Select Committee – Operations in Libya

A straight reprint from the conclusions and recommendations page

Introduction

1.  At the outset of our Report, we wish to pay tribute to the UK Armed Forces and civilian personnel who contributed to operations in Libya. They continue to impress us with the courage, dedication and professionalism with which they undertook this operation which we are convinced saved thousands of civilian lives. We also wish to acknowledge the contribution of the families of Armed Forces personnel. (Paragraph 1)

2.  We support the principle that Parliament should whenever possible be consulted and authorise the use of military force prior to its deployment. However, given the Prime Minister’s statement on 18 March 2011 and the debate in the House of Commons on 21 March and that urgent action was required to safeguard civilians in Libya, we are content that Parliament was consulted as soon as practicable. (Paragraph 4)

United Nations

3.  Witnesses told us that there were unique circumstances in Libya and, given the gravity of the situation and the potential consequences of inaction, we agree that the international community was justified in its response. (Paragraph 16)

4.  We note the contrary opinions we have received regarding the legality of the operation in Libya. It is not for us to comment on the legality of the operation. We agree that the legality of the operation is a separate issue to the issue of the legality of how the operation was undertaken. In response to our Report, the Ministry of Defence should commit to review the conduct of the operation and its compliance with international law. We commend the Government for publishing a summary of the Attorney General’s legal advice and respect the decision not to publish the advice in full but are disappointed that the Prime Minister felt unable to share the advice with us on a private and confidential basis as this would have enabled us to scrutinise the operation in Libya more effectively. We recommend, however, that when a summary of legal advice has been published and developments occur that lead to updated legal advice being sought from the Attorney General, an updated summary of the advice should be published as soon as possible. (Paragraph 24)

5.  We welcome the Minister for the Armed Forces’ statement that the Government would expect National Transitional Council forces to be treated in exactly the same way as pro-Gaddafi forces with respect to potential war crimes, as it is essential that both sides in the conflict are treated the same not just in the interests of justice but also for the credibility and future of the International Criminal Court and support of the international community for future operations. (Paragraph 28)

6.  While we are aware that there are circumstances where no international authorisation is required for the deployment of UK Armed Forces, we expect the Government to ensure that UK military and civilian personnel comply with international law at all times. (Paragraph 29)

7.  We note the concerns expressed that, although not authorised under the UN Security Council Resolutions, regime change was a goal of the mission of Libya. Although it is difficult to see how the mission could have been successfully completed without Colonel Gaddafi losing power, we are concerned that this, rather than the protection of civilians as set out in the Resolution, came to be seen by some countries as an integral part of the mission. The apparent conflict between the military and political objectives meant that the Government failed to ensure that its communication strategy was effective in setting out the aims of the operation. In future, the Government’s communication strategy needs to be more effective so that the public are confident of the aims and goals of such operations. (Paragraph 34)

8.  We accept that the coalition forces did their best to prevent and minimise civilian casualties and we commend them for this approach. This lesson, taken from Iraq and Afghanistan, will, we hope make the building of the subsequent peace in Libya significantly easier. Nonetheless, it is at least possible that some civilian casualties were caused by coalition actions. In the absence of observers on the ground it is impossible to say whether, despite the best efforts of coalition forces, any civilian casualties were caused by coalition action and if so how many. (Paragraph 38)

9.  We note that under Resolution 1973, the coalition was obliged to protect civilians from casualties caused by National Transitional Council forces as well as pro-Gaddafi forces. In response to our Report the Government should set out how this obligation was carried out. Although we acknowledge that it is difficult to estimate numbers, this should include an assessment of the number of civilian casualties caused by coalition forces, pro-Gaddafi forces and NTC forces. (Paragraph 41)

10.  We are concerned by reports that large numbers of man-portable surface-to-air missiles, previously in the armament of pro-Gaddafi forces, are missing in Libya. We accept that the Government, the UN and NATO have acknowledged that this is a major concern for security in the region and the wider world. We expect the international community to support and maintain pressure on the new Libyan regime to ensure that these weapons are held securely and safely. We agree this should be part of a UN-led disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme, as part of the broad post-conflict settlement. We expect an update on progress on this in the Government’s response to our Report. (Paragraph 45)

11.  We acknowledge that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed, following an on-site inspection, that the remains of the chemical weapons stocks declared by the Gaddafi regime were intact and secure, pending completion of destruction. We note with particular concern the discovery of a previously undeclared stock of chemical weapons. We also note that the Government stated that it would monitor the situation closely with international partners. In its response to our Report the Government should state what further measures it has taken to address this issue and the progress made in the destruction plan. (Paragraph 48)

12.  The international community must help and support Libyan women in the future to ensure that there are opportunities for them to have a wider role in the building of the new Libya. (Paragraph 50)

13.  We note that the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review stated that the UK would be more selective in its deployment of UK Armed Forces and would do so where there was a “clear strategic aim…and a viable exit strategy”. Whilst accepting that operations should have a clear strategic aim, we recommend that the Government should develop this concept by undertaking a more detailed, comprehensive and strategic assessment before deciding to intervene. We also note the Minister for the Armed Forces’ comments that the operation could have ended in a variety of ways and that there is a limit to the number of engagements that can be undertaken where the exit strategy is known with complete clarity at the outset. Whilst recognising that the changing circumstances of operations may require exit strategies to be reviewed and updated, we are concerned that the Minister’s comments invalidate the SDSR’s assertion that UK Armed Forces will be deployed only where “we have a viable exit strategy”. (Paragraph 55)

14.  While we do not regard a UN Security Council Resolution as a prerequisite for military action by UK Armed Forces in all cases, we commend the Government for obtaining UN Security Council approval for operations in Libya. However we are concerned that the abstentions of five Council members, particularly the veto-wielding countries of Russia and China, may make obtaining United Nations support more difficult for similar situations in the future. (Paragraph 60)

15.  We note that some commentators have suggested that the action in Libya may have made it impossible (as evidenced by the Russian and Chinese concerns over Syria) for the international community to take decisive action over other countries. The implication contained in that suggestion, that we should therefore not have supported the action in Libya, is one we reject. It is impossible for us to tell what the consequences would have been of allowing the killing of civilians in Benghazi, but we consider that the determination of the Arab League and of most countries of the United Nations that a massacre would be unacceptable was an example of the international community acting as it should. It was acting in a coordinated way to reflect the adoption by the United Nations in 2005 of the “Responsibility to Protect” enshrined in Resolution 1674. (Paragraph 61)

NATO

16.  We commend NATO and UK Forces for the speed of the operational deployment in Libya. We are however concerned about the tensions regarding command of the operation during its early stages. There was confusion over the command and control of the operation in the early stages of the operation until NATO took command. We are particularly concerned at the apparent decision of the French Government to commence air operations without consulting allies. We call upon NATO and the Government to look very carefully at how command and control decisions were made in the early stages of the operation and to identify the lessons for any future operations which necessarily begin in an ad hoc manner. (Paragraph 74)

17.  We welcome the significant involvement of non-NATO countries, particularly those from the Arab League and Sweden, to operations in Libya. However, we are concerned to establish how the contributions of non-NATO countries fitted into the NATO command and control structures and call on the Government to clarify the command and control structures that were implemented and how they were coordinated. We also call on the Government to clarify how it ensured that any bilateral alliances between non-NATO countries and the National Transitional Council were monitored to ensure that they did not impact unfavourably on the NATO mission or were contrary to the measures in the UN Resolutions. An assessment of the integration of non-NATO countries should be a key part of the lessons learned exercises undertaken by NATO and the UK. (Paragraph 81)

18.  For the time being, there will still be a heavy reliance on US command and control functions for future operations. It should be a priority for NATO to examine this. However, whilst accepting the current economic climate and its implications for defence capabilities, we are concerned that future operations will not be possible if the US is not willing or able to provide capabilities such as unmanned aerial vehicles, intelligence and refuelling aircraft. It should be a priority for NATO to examine this over-reliance on US capabilities and assets. This challenge will be heightened by the US stated intention to shift its military, geographic and strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region. (Paragraph 90)

19.  We have no evidence of any shortfalls in military assets held by NATO nations needed for operations in Libya. Nonetheless we seek assurances that the UK is pressing NATO to consider the issue of over-reliance on any single nation, and is itself considering the balance of its future forces and how it can best add to the overall mix of NATO capabilities and command and control capacity. (Paragraph 91)

UK contribution to the operation

20.  The National Security Council appears to have worked well in respect of the situation in Libya, particularly in coordinating the response of Government Departments. This was important as the mission in Libya had many component parts, not just the military operation. (Paragraph 95)

21.  We commend all air units on their role in the operation, both in a combat role and in the Non-combatant Evacuation Operations for UK and other civilians by Hercules prior to the commencement of combat operations. We note the Chief of the Air Staff’s view that both Tornado and Typhoon had operated well. We particularly note that in its first operational role Typhoon performed very reliably. We also note that the Joint Helicopter Command was able to deploy successfully Apache helicopters to the Mediterranean Sea as well as maintain numbers in Afghanistan. (Paragraph 106)

22.  ISTAR capabilities are vital to the ability of UK Armed Forces to undertake operations such as those in Libya. We note that it was necessary as part of the mission to extend the service life of the Nimrod R1 signals intelligence aircraft. We expect the MoD to give a higher priority to the development of such capabilities in advance of the next SDSR. In response to this report we also expect the MoD to clarify the position on the future of Sentinel and whether consideration is being given to its retention and what impact retention would have on other budget areas. (Paragraph 110)

23.  We commend the actions of the Royal Navy in the operation particularly in respect of the evacuation of civilians from Benghazi, the enforcement of the arms embargo and the early deployment of the first Response Force Task Group. However we note that important tasks, such as the Fleet Ready Escort and counter drugs operations, were not able to be carried out due to meeting the Libya commitment. Given the continued high levels of standing maritime commitments it is likely that this type of risk taking will occur more frequently as the outcomes of the SDSR are implemented. This will be a significant challenge for the Royal Navy and the MoD who should outline their plans to meet this challenge in response to our Report. (Paragraph 114)

24.  In our SDSR report we noted the decommissioning of the Harrier Force. Whilst none of our witnesses told us that the Libya operation could not have succeeded without a fixed wing aircraft carrier, we note that three ships capable of carrying aircraft were deployed in theatre as well as the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean. We also note that the First Sea Lord told us that if a carrier with Harrier Force capability had been available it would probably have been used. In response to our Report the Government should indicate if the operation could have been carried out more effectively and efficiently with an aircraft carrier. We repeat our support for proceeding with both Queen Elizabeth class carriers to ensure one is always available for operations. (Paragraph 116)

25.  We note the high reliability and accuracy of the principal air munitions employed, but we also note reports regarding shortages of munitions, such as the new variant Brimstone missile, during the operation. UK Armed Forces require large enough stocks of ‘Warlike Materiel’ which can be quickly replenished when used. This requires larger stocks of those items which are more difficult to procure or slower to produce. In response to this report the Government should outline the contingency measures that are in place and whether it has any plans to review them. We accept that that it was necessary for UK Armed Forces to use costly precision guided weapons on some missions in order to minimise or avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage. In response to our Report, we request a detailed explanation on how decisions on which munitions to deploy are made, and at what command level, and whether cost is one of the factors considered. (Paragraph 125)

26.  Although the UK was able to satisfy both operations in Libya and the Military Standing Tasks and other operational commitments, Operation ELLAMY was conducted prior to the implementation of many of the Strategic Defence and Security Review decisions on capability reductions. We believe the Government will face significantly greater challenges should an operation of similar size be necessary in the future and it will need to be prepared for some difficult decisions on prioritisation. We consider that Operation ELLAMY raises important questions as to the extent of the United Kingdom’s national contingent capability. We urge the Government to review the United Kingdom’s capacity to respond to concurrent threats. This work should be conducted as a matter of urgency before the next Strategic Defence and Security Review. (Paragraph 127)

27.  We welcome the successful interoperability of Anglo-French Forces during the operation, particularly in respect of maritime-based attack helicopter operations. We note the Minister’s comments that there were some problems in the early stages of the operation and request an account of what these were and how resolved. We will continue our scrutiny of the Anglo-French Defence Treaties. (Paragraph 129)

28.  We note that in December 2011 the Government stated the estimate for the whole operation was £212 million, made up of £145 million of operating costs, plus a further £67 million on the cost of replenishing munitions used in Libya. We also note that the Secretary of State for Defence announced that fully audited figures would be produced as part of the annual accounts. We expect the details included in the accounts to be as complete as possible and should include a detailed explanation of the component parts of the additional costs, including those of replenishing munitions. In response to our Report the MoD should indicate the timetable for them being reimbursed the additional costs by HM Treasury. In light of the fact that other commentators have estimated the cost of operations to be much higher than the MoD estimate, we expect the MoD and HM Treasury to provide us with a detailed and transparent explanation of the methodology used when calculating its figures. We remain concerned that the MoD does not understand the full costs of operations in Libya. (Paragraph 135)

Implications for future operations

29.  Some aspects of NATO’s involvement in operations in Libya were particularly positive, especially the involvement at an early stage of non-NATO nations. However, we also note concerns expressed to us that the US “handed off” the operation to European allies and that NATO is a divided Alliance. We consider that the US decision not to lead the engagement in Libya was positively beneficial, in that it forced European members of NATO to face their own responsibilities, and shone a light on the gaps in European capabilities—gaps which we consider it essential to be plugged. Experiences from operations in Libya have revealed challenges for the political and military future of NATO, including the requirement to develop new ways of working especially if the US does not participate in operations and there is further involvement of non-NATO countries. These challenges must be considered as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 143)

30.  We commend the Government for commissioning a lessons learned exercise undertaken by the National Security Adviser. We request a list of all those consulted as part of this exercise. We note that the review stated that “overall the central co-ordination mechanisms worked well”. However we also note that the review highlighted a number of lessons for handling future conflicts. In response to our Report, the Government should set out the steps to be taken and timescales involved to resolve these concerns. We look forward to hearing how the Government proposes to “ensure that it obtains key command positions in those parts of a reformed NATO Command Structure that are most likely to be relevant to the conduct of future operations”, including clarification of which key command positions. (Paragraph 147)

31.  We note that the National Security Adviser’s review stated that individual departments would conduct their own lessons learned exercises. The MoD should clarify the remit, format and schedule of the reviews it has carried out or will be undertaking and we expect to see the reports. We request a briefing from the MoD’s Defence Operational Capability on the lessons learned from the Libya operation. (Paragraph 148)

32.  We commend the Minister for the Armed Forces’ commitment to include the costs of the operation in the lessons learned process. This should include an assessment of cost effectiveness and value for money of the assets deployed. We note his comment that cost comparisons with allies on different types of operations are only valid if comparing like with like (including the difficulty of the operation), but recommend that where possible these comparisons should be undertaken. (Paragraph 150)

33.  We note the concerns of witnesses regarding the operation, but believe that the mission in Libya should be regarded as a success. NATO and other nations acting under the authority of the United Nations have ensured the safety of Libyan civilians who would otherwise have been at risk of being killed by pro-Gaddafi forces. (Paragraph 155)

34.  UK Armed Forces have contributed significantly to the successful conclusion of the operation. UK Service personnel have yet again performed their duties in a professional and dedicated manner. The capabilities deployed by NATO and the UK performed well, minimising civilian deaths and collateral damage. However the mission has also highlighted challenges and issues that need to be addressed and taken forward by the United Nations, NATO and the UK Government. The mission in Libya was successful in discharging the UN mandate. The real test is whether the success of this mission was a one-off or whether the lessons it has highlighted mean that future such missions can be successfully undertaken, whilst maintaining the UK’s capability to protect its interests elsewhere. (Paragraph 156)

 

Down load the reports by clicking the links

Select Committee - Libya
Operations in Libya – Vol I 
Select Committee - Libya
Operations in Libya – Vol II

 

 

 

163 Comments
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DominicJ
DominicJ
February 8, 2012 11:48 am

Erm, has someone nicked TDs name?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 8, 2012 12:03 pm

Only read the summary and recommendations, and the overly legalistic tone aside, the recommendations regarding both the revisiting of some of the SDSR points as well as some NATO-level issues would make a good list for frequent follow-up and discussion

Dunservin
Dunservin
February 8, 2012 12:57 pm

@TD

You have my sympathy. The evidence (most of which seems incontrovertible) certainly doesn’t support anyone promoting an anti-carrier agenda.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
February 8, 2012 1:45 pm

“In response to our Report the Government should indicate if the operation could have been carried out more effectively and efficiently with an aircraft carrier. We repeat our support for proceeding with both Queen Elizabeth class carriers to ensure one is always available for operations.”

Anyone still believe the intention isn’t come to a ‘decision’ in SDSR2015 to fit cats-n-traps to both carriers………………..?

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
February 8, 2012 2:06 pm

I admit I’ve only dipped into the document, but the analysis I read there appeared reasonable. Exactly which bits of it do you take issue with?

Dunservin
Dunservin
February 8, 2012 2:47 pm

@TD

There was no input from me. I know the PTT is often OTT in its claims but isn’t it intriguing that so many senior service and civilian figures, with all that knowledge, experience and expertise between them, have arrived at roughly the same conclusions? As I said before, their evidence provides small comfort for anti-carrier lobbyists. So, despite your rather strongly-worded protestation, methinks you still have my sympathy.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
February 8, 2012 2:53 pm

I’m sorry if I’ve stepped into some sort of dispute here. I did read the submissions and what I read appeared reasonable. Things like – it’s a good idea to keep enough munitione – especially of ones with long lead times or other potential obstacles to procurement. Four Astutes with 24 TLAM would have provided a very responsive way to take out precision, high value, hardened targets a long way from the coast. Harriers (claimed to have been incapable of using precision weapons) could have carried AGM-65G2, PIV and CRV etc. etc. I understand those providing the submissions had agendas but I guess I’m looking for specific factual errors or omissions in their submissions here.

Fatman
Fatman
February 8, 2012 2:53 pm

Having been directly involved in the training of many middle ranking and some current senior officers (some of my former students are now 3*s) I have to concur with TD. The intellectual level of a significant number is actually quite abysmal and it shows when forced to argue their case in Select Committee meetings. My feeling is that a large proportion of the high flying middle rank officers quit the forces in the 1990s after the original Options for Change (1991-94) and Strategic Defence Review (1998). As the cuts have bitten and the operational tempo post 9/11 has been maintained so many more of the best and brightest have had enough. These are the people who should be at the top, not the current third XI team that seems institutionally incapable of exercising proper leadership. The Libya operation bears this out in many ways.

Consequently we have had a series of very poor decisions and policies from all three Services that have now created a perfect storm at a time of financial stringency. For example take:

* Armoured vehicle procurement
* FRES
* Nimrod MR4A
* The original unaffordable carrier decision
* Failure to counter IEDs with proper MRAP vehicles
* Operations in Basra
* Failed counter-insurgency doctrine in Iraq and Afghanistan
* The Harrier decision
* The emerging flying training disaster
* The farce over F-35B, F-35C and the concealed costs of carrier modification
* The Astute submarine programme
* The failure to develop viable UAV platforms
* The Team Complex Weapon shenanigans and attempt to get a gallon out of a pint pot
* The delays and under-arming of the Type 45 and Type 26 warships
* The failed transport helicopter procurement strategy
* The indecision over the Trident replacement
* The failure to to deploy viable deterrent forces in the Falklands
* Over-extension of forces in Libya
* And now an apparent determination to somehow get involved in wars against Iran and Syria

I sometimes wonder what they put in the water at Main Building.

And I could go on. There are far too many indefensible policy and procurement decisions being made, often for very short term reasons such as immediate cost savings, that have seriously undermined the UK’s military capability and its defence industrial base. Not only do our politicised generation of senior officers (all 480 of them, 1*s and above) go along with what is demanded by the Treasury and politicians – when was the last military resignation on a point of principle? – but all too often they are the instigators of thoroughly bad policy. Just read today’s report or the PAC reports on carriers and armoured vehicles.

And before the normal whingers start complaining about ‘what do you know?’, well until very recently I have worked for almost 35 years alongside many of the current upper military echelon and I have been simply amazed recently at some of the promotions. It seems a stiff bearing, loud voice and lots of self confidence will still take people right to the top. No wonder our American counterparts are increasingly dismissive of us.

This feels more and more like the Interwar period with its inept and inadequate military and political leadership conducting defence and foreign policy. At some point we are going to get our arses kicked big time, just like 1940. And we will deserve it.

Chris.B.
February 8, 2012 3:13 pm

I found the First Sea Lords comments enlightening;

“Using Libya as an example of the need, or not, for aircraft carriers can lead you to
some false assumptions. If we had had a carrier with Harrier capability, as we used to,
I suspect we would have used it as another option, and it might have been reactively
tasked in some circumstances. But, let us be absolutely clear, it could not have
provided the effect of Tornado with Brimstone and Storm Shadow”

IXION
February 8, 2012 3:24 pm

Fatman

As I have said elsewhere; there is lot of evidence of a stultifying conformity to doctrine, and stiff upper lip type culture; leading to as you say a 1940’s level of ineptitude in our armed forces.

If we ever go up against someone who knows what there doing or who knows the ground and their own limitations we are going to get a kicking.

Basra was a warning, next time it will be Singapore all over again. complete with Prince of Wales and Repulse.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 8, 2012 3:57 pm

Impressive list, Fatman
– personally I would leave Astute out [ok, skills gap was allowed to emerge, America had to help us out and now the price of a whole (extra) boat has been squandered on adjustments of the trip-feed… but all of it down to politicians (no?)]

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
February 8, 2012 3:59 pm

I can see the argument re Storm Shadow (although RN TLAMs largely duplicate that capability). The Harrier vs Tornado argument is more moot as Harrier could carry at least two AGM-65 and Paveway IV the combination of which would largely emulate Brimstone when used in SALH mode. Brimstone has a smaller warhead for somewhat less collateral damage, but how often would that actually have been a consideration?

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
February 8, 2012 4:00 pm

@Fatman. What were the team complex weapons shenanigans?

Chris.B.
February 8, 2012 4:26 pm

@ ChrisW

Stanhope seemed to be adamant that there was no comparison (Tornado > Harrier) and that had the decision gone the other way then the Harrier force – having to prioritise Afghanistan – would not even have been available for Ellamy.

Fatman
Fatman
February 8, 2012 4:35 pm

Chris W
TCW – every time a deal has been reached the money available is reduced and the negotiations start all over again. And again. This has build all kinds of delays into the multiple programmes, put up costs and then of course leads to more negotiations ad infinitum. The future should be interesting… but at least CAMM has now been ordered.

ACC
Astute. Yes, part of the problem was the moratorium on SSN building in the 1990s and the skills gap at Barrow, but you should also ask why the RN believes that building 7 very large boats makes more strategic sense than 10-12 smaller ones for the same money. The intellectual failure is one of abandoning evolutionary change for revolutionary. Of course, Astute is undoubtedly better than building say a Trafalgar batch 3, but as every engineer knows radical changes should be avoided. The result is a major shrinkage in the fleet and the acquisition of a boat whose size effectively limits its coastal deployment (ask the citizens of the Isle of Skye). The RN is obsessed with building large SSNs, even though there is as yet no solution to the disposal of the old nuclear boats.

Their utility in the sorts of conflict we now face can be seen as essentially that of cruise missile launcher. If that is the primary purpose it would have been a lot cheaper to have built half a dozen destroyer-sized vessels carrying a lot more TLAMs. But that involves thinking outside the box and there are very strong vested interests that will argue that the SSN is the only possible solution. Bear in mind it is the Services that define the requirements, not civil servants or politicians. And this is where the problem sets in – the Services each have their sacred cows (such as the carrier acquisition programme) and will sacrifice anything else to get them. This is how we end up with distorted forces structures and inadequate equipment levels. If you have poor senior officers you will get poor decisions about what is needed. You could reasonably argue that Astute is not the answer we need, no matter how good it may be as an SSN.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 8, 2012 5:02 pm

A good question ” you should also ask why the RN believes that building 7 very large boats makes more strategic sense than 10-12 smaller ones for the same money. The intellectual failure is one of abandoning evolutionary change for revolutionary”
– I can imagine that the obsession with being a global force, capable of operating anywhere,may have been the driver (while forgetting that we have sturdy allies in far away places – for replenishment and joint naval operations)
– on another blog site I argued that the ambition should be reigned in, to cover as far as the FI in the West and to Diego Cargia in the East; without insisting on independent operations further out… the budgets could suddenly go much further and RAS capacity look much less streched

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
February 8, 2012 5:10 pm

@ Fatman – “but you should also ask why the RN believes that building 7 very large boats makes more strategic sense than 10-12 smaller ones for the same money.”

Perhaps this reflects the need to preserve an ability to design, as well as build, nuclear submarines, i.e. to create derivations of the Trafalger class will inevitably cause skills to atrophy to the point where new design is impossible.

We might argue that at seven boats (+4), nuclear submarines should not be deemed a strategic industry, as we cannot afford to build a useful fleet, but that is a separate argument.

Gabriele
Gabriele
February 8, 2012 5:37 pm

“on another blog site I argued that the ambition should be reigned in, to cover as far as the FI in the West and to Diego Cargia in the East; without insisting on independent operations further out…”

But the main operation area already is the one you propose, even if a frigate every now and then might go as far as Singapore or even visit Japan (ridiculously rare).
You are not really proposing cutting anything.

x
x
February 8, 2012 5:41 pm

7 boats was our political masters degreed not what the original plan which was a one for one swap for the S & T Boats.

What amazes me about Astute considering her size is no VLS tubes to bring into line with USN.

As for 12 smaller boats there is some talk about the web of Australia looking at Virginias to replace the Collins. The SSK being too short legged to cope with the Indian Ocean transits.

HDW Type 216 and BMT Vidar®-36 do look interesting.

http://www.bmtdsl.co.uk/?/308/899/

I also like stuff like this too……

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c5/BrahMos_missie_on_Lada_class_non-nuclear_submarine_maqette.jpg/1280px-BrahMos_missie_on_Lada_class_non-nuclear_submarine_maqette.jpg

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 8, 2012 5:50 pm

Ermm, the topic was “why such big boats…that you only get 7, instead of 10-12”
– the number is now so small that the navy (as regards SSNs) is always operating on the edge and nothing can go wrong (we are not mentioning the out of date charts here; that was a good way to save)
– the other thing that would be seriously stretched (on operations) is RAS

…so, Gaby, you are right: I was not suggesting of cutting anything

x
x
February 8, 2012 5:52 pm

Was that ermmm directed at me perchance?

Fatman
Fatman
February 8, 2012 5:57 pm

@x
Yes, but the point is that even a cursory examination of the likely costs + inflation should have made clear to the RN that replacing the S&T boats one-for-one with a new design that was both significantly larger and more sophisticated was never, ever going to be affordable. The situation is that of of a company that needs 12 saloons for its sales reps, but because it wants to keep up with its more successful rival (the USN) decides to settle on 7 Rolls Royces instead of 12 BMWs, and is then surprised it cannot cover all the areas it desires. The Services are letting their ambitions override fiscal prudence. Logically the RN will only be able to afford 3 or 4 replacements for Astute and perhaps a single replacement for those in due course, unless some fundamental rethinking takes place.

The answer may of course be to abandon nuclear power in favour of more affordable AIP and accept the limitations. But I have yet to see any sign that this kind of realistic thought process is being implemented. The Astute class in submarine building terms is probably a dead end I am afraid and it will probably be the last SSN, unless of course the UK economy starts growing at 4% p.a. And I totally agree about the lack of VLS tubes. Why build something so large and expensive and then fail to equip it properly? Presumably this was a cost-saving measure – which means that we could not really afford what we needed in the first place if you think about it.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 8, 2012 6:07 pm

X, no (but , for clarity, I should have started with “Gaby” rather than finished with it)

x
x
February 8, 2012 6:11 pm

@ Fatman

Yes and no. As with most things it is more a case of choosing to afford. Astute 8 & 9 would have cost less than Astute 7. Barrow is good at SSNs; I would rather have more submarines than spend money on T26. What annoys is that 7 is just a stupid number; one wonders about refit cycles etc.

As for VLS I do hope it was a cost cutting measure and not a failure of imagination. Sadly I think it is probably both.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
February 8, 2012 6:24 pm

B.

Point taken, but arguing whether a weapon system, taken in isolation, can substitute for another one is a different thing from asking whether it would have been available for the substitution. The combination of sea-based Harrier and TLAM clearly has a large degree of overlap with the GR4s capabilites. It obviously couldn’t substitute for Typhoon in the air superiority role, but then something would have gone very wrong if the Libyan AF was still able to get any fighters airborne on D+1.

@Fatman

I understand where you are coming from on TCW. CAMM does look to be a great concept and a huge capabilty upgrade on both Rapier and VLSW. I do wonder what the LMM brings to the table that a guided 70mm rocket can’t, particularly when you can carry 19 of the latter in place of perhaps five of the former.

You point out two issues with the submarine. 1. Could a detroyer sized ship which could have been built in greater numbers much more cheaply have substituted in a TLAM delivery role and 2. would 12 of something a bit cheaper have been better value/more capable than 7 of something huge and gold-plated. We could have whole threads on either question that would doubtless just run and run.

The advantage of having TLAMs on an SSN/SSGN over a sirface is that an opponent will not know where that platform is even if he has half decent ocean and air surveillance in place. You can’t quantify that as a purely psychological benefit. Assuming you’re in a peer to peer conflict the submarine also confers much enhanced survivability. You’re obviously going to be able to fit a lot more TLAMs on a surface ship (barring and SSBN conversion) and the ship is going to have a lot more versatility in what it can do across the spectrum of conflict.

The excellent vs very good argument is more difficult. The USN as another poster pointed out retreated from the excellent to the very good. How likely are we to come up against an opponent where having anything less than the best possible SSN will make a difference? In that, highly unlikely scenario it would make all the difference and in any other, quantity, and perhaps smaller size would win out.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 8, 2012 6:26 pm

Now that we are all (?) agreed that the boats were built unnecessarily big/ expensive
…comes the next ermm (by Nick Clegg):
“Any chance you could extend those boats a bit, behind the fin, to take just a couple of missiles, and we could save the Vanguard replacement monies”

wf
wf
February 8, 2012 6:49 pm

@ArmChairCivvy: depends how large and flexible the common missle compartment is :-)

RW
RW
February 8, 2012 7:21 pm

@ Fatman

No sure I get your point about the size of Astute, the intention to deploy tomahawk would suggest that Astute was not intended to go close to shore.

Re the concept..t it could be a sacred cow but it could also be part of portfolio management of procurement for the SSNB which needs the Astute program to trail blaze

Given what’s already committed to SSBN I suspect that Astute was a constrained concept but I don’t think it’s that difficult to get off the shelf diesel small subs or licensed production

Not sure which country now own s German sub production – expect UAE now or soon – so we could just ask them for a deal and get some late trades as per the gone missing Greek deal
Also think the BMT snorkel sub interesting

Re your type 3 seniors do you think the new era of budget responsibility for service chiefs will find them out and scare then off?

Fatman
Fatman
February 8, 2012 7:53 pm

@RW
Astute also has a SF role and as the only available submarine will be used for all kinds of roles such as coastal recce for which a vessel this size is perhaps not best suited. I suppose this is really an argument for at least two sizes of boat. If Astute is essentially a TLAM platform a surface ship would almost certainly be adequate against the sort of targets likely to be envisaged (Libya, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, etc) since they will not have blue water capabilities.

This really comes down to our concept of future strategy. If we still see ourselves going head to head against a major power like the old USSR clearly we want the best (and a defence budget to match). If, as I suspect, the UK’s future lies in token support of the US in major intervention operations and undertaking only minor ones ourselves then we are unlikely to encounter serious opposition. Even against Argentina a ship-based TLAM platform would be adequate. So are we still in the serious war fighting business as the top brass would prefer, or are we now (post-SDSR) so reduced that we can accept less capable forces because we aren’t going to take on China, India, etc? And where does this leave the carrier procurement? Because if we have downgraded our enemies then surely we can get by with F-18 instead of F-35. I don’t feel that SDSR has really defined the nature of the clout we feel we require or who our enemies are, but if we try to pretend that we are capable of taking on the big boys, when in fact we are not, then someone will call the bluff one day.

no
no
February 8, 2012 8:13 pm

IXION: “Basra was a warning, next time it will be Singapore all over again. complete with Prince of Wales and Repulse.”

Since so many experts are using this blog can I ask what the best book on the Fall of Singapore is? with regard to military tactics etc.
I have read about it before, but not in the detail I was looking for.
Seems crazy how 30,000 Japs could defeat 100,000+ Empire troops even if they were vasty better equiped thats a huge number difference. The planes and Tanks shouldn’t have had as big an impact as they did given the jungle terran earlier in the campaign?

dominicj
dominicj
February 8, 2012 8:23 pm

diesel electrics are useless for anything but coastal defence
they lack the ordnance for land attack or the range for aggressive naval warfare.
They might win in wargames, but once that snorkel pops up.

Everyone who can build them, does.

dominicj
dominicj
February 8, 2012 8:43 pm

no
no idea as to tactics or specifics, i’d put it down to crap occupation troops against elite killing machines

Phil
February 8, 2012 9:06 pm

Observer will be able to give you a very good reason why we got our arses kicked since the reason is the single biggest problem by far for the SDF still today.

Topman
Topman
February 8, 2012 9:14 pm

Having now had chance to have a good read through it. The written evidence section seems at odds with the first. The first seems to have some good Q&A sessions in parts a little dry, but that’s the nature of these things. The second part of the report seemed to be baffling, why a group of seemingly so educated and with so many letters after their names would come up with such rubbish to put in a report.

It’s so full of holes that I find it odd they were given such a large part of the report to sound off their ‘evidence’. In nearly all of the comparisons and tables it wasn’t so much as apples and oranges comparisons as apples and space shuttles.

SomewhatInvolved
February 8, 2012 9:26 pm

Looking forward to dipping into this, at first glance the telling line for me was para 23 of the summary and the RN’s inability to meet its other commitments due to Libya, and how Government is looking forward to the MOD’s solution to this. Proof that the RN is now below the critical mass necessary to meet its commitments worldwide. Solution – either build more bloody ships or reduce the commitment.

Astute is a class 1 procurement cluster#### which is pressing ahead for the sole purpose of supporting our nuclear shipbuilding industry so we can build the Successor SSBN.

Phil
February 8, 2012 9:32 pm

The written evidence.

All the Committee has done is seek pluralistic views. It stands to reason that the most noisy and opinionated have contributed. It is sound reasoning to argue that everyone’s opinion is useful, if not necessarily particularly relevant. By sounding out some of these strange groups and people, they helped build their understanding of the issues. I haven’t read the whole report but I wonder how much weight was given to each of these submissions. Some of them are amateur in the extreme, some of them are opinion pieces but all of them as a whole represent a valuable picture and source of information.

I even spotted the Pheonix Think Tank in there.

So anyway, it’s gathered evidence. Evidently from some exercised individuals or groups amongst others but all of that information is useful and should be sought out. If the Committee didn’t look at a variety of viewpoints, stances and opinions then it wouldn’t have been worth the paper the report was written on.

Topman
Topman
February 8, 2012 9:46 pm

@ Phil, I agree with what you say, I just don’t think ‘the broad church’ view was balanced enough. It was all much of a muchness, but like you say I suppose it’s to be expected.

Chris.B.
February 8, 2012 9:53 pm

Some of the written “evidence” was down right shoddy. My complaint about such things is that there appears to be no opportunity for a response to things like this. If there were, I suspect some of the written evidence would be slaughtered under close scrutiny.

Phil
February 8, 2012 9:58 pm

I don’t know how the Committee gathered its evidence. It seems people just submitted it. The Pheonix Think Tank screed is particularly headache inducing. I imagine much more weight was given to more official evidence but the other evidence certainly gives context and flavour to the debate. And also, we’re a democracy. People whose cheese has slipped off their cracker, or so we think, get to shout too. Maybe next time someone from here could put a submission in on the next report. It’s no use arguing about the skewed nature of the debate when we haven’t voiced our opinions.

Fatman
Fatman
February 8, 2012 10:00 pm

Part of the problem is the Defence Committee, like other Select Committees, does not have the support or resources that a comparable Congressional Committee possesses. This is why their questions are sometimes poorly framed and basic knowledge is lacking. The US House Armed Service Committee, for example, has a whole team of researchers who can provide briefs to members and suggest questions. This enables them to hold witnesses to account in a much more professional way. But somehow I think that UK governments of any persuasion will instinctively shy away from loosing this particular genie. The results could be very embarrassing for MOD. Let’s face it, most of us who read these reports have seen occasions when minsters, civil servants and senior military officers have at best been highly evasive with the truth and at worst have downright lied to the Defence Committee – and it has not been picked up. The UK’s defence failings partly come about because MPs cannot hold them to account while mistakes are in progress. Instead we have autopsies after projects have failed or operations have been ineptly completed.

Phil
February 8, 2012 10:02 pm

Chris B.

I suspect it was shredded but divergent viewpoints are all valid, if not all relevant. I doubt very much it’s the first time for example a thick, heavy envelope has thudded onto their floor with the return address, ‘Pheonix Think Tank’. I am sure they have a list of usual suspects who like the old man thundering about Council Tax in the local papers letter section, never shut up.

Mark
Mark
February 8, 2012 10:04 pm

Commons Defence Committee Releases MoD Briefing on Typhoon in Libya Operations

http://www.defense-aerospace.com/articles-view/release/3/132546/mod-report-on-typhoon-operations-in-libya.html

Chris.B.
February 8, 2012 10:07 pm

I don’t begrudge people their opinions, but when people start posting numbers or making statements purported to be facts then we start entering very different territory, which is no longer opinion and has now become an argument about fixed and known variables.

If people manipulate that data then that is not just offering a divergent opinion, it is twisting the truth or outright lying to achieve a position or implant a particular viewpoint in the heads of important individuals.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
February 8, 2012 10:08 pm

Dissapointed to see the Pheonix Think tank influencing this, even as a maritime supporter believe that they are biased and choose to ignore the bigger picture.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 8, 2012 10:15 pm

And advertising a truly informative

UNITED STATES SENATE

COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES

_________________________________________________

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

9:30 AM

To receive testimony on the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2013 and the Future
Years Defense Program.
– the Executive arm truly have to make their case
– a pity that forward-looking part of the Committee work is so much less pronounced here than being after-the-fact watch dog

Tubby
Tubby
February 8, 2012 10:18 pm

Apologies not actually read the report but I do note that Libya has been cited as one of the reasons why we have exercised an option for an eighth C-17 http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/EquipmentAndLogistics/ModToBuyExtraC17Aircraft.htm (and it also proves that the RAF are not all about fast pointy things)

Phil
February 8, 2012 10:19 pm

ACC

The other side of that is imagine Parliament skewing Defence like Congress does over there.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 8, 2012 10:22 pm

Phil, if you mean pork barreling, then I readily concede the point?

Phil
February 8, 2012 10:24 pm

@APATs

Did they really influence it though? They submitted “evidence” which will have been filtered, weighed up and examined. Considering the actual costs are available to the Select Committee I don’t think we need to worry too much about their home grown costings taking root.

And I have just looked it up, anyone can submit evidence to a Select Committee.

It’s their right to submit evidence, someone could submit theirs too.

It doesn’t mean it isn’t politely ignored.

Phil
February 8, 2012 10:28 pm

And had a peek through some other additional written evidence volumes in other reports and some of the same folk, or different folk but same associations keep cropping up. Pheonix Think Tank being quite evident from the enormous submissions (7-8 annexes alone) all about carrier air.

Topman
Topman
February 8, 2012 10:47 pm

They seem to be on a bit of a crusade, to my mind there’s something a bit odd about them.

jackstaff
jackstaff
February 9, 2012 7:52 am

This may be a bit of (Pacific Standard) late-night sentimentality, and I hope to say something of substance in the thread tomorrow. But I wanted to say thanks to all who’ve chipped in for the sheer weight of thoughtful discussion and measured patience — even though there are such strong feelings about some of these issues (read any CVF thread …) and some of the folks here differ deeply on them. It’s a touch (for someone like me who’s been out of the loop often the last year or more) of the early days, and a touch of quality.

One quick thought though:

Fatman,

I agree totally about Congressional committees. One of the things I really admire about the American system and I’ve found their paper trails very useful both professionally and out of personal interest over the years. If you get the right personality/ies involved they can sometimes manage the same in Ottawa, but it strikes me as not built into the system so well. Given how broken the processes in Congress are these days it’s also something of actual use to which you can cling.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
February 9, 2012 8:47 am

@ ACC –

“Now that we are all (?) agreed that the boats were built unnecessarily big/ expensive”

Not quite, for exactly the reason highlighted in the quote below:

“Any chance you could extend those boats a bit, behind the fin, to take just a couple of missiles, and we could save the Vanguard replacement monies”

Because I question whether warming over old designs meets the stated requirement of preserving the submarine industry ability to both design and manufacture nuclear boats, as noted above:

“Perhaps this reflects the need to preserve an ability to design, as well as build, nuclear submarines, i.e. to create derivations of the Trafalger class will inevitably cause skills to atrophy to the point where new design is impossible.”

We might argue that at seven boats (+4), nuclear submarines should not be deemed a strategic industry, as we cannot afford to build a useful fleet, but that is a separate argument.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 9, 2012 9:00 am

Hi Jedi,

You almost make the argument for me, building them unnecessarily big and expensive invites the next logical argument (that will soon become topical: two fleets, or one, with some stretch limos in it?).

While the “atrophy” argument has validity, I can’t see it as an exact counter to 10+ smaller boats instead of the seven (remember, we will pay for eight as the drum beat has been slowed down from what would be economical)

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 9, 2012 9:01 am

or more like: what would have been economical

DominicJ
DominicJ
February 9, 2012 9:10 am

Jedi
“We might argue that at seven boats (+4), nuclear submarines should not be deemed a strategic industry, as we cannot afford to build a useful fleet, but that is a separate argument.”

I personaly wouldnt throw out nuclear submarines, but I certainly agree we have more “strategic industries” than we can afford.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
February 9, 2012 9:22 am

@ AAC – “While the “atrophy” argument has validity, I can’t see it as an exact counter to 10+ smaller boats instead of the seven (remember, we will pay for eight as the drum beat has been slowed down from what would be economical)”

I suppose the question for me is whether the “10+ smaller boats” that can create a viable industry into the future should be read as cheap nuke (barracuda) or high-end AIP (BMT Vidar-36)?

http://www.bmtdsl.co.uk/?/308/899/

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 9, 2012 12:19 pm

Hi Jedi,

a nice movie, the cruise missile forgot the almost half a million £ wrapper, to get it to surface and to function.

One might think that the Vidar came out of nowhere, but let me quote (I’ve condensed the quote) from The Australian, end of Dec:

“The report – Australia’s Future Submarine, obtained by The Australian – estimates it would cost only $18bn to build a dozen homegrown 3800 tonne “son of Collins” submarines rather than the previously published cost estimate of up to $36bn predicted in 2009 by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute [obviously the later report is funded by the domestic defence industry, hence the half price offer]

While this would still make it the most expensive military project in the nation’s history…

The Kokoda [Foundation] findings will be particularly welcomed by the government at a time when Defence is belatedly coming under pressure to match budget cuts across other portfolios. The government has […]yet to determine whether they will be larger, homegrown, “son of Collins” submarines or a small, off-the-shelf European design [these would be half price again, ie. a quarter of a guaranteed, working, ocean-going solution].

“A fleet of ultimately 12 submarines of 3800 tonnes capable of meeting all of the current capability requirements might be delivered for half some earlier estimates, or $18bn in 2011 Australian dollars.”

At 3800 tonnes, the new submarines proposed by the Kokoda Foundation would be bigger and more sophisticated than the current 3000-tonne, Collins-class boats. They would also be capable of anti-ship and anti-submarine operations as well as strategic strike, mine warfare, intelligence collection and support for the special force operations.

“This combination, together with the need to operate at a distance from Australia, is not available in any existing conventional submarine…”

Will get back with the “cheap nuke (barracuda)” option, which newwars website costs at double the most advanced conventional sub, but well under the Astutes:
“Astute SSN (UK)-$2,410 million

Barracuda SSN (France)-$1.35 billion

Dolphin SSK (German/Israeli)-$635 million”

– basically, for 7 units the difference would have funded two thirds of the carriers, but only on the latter account [carrier costs] do most people get heated, or even into a discussion

McZ
McZ
February 9, 2012 12:24 pm

Barracuda may be a small nuke sub, but it is by no means cheap. €1.092b per unit in 2009 prices. The french special accounting tricks to hide cross-budget expenses excluded.

Vidar-36 looks good on paper. Maybe they should team with Appledore to make a working piece of equipment out of it. The time that powerpoints have selled anything are gone outside MoD-space.

To me the real question is: who builds ocean-going killer UUVs first? And why is the UK with it’s ASW-experience still not in the super-cavitating business?

My favorite sentence of the report is:
“We particularly note that in its first operational role Typhoon performed very reliably.”

Reads as: it can reliably fly and drop some bombs. Not a bad achievement for our star multirole performer in service since 2008.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
February 9, 2012 1:21 pm

I was amused to see some info extolling the virtues of the F/A-18E/F/G showing CBUs that we signed a Treaty not to use. One of the government responses also claimed we’d been shooting Stormshadows at individual tanks! :)

Peter Elliott
February 9, 2012 3:34 pm

That Singapore question. Since no-one else has answered I’ll have a go:

The base was intended to be defended by a sea-going force. Unfortunately the 1920s naval treaties, while they saved us a stack of cash at a time when we were desparately hard-up (sound familiar?), left us with not enough ships to defend a global empire. Logically enough at the start of WW2 we made the best of a bad job and concentrated on home defence, the Med, and the battle of the Atlantic, and hoped desparately that Japan might just leave us alone.

In 1941 (when we realised they wouldn’t) we sent too few ships too late and, critically, the last available aircraft carrier ran aground on the way and could not be replaced in time. Without air cover our ships (Prince of Wales, Repulase etc) were consequently sunk by land based bombers.

Having failed to prevent the amphibious landings in Malaya we were in real trouble. Our army there lacked: armour, air cover, radios, naval flank support and, most improtantly, any concept of how jungle warfare works. It was outflanked through the jungle and along the cost time and again.

By the time it got to 100,000 vs 33,000 on the island of Singapore itself it was all over bar the shouting. All the Japanese needed to do was cut off the water supply and we would have folded up. As it happened the same failings of poor communications and failure to defend flanking attacks happened again in the last battle.

Its easy to blame the commanders but it later took Slim months and months of hard work to turn 14th Army into an effective jungle warfare force, with combined arms, organic close air support, and flexible logistic supply lines. He only learned what was required by being present himself at the next debacle when the Japanese drove on from Malaya into Burma.

Yes, the British/Australian/Indian forces in Malaya in 1941 were shambolic compared to the level of proficiency that the 14th Army acheived in 1945, but the real failure was in not having enough ships in the fleet in 1939 to be able to keep a stong squadron in Singapore and deter the amphibious landings in Malaya in the first place.

Peter

Observer
Observer
February 9, 2012 4:46 pm

There is also the morale problem that cropped up later on.

The troops there were supposed to defend the whole of Malaya, but they were spread out initially, so the Japanese had a lot of local success. By the time the 100,000 men had concentrated in Singapore, they were men that had the tar beaten out of them from one end of Malaya to the other. So yes, they outnumbered the enemy 3:1 but morale wise, they were pretty crushed, while the Japanese troops were high on “victory disease”. The 1st thing Singapore’s ex-Prime Minister noted about the Japanese troops when they 1st marched in was the smell. Their morale was so high that they continuously pressed on the invasion at the expense of bathing and washing, just to get to grips with the enemy. They were pretty fanatical by that time.

Phil
February 9, 2012 5:03 pm

Someone mention depth!

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 9, 2012 7:35 pm

“18. For the time being, there will still be a heavy reliance on US command and control functions for future operations. It should be a priority for NATO to examine this. However, whilst accepting the current economic climate and its implications for defence capabilities, we are concerned that future operations will not be possible if the US is not willing or able to provide capabilities such as unmanned aerial vehicles, intelligence and refuelling aircraft. It should be a priority for NATO to examine this over-reliance on US capabilities and assets. This challenge will be heightened by the US stated intention to shift its military, geographic and strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region. (Paragraph 90)” – As has been discussed on this site many times, what we need (UK and Europe) are more support capabilities; AAR, IS(TA)R, C2, strategic transport, etc.

x
x
February 9, 2012 7:52 pm

Re Singapore

Why has nobody mentioned the jungle? And the fact the defence pointed out towards the sea and there was nothing to the rear.

Peter Elliott
February 9, 2012 8:52 pm

The jungle was certainly mentioned up-thread. The point about it was that the British forces believed the jungle to be impenetrable, so concentrated on defending pinch points on the main roads and did not patrol actively into the surrounding jungle.

They were therefore bypassed repeatedly by Japanese who who were able to move infantry and equipment through the jungle and appear on the road behind the British. Afraid of being cut off and lacking alternative air or sea supply options the British would then fight desparately _backwards_ towards their rear echelon. Then they would realign and try to defend the next pinch point, still not patrolling effectively in the surrounding jungle, and would be bypassed again. Hugely demoralising stuff for the soldiers and junior officers. The answer to the problem is (a) jungle warfare training for all units to facilitate active patrolling and (b) alternative logistic supply options by sea and air to take the sting out of encirclement. Neither of these options was available to the Generals in Malaya in 1941 – so they lost.

Regarding the fixed 15″ guns at Singapore itself it has been suggested that direction of fire was not the only issue. Apparently most of the ammunition available was armour piercing for fighting warships not HE for supporting a land battle.

Phil – perhaps you could tell us a bit more about “depth” ?

Peter

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 9, 2012 9:12 pm

Hi Peter & Phil,

The descriptive narrative is quite complete by now?

Why did the Japanese commander decline any further divisions than the three that were in his plan? Because the plan was all about manoeuvre, and more troops would have killed the logistics.

Did they have tanks? No
Did they have artillery? May be some; not important
What did they have then? Bicycles… move to the next pinch point, loop around it, get your abandoned bicycles back (collected by the rear-echelon, with very limited motorised transport) … and do it again!

As for density and [lack of] depth, it was all there in the end game, but by that time (as already mentioned) the outcome was not in doubt

Density and depth, they have their place, but they are not the only variables/ determinants

Where is that history thread, btw?

Observer
Observer
February 9, 2012 9:27 pm

“Did they have tanks? No”

Yes, some tankettes which gave the British severe problems caused by armoured units able to infiltrate through less dense jungle and smash through strongpoints with a unit impregnable to most small arms.

See Battle of Slim River. Wiki entry.

IXION
February 9, 2012 9:31 pm

Observer- Peter.

All the above true. But but but..

WE did outnumber the Japanese 3 to one +

We were defending the ground not attacking- by the classic 4- attacker V Defender ration the Japanese should have needed 400,000 to take Malaya and Singapore.

We actually had by and large better equipment!

The Japanese were not in any way specially trained in Jungle warfare and lacked virtually anything we would call staff work including logistics.

No we should not have let them land and a naval force of sufficient would have stopped them.

From small units to upper echelons we lacked aggression, leadership at all levels, skill at arms, and most shamefacedly outright courage.

By the time we were driven back to Singapore it was over.

There are many books like F Spencer Chapman’s The Jungle Is Neutral. But for a short and pithy version read ‘All hell let Lose’ by Max Hastings.

It was perhaps the worst performance by an army in the ‘modern’ age. unfortunately it was only the worst of many absolute stinkers by UK forces until 43-44 by which time Slimm/Montgomery and one or too others, had rebuilt an army that would at least stand under fire, and units that could think for themselves.

However we never matched man for man the Germans,the briefings the German High command were giving their higher and middle ranking officers about the expected invasion in the west were pretty dismissive of the British army, (Not the navy or Air force). We had come a long way from the ‘Lions’ of WW1. and not in the right direction!

dominicj
dominicj
February 9, 2012 9:42 pm

observer
thats one of the reasons i’m such a fan of light armour, its utterly devestating if the other side lacks any proper firepower, and it can get to places where there isnt that heavy weaponry.

Observer
Observer
February 9, 2012 9:44 pm

“We actually had by and large better equipment!”

No you didn’t. Refer to the tanks.

“by the classic 4- attacker V Defender ratio”

This is for fortified/MOUT areas, not jungle. Jungle ratio is in the attacker’s advantage. (Blocked lines of fire, porous defence lines, high chance of being flanked in surprise etc)

“No we should not have let them land and a naval force of sufficient would have stopped them.”

Very likely, but you needed aircraft for cover. It wasn’t the lack of carriers, there were prepared airfields in Malaya that could be used, just no aircraft. Most were reallocated to Europe.

“The Japanese were not in any way specially trained in Jungle warfare”

They were. The forces mentioned trained for a Malayan campaign. Attacker’s advantage too.

Observer
Observer
February 9, 2012 9:47 pm

@dominicj

Sorry Dom, but I suspect you’re a fan of anything that would try to make you look good. No offence intended, but you do have a case history of supporting the winning side. After the fact…

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 9, 2012 9:52 pm

Ixion’s ” lacked aggression, leadership at all levels, skill at arms”
– yes, all of that
– tankettes? the 25-pounders fired in direct-fire mode in N. Africa, did not even occur as a thought to the officers in the Malaya campaign

On that note, what do you think has determined the width of both the CVR(T) and the Warthog designs?
– the interval of planting trees on the Malaysian plantations… institutional memory lives on (luckily)

Observer
Observer
February 9, 2012 10:01 pm

, not totally on the leadership part. One of the interesting notes of the campaign was the amount of officers killed by airstrikes, tanks and arty.

Doesn’t matter how good the officer is, he isn’t doing much leading after becoming a hole in the ground. Most of their experienced officers bought it this way, a stroke of luck on the Japanese part. Or use of weapons that are hard to defend against without proper equipment.

Peter Elliott
February 9, 2012 10:02 pm

Ixion – so going back to your original post that started this discussion:

“Basra was a warning, next time it will be Singapore all over again.”

Do you also say of the current British Army:

“From small units to upper echelons we lacked aggression, leadership at all levels, skill at arms, and most shamefacedly outright courage.”

I would give our soldiers and junior officers a lot more credit than that. Current grand strategy and procurement scttivity may be poor but, having just discussed what happened in Malaya and Singapore, I don’t see our whole organisation as being at that level of systemic incompetence in 2012. Maybe I have misunderstood your point.

Peter

James
James
February 9, 2012 10:12 pm

@ ACC, re CVR(T) institutional memory.

I recall being told that about the Malaysian firebreaks, thinking it was a fairy tale, and being astounded to discover that it was true. However, it may have worked in our favour in the latter days of the Cold War as well. My Regiment had as our initial war role to screen through the Harz Mountains (I think that’s no longer a state secret – gulp – hope so). We worked closely with the Bundesgrenzschutz (W German border guards), and were able through them to persuade the State Forestry Commission to ensure that the firebreaks in the pine trees were about 2.8m wide, enough for a CVR(T) to race along, but too narrow for BMP-2. Years later I took a girlfriend to Goslar for a dirty weekend, and we went ski-touring in the Harz. I was delighted to see clearly younger but stout trees planted on both verges of the firebreaks, narrowing the break to less than 3 metres. No BMPs getting through that lot with ease. There was also an engineer plan to blow alternate left and right trees down in a criss-cross pattern that would have taken days to chainsaw through.

IXION
February 9, 2012 10:12 pm

Observer

We by and large we had better
transport
small arms
machine guns etc.
Artillery

AS F Spencer Chapman’s book pointed out between combatants ‘The Jungle is Neutral’ hence the title of the book. There was much after the war about the Japanese being special jungle troops adept at living in and off the jungle. You know ‘The Japanese super soldier can march all day on a handful of rice’ type of rumours.

We had aircraft(which were crap but also (Pilots ‘very second 11’ was contemporariness comment). In any event the use of airpower in jungle warfare in WW2 was much about transport, of which the Japanese had pretty much buggerall.

Indeed when we get to Kohima late in the war the Japanese were completely stumped as to how we were supplying troops; as they had no idea you could do it by air.

An entire army which had the benefit (or should have had) of knowledge of terrain, in the defensive, collapsed in a few weeks when faced by 3 divisions. Who by the time they got to Singapore’s gates were exhausted and out of supplies.

A handful of tanketes do not change that!

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 9, 2012 10:17 pm

Hi Observer,

Now I will have to read up on it “One of the interesting notes of the campaign was the amount of officers killed by airstrikes, tanks and arty”
– what I have always disliked in the campaign write-ups is that the Indian units were somehow sub-quality; I just don’t believe it, based on Eritrea/ Abyssinia, N. Africa, Italy, Burma…

Allowing the Japanese the use of all those well prepared airfields (for defence) is of course a point to note (their carriers were busy elsewhere)

no
no
February 9, 2012 10:19 pm

Thanks Peter, I had actually read most of that info before though after reading about Gordon Bennett (who controversially escaped).
Would an Aircraft carrier with only 50 or so planes have made much difference? The air force based in Singapore didn’t do much, was the carrier carrying significantly better planes?

Is it not a bit too simplistic to talk about them outflanking us all the way? yes that happened a lot but there were some big battles which they won easily also.

From a tactics point of view aren’t rapid outflanking manoeuvres very risky vs an opponent with larger troop numbers, could it not backfire leaving them open to ambush? especially in those days with less good communications.

I guess the reason I am curious is because some of what I read seems to try to imply that we lost the final battle because we wanted to avoid the destruction of the city and expected the Japs to be gracious in victory, and that if we had known how it was going to turn out and fought on street to street we might have won, is that just bs?

IXION
February 9, 2012 10:24 pm

James

No!

We have got fine soldiers and professional ones.
Which have (in part from WW2 lessons) been trained well. The phrase often used from the 50’s onwards was:- The best trained, most professional, worst led, worst equipped, troops in NATO.

Reasons have changed since 1940, but in it’s middle and upper command echelons, there is now apparent of a dangerous combination, of stultifying powerpoint warriordom. Together with a test for adventurous operations, ill supported and badly thought out, relying on the skills of the small units to pull irons out of fire.

Basra, (and the bit in Afghan where we were forced to enter into a ‘peace treaty’ in order for our forces to get out alive), was an example of what happens when the forces committed cannot cash the cheques written by the commanders.

Sooner or later we are going to get into a Basra we can’t get out off. Cue disaster.

IXION
February 9, 2012 10:26 pm

Peter

The state of the upper echelons of the army give of a very 1940’s Vibe.

Phil
February 9, 2012 10:29 pm

“We had come a long way from the ‘Lions’ of WW1. and not in the right direction!”

The 1960s rang – they want their opinion back.

James
James
February 9, 2012 10:30 pm

@ IXION,

I’m struggling to connect your post with anything I wrote about CVR(T) widths…

Phil
February 9, 2012 10:38 pm

@James

Late Cold War British plans are a particular fascination of mine. I must question you about your regiments role in 1 Br Corps at some point soon.

What has interested me is that you say the regiments “initial” role was as covering force through the Hartz, which implies at least some of it was expected to survive to accomplish something else a bit later?

And since I am here, the covering role – how was it organised? Were you reinforced, I know we planned to send a number of TA MILAN platoons to thicken the ATGW defences. Was there an overall covering force commander?

x
x
February 9, 2012 10:41 pm

@ James

I enjoyed the story. Just one detail lacking. Did you pack red trousers for that weekend break?

Isn’t an obstacle made from trees an abitis?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
February 9, 2012 10:51 pm

@ AAC – “One might think that the Vidar came out of nowhere, but let me quote (I’ve condensed the quote) from The Australian, end of Dec:”

Cheers for that, does the Aust report mention the provenance of this 3,800 tonne AIP behemoth?

Peter Elliott
February 9, 2012 10:56 pm

The point about the carrier aircraft is not that they would have made much difference to the Malayan land battle, but that they might have protected the Prince of Wales squadron long enough for POW to sink, burn and destroy the Japanese amhibious ships, or at least chase them away.

This touches on the same point we have been going round and round in the ‘Future of’ series of posts:

Would you rather have a numerically larger army that might still get beaten in a straight fight, or enough sufficently powerful ships to deter and deny the enemy from getting to that fight in the first place?

Peter

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 9, 2012 11:05 pm

Hi Jedi,

Of course not “Cheers for that, does the Aust report mention the provenance of this 3,800 tonne AIP behemoth?”
– but if, on the conventional subs side of things, even Kockums had to merge with the Germans (who rely, not only on the non-paying Greeks but also the half-price paying Israelis – do the German tax payers know they pick up the other half?), then somebody paid BMT to dream all of that up (they are capable, don’t get me wrong) in that much detail
– the only market to supply (potentially) is Australia, the subs will (if at all) be built in Adelaide, and BMT is not in the ‘building business’itself

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 9, 2012 11:17 pm

Jedi, btw, did it say AIP anywhere on the literature?
– namely, the two leading providers have merged (and their technologies are different, so who, outside of a possible licensing deal could do it, reliably?)

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
February 10, 2012 2:22 am

ArmChairCivvy/Jedi, re the new Australian submarine program. All the signs are that the current Australian government, which faces an election in about 18 months, has decided not decide on a Collins replacement. The new govt in 2014 will find the project in its in tray. There is curently an enquiry underway into the problems with the current Collins class (Coles Review) whch put out an interim report before Christmas which was not pleasant reading. The RAN has a task of mountain climbing proportion before they have any chance of getting some super son of Collins up. Most likely the new government will pick an off the shelf european)design with minimal changes and the RAN will have to trim its sails accordingly (no bad thing). As to the Kokoda Foundation and its Airpower equivalent the Williams foundation, they get a good run in the Murdoch press, but their publc profile, and consequent political influence, is low.

Chris.B.
February 10, 2012 2:33 am

@ x

“Isn’t an obstacle made from trees an abitis?”

No. It’s an ‘Abatis’ ;)

@ In general

Reading the various arguments back and forth about Singapore, I’d say that to draw the conclusion of a large army being pointless based on this example would be misleading.

What it might show is that ‘mass’ on it’s own is insufficient without proper training, organisation, leadership, tactics, equipment and support.

dominicj
dominicj
February 10, 2012 8:13 am

ixion
i’m not sure i’d even blame the higher ups.
To my mind, its not so much capability as authority.
There just isnt any upfront.
Gone are the days when the war was fought by ltcol’s in command tanks activly prosecuting the front lines.
It seems now that what should be ‘day to day’ command either doesnt happen or is decided in washington and dictated down.

By ‘day to day’ i mean theres little effort made to prosecute a war, we arent in one.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
February 10, 2012 8:52 am

@ AAC – “Jedi, btw, did it say AIP anywhere on the literature? – namely, the two leading providers have merged (and their technologies are different, so who, outside of a possible licensing deal could do it, reliably?)”

It didn’t, an assumption on my part that any serious SSK suggestion from BMT had to be more advanced than diesels with blow-holes. :)

Fatman
Fatman
February 10, 2012 8:58 am

Switching back to Astute for a moment. You may be interested in the testimony published this morning about the dubious management of this project given in the Public Accounts Committee report at

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpubacc/1678/1678.pdf

Reading the evidence given by various senior officers and civil servants gives me no confidence that MOD has a clue how to sort out its abject project management, not least because it is still being driven by over-ambitious military requirements that take no account of budgetary realism or likely cost inflation. Nimrod is also covered and what a sad story that seems to be. One has to ask if BAE Systems is actually a fit custodian of strategic industries and whether the UK might actually be better off nationalising the incompetent charlatans. If banks are too big to fail then surely BAE is too important to fail, yet does so regularly. I cannot imagine the French government would put up with such lousy and costly performance. Do read the evidence, not just the short report at the front.

DominicJ
DominicJ
February 10, 2012 9:32 am

Fatman
Since nationalisation, the banks have lost more money, not less.

BAE is far from perfect, but at the end of the day, if you delay a program for ten years, the price is going to go up

Phil
February 10, 2012 9:40 am

“Gone are the days when the war was fought by ltcol’s in command tanks activly prosecuting the front lines.”

You’re clueless.

Fatman
Fatman
February 10, 2012 9:48 am

DJ
Sorry, but when it comes to single national strategic assets like the Barrow submarine capability it is very questionable if BAE can keep these going; it is just not economic for them without charging sky high prices or through some kind of subsidy (illegal of course under EU law). BAE, because of its desire for profits will always charge higher prices – it is concerned only with itself, not the national interest. If it cannot make a good profit it will at some point announce closure of the yard, which is probably what will happen elsewhere too (Clydeside, Portsmouth) and will leave the UK without any shipbuilding capability. The company now is now effectively a private monopoly and thinks it has the taxpayer over a barrel; there is a strong case for monopolies to be state owned or controlled. Don’t forget that historically much of the RN was built in Royal dockyards in Portsmouth or Chtaham. It is being ideological to suggest that private enterprise is the only solution. My guess is that the government will eventually have to take control of Barrow or give up a submarine building capability. Note that the French counterpart is owned by the state for the very reasons I have given.

wf
wf
February 10, 2012 9:49 am

, say *why* he’s clueless….

Observer
Observer
February 10, 2012 10:07 am

wf, the Brigade Commander still rides to the front lines. Or at least they did 2 years back.

Of course, things might have changed, maybe dom can tell us his date of enlistment and we can narrow down the date of change?

Observer
Observer
February 10, 2012 10:12 am

Elliot

Not so sure that a carrier would have been all that much help, Force Z was hit by ~200 fighter bombers. Even with a 50 fighter escort, they would still have been outnumbered 4:1 and British fighters assigned to Malaya were hardly top of the line. Better to describe them as the leftovers from Europe. And it took only 2-3 hits per ship to kill them. Assign 100 fighters for escort duty, the other 100 for bombing runs, you’ll still outnumber the defending planes 2:1 with 100 bombers trying for 6 hits on the battleships. Very good odds.

Mark
Mark
February 10, 2012 10:13 am

Fatman

Can you name any larger project procurement by mod where they modified for uk requirements that came in on time and on budget?

And doesn’t the government have something called the yellow book for sole source purchasing which defines profit margins ect. I would also add the nao report last was very clear mod delay the astute program was equivalent to buying an eight boat and the sole reason for the carrier price increase. Come to think of it has the mod ever issued a set of requirements for anything which it hasn’t changed once the supplier has started building it.

x
x
February 10, 2012 10:17 am

@ Fatman

Yes it is a bit convenient for some to blame the Vanguard Astute gap for the costs. Reading between the lines if that gap hadn’t been there would have still been I suspect reasons for other unexpected large costs. After a quick scan I think the waste in the Astute project roughly equals 3 extra boats. Not good. Not good at all.

wf
wf
February 10, 2012 10:17 am

, @Observer, just trying to keep everything impersonal :-)

x
x
February 10, 2012 10:21 am

@ Mark

Vanguard came in on time and on budget. Actually I think under on both counts ever so slightly.

The fault seems to lie somewhere at the start of Astute project. If memory services wasn’t Astute a rehash of an early programme (W claas) to replace the T-boats? I will go to look later.

Mark
Mark
February 10, 2012 10:28 am

x

Yes that was some time ago during the cold war budgets and I would argue was that because it was a realistic budget which didn’t have it’s requirements fiddled with?

Gabriele
Gabriele
February 10, 2012 10:29 am

“If memory services wasn’t Astute a rehash of an early programme (W claas) to replace the T-boats? I will go to look later.”

I think Astute literally born as “Trafalgar Batch 2” indeed.

James
James
February 10, 2012 10:29 am

@ DominicJ,

some data points for you to have a think about.

1991 and 2003 Gulf Wars: armoured Brigade Commanders had their own tanks and used them, let alone the COs of Battle Groups in their command. Brig Iain Durie who commanded the manoeuvre support group in 1991 had use of a helicopter to visit forward units. He dropped in on my Squadron as we took out Objective Lead with MLRS and then Swingfire. He did that because at that point in time we were his main effort.

GOC 1(UK) Armoured Division regularly deployed his Tac HQ or Rover Group in Bosnia in 1996 to conduct face to face negotiations with former warring factions.

Lt Col David Richmond was shot in the thigh in Afghanistan while forward deployed with one of his companies. Lt Col Rupert Thorneloe was killed by an IED while conducting a Battalion operation.

As for where the decision making occurs, policy is set in national capitals, operational decisions made in theatre, and tactical decisions made by the appropriate level of command on the battlefield. There has actually been a diminution of “looking over the shoulder” since the Manoeuvrist Approach and Mission Command became standard doctrine about 20 years ago.

I’d say that your earlier remark is not well founded, and indeed that the opposite is true.

DominicJ
DominicJ
February 10, 2012 10:30 am

Phil
Really?
Thats funny, because I’m paraphrasing an officer who was nominal in charge of an area, but had no direct contact with a scimitar troops a mile away, they were the playthings of someone at Bastion.

But no, I forgot, we’re winning in Aghanistan, this time the Taliban are on the run, its different from the previous 11 times the MoD has said it.
“Couragous Restraint” wasnt a bonkers one size fits all solution thought up by a distant central commander, we didnt mount a penny packet occupation of Hemland because it politicaly useless, that was a military decision all the way, and the right one too no doubt.

Anyone who says otherwise is an armchair general and doesnt support out troops….

Fatman
I said none of the things you accuse me of….

Observer
“wf, the Brigade Commander still rides to the front lines. Or at least they did 2 years back.”

Which front lines are these?
Unless I’m very much mistaken, every beseiged patrol base doesnt have its own brigadier…

wf
wf
February 10, 2012 10:30 am

Astute was late because they thought they could stop building nukes and then start again years later…and it would all just work. There’s a reason for keeping production lines warm :-(

Fatman
Fatman
February 10, 2012 10:31 am

Mark
Perfectly reasonable points. The fault does largely lie with MOD (poor framing of the initial requirement, ever changing specs, military gold plating, the conspiracy of optimism, a desire to keep up with the US, an institutional system where those officers who point out the emperor’s lack of clothes suffer in career terms) and the Treasury (parsimony, unwillingness to accept realistic financial estimates, demands for immediate economies, the annual PR system, short termism). Given stability (some hope) I have no doubt BAE could come up with a reasonable work programme, but even then under Yellow Book rules we are typically paying 8-10% on top of their costs as the profit margin, which is a lot where an SSN is concerned.

But the reality is that BAE cannot plan for an even rhythm of production where submarines are concerned; the system as it stands makes the process institutionally inefficient and constant deferments push up both building costs and BAE’s profits. To be fair to them they need profit if that to keep together an otherwise underemployed workforce, not helped when the UK seeks to place building orders overseas (as in future RFAs). Given the inadequacies of the system I am suggesting it might be better if single source strategic assets like Barrow were state owned. BAE will then neither profit from delays nor struggle to keep the place going. The alternative is to look elsewhere and place future orders with Electric Boat in the USA – or with the French. I am simply suggesting that the current limited SSN/SSBN building programme cannot sustain Barrow in the private sector for much longer.

wf
wf
February 10, 2012 10:32 am

@DominicJ : we definitely have enough brigadiers for every patrol base to have their own one :-)

Observer
Observer
February 10, 2012 10:33 am

That “handful of tankettes” was directly responsible for the near total destruction of one of the divisions you mentioned as well as the elimination of the British’s most experienced unit in jungle warfare. I’ll say that it DOES change the equation significantly.

And I’ve yet to see evidence that the Japanese were underequiped compared to the British. Brewster Buffalos vs Mitubishi A-6s seem to hint to me that the situation was the other way round.

Phil
February 10, 2012 10:37 am

So Dom you’re going to extrapolate the anecdotal evidence of one bloke, probably over the Internet, and apply it to the entire Army at all levels and at all times? You have shown time and again you don’t have the slightest clue how the Army works in the tactical and operational sense so I’ll take your interpretations with a Chinook load of salt thanks. Thats polite speak for saying I think you’re talking more shite and painting with a fantastically broad brush.

Phil
February 10, 2012 10:40 am

As for Courageous Restraint. Tell me Dom. What’s your knowledge on how that has been interpreted by TFH? Another load of mud slung by an unelected politician too used to shouting from the sidelines.

Observer
Observer
February 10, 2012 10:44 am

I thought he was painting with the Chinook?

Dom, just because someone is “in charge” of an area does NOT mean every unit that comes into the area is his. They still belong to their parent organization. It’s called the chain of command. Every army has it. You might want to look it up sometimes. Maybe you should enlist, get a proper closer look at things you seem to want to rant about.

Fatman
Fatman
February 10, 2012 10:46 am

DJ
I haven’t accused you of anything. All I wrote was ‘sorry’ which was a response to the implication of your comment that banks have lost more money since nationalisation (which implies that a nationalised Barrow will lose more money than a BAE owned one). I think there is a more profound issue – we cannot realistically sustain the Barrow yard in private hands on the present small programme.

So are we going to:
* give up submarine building;
* order more boats and have a realistic construction programme to let BAE make a sensible profit;
* pay over the odds to maintain an inefficient strategic capability in the private sector and build erratically (as now);
* pay over the odds to maintain an inefficient strategic capability in the public sector and build erratically

If we are going to be inefficient there is no reason why BAE should get an extra profit margin – let’s keep it in-house. If we are going to be efficient then the BAE profit may be justified. If we are going to go for the lowest cost then building abroad is probably the answer.

So what is the best way ahead?

Observer
Observer
February 10, 2012 10:54 am

@Fatman

Take in civilian shipbuilding contracts on the side for China?

Building only military ships is a one trick pony, when people get tired of it… time to put down the horse.

DominicJ
DominicJ
February 10, 2012 10:57 am

James
Well, thats good news from Iraq at least, lets hope thats the lesson learnt for next time.
Although I’ve seen Americans complain their advance was halted every few miles by those at the back during the first war, and complain they were ordered to advance before they were ready in the second, there was a central timetable that was stuck to rigidly.

But those officers you mentioned in Afghanistan arent prosecuting the war, thats my problem.
Thornloe repeatedly complained about the area he was told to occupy, it was much too big and his force was much too small. He was over ruled by people in distant lands, and died because of it.

Compare that with the Fall of France, where Colonals were happy to ignore orders and advance at their own pace, far above that of the supporting infantry. Admitadly, it fell apart in North Africa and Russia when they outran their supply lines and collapsed, but there needs to be a balance, and it appears we are too far into central control.

I may of course be wrong

As evidence, I submit Thornloe, I can provide more examples when I’m home with my library if you wish?
But the stories much the same, officers “on the ground” ordered to do pointless and dangerous things by seniors hundreds of miles away.
One complaint by a bloke nominaly in charge was the governor of Hemland ordered him to do a something stupid, he refused, so Governer got on the blower to his brother/uncle/something, who got on the blower to Karzai, who got on the blower to the head of ISAF, who got on the blower to London, who got on the blower to the head of British forces (possibly based in Khandahar, if not Bastion) who ordered the unfortunate infantry officer to further and further disperse his

Maybe its just a few isolated officers with sour grapes?

Or maybe that always occurs and always has done?

But I’m not the only person to think that iniative is being stripped from the lower ranks, and its certainly not a thing no one from the armed forces has ever said.

x
x
February 10, 2012 10:58 am

@ Mark

I am looking for crumbs of comfort. :)

@ Fatman re Electric Boat.

It would be interesting to see and compare their labour costs to Barrow’s. Where Barrow tends to have one manager/supervisor per system (and underlings) EB seem to have many. Rough example. The V-boats launch tubes were the responsibility of one bod at Barrow. EB had a bod who looked after the hatch, a bod who looked after the tube walls, etc. etc.

I would rather the RN look at Virginians than anything French as the latter would be a backwards step.

DominicJ
DominicJ
February 10, 2012 11:03 am

Observer
“Dom, just because someone is “in charge” of an area does NOT mean every unit that comes into the area is his.”
Shouldnt it though?

Sorry Dom, but I suspect you’re a fan of anything that would try to make you look good. No offence intended, but you do have a case history of supporting the winning side. After the fact…”

Sorry but I well dont get this comment?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 10, 2012 11:06 am

Reading the Committee evidence, a Crocodile Dundee moment came to me:

TD: “is 500, a lot of money”

CD: “I’ll show you what is a lot of money” as in
“If we look at the Specialist
Vehicles, which I assume is your ground stuff, you are
putting £1.4 billion into the prototypes.
Bernard Gray: Development

Q52 Chair: The development stuff. You have so far
not committed to buying anything beyond that. My
recollection from when we looked at armoured
vehicles is over the next 10 years you will have £5.5bn

The £1.4Bn costs reported against Specialist Vehicle
includes: the development costs and prototypes for Recce Block 1 and the common base platform for all other roles(£500M on contract); long lead production items for RB1(circa £500M, not yet on contract); and training system development and project support costs.All costs include vat and forecast inflation adjustments.”
– so to the first production unit, eliminating the long lead items’ cost, it is nearly a bn in programme costs

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 10, 2012 11:10 am

x, the extra cost of delays equates to one Astute boat.

The rehash of designs into one, from two competing designs because competition at fixed price was “trialled” accounts for the bulk of the rest…
it all there in the evidence (By Bernard Gray, about p. 6 or 7)

Observer
Observer
February 10, 2012 11:20 am

“Dom, just because someone is “in charge” of an area does NOT mean every unit that comes into the area is his.”
Shouldnt it though?

No it should NOT. Can’t be bothered to go through the reasons with you, think it through yourself. If you can’t figure it out, then you’re an idiot.

And before you try going “do this, do that” I’ll point out that the chain of command system is universal. I.e International standard. You think you’re better at organization than 250 different armies around the world? A one per planet genius? I doubt it.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 10, 2012 11:28 am

Should have made a mention that my references are to the select committee report on major projects (as linked by Fatman), not the one we started with (ops in Libya), just to clarify

Anyway, maintaining readiness with fewer boats (old being paid off and new coming in late) will mean more time at sea (again from the evidence, not speculation)
– how long will it take before we will get “Australia-like” problems within submarine service – out of (their) six boats only two can be kept at sea
– now my personal speculation: we are nearing the situation where solutions on the shoe-string will start to create their own problems

And BTW, that funded equipment plan will get seen by NAO within weeks, so for us the wait will be months?

x
x
February 10, 2012 11:31 am

@ ACC

I suggest you go through the whole report again looking at the various amounts.

DominicJ
DominicJ
February 10, 2012 11:50 am

Observer
The current fad is multirole brigades and combat teams, which put everything under one officer.
Just saying.
Personaly, I’m not convinced thats a good idea for a German Plains type war, but for a smaller conflict, I am.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 10, 2012 11:56 am

Hi x, here’s some home work for you:


Q28 Chair: I understand that. My understanding
from the Report is: £900 million is a result of
technical problems; £1 billion is a result of deliberate decisions to delay?

Bernard Gray: Either deliberate decisions to delay, or
delay caused by technical problems”

Exam question: is the £0.12bn deferral cost of the 4th boat included in the above?

James
James
February 10, 2012 12:15 pm

@ DominicJ,

“The current fad is multirole brigades and combat teams, which put everything under one officer”

That’s simply not correct. Non-organic support is widespread, and for some very good reasons. Organic and non organic also operate at multiple levels. It’s like an onion. Something non-organic to a company or squadron – e.g. mortars – are organic to the Battlegroup. The Brigade Recce Force is inorganic to a Battlegroup, but organic to the Brigade. Divisional artillery is organic to the Division, but not to the Brigade. You get the point.

You need to consider that the terrain is limited, and units have to be somewhere. I don’t want to confuse you, but real estate management is a function exercised by the highest tactical HQs. For instance, ARAs are pre-plotted, logistics XPs the same. Inorganic units transit through ground-holding units’ areas the whole time.

In reality, if I was holding with a Squadron a piece of ground, and a inorganic Scimitar troop appear, I would expect to conduct a liaison with them, introduce them to any local measures and procedures, local threat assessment, and brief my own troops that they were there. Other than that, they’ve got their job to do, and I’ve got mine.

In comparison to the fluffy and entirely useless civilian matrix management I have found in industry, it is a very clear cut solution.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
February 10, 2012 12:24 pm

James, absolutely right
” fluffy and entirely useless civilian matrix management I have found in industry, it is a very clear cut solution”
– but that “fluffy thing” steps in as you work the chain backwards and get to logistics
– I know for a fact it is used in procurement, not sure if at all in the field?

Topman
Topman
February 10, 2012 12:40 pm

@James ‘Mission Command became standard doctrine about 20 years ago.’

Just to go OT, what are your thoughts with regards to that? Does the army pay lip service or truely follow Mission Command at all levels? It’s an area that interests me. The only other real comments I’ve seen are one particular poster on arrse, who has a bit of a hobbie horse about the whole thing (not saying he’s right or wrong). I just wonder what your experiences of it were?

DominicJ
DominicJ
February 10, 2012 1:11 pm

James
Without anything to hand, I’m working of memory, but here goes.
There was an infantry battlegroup sent to a village/town/area.
Later, sent to the same village/town/area was a CVR(T) troop from the same divisional command structure.
The Infantry battlegroup, was for the most part left alone, whereas the CVR(T) troops was very poorly micromanaged from divison.
Now, in a Fulda scenario, that makes a lot of sense, in Afghanistan, it was bonkers.
Orders were something like, go to zxy coordinates for three days and have an effect.

The Battlegroup LtCol who was in charge of security for this area, had a random Scimitar troop and support vehicles moving about based on the whims of someone back at Bastion.

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/the-bridge

Now, it could be that Yons an idiot/liar, but to me, that sounds quite bizare, to the point of insanity, a strategicaly vital bridge, surrounded by soldiers, but all with their own missions, and none of the various officers believed their mission included the bridge.

Maybe thats normal, maybe thats good, but sure doesnt look like it, but then, what do I know…

James
James
February 10, 2012 1:17 pm

@ ACC,

not so much matrix in the field, but a hierarchy of supporting assets. The terms may have changed in the ten years since I last wore green. Taking an artillery example we (certainly used to) have:

Direct Support
Reinforcing
General Support
General Support Reinforcing

…all of which tell you what level of support (timeliness, volume of fire, nature of weapons available, etc) you can expect to call upon. A General Support Reinforcing battery will normally be assigned to provide support in certain circumstances to a range of units, and you may or may not get that support depending upon what see is going on. A direct support battery has its’ guns trained on your local DF and FPF grids at all times, unless itself reinforcing or supporting another unit. That won’t be allowed to happen until the FOO and unit commander have agreed, and is normally broadcast on the unit command net as “guns not available”. It would only be for a limited time, and when they are back online “guns available” is broadcast.

Logistics, engineers and aviation support runs the same sort of way, but uses different terms to give young officers something to think about and be tested on for their promotion exams.

@ Topman, my impression is that for the first couple of years it was partially understood, and sometimes mis-applied. However, it rapidly became standard. There is a practical limit to how low the Manoeuvrist Approach can go, but Mission Command is very definitely well understood and applicable to the lowest tactical level.

Observer
Observer
February