Fantasy Fleets – Chris B

Type 26

A guest post from Chris.B

It appears everyone has been pitching in to the war zone that is “fantasy fleets” and so I decided to have a crack myself. I and others have often been challenged with what I personally believe to be the very tenuous argument of “well at least I’ve made a suggestion, what’s yours?”, by which logic a suggestion to take a long bath in high concentration acid would immediately be validated if no alternative course of action could be suggested.

The goal of this article then is to try and find something of a middle ground between the recent series of posts by IXION and that of DomJ.

The framework then for this is to play a relatively boring game of fantasy fleets, being that it will attempt to meld current financial reality with the current defence situation that faces the UK, while keeping in mind (but certainly not strictly adhering to) the governments plans for the armed forces as laid out in the 2010 Strategic Defense and Security Review, or as it’s otherwise known “that bodge job that was used as a cover for cutting spending”.

Just keep in mind that I openly admit now that I haven’t thought of every conceivable angle. There will almost certainly be holes that need to filled in here and there. It’s also possible that the numbers wont exactly add up, to the penny. The purpose of this is more to create a broad outline, into which others might colour in the details 9or I‘ll end up doing a second edition) and to promote a vigorous debate that potentially ends in plenty of well meaning swearing!

Overview

To suggest any sort of plan without first looking at the wider situation would be a waste of time. I’m sure we can all agree that cutting the Navy and Air Force down to one dinghy and one hot air balloon respectively in order to purchase an additional 3000 tanks would not be in the best interests of the nation. On the flip side, a 100 ship navy and a 1000 aircraft air force are of no real use if all we can send to seize and hold ground is a courageous and determined fellow with an ASP Baton and a dog handling team.

We must consider that money is tight (more on this in the conclusion), thanks to a combination of various politicians, American mortgage lenders and the major global credit rating agencies. In an ideal world I could take a scythe to the government budget overall, including the International Development Fund (overseas aid) which is projected by the treasury to top £9 billion by 2015. Unfortunately that’s not an option. We have to make the defence establishment fit the defence budget. We also have to consider that there are some tasks we must fulfil and others that we have a choice in, more or less.

The fairly obvious starting point is the protection of the British Isles, its dependencies, and its overseas territories, consisting of; England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, the Isle of Man, the Cayman Islands (Caribbean), the Turks and Caicos Islands (Caribbean), Bermuda (Caribbean), the British Virgin Islands (Caribbean), Anguilla (Caribbean), Montserrat (Caribbean), Gibraltar, Akrotiri & Dhekelia (Cyprus), the British Indian Ocean Territory (Diego Garcia), the Pitcairn Islands (South Pacific), the British Antarctic Territory, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (South Atlantic), Saint Helena (South Atlantic), Ascension Island and Tristan da Cuhna (South Atlantic).

In addition the UK is a member of many organisations that have treaty obligations, such as NATO and the United Nations, occasionally requiring the UK to contribute maritime, air and land forces as part of a multi-lateral coalition.

Now obviously all of these concerns are not equal in terms of how likely they are to require a UK military response. The Pitcairn Islands for example are considered sufficiently free from the threat of aggression to not warrant a strong, permanent Army/Royal Navy/Royal Air Force task force to be stationed there 365 days of the year. The Falkland Islands are another matter entirely.

I’m assuming that after 2015 the British Army will have withdrawn from Afghanistan, leaving little but a token presence to help the Afghan government in its ongoing quest for peace and security. It’s from this point onward that we need to start considering our place in the world and how we will deal with various threats to our national security.

The long and short of it is that we should not try and match every foreign foe ship for ship, plane for plane, and tank for tank, but instead to forge alliances and understandings at every conceivable turn with everyone who will do business with us, such that any enemy can be countered by a combined effort of several nations, with the British featuring prominently no doubt.

The operations over Libya make a fine point. Excluding the US and UK forces, the other nations involved managed to bring together over one hundred aircraft of various types and roles, plus a significant naval task force. This would be the preferable model that the UK would seek to repeat in the future, while still retaining the ability to conduct limited operations on an individual basis.

This means we need to be able to contribute land, sea and air components to a multi-national task force, and in particular we need to get very good at providing a degree of leadership and organisation to these elements in the absence of heavy United States involvement, by drawing on our pool of potential allies across the globe, either as a whole or on a limited, regional basis.

That requires a reasonably balanced force, which is what I’m going to try and achieve over the course of this article; able to deploy land forces for large, one off scraps or limited interventions; that can deploy aircraft for strike or policing purposes; and that can control or deny maritime lines of communication. All of this either alone or with international assistance.

It also signifies the first big change of the “Chris.B. Reforms” – merging the Ministry of Defence with the Foreign and Commonwealth office. It simply doesn’t make sense to have the nations military arm separated from the body that so often decides where it will be employed. Foreign policy and Defence policy are not neighbours, they are bed fellows. One is integral to the other.

As for what to call this new department, by all means I’ll take suggestions because I’ve no idea. The Defence and Diplomacy Office? The Ministry of Defence and Diplomacy? Who knows, but I’m sure someone will conjure up a suitable idea.

The diplomatic angle should not be underestimated. In the absence of large defence spending (in the 1950’s defence spending was about 10% of GDP, now it is about 2.7%) we can longer sustain the ability to act unilaterally on anything but the smallest end of the scale. The forging of understandings and diplomatic ties (though not necessarily binding alliances and treaties) will provide the foundation for the defence of British global interests for years to come.

Army

We might as well start the main reforms here and this is where I have struggled the most. At one point – many weeks ago – I sent TD a draft in which I scythed the army down to just three regular and two commando brigades, the intention being to sweep the rug from under the politicians feet and effectively wrap them up in it, curtailing their ability to deploy large British ground forces abroad.

But then I sat and thought about it for a while.

It occurred to me that the net result of doing this would not be to stop politicians from deploying ground forces, merely it would invite them to do so anyway but without the necessary mass required to have any effect and in such a way as to potentially harm British reputation with its partners. The case in point was brought up by James – I believe – of the French deployment of the 6th Light Armoured Division to the 1991 Gulf War.

This paltry force (in size, not talent) consisted of effectively two infantry battalions, four wheeled reconnaissance regiments, one tank battalion and one artillery battalion. It found itself lined up on the Western most edge of the battle line, kept well away from the concentration of heavy fighting that took place around the Iraq/Kuwait border. The deployment of such a small force almost seemed unwanted and I feel it sends a poor message about the countries commitment.

And this is really the crux of the matter. The influence and “power projection” seemingly craved by us all comes from substantial action, from showing the people that matter that you are in for a penny, in for a pound. Just a few weeks ago I was re-reading a section from the book “Ghost Force; The Secret History Of The SAS – Ken Connor”* about the campaign in Oman, which contained an interesting story that relates to the idea of influence.

*(I highly recommend the book. Despite the sensational title, it’s actually more of the opposite. The book covers nothing really that you wont of heard/read of before, with the exception of the authors personal stories, but it does cast a different light on those events, cutting through some of the more rose tinted accounts to get to the practical heart of the matter, avoiding the hyperbole so often associated with “The Regiment” in favour of a much more calculated and honest view of things).

The story in question involved standing in the airport of an unnamed middle eastern state when a commercial airliner swoops in and with almost unseemly haste is greeted by a security detail and shuffled off to a quite corner of the airfield to be unloaded, before being turned around rapidly and sent on its way. An officer nearby commented to the author that while he and his people were grateful for the American supplies coming in, the fact that the Americans took great pains not to be overtly associated with them made them feel like the Americans were somehow ashamed. Contrast this with the British who openly walked around in uniforms, which gave the people confidence that the British were their true friends and would stand by them when needed.

That’s influence.

Real influence I mean. The sort of influence that comes from actually putting people on the ground and getting involved. Air show performances by the Red Arrows and gleaming vessels stopping off in ports is all very well, but it’s not real influence. It doesn’t fundamentally change the mindset of international partners, neutrals and enemies.

I’m often told that you can exert pressure on foreign governments using things like aircraft carriers and long range bombers. Unfortunately it would appear that people such as Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein did not get the memo’s in early 2011 and 1991 respectively, nor did the Serbian leadership in the mid to late 90’s. In 1982 someone forget to remind the Argentine military Junta that they were supposed to be influenced by our possession of considerable naval air power and nuclear weapons.

The simple fact is that having the tools is one thing, but it’s the ability to use them and the perceived will to use them that really matters. A good example of this effect can be found in crime statistics. Actual crime in the UK has broadly fallen on a consistent basis for years now, but the fear of crime has risen. People perceive themselves to be at much greater risk now, even though most people are actually safer than they’ve ever been in years.

So it is with defence and influence. It’s not the actual threat that matters, it’s the perceived threat. It’s not the actual level of assistance that can be offered to allies that matters, it’s the perceived level of assistance that counts. Stopping by for a bit of gunboat/fast jet diplomacy is not as effective or as impressive as a genuine commitment to provide training and assistance.

And so it is that if we seek to lead other nations in coalition operations, we cannot simply fall back on the excuse of “well, you’re the continental power, you provide the bodies and we’ll cover you!”. That does not inspire confidence in the likes of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and a whole host of other nations who we might one day call upon to aid us.

That type of approach smacks of expecting everyone else to do the hard grafting while we sit back in the relative comfort and safety of air bases and surface ships, giving orders from the rear. That will simply not suffice. When the next campaign comes around and we start asking the Danish army if it will provide some of its limited manpower to a big operation, they’re going to be rather inclined to say “no” if they believe that we too are not pitching in.

So although the British Army may not be as sexy as fast jets and sleek hulls, it is essential. It is the core around which everything else is built. It’s the job of the RAF to seize the aerial flank and to exploit it in support of the Army. It’s the job of the Navy to seize the Maritime flank and to exploit it, again in support of the Army. I think that’s the shift in thinking that we need to take.

On this note, the Army really needs to grow, not shrink. Five regiments of Challenger II is nothing to be sniffed at, but we can do better. The trouble is, as always, the budget. For that reason I’m going to lay out a slight re-organisation of the Army based on current(ish) manning, then plan for the future.

The starting point for me is the two commando brigades. Even thought strictly speaking the Royal Marines are Royal Navy, it is more appropriate to address them here. On that note I would retain both brigades, though with some changes that are relevant to the Army as a whole under these “reforms”; notably the shift toward brigades that contain three battalions/regiments of infantry/tanks, with their necessary support.

For that reason, 16 Air Assault Brigade would largely retain it’s current structure except that the two Parachute battalions (2nd and 3rd) would be permanently joined by the then current UK based battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, instead of having two infantry battalions attached on a rotation basis. All the other attachments, (Royal Horse Artillery, 16 Medical Regiment, etc) would remain.

In addition, the full Brigade of Gurkha’s (1x UK based battalion/1x Brunei based Battalion (rotating), plus engineers, signals and logistics) would be retained. 3 Commando Brigade would continue in its current structure, minus the 1st Battalion, The Rifles, who would be returned to the regular forces (other than that, the Royal Marines as a whole would be left untouched). The Royal Gibraltar Regiment would stay on it’s own for obvious reasons.

As for the regular army, the first thing to do is to hand back the CBRN role to the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, retrieving it from the grasp of the RAF Regiment (I have other plans for them…). 1st RTR would still be responsible for the Main Battle Tank training squadrons and the commitment to the Land Warfare Centre.

Next thing is to dish out the five Challenger regiments, split between 5 brigades. The first two of these Brigades would be classified “Armoured”, containing a formation reconnaissance regiment, a tank regiment and two armoured infantry battalions (Warrior).

The remaining three would be split between three brigades classified as “mechanised”, containing one each of; formation reconnaissance regiment, tank regiment, armoured infantry battalion (Warrior) and mechanised infantry battalion

(Bulldog). Obviously these brigades would need to be supplemented with engineers, signals, medical, artillery and logistic support as needed.

That leaves one armoured infantry battalion spare which would be assigned to the Land Warfare Centre (LWC) and filled on a rotational basis. I’m assuming there is a reason why the army wants Warriors at the LWC. If Bulldogs will suffice then my preferred option would be to swap a mechanised battalion for an armoured one, leaving us with three “armoured infantry” brigades and now two “mechanised infantry” brigades.

Next come the light infantry which – excluding the elements of 3 Commando, 16 Air Assault and the Special Forces Support Group – would leave us with (I think) 21 light infantry battalions. On that note, I’m going to split them nice and neatly into 7 infantry brigades, each containing 3 battalions of light infantry, plus required support.

That does pose me with one significant problem; I need two battalions for the Cyprus Garrison. Obviously that would mean that one brigade would be left with a spare battalion sitting on its hands. If anyone has any suggestions I’m more than open to them. The possibilities I’ve considered are 1) attach the spare battalion to LWC, 2) use them as a replacement for the RAF Regiment in base protection, 3) (and my preferred option) find somewhere abroad to post them, like a certain group of Islands in the South Atlantic that shall not be named…

Royal Artillery wise we have five AS90 regiments to share about, along with a multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) regiment, a light gun equipped regiment, three Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) regiments, and two air defence regiments. My presumption at this point is that these assets would be distributed as needed to the various brigades. I would also like to stand up a regiment (and this will please Jed to no end) equipped with 120mm towed mortars, predominantly for use with the Light Brigades (stop dancing Jed mate, it’s unseemly).

Ideally each of the above brigades would be co-located together for home basing in order to reduce the number of bases needed.

On to the underwater knife fighters, or as they’re known outside of this website, the UK Special Forces Directorate. This group would be left mainly untouched, with the exception of disbanding the two SAS reserve regiments. One of the things that sets the special forces apart from the rest is the amount and quality of the training they conduct. I fail to see how you can be a part time soldier while still maintaining the very high standards demanded of such a regiment.

At this point you’d do well to bear in mind the story that I included earlier by Ken Connor. The Special Forces would be required to do plenty of work overseas as an effective extension of the diplomatic arm, to build relations. If all the story are true then this is roughly what happens anyway. In the age we live in now the need for high quality bodyguards and counter-terrorist teams has never been more acute.

Brazil is an excellent example. In the run up to the 2014 World Cup they’re on a mission to clear some of the major slums around many of the big cities, sending in highly trained police teams to deal with the armed gangs that make their homes in such places. Brazil is also preparing its counter-terrorist forces for their biggest operation to date in guarding the event.

Mexico is another example. The country has experienced quite significant economic growth in recent years and is gradually building a pretty sophisticated manufacturing base. But all of that work could eventually be undermined by the rampant violence and in-fighting that occurs between the various major drug gangs in the country. A well trained hostage rescue and intelligence gathering force would be a major boost.

Although both countries are not exactly on the top of the list of future British Allies, at least not from a military perspective, they do both provide interesting examples of how British Special Forces can be deployed in such a way as to win the ear of Foreign Heads of State, which can lead to future basing deals, military cooperation, diplomatic support and even economic/commercial gain. Indeed all the arms of the forces would be involved in such “diplomatic” training activities.

Next up we need to talk vehicles, and with Afghanistan winding down decisions would also have to be taken as to which vehicles are worth bringing back and which are probably better left with the Afghan security forces. Vehicles like the Foxhound, Husky, Mastiff and Jackal are a double edged sword as far as I can see.

On the one hand we have them now and there is the possibility of integrating them into the main army. On the other hand many are badly worn and some are considered of dubious utility outside of the Afghanistan theatre, and that’s before we get into the logistics or trying to support such a diverse range of vehicles (the anti-thesis of TD’s “ruthless commonality” mantra).

For me their use after the Afghanistan war basically would involve the Mastiff, Ridgeback, Wolfhound and Foxhound vehicles being assigned to the light infantry as in order to provide them with a degree of protected mobility, with the Jackal’s and Husky’s  being transferred to the reconnaissance regiments.

This decision basically stems from the fact that the Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) has – to date – chewed up significant sums of cash with no discernable results, while among our commentators here at Think Defence we have James, who has experience with this kind of thing and has suggested the Jackal as a prospective scout vehicle.

Of course that still leaves us with the problematic situation of what to do about the Bulldog vehicle, which it was hoped FRES could one day replace.

The solution I’ve settled on is for a new vehicle, something under 20 tonnes. All I want is a vehicle that has good mobility, range and the ability to protect its crew from small arms fire and shell fragments, with the ability to be upgraded with armour packages in much the same way as our current Protected Patrol Vehicle (PPV) fleet can.

Variants would include infantry carrier, command, recce, light ambulance/medical evacuation, anti-tank and recovery. An air defence variant would be an absolute bonus. But recce, infantry carrier and anti-tank take priority.

I want to re-emphasise the point that I don’t want a tank. I don’t want a “medium weight” beast. This vehicle is designed to replace the Bulldog and the various FV432 variants, not the Challengers. For comparison purposes, the RG-35 by BAE Land Systems South Africa would be coming close to the heaviest end of the scale that I would except, at about 18 tonnes. Whatever it is, it also needs a tow hook for Jed’s mortars!

The full Warrior Capability Sustainment Program (WCSP) would go ahead as planned, including all the various Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicles (ABSV). I’d also want to have a closer look at the 155mm Archer artillery system for the Royal Artillery (already on order for Sweden and Norway) as a future replacement for the AS 90.

The Challenger tank would get it’s Challenger Lethality Improvement Program (CLIP) authorised, fitting a slightly modified version of the 120mm Rheinmetall L55 smoothbore gun (as used on the Leopard 2A6), plus a power pack upgrade in the form of the “EuroPowerPack” (made entirely in Germany…), which provides 1,500 hp in a smaller unit, with better fuel efficiency.

As for helicopters, the Army Air Corps would retain it‘s current and planned assets of Lynx and Apache. The Army would also get its full compliment of Watchkeeper drones that are on order.

Looking into the future of the army, perhaps 2020 and beyond, I’d be keen to take the opportunity to invest in three completely new tank regiments to supplement those already in existence. The idea would be to take one of the armoured infantry battalions out of one of the armoured infantry brigades listed above and just put it to one side for a second.

In it’s place I’d put one of my new tank regiments, creating a proper spearhead armoured brigade that had two tank regiments and one armoured infantry battalion. The spare infantry battalion that I put aside would now be put in a new armoured brigade with the other two new tank regiments. This brigade would also need its own formation reconnaissance regiment, so I suspect the 9th/12th Royal Lancers would be split back into the 9th Queens Royal Lancers and the 12th Royal Lancers to accommodate this.

I’d also like to see the light infantry expanded yet further, with another 9 battalions raised to help the formation of 3 new Light Brigades, taking the total number of light brigades to ten. Further, consideration would be given in consultation with the Army about reducing the length of operational tours from six to four months, in order to combat stress and fatigue in the service while hoping to improve retention rates.

Right, now if you’d kindly wipe that face paint off and stop hiding in that bush, we’re off to sea.

Royal Navy

We’ll start then right at the heart of the matter… the Type 26 Frigate.

Simply put, I think the Type 26 has the potential to be the F-16 of the naval world. Not quite as numerous, I’ll grant you, but if done right I believe Type 26 could be a big seller and would finally put a sock in BAE’s mouth about the demise of British ship building, a tenuous argument at best.

Anyway, Type 26.

Basically I would like to play this smart and if it was me pulling the strings and writing the checks then I would be very keen to achieve a balance between what is acceptable for UK defense and what is best for UK plc. That means working in partnership with the prime contractor to ensure that Type 26 is capable of properly fitting the needs of the Royal Navy without adding so much cost as to drive away other potential users.

The cornerstone of this is to ensure that the ship doesn’t get dragged off into being some kind of 21st century battleship. I greatly fear more than anything the tag that has been attached to Type 26 of being a “general combat ship” or “general purpose frigate”. That to me absolutely smells of the possibility of creep in the design.

Let’s be clear. It’s an Anti-Submarine Frigate first, after which it becomes just a general, run of the mill patrol frigate for basic tasking. That has to be the core of the design. For that reason I would – in my now quite literal fantasy fleet – seek to have Type 26 primarily built around three features; low acoustic signature, the Type 2087 towed sonar Array and the provision of torpedoes.

Now obviously an anti-submarine vessel such as this needs a decent attack sonar too, which is a given, plus room in the hanger for a Merlin helicopter to supplement the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) role, but ideally – and given the breadth of potential customers – it should be capable of handling a Chinook helicopter on the flight deck, even if not being able to store it.

Radar would be provided by the BAE Artisan 3D radar, which I believe is being fitted gradually to a number of Type 23 frigates already. Missile wise I’d like to see Type 26 fitted with the Sylver A50 Vertical Launch System (VLS), which is the same missile cells currently used on Type 45. It can hold both the Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles (which share a common “dart”, just a different booster) as well as being able to take a quad pack of the planned Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM) which is a radar guided derivative of the Advanced Short Range Air-Air Missile (ASRAAM) in service now with the RAF.

Notice here that I’ve deliberately avoided both the Sylver A70 launcher and the American Mk.41 VLS, precisely because I’m not interested in over burdening the design with land attack capabilities. I also quite fancy the internal volume that would be saved, which is why I’d like to see the next design choice incorporated, one that is likely to get some people hot under the collar.

See I’d quite like to see Type 26 sacrifice the traditional forward gun mount in favour of a Goalkeeper Close-In Weapons System (CIWS).

The reason for this is two fold. First, like I said, I want that premium internal space that would be saved from reduced deck penetration. Secondly, I just don’t think the Naval Gunfire Support (NGS) role justifies the expense of a large main gun, especially when the loss of space is factored in. The use of this feature has been somewhat limited in the past, and it’s arguable that the need for the ships to close with the shore for bombardment purposes puts them at an unacceptable disadvantage against air and land based attacks.

So why all the desire for free space? Well the more stuff that can be piled up down the front end of the vessel, the more room there is at the back for an empty mission deck, onto which could be loaded vehicles if a suitable ramp facility was provided, maybe ISO containerised systems (Rules of getting an article published on TD, #1; mention ISO containers!) or even just serve as a temporary accommodation space for embarked troops, supplies, or some kind of make shift casualty receiving area. The flexibility to various customers, including the Royal Navy, will be a great selling point.

I’d also like to see two ramps incorporated into the back of the vessel, likely behind or possibly underneath the flight deck, each capable of the rapid launch and recovery of small boats. For an example of what I‘m talking about, take a look at this YouTube video of the new Gowind Offshore Patrol Vessel.

Bad computer graphics aside, you can see that the back end of the finished vessel has a definitive split for the two ramps. This would permit a multi-mission capability, where on ASW missions a rig for the Type 2087 sonar could be installed on one side, while still allowing the other to be used for a small craft or indeed for a second sonar unit if you so desired. On general patrol missions, or for foreign customers, both ramps could be used for boats.

As for number of vessels, the Type 26 would be bought at the very least as like for like replacements of the Type 23, with the strong possibility of additional purchases if the costs could indeed be kept down. The Type 23 is not due out of service for many years yet, so there is plenty of time to get this relatively more simple vessel ready. In the meantime the Type 23’s would be supported and upgraded as needed, including the integration of the CAMM, which almost doubles the air defence range compared to Sea Wolf.

Now I guess we had better stop dodging the bullet and tackle the Carrier issue?

So we basically have one Carrier on the way, the Queen Elizabeth, and another which has had the steel cut and some work started. And unless someone else plans on stumping up the cash to buy it – in which case they’re more than welcome to support British industry – then work would be stopped and Prince Of Wales would be cancelled outright.

Queen Elizabeth would be taken into service, she‘s basically too far along now it would seem… and be plopped right into extended readiness. Unless of course someone wants to buy her, which again they are more than welcome to.

The argument that she could be used as an Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) was one that sounded very appealing at first. I sat and thought about it; 40 helicopters! That’s enough space for an Apache Squadron, a Merlin Squadron, and two Squadrons of transport helicopters such as Puma. Quite a hefty capability.

But then it occurred to me, how many of those could be operated at any one time? What would they do all day? And could we find alternative platforms to operate helicopters from in the short term, knowing that Queen Elizabeth could be brought up to speed in emergency situations if needed?

The answer I think is; yes.

Take the two Albion Class Landing Pad Docks (LPD). They have no hangar, but do have plenty of space on deck for helicopter operations. Currently they are operating on the basis of one at sea, one in extended readiness. In 2014 HMS Bulwark is due to go in and HMS Albion will come out (HMS Bulwark is the current Flagship). This policy would be kept going for the foreseeable future.

HMS Illustrious, the former “through deck cruiser” turned LPH, is due to be decommissioned in 2014. This plan would be scrapped and she would be kept instead be put into a state of extended readiness, with a bit of servicing just to eek out a bit more life. The Amphibious Assault Ship/LPH HMS Ocean will have just come out of it’s planned refit in time to take over. These ships would be kept in service, providing the core of the deployable maritime helicopter force, until replaced by a new Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) vessel. And as it just so happens, I know where we can find one.

Or two.

http://www.baesystems.com/Businesses/SurfaceShips/PlatformsandProgrammes/AmphibiousVessels/index.htm

Missile defense systems, guns for self protection, room for 250 tons of stores, can carry 800 troops, enhanced damage control features, an on board surgery, X-ray machine, intensive care unit, pharmacy and even a dentist, with thought given in the design for disaster relief operations from the start, along with a vehicle deck and facilities, plus a well deck and davits for landing craft.

We can even call them Ark Royal and Hermes if it makes people happy. Maybe Eagle?

This – in my opinion – is much more in keeping with the kind of operations that the UK actually conducts and is likely to conduct. In the future it’s also conceivable that they could carry the F-35B, once cost and risk has gone down. The above linked ship would provide the rough standard for the tender and the goal would be to bring the first vessel into service, at which point Illustrious would be sold off/broken up and Ocean would be taken out of service, but not completely dumped, not until the seconf LHD had arrived.

In addition, and especially in light of the recent TD article surrounding the plans of fitting the AN/APG-81 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to Merlin helicopters in the form of the Lockheed Martin Vigilance Pod, the Navy would be tasked with leading the drive to introduce the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) which would eventually to span the entire British armed forces. This would permit CEC equipped helicopters like Merlin to monitor an air threat axis for targets, sharing targeting data with Type 45/Type 23/Type 26 combat vessels.

To accommodate this some Merlin helicopters would be set aside to fulfil the dedicated role of a Fleet Airborne Warning Squadron (FAWS). In addition to providing radar coverage for a task force, the FAWS would also be able to use the air to ground modes of their AN/APG-81’s to assist land based forces and to enhance the intelligence picture for ground commanders who are about to commit forces ashore.

The transfer of upgraded Merlin’s from the RAF to the RN would go ahead as is currently planned, with a goal to upgrading these helicopters a little further in order to integrate the Sea Skua anti-shipping missile.

Of course at this point and before I meander off too far, there are still two questions to be answered. One is what will be built in the place of the second carrier, because presumably British ship building will be threatened once again (despite the ongoing construction of the Astute-class submarines, the start of the Type 26 project and the plans for the LHD). The second is what becomes of the F-35?

The answers are 1) Type 45 and 2) dead.

Number two will be addressed in more detail later when we get round to the RAF. Suffice to say that the Royal Navy would now transfer its unneeded Hawk trainers to the RAF, retaining only those that they require for the training of crews in air defence and ground (fleet?) controlled intercepts. Number one however is something I’m fairly adamant about.

The Type 45 has turned out to be something of a success, despite the government cut backs which have seen program costs spread across half as many vessels as originally planned and bad press that doesn‘t reflect the progressive approach to fitting the ships out with various weapon systems.

The ship builds upon many of the lessons learned over the years and has apparently been doing rather well on exercises involving the United States, with Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope commenting just this October in an interview with Defense News that We still dine out on being told “could we please switch off our system because we were constraining the training.” We are proud of that, and that shows that we are playing in the right ballpark”. I’m sure the Admiral meant to say cricket ground, a temporary slip of the tongue.

(On a brief note, how much does that above quote suggest the Americans are still yet to learn the lessons of Millennium Challenge ‘02?)

I still think Type 45 has some growth to it and that comes predominantly from fitting the vessels with Harpoon launchers to give them a proper Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) capability, and in the case of my fantasy fleet building a Block II/Mark II/Flight II/Stand II/Timbuck II class of two more vessels, which apart from coming “fitted with from the start” with torpedoes and Harpoon, would also come with 16 shiny new Sylver A70 VLS cells, the space for which has been provisioned between the current VLS and the 4.5” gun.

The Sylver A70 is compatible with the Aster 30, but apparently not the Aster 15? Still, if an all Aster load were used then there would be room for 64 missiles. The A70 cell is also compatible with the CAMM quad pack, should you so chose to misuse these cells.

Of the course the main reason for fitting the A70 cells is to permit the use of future upgrades of the Aster family that are expected to introduce a dedicated Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) version, and for using the naval variant of the Storm Shadow Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) used by the RAF, that has now been tested in both a vertical launch cell and from the torpedo tube of a French attack submarine (SCALP-N).

And for similar reasons to the ones stated in the Type 26 section, the 4.5” main gun would be removed and replaced with a Goalkeeper CIWS, which combined with the aft CIWS should preclude the need to carry two on the sides. The original six Type 45’s would be refitted at the earliest opportunity to match this new batch/standard.

Moving on and the current fleet of Astute-class submarines is expected to end at 7 (Astute, Ambush, Artful, Audacious, Anson, Agamemnon, Ajax). There is a problem though. Recently it was revealed that the government – in its infinite wisdom – has decided to slow down the pace of submarine production, incurring a cost that would be sufficient to buy an extra boat and still have some spare change. The reason for this is to avoid a gap in submarine construction between the Astute-class and the replacement vessels for Vanguard.

Thanks to that bit of budget fudging I’ve now got room to speed production back up again and essentially get an eighth boat for free. What’s more I’m going to order – at the very least – another four. This seems like an optimistic thing to suggest, given the state of the budget, but I’m going to pay for it by toying with the UK’s Nuclear Deterrent.

Simply put, the chances of the UK activating its Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD) in a unilateral manner are basically non-existent. The CASD is a true relic of the cold war and doesn’t properly reflect the position we find ourselves in now. That’s not to say that we don’t need nuclear weapons as the ultimate weapon of self defence, merely that they can be employed in a cheaper and more realistic manner.

That manner is a cruise missile derived system, designed not so much to seek retribution against an initial attack (though that is an option), but more along the lines of being able to light up any potential threat to our Sovereignty.

This new deterrent would take the dual form of submarine carried weapons and air launched weapons, similar to the French system. The air launched side of the issue will be handled later when I get round to the RAF but for now, suffice to say that the Astute class would become the bearers of this new weapon. It would naturally be made very clear to the world that these were weapons of self defense, not aggression, and that the then current at sea submarine tasked with carrying them would never be sent to a conventional theatre of operations, lest anyone start getting nervous.

This would basically remove the need for a Vanguard and Trident replacement, with a much lower cost alternative that would still be able to provide the ultimate deterrence against hostility towards our homeland.

Come 2020 a study would be kicked off (of course the basic work can begin now) regarding an Astute replacement. If it can vertically launch cruise missiles instead of having to shove them out of the torpedo tubes then mores the better.

Next up is the Type 42 Destroyers which are due out of service completely very soon, being replaced one for one by the Type 45. My line of thinking here is just out of pure curiosity surrounding how much life their hulls have left in them and whether they could be stripped of most of their fancy stuff and left with a very basic fit out of defences, allowing conversion into either Fast Armed Transports (that would spend a lot of their remaining life milling around at base until needed), Electronic and Signals Surveillance Vessels, or even conversion to small scale hospital/medical ships, for a bit of medical diplomacy around Africa and South East Asia.

The future of Mine Countermeasures and Hydrographic Survey would be pooled into one ship, which I believe is the current plan anyway. This vessel should be built to meet the Mine Hunting/Countermeasures role first, Hydrographic second, and a third minor capability for use in fisheries patrol etc, which should help to give it a boost on the international market. And when I say minor patrol role, I mean minor. A 20-30mm forward gun, plus some medium (7.62mm) machine guns for protection should suffice. A small sum would be spent on research into Laser Bathymetry and Synthetic Aperture Sonar, as highlighted in Article 10 of TD’s “Future of the Royal Navy” series. The total purchase would be on the order of 20-30 vessels, depending on the Navy’s requirements.

We near the end of the Royal Navy section by looking at the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), an organisation that continues to baffle me. I understand that the Auxiliary are civilians, but the organisation is beholden to the military? I will need an adequate explanation from someone with more knowledge on this matter as to why the RFA couldn’t just be merged into the Royal Navy, becoming the floating equivalent of the Royal Logistic Corps.

As for their vessels, the three Bay-class Landing Ship Dock (LSD), capable of deploying the Mexeflote,  would be reduced to one at sea, one kept in extended readiness, with a rotation taking place every few years (Rules for getting an article published on Think Defence, #2; mention Mexeflotes). The third vessel would be scrapped/sold. The RFA would also be provided with a two ship class to replace RFA Diligence, the fleets at sea repair vessel. Like Diligence, these would be required to meet the highest standards of ice breaking. A long term plan to replace the Navy’s sole casualty receiving ship RFA Argus (due out of service in 2020) would also be put in place.

The main decision however that will define the future of the RFA is that of the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) program, to replace many of the RFA’s smaller and older vessels. My thinking on this is simple; the Wave-class Fast Fleet Tankers have proven to be very capable and versatile vessels so I would simply ask the makers – BAE (I thought British ship building was dying?) – to create a new class of six vessels based off the Wave-class, preferably ones that have a degree of flexibility in terms of the proportion of liquid versus solid goods that can be carried. Again, the details of this are something that would require an experienced hand to guide me.

Right. Take that cardigan off, leave your fisherman’s friends at check in and pull your goggles down, because things are about to take off!

Royal Air Force

We might as well attack the burning issue head on this time, that being the fate of the F-35 Lightning II and the wider question of Carrier strike. As mentioned earlier, under the “Chris.B. reforms” HMS Queen Elizabeth would be effectively laid up. Carrier Strike would continue to be absent as result from the Royal Navies arsenal. It would remain that way for the foreseeable future.

In short, in my estimate Carrier air is not essential to our defence, it’s a luxury. Our ability to deploy Harriers over the last 30 or so years has been greatly beneficial, as carrier based striking power always will be, but not essential. There was no mission that failed without the presence of a carrier. For all the talk of the Falklands War, Harriers contributed a little over one-third of all Argentine aviation losses. Given the budget situation then I do not believe the best way to spend that money is to purchase two carriers, spend what seems like a grossly over priced sum to fit them with Cats and Traps (see the recent Parliamentary Answers for details) and then equip them with F-35 fighters.

From the Royal Air Force’s perspective though that puts them in something of a quandary. Because while not doubt the officers mess is currently ringing to the sound of Champagne corks popping and cheers of “hurrah for the Chris.B. reforms!”, there will be a moment when one bright spark suddenly stops mid sip, calls for a hush and then points out that without the F-35 there may be no Fleet Air Arm… but there will also be no Tornado replacement for the RAF either.

Champagne down.

On checking the document again what they’d see is that in fact the Tornado will be replaced, just not with the F-35 and not in similar numbers. See I’ve been doing some numbers and based on the available data, there is simply no point in replacing Tornado with the F-35, be it the A, B or C version. When overall performance is combined with the future weapons load out of Typhoon and compared against initial purchasing, training and long term maintenance costs, it makes just as much sense to stick with Typhoon.

Simply put, the Typhoon is better. The F-35 will still be a very capable aircraft, I even wrote an article to that effect a while back. But with the need to operate from Carriers removed an enlarged Typhoon buy makes a lot of sense for the RAF, as well as the heavy involvement of British industry. It’s win-win in my eyes. There fore a Tranche 3 Typhoon purchase would be made to replace the Tornadoes, with the purchase of around 72 aircraft to provide (on paper at least) six squadrons, down from the estimated original F-35 purchase of 150 airframes.

But with great (combat) power comes great responsibility and that means a few things need to be addressed.

The hotels situation for a start. Suffice to say that if accommodation cannot be found on base or next to it, then the two factors of location and minimal cost to the taxpayer should converge beautifully to divert personnel away from anything with more than two stars above the door. I’m also yet to see a satisfactory explanation as to why Group Captains command wings, Wing Commanders are put in charge of Squadrons and Squadron Leaders command flights (what are all the Flight Lieutenants doing?).

Getting into the more serious business, there needs to be a fundamental shift in priority at the highest levels towards the various roles that the RAF performs outside of interceptions. As I said earlier the RAF should be considered doctrinally as an organisation that seizes and then exploits the aerial flank in support of operations on the ground.

To this end I’m planning something a little nefarious and involves a stalwart of the RAF and an export success story; the BAE Hawk.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Oman have all purchased a version of the Hawk known as Hawk 200. This is a single seat variant, with greater range owing to slightly higher fuel capacity and a slightly modified wing. It’s capable of carrying short range air to air missiles, Maverick air to ground missiles and even a Sea Eagle anti-shipping missile on the central pylon. Radar wise it’s fitted with a modified APG-66, similar to the one fitted onto Argentine Skyhawks. It can also fitted with a refuelling probe.

Personally I think a batch of these would go down nicely for some Quick Reaction Alert duties. It’s cheaper to fly, cheaper to maintain, and frees up the Typhoon fleet for more pressing matters such as training alongside the army and navy. I understand that its climb rate isn’t what you’d expect out of an interceptor, mainly because an interceptor it is not.

But I personally believe that for shadowing Russian airborne patrols and acting as a squadron of air support for the Falklands (as opposed to a flight) it is more than adequate, and in the case of the Falklands may bizarrely be more capable on account of its ability to carry an anti-shipping missile.

Now, while the ability to obtain air superiority/supremacy is important, it also needs to be acknowledged that Close Air Support (CAS) for the army, transport and ISTAR are all of equal importance.

That starts with the RAF needing to properly fund the ability of Typhoon to use the full gamut of air-to-ground munitions, including Brimstone, all marks of the Paveway bombs that are kept in the inventory, Storm Shadow cruise missiles, the development of a comparable sensor pod to the Tornadoes RAPTOR, and the funding of a replacement for the Air Launched Anti-Radiation Missile (ALARM) which would equal that missile in terms of operating modes (such as the “loiter” capability) while also improving on range. The RAF would also need to dig out the gunnery manuals and get cracking on some air-to-ground gunfire support.

It also means taking greater strides to increase cooperation with the little green and dark blue men who march or sail beneath them as they whiz through the skies. One of the complaints for example that seems to repeatedly come up is the time lag between the collection of data by RAPTOR in Afghanistan and its arrival at the those places where the information is most desperately needed. This fundamentally has to change. The RAF needs to get deadly serious about how it interacts with and supports the Army and Navy.

I’m reminded of the story of Elwood Quesada, who retired from the USAF in 1951 as a Lieutenant-General. During World War Two the then Lieutenant-Colonel Quesada (who would go on to reach the rank of Major-General before the end of the war) became a champion of tactical air support for ground forces, including the conversion of anti-air radars for use by ground controllers to better organise waiting attack aircraft, as well as being the first to institute a policy of using actual trained fighter pilots as forward air controllers in order to improve the coordination and effectiveness of air attacks against ground targets.

While these tactics are common place now, this is the kind of thinking that needs to permeate all levels of the RAF. It needs to be considered a core mission of the RAF, up there with protecting UK airspace. Being directed in against ground targets under the control of a ground director should be as second nature to a pilot, if not more so, as his air-to-air combat skills.

I would also require as part of the “Chris.B. Reforms” that the RAF keep a squadron of Typhoons at permanent readiness, with the ability to deploy at 24 hours notice to a foreign base in support of operations overseas, with the ability to deploy two further squadrons in the following 48 hours if needed. They’ll need tanking support and armaments, with a plan in place to provide rapid resupply as well. In short, if I’m going to take away the Carriers from the Navy then the RAF had better bloody well get very good at replacing them.

The Typhoon would also find itself in the odd situation, something it certainly wasn’t designed for initially, of becoming part of the countries nuclear deterrent. The Typhoon would be required to carry and launch an Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), probably of new design, which would carry part of the UK deterrent, either at targets approaching through or fixed to mainland Europe, or potentially at a seaborne enemy task force, as part of the organised defence against serious aggression.

Lastly before we leave the land of fighter jets and move on to slower, less sexy machines, we need to address the Tornado again. As I said, I’d like the Tornadoes to be replaced by Typhoons in the long term, but I’d also investigate the possibility of keeping a small compliment of one squadrons worth of Tornadoes (using the out of service machines for spares) for their ability to carry two Storm Shadow missiles, as well the continued use of RAPTOR pods. This is not a high priority though. If it were to go ahead, the option of swapping out the engines for something with a higher by-pass ratio and no afterburner (I’m thinking fuel efficiency here) would be looked at.

Ok, on to the slower and less sexy, less pointy stuff.

The first thing that should leap out here is air to air refuelling and through a cack handed, bodged piece of financial hooliganism the RAF will indeed field 14 Voyager aircraft based on the Airbus A330. My desired plan would be to speak to the group involved with the Private Finance Initiative and see if some accommodation could not be made to allow the RAF to incrementally buy the aircraft over a number of years. It’s perhaps at this point that I should mention that I would permanently ban the MoD from ever again authorising any PFI contract.

To supplement the Voyagers we have the Atlas transport aircraft, more commonly known as the A400M (although “Grizzly” also seems to be gaining traction?). Although these will spend the bulk of their life doing transport work, they can be set up to perform aerial refuelling, a capability which I think would be a huge bonus for them to have, not least in the context of coalition operations. I would also look to extend the Atlas buy, possibly nicking some of the slots that the Germans are trying to sell off to reach a total buy of around 30 aircraft, replacing the venerable Hercules as these aircraft are retired (again, some might be able to be kept to perform AAR).

Continuing the theme of air transport, and in light of the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, it might be worth considering the purchase of 3-5 Antonov An-124’s. Hiring them out only when you need them is one strategy and certainly that’s worked ok for us, but the trouble comes that when you urgently need them, often so do other people.

Having a small squadron (flight?) in our back pocket could come in very handy, not least because it’s immense carrying capacity (as much as 150 tons) could realise some long term savings by cutting down the number of flights needed to a given operational theatre, allowing other transport squadrons to ease off the pace and save some of their airframe hours.

For those wagging their fingers and bemoaning the An-124 being out of service, it actually appears that Russia is committed to a purchase of up to 20 new build (An-124-150) aircraft. There was even a proposal put forward a few years ago now to build versions of the aircraft with Rolls-Royce RB-211-524 engines. Perhaps a revival could be on the cards?

For reference, the An 124-150 version has an expected life of around 50,000 flying hours and to give you a few payload over range figures, we’ll use some example ranges that people are likely to be familiar with; roughly 90 tons payload from Ascension Island to the Falklands, or about 130 tons from the UK to Cyprus. Not bad says I.

The biggest gap that currently exists however is the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) capability now that Nimrod MRA4 has been binned. Most suggestions to replace this aircraft point to the P-8 Poseidon, based on the Boeing 737-800 which has been developed for the US. This also creates an unexpected opportunity because the 737 is also the basis for an Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft (AEW&C, or AWAC‘s in older parlance), in service now with the Royal Australian Air Force (“Wedgetail”), Turkish Air Force and the Republic of Korea Air Force, whilst also purportedly being evaluated by the Italian and United Arab Emirate air forces.

This would allow one aircraft type to replace two as not only could Nimrod be replaced, but also the aging Sentry AEW&C aircraft could be replaced. I’m intrigued by this, but even more so by the EADS/CASA (Airbus) C-295 aircraft, a twin turbo prop powered light transport aircraft that comes in both MPA and AEW&C versions. The MPA version is in service with Chile and Portugal while the AEW&C version is a recent development incorporating a radar built by Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMFQH1tVv-A).

The things that interests me about the C-295 are;

  • likely lower running costs for a turbo prop aircraft vs. full turbine,
  • reported 11 hour loiter time,
  • can purchase base transport variants (71 troops/20,000 lbs payload) as a supplement to lift fleet while still retaining a degree of commonality,
  • unlike the Boeing offering, C-295 has a probe for in-flight refuelling allowing its range to be extended by RAF tankers

Likely purchase numbers would be 5 AEW&C and 10 MPA.

Sticking with aircraft of an electronic nature, Sentinel would be kept in service, as would the Shadow (Beechcraft Super King Air), both of which provide valuable ISTAR services. The planned purchase of 5 additional Reaper unmanned observation/strike drones, to go with original 5, would also go ahead.

The RAF would retain its current fleet of Puma and Chinook helicopters, and would also take delivery of a small batch of new Merlin helicopters, enough to replace the old Sea Kings in the Search and Rescue role. Which is where I’m going next with this.

With the RAF operation of the MPA, the RAF would remain partially on the hook for providing the domestic Search and Rescue capability, which would absolutely not be leased out on a Private Finance Initiative (PFI). I say “partially” because the Navy would also need a search and rescue capability for it’s LPH/Future LHD, and because the RAF would also be required to develop a Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) component for the recovery of downed pilots.

This would entail the formation of a Joint Search and Rescue (JSAR) team, that would need to field a single class of helicopter (Merlin) suitable for both domestic duties in support of the Coast Guard, military operations from a RN vessel and travelling from a fixed base and penetrating into hostile territory. The frontline military squadrons would regularly rotate through the civilian assistance role.

This is where the RAF Regiment come in, who would retain their role in the protection of UK air bases here and abroad, but would also provide the ground security element to CSAR operations. They’d need to get used to operating off of Navy vessels as part of their role (imagine if a Tornado had gone down over Libya for example).

As for the future of the RAF fast jets, what will happen now that I’ve robbed the UK of its planned stealth aircraft? My preferred option would be to give BAE a call and see if they cant make that rather attractive “Replica” test mock up they have fly…

Space

Not a separate command I know, but I think the MoD should press for extra funding for the UK Space Agency and work with them to develop our satellite communications ability and also to build imaging satellites; some which would point out at the stars so that we might learn more about the universe, and some that will point in at the Earth, so that we might learn more about those that wish us harm.

This has been a reported issue for a while now and though Skynet 5 is supposedly a big improvement on the previous Skynet, you can never have too much bandwidth, especially as the world of the military shifts towards greater numbers of unmanned vehicles.

Industrial

Alright, so again not technically a military issue but the impact of projects for the MoD has a knock on effect, as we’ve seen several times now. Bad projects that over run can slurp up money from the budget that should be spent on getting the correct equipment to the front line.

I think the first that needs to be instituted would be to put the Kybosh of future partnerships with foreign nations on defence projects. The list of problems caused by such collaborations is almost endless. Typhoon took nearly ten years just to get a final agreement done. The Horizon project dragged out many years before we finally left. There are concerns that if the UK buys F-35 then we won’t get software codes vital to ongoing maintenance and upgrades.

The problem is we just can’t agree with the rest of the world on anything. We don’t want gun ports in Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFV) because we consider such vehicles to be battle taxi’s, not battle stations. We wanted the higher powered radar for the Type 45 because we anticipated situations were we would use it away from carrier support and where it would need to throw up a much wider anti-air umbrella than our Italian or French counterparts needed. We insist on putting Boiling Vessels inside just about anything that moves.

The whole point of these partnerships was to reduce costs by spreading out the load. The end result has been the reverse, with costs spiralling at every turn as projects get endlessly delayed while countries fight over the details. That has to stop.

As does the delays part. This is a government failing and I accept that the MoD has little sway over this, but the endless stream of delaying projects and extending out the builds in order to shave off chunks of money in each individual fiscal year, while piling up the costs in the long run, has to stop.

In addition, the way we put together contracts has to change, accepting realistic cost estimates from industry in exchange for full auditing of their spending and sub contracting on MoD work, to the last man hour.

Retention

We need to make the British armed forces the employer of choice for bright young people in the UK, which means emphasising the various skills they can earn and promoting a better understanding of how valuable those skills are to civilian employers, especially some of the higher paid, more technical jobs. One impression that I’m always left with after watching any recruitment advert (for any service) on the telly is how little attention is given to the range of qualifications that can be earned by armed services personnel. I think if more young people understood the advantages that they would have post-service, then they would be more inclined to sign up.

Conclusions

The purpose of all this has been to develop a military fit for the 21st century, capable on land, sea and in the air, able to deploy a division sized force of either a light or heavy nature, with special forces support, strike aircraft and ISTAR assets attached, with the way being prepared by Naval TLAM strikes

In addition to the military side though I think the senior officers should be pushing the government actively to look at things like energy security in a more – and I hate this word – “holistic” manner. That means, for example, giving the guys at Green-Tide Turbines in Cambridgeshire a call and asking them what they mean when they say they’ve developed a 5Kw tidal turbine that can be laid safely on the bottom of most river beds (like the Thames for example) and can generate electricity much cheaper and more reliably than wind turbines.

Or they could just ask the government to fund defence properly.

The current funding situation faced by the armed forces is shocking. This is not a nation at peace, this is a nation at war. Coupled with how keen politicians seem to be to throw our military weight around at any and all opportunities, it is bordering on the criminal that they are so poorly funded.

At a time when foreign aid money has pushed over £6 billion and is projected to rise to over £9 billion by 2015, along with contributions to the EU (post rebate) of about the same figure, I find it hard to believe that “we are all in this together”. The country knew from the start that wasn’t the case, but now it’s frankly taking the piss.

This government, like governments before it, likes to act is if we are a mini-USA. If that is the case and indeed to the government truly wants to flex it’s military might at will across the globe, then may I suggest increasing funding to around 4% of GDP, as our American cousins do, which would put defence spending back up closer to £50-60 billion per year.

I’ll finish with another quote from that Ken Connor book I was talking about earlier, something that we’ve all become accustomed to by now.

“The amount of in-fighting that goes on between the different branches of the forces, even in the face of a campaign like the Falklands War, would shock the British public.”

You can buy Ken Connor’s book “Ghost Force – the secret history of the SAS” from Amazon, at this link;

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