks was.

Not to mention there are a couple more nations than those on this list here, I reckon this ought to be rather enough…the problem has moved on now from ‘simple’ tank plinking for now, a very fluid situation, requiring the more specialist systems we have (for now) in our ‘locker’.

Gotta love the Monty Python quotes XD

“This zionist-imperalist-crusader-al qaeda [seriously, what the hell?]”
XD yeah, rather pulling every phrase from the history book in this case…

April 2, 2011 2:29 am

you guys are killing me!

sorry TD but the facts must be faced. the UK has experienced a serious downgrade in capabilities. lets be real for just a second.

if the mission was just a bit further south then the UK couldn’t even play ball. without carrier aviation then only France, Italy and Spain (in Europe) would be able to strike without forward bases. you talk about the Tomahawk strikes but how many did your boats fire? you talk about ISR capabilities but again…a few months from now and the situation would be beyond grave…it would be impossible.

to be honest the UK appears to be following Germany in simply fielding for all intents and purposes a “Self Defense Force”!

April 2, 2011 2:31 am

let me clarify…not a self defense force…more likely a force that is difficult to commit without the aid of international partners.

if thats the direction that the UK people want to follow then fine but it removes the UK from the stage of major players….France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands will all field more powerful expeditionary forces.

April 2, 2011 9:09 am


since you replied to my query on my blog…let me respond on yours.

you make good points but let me hazard a guess. this post is a preemptive strike against what you know is coming.

the British press will be up in arms talking about a decline in UK capability when compared to the French once the aircraft carrier appears off the coast of Libya.

it will be a heart wrenching replay of the defense review and i bet you’re worried that many decisions made in haste will be overturned in haste…not because they’re particularly smart but because its about national prestige.

am i right?

April 2, 2011 11:11 am


Presumably you have just read the story in Combat Aircraft Monthly that suggests that the R1 is much better ELINT than Joint Rivet. Do you have any suggestions on how the RAF could fill the gap within the constrained budgets that exist?

April 2, 2011 12:56 pm

“Whilst Libya has been hogging the newspaper columns let’s not forget the scale of contribution to Afghanistan, anti piracy operations, the Falkland Islands and plenty of other deployments. The Libya deployments have been in addition to these.”

Very much agreed Admin.

@ SOolomon – what is you blog? Always keen to read more defence stuff.

April 2, 2011 4:39 pm

Wouldn’t bother. Solomon seems to have an inverse hard on for the Brits.

david spiteri
david spiteri
April 2, 2011 7:32 pm

Just a Question for any who can respond.Do you think number of combat planes will go up when economic situation gets better in Britian? What would be the projected number of combat aircraft and combat ships in the future.? Presently The Royal Air force is down the about 200 combat jets compared to France that had about 300 or more. Wll the Royal Navy ever Have 25 Destoyers and frigates in the near Future?

paul g
April 2, 2011 7:36 pm

then bring forth the holy hand grenade of antioch!! (sorry couldn’t resist)!!

and the count shall be 3 not 4 or 2,

April 2, 2011 7:47 pm

hard on for the UK? hardly. i write mainly about 2 European countries.

the UK and the Netherlands. occasionally Romania…sometimes France. German isn’t ever mentioned except to comment on how little they do.

the other countries that get commented on frequently is Australia and Canada.

is it because i have a hard on for them? no its because i see the UK, Australia and Canada as my country’s natural allies. it isn’t forced, faked or a put on to gain advantage.

it is a partnership between family. one of my family members that has been traditionally a rock is deteriorating before my eyes.

maybe they’re on a necessary diet but from the outside looking in its not a pretty sight.

thats my motivation.

April 2, 2011 7:50 pm

Seems the UK, for what it “plans” for is balanced…Afgan size op, plus putting a small battlegroup ashore, or surging for a one-off coaltition Iraq-style intervention. But, everytime something happens in the world, you guys over extend your planning.

April 2, 2011 8:03 pm

Solomon is spot-on. We have decided to bow out of meaningful defence capabilities for the foreseeable future in favour of NHS and DFID and EU funding. I wouldn’t go on about having a couple of thousand poor sods playing explosive hopscotch in Helmand, ships chasing gangsters around off the Horn or 4 Typhoons on sheep-protection duties in the South Atlantic. The RAF’s PR exercise (or should that be “GR” exercise) seems to have persuaded some people that we still matter. All Cameron’s bleatings about having the nth largest defence budget (I forget which as it is a pointless boast) just rub salt into the wound of what poor value for money we get for it.

April 2, 2011 8:13 pm


Good question. That’s why I said “Foreseeable future” instead of “till 2020” or “for the next decade” or similar Fox/Cameron weasel words. As others have commented, capability holidays often become permanent by order of the Treasury. The debt burden is such, and the recovery will be so lethargic, that they will not be minded to restore our forces to even the threadbare state they were in before the latest cull.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 2, 2011 8:20 pm

@ Paul g -“5 is right out…”

david spiteri
david spiteri
April 2, 2011 9:42 pm

Question 2 : What Britain would buy if it stops paying 9 billion or so in foreign aid for countries Like India. What will happen to these countries if Britain would not help them?

paul g
April 2, 2011 9:52 pm

oo let’s see would india stop it’s space programme or cancel the 10 C-17’s it’s just ordered (we could afford 7 and that was in stages) maybe it would downsize all those subs they were buying. all in all to summise i reckon they’d get by!!

April 2, 2011 11:31 pm

David Spiteri, The polite answer to your first question would be, barring no major changes in the world, most definitely not. The extremely rude and blunt answer from me or my gut reaction would be don’t be so fucking silly if there are no major world changes and the RN or RAF do get brought to a decent strength I’ll eat my grundies.

The second question is way more complex what would happen to these countries without the Aid budget well I would imagine there would be quite a few German car showrooms being closed. However being serious there is a whole aid debate out there and my personal view is coloured by the fact that I have family that used to live in Zimbabwe now in South Africa but still have connections to ‘Home’. As for what we would do with the money well it would probably just get added to the pot and wasted by Labour feck knows about the current lot if by some miracle if the Tories became Tories, directed toward defence. If it was me I would invest it in Infrastructure and energy security projects such as improving the national grid and possibly investment in business that is a no brainer for benefitting the UK. Oh and some would get used to pay for MI5 to keep Gordon Brown or future chancellors away from rebuilt gold stocks.

April 3, 2011 11:57 am

Oo-er, let’s all play nice. We can disagree without argy-bargy. If you think someone’s saying something silly, just have a chuckle and think how much cleverer than them you are.

Solomon’s got a point, in that we really are at the edge of many of our capabilities – which is weird for ‘the world’s fourth largest defence budget’. I may differ from him (not sure what his view would be) in that I think we could get far more for far less by buying OTS kit more suited to our needs, and not pursuing stuff with a British or EU flag on it. Or by not pandering to politics.

Our small Tomahawk stocks are now very low, even though these are cheap and effective weapons – why didn’t we buy more? Because political considerations drove us to spend the cash with UK and European contractors on other stuff, and they don’t make Tomahawk. For example, inter-service politics persuaded us to buy Storm Shadow, even though it costs more and is trickier to use (you can’t have a Tornado on-station 24/7 like a ship, sub or old fashioned TEL with ready-to-fire Tomahawk might be).

Surveillance capabilities will be diminished in short order as equipment is scrapped, even though that’s a major force multiplier, and *relatively* affordable. Why? Because we ‘need’ to keep a lot of Tornado and Challenger 2 available, because redundancies or retraining arising from losing them would make the armed services cross. And because, for reasons unknown to science, it takes five spare airframes to field one working airframe in a crisis. Or, we may need to engage in an artillery duel with the Isle of Man. One can’t be sure.

(I know there are ‘reasons’ for this, but I’m saying they’re down to old kit, old tech, legacy warfighting concepts, bureaucracy, out-servicing contracts, and poor planning – rather than inherent technological controls or our own requirements. We could do better, but we don’t because it would upset a lot of apple carts.)

Specifically relevant to Libya: we’ve spent a fortune on Typhoon, but we don’t have full air to ground capability and barely have enough pilots to fly missions. The unit of capability – what we get for what we paid – is a fraction of what we could have got by buying the latest F-16 or F-18.

I mean, imagine if we’d gone for F-18 instead of Typhoon. We’d have no worries about what to fly off our future carrier, or a French or US carrier in joint-ops. They’d have been delivered on time, and on budget. We’d have a clear upgrade path to already-available AESA radar. Respectable enough LO characteristics. Buddy-buddy inflight refuelling. Lots of cool targeting pods and self defence systems to choose from. Plus clearance for a wider weapons range. Plus conformal fuel tanks and stealth weapons carriage down the road. If we took the same route as the Aussies, we could even have had EW capability wired-in, so every F-18 would be even more flexible. Fighter, electronic attack, ground attack, land and carrier capable, all at a lifetime cost of less than half the Typhoon.

Or look at our Type-45 air warfare destroyers: it would have been nice to see them enforcing a no-fly zone or launching Tomahawks at Tripoli – only they can’t, five years after the first one was launched! (“What’s that blip on the radar?” “We don’t know, we can’t talk to awacs or the US Aircraft carrier on our starboard. Mind you, they haven’t installed our missiles yet, that’s not due until next summer…”)

Twice the price of the modern destroyers fielded by the Germans, Koreans, Spanish, Americans or Japanese, with half the capability – so that it’s effectively four times more expensive. (Not my opinion: a black and white fact based on published missile numbers, engagement envelopes, weapons systems, and capabilities.) Why? because politics made us use a novel, then-unproven Franco-Italian system, and then give the work to expensive UK shipyards.

We could have had proven technology off the shelf that came with more missiles; the ability to shoot down higher flying targets, nuclear ballistic missiles and even satellites; land attack missiles; anti-ship missiles; CIWS from day 1; bleeding-edge anti-submarine defences; and networking out of our ears. But why get that for half the price of a costly political bodge? (Even if the Public Accounts Committee calls Type-45 a ‘disgrace’?)

Basically, dissing the MOD isn’t dissing those who serve on the front line. It’s a prerequisite for enacting reform, and it saves service people’s lives in the long run. If you want your country to have the best, you feel compelled to criticise the plodders in the MOD who are more interested in their pensions and company directorships.

April 3, 2011 12:11 pm

PS The proof of the pudding, as they say:

The way the UK fights just doesn’t work. It hasn’t since 1982.

Gulf War 1:

RAF torn up by Iraqi air defences as its low level mission profile and low levels of stand-off weapons is shown to be disastrous. No-one else suffers similar losses.

Unlike the yanks, we don’t install air conditioning in most of our armoured vehicles. Troops suffer badly, but thank god the air war did most of the work.

Widespread complaints about troops going hungry for lack of food – and going short on water – before the fighting even starts. Prince of Darkness bleats ‘this is to be expected in war.’

SA-80 refuses to work. Radios don’t work. Americans refer to the UK forces as ‘the borrowers’ because they have to get vital kit from the yanks.

Sierra Leone:

Small scale action, but basic kit fails and SA-80 refuses to work again. Troops held hostage by ‘West Side Boys’ as a result because they can’t make boom stick go bang.


A meat grinder for the Bosnians. We **** up generally, with the rest of the EU and NATO. Concentration camps, rape and torture.

Gulf War 2:

SA 80 refuses to work. Lack of ammo and body armour results in deaths that coroners call ‘needless’. British Army is defeated in Basra and retreats. Americans and Iraqis contemptuous of our military abilities. MOD excels only at spin.


Top brass lets scores of men die needlessly by refusing to push for helicopters, sophisticated bomb disposal equipment, MRAPs, satcomms, effective rifles or logistics. MOD keeps spinning. Hopes to get £20 billion to spend on shiny new FRES, which is apparently more important than an actual war.

Basically, our record over the last 19 years is a dismal one. The people on the front line deserve better.

April 3, 2011 12:18 pm


I am serously consider ing leaving the site for the reasons set out in Time gentlemen please. (pause for cheers from Jed and JDBTX, et al).

Before I go however can is say: -HEAr F*cking Hear! and amen to your comments.

paul g
April 3, 2011 12:33 pm

matt i was there for 3 of those and i’m afraid you’re believing the hype no-one was starving bad drills if you didn’t like corn beef hash and the 10 man box all had the same menu. then you had to find someone to swop with, but no-one was starving, one o f the main problems was some tom would write home to mummy and say didn’t like the food so binned it i’m starving, meaning he couldn’t go to the drive thru like at home in the UK. Mrs mum goes all mothery about her precious bunnykins and rings the sun and blows it out of proportion. The A2 rifle (stopped being called a SA80 years ago) was below in GW1 but fine in GW2 for the love of god get off the bandwagon. I could go on can’t be arsed as someone is bound to retort however i’m not reading it from a book i;m quoting from experience, mistakes? yes loads but not the doom and gloom you’re projecting

April 3, 2011 1:34 pm


I don’t think anyone is suggesting it’s a garden of roses. We can do better – certainly we’re funded enough to do so if correctly spent.
The danger is if we tell ourselves we can’t do -some- operations alone or that we have nothing special to bring to the party; then the politicians will eventually believe that (really or conveniently) and give away whole capability areas to Europe who we will never go on ops without. If that happens things will never improve!

Callum Lane
Callum Lane
April 3, 2011 8:27 pm

Gulf War 1: RAF tried their TTPs as envisaged for if the Cold War went hot, took unacceptible losses, moved on. SA80 was pants and the army tried to live by WW2 rationing regimes including limited water.

Sierra Leone: Basic kit worked. The Roal Irish were captured when a meeting with drugged up militia went very sour very quickly. Poor risk management and intelligence, possibly poor TTPs (all the patrol eggs in one basket) but nothing to do with weapons.

Bosnia: Widely seen as a success for British Forces who pioneered doctrine and tactics when it came to Peace Keeping and Peace Enforcement. The Forces implement what the political authorities set
them to do and in Bosnia they were highly successful in this.

Gulf War 2: No problems with the SA80 A2 (referred to as the A2). Problems with body armour and equipment in the initial stages of the campaign directly related to the Govt’s refusal to allow funding for the purchase of kit until it was too late due to the strategic circumstances. The lack of kit posed minimal operational or tactical level risk to the scheme of manoeuvre and was deemed acceptible. All combats a balance of risk. Basra – a complex issue. Both the UK and the US went toe to toe with the JAM (Shia militia) in 2004 and both had to back down. The Iraqi Govt allowed no further widescale operations against the JAM until Charge Of The Knights in 2008, and even then operations were sequenced at Corps level from South to North. Were we defeated in Basra? We could not possibly have won prior to 2008 as the Coalition (not just the UK) had neither the combat power nor the political authority to engage in operations against the JAM. Did the UK get Iraq right? No! Mistakes were made at Strategic, operational and tactical levels – but Basra is a grey area.

Afghanistan: Mirrors Iraq for strategic muddle and under-resourcing. However as we do not know what the Top Brass did or did not push for it is hard to know where to apportion blame. The biggest failing of the early Afghanistan campaign was a lack of clarifies to what the UK was supposed to achieve or how. If you do not know what you are to do you cannot measure success or judge the equipment requirements.

I donot regard myself as an apologist for HM Forces and the MOD. The organisation is top heavy, bureaucratic, inefficient and lamentably bad at operational level planning and dangerously inept at strategic level planning. Our procurement system is shocking and we continually try to punch above our weight and get caught short for doing so – but let us be accurate about our criticism and constructive in our comments.

April 3, 2011 9:27 pm

Just got this, as a picture in my head:
“The organisation is top heavy… and we continually try to punch above our weight”
– so, being top heavy and punching, makes you lurch in one direction, and can’t get back into balance (not to mention, being able to back out)”
– what an accurate description, in a nushell!

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 4, 2011 12:58 pm

Wasn’t responsibility for the Sierra Leone hostage affair dumped into the lap of a single guy, a major I think? Could be wrong, it was some time ago.
As a whole though, Sierra Leone was something of a success.

There were some shocking failures under the UN flag in the former Yugoslavia, but the later NATO operations went a whole lot better.

Our involvement in Iraq, episode I, did actually go quite well. We did have deficiencies in stand-off weapons and guided weapons, attack helicopters too; this was probably due to the feeling that the UK could take its time to introduce these things, rather than rush through expensive procurement when we had no immediately apparent threats that would require these items.
Risks are always taken with capabilities, I don’t think excessive risks were taken despite those dificiencies.

Iraq, episode II, was hindered by the government trying to organize an invasion without anyone knowing they were already commited to an invasion. And later events could have been handled better if we had focused our attention on either Iraq or Afghanistan, rather than spreading forces too thinly in both areas.
An overall political smugness after managing the peace process in Northern Ireland didn’t help things either.

Overall, I don’t share quite the same negative opinion on how things have gone over the years, except perhaps in relation to Iraq II and Afghan. And that is largely down to the politicians; the services themselves met the challenges and adapted well to the circumstances into which they were put.

April 4, 2011 1:16 pm

Hi BB,

RE “Risks are always taken with capabilities, I don’t think excessive risks were taken despite those dificiencies.”
– it was a good idea to do the cold run in Oman, then boots did not melt during the actual campaign and Challys kept going longer than for an hour (once they had the sand/dust filters)

I share your overall assessment broadly, but if we have a good fifty Chinooks, why are there so few (plus under ten Merlins) in A-stan?
– and when the Tornado idea was floated, the ISAF planners tried to say “eehrrm, it is not exactly fast jets that we are first and foremost short of” but they were sent anyway. So over and under-application of resource that does exist seems to be the problem…driven by other agendas?

April 4, 2011 7:15 pm

Couple of points –

1. The numbers of aircraft listed as being contributed in the above document were clearly incorrect when it was published and even more so following the additional deployment of Tornado GR4s today. As I understand it current forces are – 10 Typhoon; 12 Tornado; 3 Sentry; 1-2 Sentinel; 1-2 Nimrod R1; 4-6 VC-10 + supporting transport aircraft. That is on a par with France, while simultaneously supporting Afghanistan and several of capabilities provided are unique bar the US….
2. Solomon makes a bizzare statement around UK expeditionary forces being less capable than France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands…. I’m not quite sure what to make of such a statement other than to question it’s sanity – I assume it is somehow based on 3 of those 4 retaining a minimal naval aviation capability…..?

April 4, 2011 8:13 pm


Well said. Possibly the discrepancy may come from the fact that not all UK assets were declared to NATO for this operation and are held nationally.


“RAF torn up by Iraqi air defences as its low level mission profile”

Well the Tornado’s mission was runway denial in GW1 early on(and was extremely important and successful) which required the use of the JP233 system and required a low level pass of the airfield to deliver it. His airfields where some of the most heavily defended targets attacked (reportedly the heaviest outside Baghdad and that require F117) its testament to the aircraft and crews that more were not lost. I think im right in saying most Tornado’s were lost in this mission and once they were completed loses reduced indeed the Jaguar which also deployed suffered no losses.

April 6, 2011 10:18 am

“We have decided to bow out of meaningful defence capabilities for the foreseeable future in favour of NHS and DFID and EU funding.”

When we are at is when talk comes about anti-service sentiment: I’m getting tired of the nonsense-argument behind NHS and DfID eating the defence budget.

As TD constantly says, the MoD has a budget which is big enough. If they would be able to shorten planning and procurement cycles, introduce a drumbeat policy on contracting certain capabilities (fast jets, surface vessels, submarines, helicopters) instead of buying large tranches where we don’t get out from, then many things would be much better and flexible.

Put into an international context, the NHS was the single most efficient health service of all nations tested in an OECD comparision taken. Which HMG-service can say that of itself?

The DfID-aid was also praised by the World Bank and the WMF, because of exactly not being a vehicle of supporting the construction-sector of the lender (like the Chinese and the Germans do).

I think, there should be better management, no argument here. In the past, I would have given more aid to countries like Sri Lanka, being strategically important and now in fact a chinese colony in all but name, like many african countries are.

EU-funding is a major problem. Our interest is orthogonal to the french. We want to cut spending and want to direct funding into future industries. The french want to subsidize their agricultural sector. This is a question of having the nuts to enforce UK policy on the EU-level. Not easy, if you are head of a EU-despising party basically allied with right-wing parties in the EU-parliament.

Strategy, security and defence is not only a matter of armed forces. This is the part, where the SDSR has led to clarification and has righly put things into context. As well as deverting assets to cyber-defence. For this accomplishment, it get’s no praise. Instead, it is being despised because of eliminating one or another favourite toy.

April 6, 2011 11:49 am

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the responses to my posts! All very well thought through! Try getting that from a US defence blog, heh-heh ;o)

Yes, I am a doom monger. Comes from having worked for both contractors and gubmint. The people who make the decisions make all of us here look like Einsteins…

I guess… I think there’s a difference between winning your goal through sheer mass, and winning it for what it should have cost, if kit worked better. I’m glad we did Sierra Leone, for example – small, not an endless morass – but speaking to people involved, they said we could have done much better. Avoidable mistakes.

Runway denial – bad idea, badly implemented. Why send a Tornado when you can send a stand-off missile with sub munitions like tomahawk, or an atacms missile ? Cold War projections imagined the Tornado would face horrendous attrition in the runway denial role against Soviet airfields – it was a dodgy concept from day 1. Even if you stick with the Tornado instead of a stand-off missile, why use jpl sub munitions when a high altitude drop of a jdam would cause serious damage for little threat of being shot down? Because ‘service inertia’, that’s why.

April 6, 2011 4:43 pm

Just some question? Could we have details of the number of strike missions over Libya flown by each air force so far?

Has any fault actually developed on the CdG?

How come we have Typhoons that are, at the moment, essentially interceptors, while the French have a genuine multi-role aircraft?

Are the French flying any AWACS? Are we?

April 6, 2011 6:00 pm

“Possibly the discrepancy may come from the fact that not all UK assets were declared to NATO for this operation and are held nationally.”

I think the same is true of the French assets. Quite a good thing, now that Turkey is attempting to sabotage the mission.

April 6, 2011 6:55 pm


Runway denial. I fully agree we would do it that way now but you must remember most of that technology wasnt available in 1991 also the americans were very nervous about tomahawk then they had never been used before in anger. I think we used what was the best available at the time.


by all accounts were flying several. Typhoon is cleared for ground attack ops in Libya as off today. We dont have enough pilots trained in ground attack on typhoon yet as they haven’t needed to be air defence was more important.

April 7, 2011 9:14 am

Hi Mark & Mat,
“Runway denial. I fully agree we would do it that way now but you must remember most of that technology wasnt available in 1991 also the americans were very nervous about tomahawk then they had never been used before in anger. I think we used what was the best available at the time.”
– indeed, the VFM for precision guided weapons was only proved then (Even the Americans ran their stocks to a very low level, because of the better than expected effectiveness)
– runway denial was taken seriously,not just as a key capability to have, but also as a threat. Harrier would never have come into existence otherwise (was one way of countering that threat). Further back, where it was reasonable to assume some warning ahead of the threat (approaching), the Vulcan crews were practicing two-minute out-of-here drills

April 8, 2011 12:23 pm

“there’s no doubt at all that the UK is, after America, the most important element of the coalition on Libya”

France, which officials say is now responsible for the highest number of sorties, and Britain, which at NATO meetings Thursday committed more aircraft to the operation, have jumped in to fill the gap. According to NATO figures, the alliance has sustained its effort since the U.S. pulled back, mounting 164 air sorties on Wednesday, compared with 150 on Monday. NATO said that tempo was maintained Thursday.


April 9, 2011 9:36 pm

“Nato officials insisted the pace of the air operations was being maintained. But it has emerged that the US and the French, who have been the two biggest military players until now, are retaining national control over substantial military forces in the Mediterranean and refusing to submit them to Nato authority.

The French have the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, two escorting frigates and 16 fighter aircraft, none of which are under the Nato command and control which was announced last Thursday.

Until last week, President Nicolas Sarkozy was the loudest opponent of handing over the operations to Nato control. Nonetheless, the French are not only taking part in the Nato campaign, but are the biggest non-US contributors, with 33 aircraft, double Britain’s 17. Not all of these are strike aircraft.

Until Monday, the Americans had performed most of the attacks on ground targets, with the French executing around a quarter and the British around a 10th.”


June 18, 2011 6:23 pm

How many of those French planes are on the CdG and will they be replaced easily when she has to go back to port? The French have got more planes in but I would argue that what they are doing is not sustainable (the French are already saying that if CdG does not come back soon she won’t be available at all for the next year). At least what we have out there is balanced, sustainable and effective. We’ve got the most capable platforms going dropping state of the art munitions in a sustainable way (just!). And thats when our main effort is somewhere else!

January 30, 2013 5:51 am

Mat, You’re guilty of taking technology back in time. JP233 was conceived with the intent of being ‘standoff’ but given things like GPS weren’t available, the simplicity of the modern guided weapon was out of reach. Thus the only reliable way do accurately deliver an area denial weapon was to overfly the target. Even your assessment of a JDAM is wide of the mark. Precision munitions accounted for a much smaller percentage of ordnance dropped in GW1 than the TV replays would have you believe. Now lets look at your proposed attack profile. Day 1 see’s you facing an intact ground to air threat and the likelihood of advanced fighters facing you. Suddenly you 20k-ft level bombing run doesn’t look so attractive without massive fighter cover does it? And so as a layered approach you see the stealth, the massed cover and the GR1’s looking to close the (huge) primary air bases. Whats more it worked. The real fly in the ointment was our lack of anti-radar missiles to suppress defences during the JP233 missions. Thus the anti-airfield attacks were accompanied by GR1’s carrying 8 air burst 1000 pounders which would be tossed at the enemy defences using radar fixes on the ground. These missions accounted for the bulk of the GR1 losses – Rising into the MEZ and having to recover to low level in the dark proved far more hazardous than delivering JP233. Once however, we knew the opposing air threat had vanished, reverting medium level bombing was a perfectly viable option and reduced losses considerably.