Enhancing the Falkland Islands Defence on a Shoestring

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The previous post from Sir Humphrey drew some great comments and a vigorous debate but I think there was more common ground than not.

Plan A, politics

Plan B, deterrence

Plan C, defence

Plan D, recapture

We are going to have to be monumentally incompetent to get to a point where Plan C is needed and Plan D, most unlikely but extreme low probability/high impact events do happen, just as BP or the shareholders of RBS.

I think we all pretty much agree that before we even get to discussions about defending the islands we must first look at intent and ability on behalf of the government and military of Argentina. In this, there is a significant disparity between rhetoric and reality but the Falkland Islands remain an extremely powerful and emotive issue in Argentina. Sometimes I think we might be in danger of underestimating the depth of this emotion. The ‘Malvinas’ issue can always be relied upon to draw the gaze of a restive Argentine population, it’s an easy way to distract public opinion so in light of the recent and growing controversy around the train accident we might reasonably expect that dial to be turned to 11.

The usual suspects will continue to wade in and let’s not be expecting much solidarity from Spain either as the issue of Gibraltar remains a sore point. So, politically, there seems a rising tide of opinion, activity and pressure from multiple sources to which we must decide how to react.

In the previous discussion, there were some great points but I thought one of the most interesting ones was the difference in cost between a small increment in defence capabilities to plug one or two potential vulnerabilities and mounting a recapture operation should those potential vulnerabilities be exploited by an intelligent and cunning enemy, or another way of saying this, what happens if we have miscalculated.

We should not underestimate the military capability on and around the Falkland Islands or over-estimate what Argentina can bring to bear.

However, it’s the weekend and it’s either this or a post on ISO containers so as a bit of fun I thought it would be good to discuss how the defence capabilities on the Falkland Islands could be enhanced.

Rules of the Road

Why Bother

Let’s assume, for the purposes of this weekend post, the grown-ups at the MoD have decided that in the face of a perceived increase in intent and the potential for an improving Argentine capability in a number of areas ‘something discrete’ has to be done.

Funding

As we all know, whenever defence capabilities are discussed, costs are both high and almost impossible to track down so there are no hard and fast rules, however, the basic principle is that if we want to increase capabilities over the medium terms there is not a huge pot of cash from which to dip in, so be modest.

If you want to trade existing capabilities off against new ones then fair enough, robbing Peter to pay Paul is within the rules. Depending on how it is counted, the current bill is in the order of three to four hundred million pounds per year.

Using non-MoD funding for dual-use capabilities could be an interesting avenue to explore.

Visibility

There is a balancing act between improving military capabilities and inflaming the political situation but it should also be noted that playground rules are sometimes the most effective. Big statements can be effective but might not always be the best long term solution.

Mix and Match

The idea is to create a balanced force with the appropriate communications, mobility, ISTAR, logistics and combat elements, building on what is already there in some cases or from scratch.

Other ideas are permissible, moving the balance between regular and reserve, sponsored reserves or other engagement models for example.

Although any suggestion has to be balanced and sustainable you might decide to invest a greater proportion in sensor networks than machine guns, explain the rationale.

Every single nut and bolt has to be shipped or flown into the islands, too much variety adds costs.

Finally, people are always the most expensive, using capital spending to replace personnel is always worth investigating.

Dual Use

Any ideas for capabilities that have a wider utility for the Falkland islanders will get top billing.

The islands existing GSM/WIMAX network, for example, could be extended and used for a network of remote sensors at vulnerable areas.

Don’t forget, the Islands have a vehicle ferry/landing craft and Islander aircraft operated by FIGAS

Should you think a hovercraft could provide both something of civilian and military use (Jed) then that would be a fair use of limited funds.

So, in your own time…

PS

Don’t forget, this is only a bit of fun!

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