2011, Libya and 2012

A bold title for a single post but a trawl through the year reveals a few things worth noting in this disjointed and rambling beginning of year post!

It goes without saying that 2011 has been another tough year for defence, serving personnel and their families have had to endure continuing operations with all that that entails, the SDSR mandated reduction in personnel and equipment has continued but there still seems a lot of uncertainty regarding much of the reform programme. We can all enjoy speculating what the final ORBAT of a Multi Role Brigade is or how much conversion of CVF to CATOBAR will be, but it will become clear soon enough.

This amount of uncertainty is a simple reflection of the rushed, arbitrary and incoherent mess that was SDSR but if anything at all positive has come from the SDSR it is a clear desire to break from the previous decades of fantasy defence procurement where the service chiefs and MoD civil servants, with the knowing acquiescence of successive politicians, has seen a basic mismatch of aspirations and resources.

Champagne tastes and brown ale wallets.

It’s no good naming politicians or the Treasury as the author of the MoD’s misfortune; that is intellectually lazy thinking and lets the senior leadership of the services off the hook, where they equally deserve to be, on the hook that is. It is their decisions, their inflexibility, their seeming obsession with major equipment programmes that has bought things to a head.

Judgement on the defence reform programme should of course be reserved until it delivers but the positive noises being made about thinning out senior ranks and serious change at DE&S points to some determination to drive the programme through.

It is also worth reflecting on that without economic security there is no physical security.

The argument that the MoD, notoriously the most efficient waster of public money, should be except from belt tightening is on face value, reasonable.

But, 2011 has been a turbulent year and weakening defence capabilities whilst protecting spending in other areas might equally be argued as unreasonable and unwise.

We all know about India, the amount we contribute via development aid in spite of their fighter, maritime patrol and transport aircraft purchases but 2011 was also marked by three events in South America.

The first was Brazil overtaking the UK in terms of GDP, the second was Brazil joining in with Argentina in banning FI flagged vessels from entering her ports and the third was our continued overseas development aid to Brazil, yes, to the tune of just under £14 million per year, or put another way, two thirds of the cost of running a Bay Class LSD(A), the same type we have just flogged off to Australia.

Brazil spends about $4 billion on overseas aid as well by the way.

What else happened in 2011?

Afghanistan dropped down the national agenda as signs of progress, however faltering and fragmentary, were replaced by Libya and the ongoing financial crisis.

The Arab Spring had its moment in the sun but was also eclipsed by the ongoing financial crisis and finally, both Iran and Argentina joined in an ‘axis of chest puffers’ creating more heat than light by their ongoing and entirely driven by internal politics, sabre rattling.

Libya, Intervention and Big Grey Floaty Things

Whatever the colour of a politician’s rosette they all love to grandstand on the world stage, liberal interventionism, responsibility to protect or whatever the convenient buzzword the simple fact is that the armed forces will continue to be put in harms was by strutting politicians in order to have their moment of glory.

Libya demonstrated this simple fact but beyond this did it demonstrate anything that those interested in defence might take notice of?

The same discussions followed the Balkans, followed Sierra Leone, followed Iraq, despite not being over yet are firmly in place with Afghanistan in the title line and of course, Libya has kicked off all manner of discussions about the future of NATO, regional politics, likely armed conflicts and equipment choices.

Equally, after every operation one side of opinion will hail it as a template for the future and the other side will equally comment about it being irrelevant.

The problem with these discussions is they tend to reflect the prejudices of whoever is making the point.

If one is in favour of liberal intervention, Libya is a shining example of doing the right thing and doing the thing right but if one is against, it is easy to point to the thousands of civilian casualties, dubious adherance to UN resolutions, human rights breaches during and since and not forgetting the countless weapons, some of them, such as man portable anti-aircraft missiles, potentially threatening to UK military and civilian aircraft.

Another problem with drawing conclusions is those conclusions tend to have a habit of being proven incorrect by whatever comes next.

The more we apply lessons from the ‘last time’ the ‘next time’ comes along and proves them completely wrong.

Military fashion is terribly fickle and easy to observe with the aid og Mr Google.

But every other blogger in the known universe has done a lessons learned so why should we be any different?

Here are my observations in no particular order…

Strategic Muddle

Is just a fact of life, at the beginning of every operation we are basically expecting far too much if we think that politicians have a clearly articulated set of objectives, it’s just so unlikely it is far from clear why we continue to be surprised.

All the constructs put in place by successive governments have singularly failed to articulate what the strategic interest for the UK was in intervention in Libya.

Maybe we should worry less about the contradictions of why Libya but not Syria, North Korea or Zimbabwe and start asking what our national interest was in Libya, why we should have contributed anything at all when we stand to gain so little beyond tenuous commercial advantage.

Political opportunism and old fashioned hypocrisy characterised the intervention in Libya. Wonder what the Syrians and Bahrainis think of us now.

By the way, a no fly zone is not a strategy.

Rules of Engagement

Restrictive rules of engagement will continue to be both a common feature and exploited by enemy forces alike. This places an enormous strain on aircrew, the links between aircrew and battlespace managers and the decision making process.

An additional issue is that of weapon design, it is no secret why Brimstone was one of the major success stories, quite simply its precision and small warhead matched rules of engagement that sought to minimise civilian casualties. This trend will continue and future weapons might be equally small, focussed and precise, perhaps even more so than Brimstone.


Because of increasingly restrictive rules of engagement the information needed to make targeting decisions must be moved around at high speed and usually in full motion high definition colour video. The common battlespace picture must have a myriad of inputs but absolute clarity in understanding and dissemination to support rapid decision making. Now that might sound like a section from a brochure it is still a simple proposition, we need to maintain and improve our ability to share information at speed and use that information to make correct decisions with little room for error.

The glue between ‘collectors’ and ‘effectors’ (in the latest jargon) must be strong, flexible and above all, universal, whether manned, unmanned, foreign or domestic

Carriers and Bases

Once again host nation support was obtained, strings were attached, deals were done and there were exceptions but in general, Libya proved that host nation support is likely to be achieved. Amphibious vessels continued to demonstrate their versatility and all round usefulness but carrier borne fast air, although useful, was simply not essential for success. Carriers may in some geographic situation be less dependant on host nation suport for the aircraft they carry but they are not immune from the issue and without suport from all manner of land based aircraft are unable to achieve their full potential or be sustained in theatre for very long.

Again, this does not make any difference to the basic validity of carrier aviation in future combined operations, there has always been and will always be a solid justification for sea based aviation.

The point about land and sea based fast air is that they are entirely complimentary and one is not somehow better than the other, just different. Getting into a lather about sortie rates, refuelling costs and other trivia does not change this fundamental.

The argument about relative costs is also nonsense because there are so many variables and so many different scenarios it becomes a circular argument. Reducing transit times by being closer to an enemy coast reduces airframe hours and refuelling costs but it does not eliminate them and these savings are balanced out by the crew and sustainment costs of a carrier.

Its very scenario specific and resistant to broad assertions.

Air Power Alone

Has never and will never be decisive, any conflict always needs ground forces to deliver the final blow. Libya showed that rule to still be true and it doesn’t matter where or how that air power is delivered either. Ground forces do not necessarily have to have UK uniforms but that doesn’t alter the fundamentals.

No matter how much air power was deployed or what it did or did not achieve the lack of ground forces means the West has very little influence on the aftermath. In the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan investment in the form of ground forces has meant we retain influence to shape post war governance and institutions.

Libya has shown that no matter the investment in supporting air power, our degree of influence is minimal.

In the immediate aftermath of the operation there was much talk about air power and special forces being the way forward, a means to reduce ground forces, cull the COIN sacred cow and get busy buying more ‘shexy’ hardware. It should come as no surprise what colour uniforms those making this assertion wore.

It is very easy to be cynical!

It is also important to note that air power does not mean air force; all three services played their part in delivering air power.


NATO was exposed for being comprised of twelve tenths the USA and most of the rest decided to sit on the sidelines with a note from their mums, but did it do them any harm?

The fact that NATO needs to face is that many of its members have realised that it is no longer the world’s most successful defensive alliance but a fig leaf for aggressive interventions by the others. Several of them have said ‘hang on, this is not what we signed up for’

If NATO is a broad organisational and command and control mechanism for members to form ad hoc groups as they please then that is one thing but entirely different to a collective defence pact.

There is a lot of talk about freeloading and the US subsidising Europe’s defence and quite a bit of it is true but at some point NATO is going to have to decide what it is.


Whether one agrees with the intervention in Libya or not it was patently obvious that despite the US supposedly taking a back seat Libya would not have been possible without extensive support from the USA. European forces were exposed as the archetypal ‘fur coat and no knickers’ with plenty of fast jets but little ISTAR, AAR, logistics and weapon stockpiles.

If Europe as a collective, despite many of its members engaged in US led operations elsewhere let’s not forget, cannot provide credible forces for a low intensity stand off operation like Libya it is time to question the value for money the continent gets from its huge collective defence budget.

With the US looking towards the Pacific, Libya was clearly a signal to Europe that over the long term, it will not be able to rely on the USA for security in its own back yard beyond the Third Shock Army rolling through Poland.

This may result in a Europe that looks more closely at its periphery or its immediate security needs and decides that it is less inclined to take part in distant US led operations with only marginal security implications.

Another important European dimension is the yet to be resolved Euro crisis, we should not underestimate the impact this on security and defence because if the economic impact to European economies is as dire as many are predicting then defence spending will be first in the reduction list except where it supports industrial capacity.


Libya demonstrated the eye watering costs of modern weapon systems, the reason almost everyone ran out is because they are so expensive to stockpile.

The desire to reduce allied casualties combined with restrictive rules of engagement means that precision guided munitions and long range stand-off weapons are the only realistic option. This results in a hugely expensive campaign and completely asymmetric in terms of relative costs of target versus the weapon used to attack it.

When we are firing three quarters of a million pound Storm Shadows from fast jets at £10k per flying hour, TLAMS from billion pound submarines and Hellfires from £30 million helicopters at targets that comprise of a handful of Soviet era weapon stockpiles, so called command and control nodes or Nissan 4×4’s with a dushka on the back then it becomes obvious that the way for any enemy to counter this is by the old tactic of dispersion, camouflage and duplication, basically, run our stocks of hugely expensive munitions down and make it too expensive to carry on.

The cost of precision guided weapons must be reduced to break this cycle.

Naval Forces

Naval forces played a vital and under reported role, especially in the later stages, providing naval gunfire support, mine countermeasures and electronic surveillance.

The general lack of precision land attack weapons reduced utility in this specific role but where rules of engagement allowed, accurate but conventional gunfire was effective.

Mines were deployed by Gadaffi as a means of sea denial but these were effectively dealt with, providing evidence that reducing MCM capabilities is unwise.

Other Specifics

Weapon stockpiles need to be addressed and the deployability and sustainment of expeditionary air forces needs to be improved through realistic deployment exercises and investment in logistics.

ISTAR was especially in short supply as was AAR and logistic support, yet again, actual operations expose the under investment in these areas consistently after every major operation.

This is the least surprising observation, plenty of fast jets and pointy shooty things but never enough ISTAR and logistics, a depressingly common observation following every single major deployment in the last several decades.

The leadership of the services and MoD need to address this issue and concentrate more resources on supporting elements, at the expense of the frontline if needed.

It is no good having ten squadrons of fast jets if there are not enough weapons, spares or means to operate them at austere locations.

We also saw highly expensive fast jets operating in an extremely low threat environment deploying highly expensive precision munitions against highly cheap targets!

Perhaps there is a need for a long range, high loiter time medium bomber, manned or unmanned, that can provide persistent ISTAR and immediate attack using low cost low yield precision weapons after all.


The government has based its public spending predictions on growth levels that have yet to be realised and the Euro crisis is a great unknown for 2012.

The MoD also faces a realisation of the costs of JCA and CVF conversion, these are as yet unknown but this year will see several chickens returning home to roost. When the full cost implications of the rushed decision to switch to CATOBAR are known and combined with increasing PFI costs and general cost inflation the next couple of planning rounds will be equally brutal as the last.

Expect programmes to be cancelled or delayed.

I am not going to get into specific predictions about which one will be subject to change but I think there are many obvious candidates.

Afghanistan will see a rapid drawdown as conditions, contrived or not, are set that allows this.

My main prediction for 2012 is the proliferation of UAV’s.

When Universities can create a workable tactical UAV prototype for less than £5k using commercially available components and 3D printing technology it does not seem such a leap to envisage this basic technology being weaponised or put to use supporting ground forces.

I do not see Western armed forces planning anything that can counter masses of low cost UAV’s except with very expensive missiles. CAMM might be fine for against aircraft and helicopters but how will it work against a couple of dozen printed UAV’s carrying a phosphorous grenade?

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January 1, 2012 6:15 pm

“start asking what our national interest was in Libya, why we should have contributed anything at all when we stand to gain so little beyond tenuous commercial advantage.”

France and Britain in the 21st century lack the prestige, industry, geography, population, wealth that justifies their seats, they need R2P, and they needed Libya to be a successful piece of supporting legal precedent. Libya was a success and thus adds legitimacy to R2P as a template for the future, which is exactly what France and Britain want. All they have to offer the UNSC in the 21st century is their high-tech ability to project power as the worlds policemen.

“Once again host nation support was obtained, strings were attached, deals were done and there were exceptions but in general, Libya proved that host nation support is likely to be achieved.”

Likely to be achieved when, where? Everywhere! That conclusion is simply not supported by that evidential success of Libya, particularly when France provided such an effective contribution. I’m with Beedall on this one:

“The point about land and sea based fast air is that they are entirely complimentary and one is not somehow better than the other, just different.”

For sure, but what happens when you can’t afford both?

January 1, 2012 6:19 pm

Broadly, I agree, however…..

Airpower alone.
I agree, airpower alone doesnt work, but airpower as a supplement to local ground forces is highly effective.
A few hundred marines and a cargo ship full of easy to use arms and ammo and you have the beginnings of an army.
Throw in aircover, and you have a winning force against any none proffessional army.

Can you control the situation afterwards?
I dont think it would difficult to impress upon the victors that we can repeat against them what we did for them.

Unless of course we bind ourselves under UN mandated action.

A Brimstone costs something like £70k I think.
A Hilux costs £20k.
But how much does the crew cost?
The guns?
They have exactly the same “stockpiling” problem we do.
Storm Shadow costs £1mn, a Leclerc costs £14mn, even the super cheap merkhava costs about £3mn

And of course, you dont have to destroy them, simply present enough of a threat to blunt their effectiveness.
Its not so much actualy destroying them, its threatening to, which causes the other side to “protect” them, by hiding them, dispersing them, and generaly doing things that render them rather ineffective as a threrat to our forces.

It only takes one Typhoon/Brimstone combo to ambush and annihilate a vehicle column for a cautious general / underfed conscript army to stop sending vehicle columns.

40mm CTA airbursting rounds and “shotgun” shells out of the new smoothbore Challenger 2 guns.
Even infantry small arms. £5k is a lot of GMPG ammo.

Couldnt agree with you more of logistics/stores and ISTAR though.
Both are ruinously ignored, by pretty much everyone. I’m sure I posted a list recently of wars that had ended simply because everyone had (or thought they had) ran out of ammunition.

One reason the US gets such a big say in cease fire agreements is its the person who’s going to resupply both sides. It can always refuse to resupply the side that refuses its peace agreement.

A few cargo ships, loaded with 5.56, 7.72, 105 and 120 mm ammunition would be a remarkable amount of leverage.

January 1, 2012 6:25 pm

An interesting question for me would be would we rather have two land based fast jets, or one carrier based.

UK based interception aside, I think two carrier groups, so 72 aircraft, would be significantly more useful than 150 UK based aircraft.

As usual, not so much because they are better, but because they are rarer, even if host nation support will be available, everyone in the coalition, except the US and France, will be entirely reliant on it.

Its that, “we dont need additional support, so additional support is free’d up for others” bit.
Not enough AAR? Thats ok, we dont have any (which would be the ideal), but we dont need any either

January 1, 2012 10:18 pm

Hi TD,

Great piece, except that it was not “you”. I am always told to chop up my sentences, but this chap got so carried away that some of them could have made five!

The para I could not comprehend was the “Strategic Muddle”; what did it try to say?

RE “It’s no good naming politicians or the Treasury as the author of the MoD’s misfortune; that is intellectually lazy thinking and lets the senior leadership of the services off the hook, where they equally deserve to be, on the hook that is.”
– someone just posted a link that left the top man of the RN (as of 1981) off the hook.
– the ROE here seems to be a bit unfair; having to wait for 30 years for what you really said to be known? Everything I read about Dannatt (autobiography excepted) and Stirrup seems to be negative-negative, but in 30 years time… maybe they saw, in their formative years, what wanting to speak your mind did (not just for the career prospects, as I am quoting the note by the top man in the RN)for the effect. They, both, are generally seen as political opportunists and runners-along – time will tell. But 30 years is far too long for us to benefit, and Thinking of Defence may do some good (??)before it is all “history”

January 2, 2012 12:04 am

A nice one; and deflects from the “issue”

On this 3D printing, the tactical transport that I was promoting for filling the “void” between the big A400M and the the helos (big & small)is by a company whose main business is doing spares in batches that, done in the traditional way, would never return a profit (3D printing in metal and plastic).

But as they were very nasty to me when I was trying to find out more, for publishing, I will not mention their name.

January 2, 2012 6:05 am

The question for many of us from the US is could Libya have been fought without US forces? I have no doubt that Europe could have attacked Libya but in the end would they have won? i hear some say yes of course it just would have taken longer. Ok but how many countries had the weapons and willpower to have fought that longer battle. Allot of us over here are beginning to wonder if Europe thinks they are worth defending. We hear we have better things to spend our money on than defense. Maybe it is time to say look we have all agreed that 2% GDP is needed for defense spending and if you decide you don’t want to meet that fine. We will remove you from NATO and you can go your merry way. You have no threats right?

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
January 2, 2012 6:31 am


I think the question is not could Europe have fought the campaign without US forces but could they have fought it in the same manner? Specifically without ground forces? Only the US has the capability to conduct the sort of sustained high tech stand off operation that Libya was (alone in the world) The Chinese could not do it. However a much more low tech, with enough smart weaponary to allow theatre entry(or a safe offload in Tobruk) followed by a ground campaign supported by AH and CAS would have militarilly done teh job. Politically is of course a diferent matter. The secret is to seperate military capability from political will.

January 2, 2012 7:50 pm

Maybe it’s to early to draw conclusions from Libya, as the MoD seems to be quite reluctant compared to NATO or the French to give public accounts on operations. Real numbers need to be disseminated.

I bet, no numbers will be published before the Indian deal is inked.

What I’ve read so far is supporting the view that we indeed had enough ISTAR over Libya, but (until Oceans appearance) no forces which could exploit targets of opportunity. It’s almost evident, that the US and the French had such assets and that they were critical.

To have a loitering medium bomber changes exactly nothing (wasn’t Tornado used as such?).

I know, I know, Harrier needed to go because something had to give… at least if we believe the MoD-bugdet-voodoo.

Re proliferation of UAVs
– Hezbollah already has UAVs
– Sea Sheperds of Oz have just startet a renewed anti-whaling campaign including reconnaisance UAVs
– I guess the answer is calle Iron Dome in Israel

January 3, 2012 9:54 am

Regarding Brazil – the support for Argentina owes more to local politics than any particular love of Argentina. Don’t assume the Brazilians speak with one voice on this issue of the reality of south american support for the FI.
My own little blog has its innagural post on this subject: http://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.com/ (hope you dont mind me posting the link!)

January 3, 2012 10:31 am

@ DominicJ,

I believe you may understate the difficulty of turreted weapons hitting UAVs (your comment of Jan 1st). Most UAVs fly above 5,000 feet, many above 10,000 feet. Target acquisition is going to be challenging without a radar, tracking extremely difficult, and range alone likely to prove insurmountable, especially for shotgun type shells (still called “canister”, a throwback to Nelson type fighting).

There was a study done by the RAC Gunnery School with some DERA bods in the mid 90s about whether any software improvements could allow Challenger fire control computers to engage flying helicopters, which are rather bigger than UAVs, mostly fly slower and closer to the ground. The conclusion was that it was all but impossible unless the helicopter was landing or taking off. Apart from anything else, there’d have to be a complete turret redesign to allow greater elevation and upgraded traverse motors if you wanted to engage helicopters in anything other than a doughnut-shaped area.

January 3, 2012 11:13 am

Getting basing rights in Italy, paying it at european level with money, immigration laws, reprieve for the NATO HQs in Naples and resurfacing of Gioia del Colle’s runways that were falling apart… And still getting a notice to leave Trapani’s airfield free even though ops were still ongoing.

And then supporting the operations moving 8000+ tons of supplies with trucks driving back and forth across Europe.

Well, if you think that’s good and right a method for the future, even though the RAF itself says it is not, good for you.

Getting host nation support at such high price, from a NATO member in a NATO operation. And being kicked out of one of the two bases made available after having to resurface the other.
What a great achievement! Really, that’s clearly the best way to do things.


January 3, 2012 3:11 pm

I thought Canister was more like a “grenade” type effect? In that a canister full of musket balls was fired, and a secondary explosion then went off inside the canister, scattering shrapnel in a sphereoid and generaly ruining any poor buger near by.

If its a “grapeshot” / “shotgun deal” I’ll try and remember the correct terminology in future.

I must admit, I hadnt really considered hundreds of UAVs operating at 10,000 ft, only at tens of feet.
Still, we had radar guided and fuzed 40mm guns back in the second world war didnt we?
I realise Radar has some physics type problems that control size/detection, but I do wonder how much it would cost to fit every tenth (or some other number.

Interceptions would of course be doughnut shaped, and far from certain.
But our ships are protected from aircraft by eye guided 20mm cannons (or so that C5 show told me) and we have deployed Heavy Machine Guns to infantry units to counter helicopter and fast air threats before.

I dunno, 4 Challys fireing canister at full whack and their 4 machine guns would put off most pilots attempting to fire rockets at them, I would have thought. Quickly use a lot of ammunition though, which on reflection, would be a problem.

January 3, 2012 3:31 pm

@ DominicJ, forgive me for this is unwarranted, but the image you have drawn to my mind is a bit like one of my son’s drawings of a tank, with multiple turrets, cupolas, machine guns, antennae, bits on top of bits, etc. It’s also going to sound like Apocalypse Now in the Squadron leaguer area if everyone opens up with all they have every time a UAV flies over, which is going to go some way to compromising their position.

If you want to shoot down a UAV, the best way is with a dedicated platform. The nature of the weapon may vary: I think there is much useful research to be done in hoisting jammers, but old fashioned bullets may work just as well. The sort of jammer I have in mind would itself work from some form of UAV and would home on signal or radar, thus becoming more powerful by a square of the signal as it closed in. The technology has been bench-tested by QinetiQ, but not as far as I know tried from a UAV. That’s the next step to test.

I’m not sure how the Iranians forced down that US stealth drone a couple of weeks ago, but if they can do that so can we.

January 3, 2012 3:39 pm

@ DominicJ,

it’s quite a few years back, but the canister shells I remember for 76mm and 120mm were I think little more than glorified shotgun shells, with a frangible top (76) or casing (120) merely holding in the ball bearings. Perhaps there were also versions that flew a certain distance and then exploded, but I don’t recall those.

I also recall an incident at Lulworth ranges where a Scorpion fired with the barrel at near full depression (I can’t think how the IG didn’t spot it – it was certainly a mistake and something to do with mis-setting the Quadrant Fire Control in the turret I think). The HESH round hit the gravel about 50 yards forward of the firing point, and spread gravel at high velocity in about a 180 degree arc for several hundred yards. Like a Claymore mine on steroids.

January 3, 2012 4:02 pm

“forgive me for this is unwarranted, but the image you have drawn to my mind is a bit like one of my son’s drawings of a tank, with multiple turrets, cupolas, machine guns, antennae, bits on top of bits, etc. It’s also going to sound like Apocalypse Now in the Squadron leaguer area if everyone opens up with all they have every time a UAV flies over, which is going to go some way to compromising their position.”

Not unwarrented, but not quite what I was going for, I tend to expect people to have memorised everything I’ve ever thought, and go from there….

I suppose what I was actualy thinking was more a Helicopter on a fireing run, and sensible (to me) response of everything trying to out up a wall of canister shot to force it to break off.
Rather than doing that to shoot down a uav.

A number of tanks, say, 1 in 10, having a radar and two 40mm CTA (on one turret) doesnt seem that crazy, the Russians have something along those lines.
Indeed, they were fairly common as short range air defences until the 70’s, or perhaps later

See, I’m reinventing the SPAAG

“Perhaps there were also versions that flew a certain distance and then exploded, but I don’t recall those.”
Its much more likely a misunderstanding on my part.

January 3, 2012 4:11 pm

Abrams did, or has an anti helicopter round. How successful it was, or what it achieved I don’t know.

January 3, 2012 4:18 pm

@ DominicJ,

attack helicopters typically have missiles with ranges of 5 or more kms. Most of the AH pilots I know are crazy fools with shot away brains from too much self-regard, but they’re not stupid enough to throw away their range advantage and fly to within MBT engagement distance and then sit and hover nicely.

I am however mentally drawing up designs for a hunter UAV. Long endurance, adequate speed, cued by a radar contact of an enemy UAV, home on contact to about 100 yards, and let rip with a couple of remotely operated .30 MGs viewed through a cheap TV camera.

January 3, 2012 4:22 pm

@ Phil,

yes I heard that – it may even have been the spark for the RAC Gunnery School study, as the 2IC there was always a US exchange officer. I think if it had ever had a confirmed kill we’d have all heard about it.

January 3, 2012 5:04 pm

@ DomJ

google m625 canister round

@ Gab said “still getting a notice to leave Trapani’s airfield free even though ops were still ongoing. ”

What do you mean “leave free” ?

As for land based vs carrier base it all evens out in the end. Honest. ;)

I am still wondering how much AVCAT Italy had to import to support operations. And how much of it arrived by sea. Indeed I wonder just Italy’s capacity for producing that fuel.

January 3, 2012 7:14 pm

“What do you mean “leave free” ?”

I mean that Trapani airfield was made available until 20 October under the original deals.
Everyone thought that ops in Libya would finish far earlier than that, but Unified Protector was then extended twice as we know.

The military was urged to leave Trapani free because the local administration wanted the runways back for civilian use, mainly well-paying tourists and rich guys.

The RAF was asked to relocate to Decimomannu in Sardinia, or anyway get the hell out somehow. Luckily, ops were over by the end of the month.

But had they not finished, the RAF would have had to relocate AWACS, tankers and personnel, paying once more the cost of it.

They had to resurface Gioia, too.

The US Navy seabees built a whole, huge camp of tents in Sigonella to host the people from the various nations, including France, since the base had not enough accomodations.

And so along.

Host nation support wasn’t that good.

El Sid
El Sid
January 5, 2012 10:24 am

How to “do an Ellamy” in Syria, and what we would be up against :


It’s an interesting idea to use a Uniting for Peace resolution like what was used for Korea, to get round China/Russia vetoes on armed intervention in Syria.

I think he’s a bit casual the way he mentions “Oh yes, they have Yakhont and S-400” – I thought they only had S-300 but that’s bad enough, and I’d regard 72 Yakhont as rather more than “limited” coastal defence.

Still, worth a read.

January 5, 2012 10:42 am

Israel managed to get in and out in F15s.
I doubt B2’s will struggle. Throw in full scale SEAD from a couple of carriers and its probaby doable.

The biggest problem is land bases, Turkey wont supply them, Israel cant, Greece is entirely reliant on Iran for oil, and Iranian credit to keep buying it, so cant co-operate with toppling an Iranian proxy without masses of aid in return.
Italy to Syria is a very long trip, but would be closest, not the longest route.
Unless we ignore Cypriot objections and fly fighter cover from there anyway?

January 5, 2012 1:39 pm

@ DominicJ,

you may be right about land bases (for jets) being an issue, but it may not be insuperable. Overflight rights from Turkey and Iraq may be a more pressing concern. If those can be obtained, that brings into play airbases in Bulgaria, Romani and the northern Gulf, which are all crows-flight distances shorter than southern Italy. Throw in some carrier air from the US (if they play), France and Italy, plus our HMS Ocean for AH, and we are getting towards a Libya-style capability. Lots of assumptions that the hosting / over-flying countries would grant us those things, but it could be done with diplomatic pressure.

Overflight rights from Israel would be interesting. I think Israel would want to sit this one out, but a US/Fr/It carrier parked off the Israeli coast and with the Israeli AF flying constant CAP over their own territory would give any Syrian counter-reaction a hard time, whether it was jets or missiles.

If we started hitting Syria, I’m pretty sure that Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran would start kicking off though, so the prospects of a much wider ME conflagration are higher than they were with Libya.

January 5, 2012 6:32 pm

A point that should be made about Cyprus is that the bases there are sovereign territory of the UK, thus Cypriot permission to use them is not required. Ellamy was a favour to the Cypriots, not least because the bases to the West were closer.

Brian Black
Brian Black
January 5, 2012 8:41 pm

Hi, DominicJ.


Marconi Marksman is a twin 35mm anti-air system. The Finns are the only users, but I think the turrets they bodged onto their tanks in the ’90s were originally intended to be fitted to Challenger hulls as part of a collapsed Middle East export deal.

January 5, 2012 9:39 pm

Hi BB,

I think the history is more like Marconi flogging their radar & fire control system around, there are about half a dozen different chassis chosen to show the combo with the Swiss guns off, RE
” The Finnish ItPsV 90 is based on a modified Polish T-55AM medium tank chassis. Vehicle is powered by a V-55 diesel engine, developing 620 hp. It is worth mentioning that the AM has a more powerful engine than a regular T-55. The Marksman turret can be adapted to many ageing tank chassis, such as the Centurion, Chieftain”

As the turret with all the extras was 5 t heavier than a standard tank turret, the much heftier (not just engine power) Polish models had to be ordered “new” to maintain some parts commonality (only two SPAAGs to a tank bn – each of which might find itself hundreds of kilometers apart from the others, and the express delivery of spare parts not being applicable)

January 6, 2012 9:00 am

@x very little AVCAT. It’s really just an aircraft carrier fuel. The only people that use it are the us navy. All the other forces involved would have used ‘land’ fuels. Should have been plenty in italy, although gdc should have been in a decent state as well. So maybe but i doubt it was much of a drama.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
January 8, 2012 12:13 pm

This is a test as my last post got deleted.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
January 8, 2012 12:34 pm

Canister generally refers to a round containing inert spherical projectiles that spreads from the muzzle or shortly thereafter. One recent example of this is the M-1028 120mm round:


Sometimes these rounds use flechettes. One such example (already linked above) was issued for the 152mm gun missile launcher on the M551 and M60A2 tanks.

The next up is the have the round disperse at a pre-set distance either set manually or by the tank’s FCS. This can either mean dispersing forwards or exploding radially. An example of a forward discharge APERS round using flechettes is the M546


In US use, APERS is used as an acronym for both muzzle and time/distance actuated systems.

The Soviets have an airburst capable 125mm HE-FRAG round that would burst radially, but it is not known if the fire control system that would enable its use is actually in service yet.

The US ‘anti helicopter round’ for the 120mm is actually a fire command for its standard sabotted, fin stabilised HEAT round the M830A1 MPAT. To engage an air target loader sets the fuze for proximity rather than impact.