On Strategy – East of East of Suez, The UK military presence in the Asia Pacific Region

A Guest Post from Sir Humphrey, author of ‘The Thin Pinstriped Line‘ defence blog

East of East of Suez – the UK commitment to the Asia / Pacific Rim.

The Far East is an area which has long held a fascination for many in the UK – both as a tourist destination, a source of economic prosperity, an emerging powerhouse of influence and dynamism, and a location where over many years the MOD has been engaged in one form or another. The region conjures up images of UK forces fighting in the jungles and seas of the Pacific, of the fall of Singapore, of great national humiliation, and immense pride, in wars such as Korea in the 1950s. Even today the UK contribution in Malaysia and the ‘Confrontation’ Campaign are seen as good examples of how to successfully handle low level insurgencies or military clashes.

The phrase ‘East of Suez’ seems to sum up a generational policy shift in the 1960s, when the UK began the process of recalling the legions, and withdrawing the tens of thousands of troops from the Asia Pacific region, and the drawing down of the great naval fortress of Singapore. In the public eye, the UK ceased to be a military power in the region in the 1970s, and to many our final withdrawal was completed in 1997 with the handover of Hong Kong. Yet, against all odds, and despite the expectations of many, the UK retains a small military presence in the region, and continues to enjoy strong relations with many of the nations present in this fascinating and immensely complex part of the world.

The purpose of this short series of articles is to review the UKs military commitments to the region, to gain an understanding of where UK defence interests lie, and review what it is that the UK is being expected to deliver, and my own personal view as to why it benefits the taxpayer to retain an influence in this region. It will be structured over three parts, and should be seen in the context of the wider TD series of Strategy Posts. It does not represent any official viewpoint, and should not be read or construed as being anything other than a personal interpretation of the current UK level of military commitment to the Asia Pacific region.

UK Commitments

For the purposes of this article, the Asia pacific region is deemed to be those nations east of the Indian Ocean, from Singapore through to the pacific coastlines of the Americas. It does not look at the roles played by UK forces in the Indian Ocean itself. Since 1997, the two main physical locations for UK forces in the region have been Brunei and Singapore.

Brunei: The role of the garrison in Brunei has been, at the request of his Majesty the Sultan of Brunei, to provide security for the country as a whole. The UK has had a military presence in Brunei since 1962, when troops landed to provide additional security. Today the garrison comprises some 900 personnel, predominantly drawn from the Ghurkhas’, for whom one battalion of light infantry is usually based in the Kingdom. Additionally, a small flight of helicopters and the UKs primary jungle warfare school (the other being in Belize, which has been downsized in the last year), as well as assorted other staff.

The Sultan meets the costs of the provision of the battalion, and also much of the infrastructure costs associated with their presence. The garrison arrangement is renewed on a five yearly basis between Brunei and the UK. At present the UK presence is scheduled to continue until at least 2015. An excellent summary of the UK defence commitment can be found at the FCO website, click here

Singapore: The UK presence in Singapore is not known to many in the MOD, let alone outside it. Until 1971 Singapore was home to a not inconsiderable number of UK warships and support vessels, using the dockyard facilities and support networks to provide the Far East Fleet. This organisation continued in a much reduced tri-national (Australia, New Zealand, UK) format until 1976, when the UK then withdrew its final contingents as economic problems forced a final withdrawal from the region.

Despite this, the UK retains to this day the ownership of a large fuel depot, and berthing wharves in Sembewang dockyard. Having been to the site a few years ago, the author can personally attest to its size, which provides berthing access for up to three escorts at a time, plus access to fuel and spare parts. Reportedly the fuel depot is the second largest in the Asia-Pacific region, and provides useful access for UK and allied warships to fuel. The FCO website has a good description of current UK military assets in Singapore, click here

These two facilities constitute the only permanent UK military presence in the region in terms of formed units or military installations. There is a wider set of individual exchange posts, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, where a plethora of UK personnel work as integrated members of these nations militaries.

Defence Attaches: One of the most significant UK military contributions in the region in terms of influence is the Defence Attaché network. Although many people are often sceptical of the value of defence attaches (a recent Daily Mail article referred to them as the so-called ‘Ferrero Roche’ network’), there is a strong argument to be made for the retention of these posts.

Attaches provide the UK with the opportunity to put military personnel into the region, to meet with and understand the military issues facing a country, and to get a better feel for strategic developments in a region. Many countries genuinely appreciate a UK Defence Attaché presence – it is seen as a sign that the UK takes their nation seriously from a military perspective, and this presence can often be invaluable in opening doors in an emergency.

In a region like the Far East, the Defence Attaché network represents one of the best means of the MOD to engage with local military forces and continue a relationship, particularly in nations which may rarely see a UK visit. As of November 2010, there were DA’s located in Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore. (Source). Additionally, since 1998, posts have closed in the Philippines and Thailand.

Some of these posts are of particular interest, and worthy of note. The two posts in Korea and Japan owe much to the Korean War for their continued existence. As one of the main participants in the war, the UK continues to have a place on the UN Military Armistice Commission, and the position of a 1* helps ensure the UK is engaged in this particular diplomatic issue. Additionally, the presence of military personnel in Japan, where the DA holds the position of UK Liaison Officer to the United Nations Command (Rear) helps ensure that the UK can invoke access to Japanese ports and airfields at short notice under UN resolutions dating back to the war – and as seen during the North Korean nuclear tests some years ago, where the UK sent a radiation sampling VC10 to the region, this is a useful access right to be able to invoke (and also a means of demonstrating continued interest and influence in the region). For further information on the role both sections play, see these links – http://ukinjapan.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/our-embassy/how-we-can-help/defence-section and http://ukinrok.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/working-with-korea/defence-relations/

For the relatively small outlay of two defence sections, the UK is able to remain not only engaged in, and kept abreast of developments in the Korean peninsula, but also is able to safeguard access into the region. This helps the UK play a small, but influential role, and when coupled with the wider diplomatic presence in both Seoul and Pyongyang, means that the UK can help punch above its weight when it comes to influencing both these nations, and others involved in the delicate diplomatic situation in the region. While this may only be a small example, it does show that often a deft touch with the presence of a military attaché can have significantly wider ramifications for the UK as a whole.

Wider Exercises / Deployments: Although the UK has not had a major permanent military presence in the region for some time, until late in the last decade, regular task group deployments to the region ensured that there was a routine RN presence at least once per year, often in substantial numbers. The Ocean Wave 97 and Taurus 09 deployments are both good examples of the UK deploying substantial forces into the region, using enablers such as amphibious assault capabilities, and also wider surface ship capabilities, to visit a range of nations, conduct exercises under the auspices of regional alliances (such as the Five Power Defence Arrangement), and generally show the UK flag in an area which rarely sees a substantial UK military presence.

The combination of a smaller RN and a busyoperational tasking schedule means that deployments such as these have been less frequent for some time. Although there has been a limited RN surface presence – such as HMS RICHMOND in 2011, the reality is that for the time being, there is likely to be only a limited engagement in the area. The RN is very busy at present, and with a smaller escort fleet and reduced amphibious capability, all of which are in demand for real world operations, it is likely that future deployments to the region will see physically fewer, but materially vastly more capable, vessels operating there. Sadly the days of 10 – 15 vessel deployments such as OCEAN WAVE 97 are likely to have gone forever.

The RAF is also unlikely to see significant non-operational deployments into the region for the time being. The RAF operational fleet remains committed for operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and for as long as support to operations in Afghanistan remains the Defence Main Effort, then this is the priority for resources. That said, it is likely that exercises or small deployments, for instance to showcase Typhoon, will continue. As ever, it is important to remember that numbers of aircraft does not directly equate to capability, as both Typhoon and Tornado are immensely capable aircraft.

The Army is the service least likely to deploy in any substantial numbers to the region, although this is in keeping with the wider reality that since the 1960s and the end of Confrontation, the Far East region was far more an RN / RAF operational environment than an Army one. At the same time, the Army has the largest laydown of personnel of any UK service in the region, through the Brunei garrison.

Therefore, at any one time the UK military presence in the Asia Pacific region is just under 1000 permanently based military personnel, including Singapore, Brunei and the Defence Attache network. There are reasonably regular visits by RAF aircraft, and RN vessels, and although vastly smaller than the 1960s, there still remains a relatively substantial UK military presence to the East of East of Suez.

Having considered what the current UK military capabilities and commitments are in the region, the next instalment of this article will consider what possible challenges and threats exist in the region. This will also focus on the role of the FPDA, and wider UK engagement.

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martin
Editor
June 26, 2012 5:55 am

very interesting Read Sir H, I live about two miles from Sebawang and had no idea the MOD maintained a facility there. Its just a pitty we are unable to permanently base any vessels there. I wonder if we might consider renting it out the US Navy for their new LCS deployment in Singapore. It seems the ideal size for a fleet of 4 LCS.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
June 26, 2012 8:19 am

A good one, as always!

The oddity in Brunei is the Bell 212s listed as UK assets; maybe they are the same ones as flown by the Brunei Air Force, and will then soon disappear (wiki tells us):”10 Bell 212 and the 4 Sikorsky S-70. The Bell 212s are to be replaced 2013-2015 by 12 Sikorsky S-70i”
– as a minimum, the shared logistics will disappear; or maybe the type is widely used by the oil sector and the technical support contracted out
– not a point of significance; just wondering why things are done differently for one garrison (Observer made good points recently about the minimum clearance needed for Puma/ Chinook types to land)

Observer
Observer
June 26, 2012 8:38 am

No joke on the facility martin, I even mentioned to Anixtu that those guys have the F-22 beat in terms of stealth.

LCS basing… er…. big problem, that one. Singapore must be seen to be netural, though it’s more or less an open secret it’s “neutrally” leaning towards the US. If there is marked bias, then it becomes a very important question on if the country is reliable enough to leave ~50% of all your trade in their control? If they decided to play games, it’s almost instant economic recession with “closure to X shipping”.

IMO, deploying (cough.. not basing… as both parties keep reminding us…) the LCS there on a permanant rotational basis was seriously stretching it, and honestly, I think it’s a stupid idea. It stretches diplomatic credibility for both sides and people are not too fooled by the “deploying there, not basing there” argument, and all for 4 ships that are of limited combat capability and are probably just there as a symbolic gesture. Why can’t they “diplomatic gesture” in the Philipines? It’s seen that they need American support, and that they are already staring eye to eye with China, so it is expected for them to lean far towards the US, being former US territory and all.

As for the US using Sembawang, not likely. The new facilities at Changi are more catered for them, complete with fuel and ammo storage. Which, now that I think of it, may be why LCS got deployed here in the 1st place. Storage of their damn “modular mission” system.

Challenger
Challenger
June 26, 2012 10:07 am

A good post, very informative.

Most of the information fits well with what I would like to see in the future.

A battalion for a land contingent is fine by me, it’s enough to act as a regional reserve and as a starting point for a quick increase should the need ever present itself.

As for the rest, Id really like to see a small Royal Navy squadron based at Diego Garcia, using Singapore for regular forward presence visits. The same goes for the RAF, a handful of aircraft in the Indian Ocean that can conduct stopovers further east when desired.

These commitments wouldn’t cost the earth if we decided we really wanted them. Furthermore I think a low level of activity would be very useful over the next few decades, it would be enough to show that we remain in support of our Five Powers allies and can contribute to the bulwark against Chinese expansion.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 26, 2012 10:14 am

Under Five Powers and other agreements, the British fuel depot in Sembewang apparently supplies all British, Malaysian, American, Australian and New Zealand navy ships using the dock.

We don’t do to badly as to a Royal Navy presence in the far east, though not all that extensive. HMS Echo, for example, has seen several long stints out east, including last year. If we did want to permanently base a ship in Sembewang, a survey ship like Echo or a transport/logistics ship -providing humanitarian cover and regional mobility for the Brunei garrison- might be the best choices. Wouldn’t achieve a great deal putting a single frigate out there.

Challenger
Challenger
June 26, 2012 10:52 am

@Brian Black

Yeah I get what you mean in terms of ships being permanently based out there. I don’t think it would really matter what kind of presence you had, as long as it was British Armed Forces and ‘flew the flag’ I think it would prove it’s worth.

A carrier group (if we actually get one) could occasionally head that way to hook up with East of Suez assets. It would be a clear reminder to everyone in the region that we still have that kind of reach and power…just!

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 26, 2012 11:04 am

@ Sir H – an excellent and informative arficle.Looking forward to the next post.

IXION
June 26, 2012 2:57 pm

Challenger

Row upon Row of carrier junkies, has told me off on this forum, for suggesting we might send the elephant(s)East Of Suez in any kind of a shooting war.

It is also worth saying that the costs of doing some ‘Cruise of the great white fleet’* would use up a years defence cash, so won’t happen anyway.

I got accused of the great sin of setting up my own ‘straw man’ when I suggested it would be utterly stupid to do that. Got lots of quotes about how that was not what they are for, and no one has suggested they will ever be used like that etc etc. Of course

So strike such heresy from your mind, QE and or POW will never set foot east of Suez.

* If I recall correctly:- An operation by the US Navy circa 1907 to show the flag by cruising around the world: – So called because until then US Battle ships were painted white, soon after their return, and to show the US was entering the naval power game, they were painted a more warlike grey.

badrobot
June 26, 2012 6:22 pm

I’d like to pose the question of what tangible benefit, as opposed to notional, do we get from having DAs or even a ship stationed in the far east? Why are we maintaining jungle warfare shools in Brunei and Belize? Give me an example, where having a DA or a ship stationed out there in the past thirty years that has earnt us anything in the defence sphere. Happy to be corrected and put back in my box. The thinner we spread our forces the less credible we are in Afghan, the Falklands, for NATO commitments, counter-piracy and in terms of availability for the next crisis. No more pointless standing commitments like the Carribean patrol please…we can’t afford to do defence diplomacy anymore, leave it to the foreign office backed by a well resourced, well trained, credible expeditionary warfare capability.

Challenger
Challenger
June 26, 2012 6:58 pm

I was suggesting a small group of half a dozen ships heading east of Suez every 5 or so years, I have heard of the great white fleet and it doesn’t really compare!

What’s the point of 2 gigantic carriers if they can’t take the odd holiday further than the channel?

IXION
June 26, 2012 7:43 pm

Challenger

‘What’s the point of 2 gigantic carriers if they can’t take the odd holiday further than the channel?’

No point whatsoever:- and thats my point:- they are ‘pointless’.

Observer
Observer
June 26, 2012 8:13 pm

Very few places in the world for triple canopy jungle training. That place is hell, but in comparison, once you get used to it, anywhere else is easy. Just don’t throw thunderflashes into the water. It used to frighten the crocodiles away, but after a few decades, it’s now like the dinner bell to them.

Well.. if you want a low cost way of showing the flag, the carrier probably isn’t it. We’d be more impressed with a 4 ship squadron (2 destroyers, 2 frigates). It shows… balance.

On a more painful note, what good is a carrier with a chopped down air wing? And frankly, the F-35 delivery schedule is very impressive. In the wrong way. I got a bit paranoid about the F-35 after the dead silence post-“first flight”, and did some checking up. The MoD forced some cost reductions on LM and the cost cutting LM did was to worker pensions and benefits. The assembly line is now on strike.

Painful lol. What a mess.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 26, 2012 8:37 pm

There is little doubt that a Carrier and her associated assets will deploy East o Suez pretty sharply after her being declared operationally ready.
Obviously ongoing ops may look different but in today’s climate she would probably do something along the lines of sail in to Med. Utilise Gib exercise areas. PASSEX with NATO standing forces in the Med.
Transit Suez provide assets for a short period to anti Piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden.
Transit Straits of Hormuz to demonstrate freedom of Navigation. Exercise with US and RN forces in Gulf. host a British trade fair/delegation in Dubai or Qatar.
Leave Gulf conduct defence Diplomacy mission in india along with exercise with Indian naval Units.
Back across Indian Ocean transit through anti Piracy areas enroute to visit in South Africa.
Make an unnaounced appearance IVO the FIs and fly a few jets overhead.
Then split the TG to conduct visits and tasking in either West Africa or the Caribbean enroute UK.
6 or 7 months contributing to NATO, Anti piracy, sending a message to Iran and cooperating with Gulf States and 5th fleet. Working with the Indians and South Africans. Send a quick message to the Argies and contribute in Caribbean and West Africa.
A useful deployment. The best use of a CV 25% of escort strengths an SSN and RFA? Discuss.

Observer
Observer
June 26, 2012 9:15 pm

Carrier hunting pirates? Ouch to be them. OTOH overkill? And you guys really are stuck on the Falklands ain’t you?

The rest is probably very likely. Maybe RIMPAC as well? Having it perform well in an international exercise would go a ways to silence its detractors.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 26, 2012 9:18 pm

If the carriers go out to the Far East, bringing a few container loads of oriental electronic goods and car parts back to Europe would help offset the costs.
Plenty of spare room on them big ships.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 26, 2012 9:23 pm

Observers, US CBGs regularly detach escorts to take part in anti piracy ops in the GOA when the group is outside the Gulf itself. A few days’ utilisng jets and AEW assets to build a clear picture and detach a couple of escorts for a convoy in the IRTC would be useful.
Yes RIMPAC would be an option; though it would turn the deployment into a global!

Simon
June 26, 2012 9:45 pm

Observer,

The Falklands represents almost 30% of the UK’s EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) – i.e. our mineral rights. What I find astounding is not the importance I/we attach to them now, but the lack of importance we attached to them 30+ years ago!

As for the carrier task group going East of Suez – I think it’s highly likely and like APATS first outing ;-)

Observer
Observer
June 26, 2012 10:49 pm

@APATS

That was meant to be tongue in cheek. Emotion doesn’t carry well online, my bad. But I’ll really love to watch the face of the first pirate to have an airstrike called on him. lol. Or have a huge carrier chase after him. Sorry, watched too many Road Runner shows when young. :P

Simon. 30%? That’s a fair chunk, more if they dug up oil.

Challenger
Challenger
June 26, 2012 10:53 pm

I have to disagree on the likelihood of a carrier deployment east of Suez, I think, like a few of the previous commentators that it will most probably happen at some point, although I have no idea what the context will be or whether it will become a semi regular tasking or simply an isolated show of force when they are shiny and new.

I do agree however with the sad truth that the carrier project has been so regularly underfunded and appallingly mismanaged that any substantial deployment will look hollow to the point of national embarrassment.

We will most likely see either QE or POW head east with barely any aircraft on the deck and an equally pitiful task group accompanying it.

I’m a carrier advocate, but a 65,000 ton leviathan with 6-12 jets, maybe half a dozen helicopters and even fewer ships in tow is from my point of view not a justification for the billions spent.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 26, 2012 11:04 pm

Challenger, CDG regularly deploys with 2 or 3 escorts. If you looked at my post ref a possible deployment based on a few different ones I have been on you would have seen that actually it is not all about a show of force.
1 QE Class with 16 F35B, an AEW detachment and perhaps 3 Wildcats, 4 CHF helos or Chinooks and 3 Grey Merlin supported by an RFA 2 T23 or T26, 2 T45 and an Astute or T boat would be anything but a national embarrassment.

Observer
Observer
June 26, 2012 11:24 pm

APATS, it would not have been, if not for the shining example of the Thais with THEIR aircraft carrier, at least in Asia. India might be far enough that the connection isn’t automatic, but a carrier with ~1 squadron on board is just begging for comparison.

Messages can be misread in the wrong light. :)

India, carrier deployment, maybe. Asia? Best not. Escort squadron might be a better idea.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 26, 2012 11:30 pm

Observer, What about the Thais 11k tonne Carrier? It does not even operate fighters off it anymore, it is a disaster relief LPH with a ski jump.

Challenger
Challenger
June 26, 2012 11:48 pm

@APATS

A carrier group that had 16 jets, plus more than a dozen helicopters and a decent escort of several RFA’S, around 4 high-end frigates and destroyers and a submarine would indeed be an impressive sight, it’s the kind of force mix and strength I would see as very desirable for a blue water navy to be in possession of.

However, I honestly think it is going to take a very long time to reach that level of capability, if ever. What’s more is that it would be a pretty occasional event, stretching naval resources to breaking point in the process.

What’s the point in this show of force if 1. anyone observing knows that the Royal Navy will need months of downtime, gasping for air after such an almighty effort and 2. that if a real all out carrier operation were called for they wouldn’t be able to find the auxiliaries, escorts, aircraft, pilots etc to do it.

I want to be an optimist and believe that everything will work out in the end. But my honest opinion is that we will end up with 2 very large ships completed, but which will lack all the support structures and investment that make carriers the formidable and potent military tools they should be.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 26, 2012 11:57 pm

Challenger, Where did I say several RFAs and why should we be gasping fo air after such a deployment? Also how do you justify your point 2 against the future force structure?

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
June 27, 2012 2:23 am

I hate to say this, but, the military resources of individual European nations have declined to the point where single nations (UK or otherwise) would have little prospect of influencing events in Asia. If Europe wanted to exert influence, the only practical option would be the equivalent of a NATO Standing Force.
A say UK, German, Dutch force based on Deigo Garcia with rotating presence from other countries like Denmark, France and Norway, would sustain a useful force without straining (financially or numerically) the resources of any individual country.
Of course it would require European co-operation and unity of purpose so it would seem to be in the pigs might fly category.

Observer
Observer
June 27, 2012 2:37 am

True AJ.

What I find more likely is a banding together of Asian nations to form a more convincing deterent against *cough* you know who. Especially all those with claims to the Spratleys. Unfortunately, military equipment and co-ordination wise, the region’s a mess with Soviet, Chinese and Euopean equipment in a mish-mash. Credible players would be Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and Australia. Japan is 50/50, their constitution forbids external adventures. Russia? Who knows? Their inclusion will make things extremely “interesting”. AKA complicated…

James might find some business here, someone who can come up with a common system to link all the equipment together in Link 16 quality is going to clean up.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 27, 2012 2:58 am

“What I find more likely is a banding together of Asian nations to form a more convincing deterent against *cough* you know who”

— This is precisely what the US wants and what the Chinese do not want. Unilaterally, the nations of the South China Sea cannot hope to negotiate reasonable deals with China over access to the resources. Multi-laterally, they have a significantly greater chance of negotiating a good, mutual deal.

They do need to come up with some sort of union though, like an asian version of NATO that is focused on that area.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
June 27, 2012 8:45 am

I believe that the Indian Ocean is of more interest to the UK, for 3 choke points (Suez, Hormuz and Malacca), and for influence into east Africa, and we retain Allies with port facilities all around the Indian Ocean. However, there’s nothing at all wrong with the lay down Sir H describes. I’ll wholeheartedly support his views on DAs – the old man was one in his final tour and I spent some time with him. It’s damned hard work, can be hugely influential, and takes a certain type of person to do it well.

I do think the Andrew have a potentially greater role to play in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but not necessarily in the warship sense. A ship capable of cruising at 25 knots based at Diego Garcia can be anywhere in the Indian Ocean in 100 hours, and into the western Pacific as well (I’m sure Sir H’s future analysis of the hotspots will reveal them to be almost exclusively in the western Pacific). If the MoD initially stationed an RFA on Diego Garcia, there’s a useful asset that can:

1. Support normal RN operations in the Gulf.
2. Support (or lead) anti-piracy operations in Suez or Malacca.
3. Act as a disaster relief ship for any country that needs it (tsunamis, cyclones, etc)
4. Forward operating base for NEO operations, with the ability to take British nationals offshore.

I say an RFA initially as I’m convinced that a ferry-type ship would be better suited long term, crewed by the RFA who fly in and out for 4 month stints to operate the ship. The ship would need helicopter handling / hosting facilities, but a ro-ro design is suitable for civilian ports, can store containers for disaster relief aid, and probably provide accommodation for 500-1000 people as well, whether they are embarked troops or rescued civilians. I’m sure the MoD would also use it in conjunction with the Brunei Garrison for some annual power projection / FPDA exercising on an annual basis.

How much are reasonably decent ferries on the used market?

Simon
June 27, 2012 8:53 am

I’d suggest QE, Daring, Astute and an RFA tanker are all that is needed as a show of force.

I don’t quite see the difficulty in getting a dozen jets on board along with a commando battalion, half a dozen Chinooks and a dozen Merlin.

You’re not going to war you’re just saying “we can put these chaps on your turf and you can’t do a thing about it”.

Furthermore I don’t see it as stretching the RN, in fact, I’d suggest the deployment could (not that we would) be sustained indefinitely – well until the hulls rust through.

x
x
June 27, 2012 9:03 am

I think the Pacific, beyond aid to Australia and New Zealand, is an ocean too far.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
June 27, 2012 9:13 am

X,

agreed. I noted Sir H’s definition (“…those nations east of the Indian Ocean, from Singapore through to the pacific coastlines of the Americas“), but it didn’t quite fit with the hobby horse I wanted to ride….;)

Sorry, Sir H, but in seriousness I’d include the Indian Ocean in Asia. Using your definition it would be hard to argue in Whitehall that we’ve got a serious national interest, so would be unlikely to attract any funding. I appreciate that you are not making a case for that, at least in this article. Maybe your analysis of the hotspots will indeed throw up something we should be thinking about and possibly preparing for, in which case my idea about making better use of Diego Garcia could be a contributory resource – a sort of stepping stone and safe haven most of the way towards the trouble.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
June 27, 2012 10:35 am

Simon; a carrier with only 12 jets is hardly a show of force, it is more a statement of helplessness. The Astute would provide the carrier group with an impressive degree of surface/sub-surface protection but with the carrier air group you suggest the QE/T45 couldn’t do much more than sit off shore and watch in most likely scenarios.

Observer; the chance of Asian nations forming an alliance to counter balance China is remote. People are prepared to fall in behind the US but that is about as far as it goes. I will give you an example the Australian 2009 White paper postulated a much stronger RAN. Our Defence Minister recently visited China. Unfortunately for him some of the force studies backing a stronger Navy had also leaked. Not surprisingly the studies described supporting the US in various action against China. When China demanded he expain the threat we consider China to be…… To say that he crawled away on all fours is to be polite. Trade with China is just too important.
People are pinning their hopes on the US sticking around….., and joining the fan club …., and getting a free ride.
P.S. The 2009 White paper lasted around 9 months, in the two budgets since none of the additional funding on which the white paper was based has eventuated. Situation normal?

x
x
June 27, 2012 11:31 am

@ RT

I see the Indian Ocean “area” as a rough triangle that extends to cover the Antipodes and NZ, and even reaches around the Cape of Good Hope to include the FI. Deigo Garcia being just as a close as the UK to the those islands.

(A lot depends on whether the southern shore of the Mediterranean stays friendly (and Turkey too.))

Simon
June 27, 2012 11:32 am

Aussie Johnno,

I know what you’re getting at but 12 jets would cover a battalion of marines with T45 covering the fleet. I doubt many nations could repel that kind of focused power?

I think we all tend to underestimate how effective modern jets actually are. Especially when we look at the likes of Nimitz. Kuznetsov carries a single squadron for long range air defence and a stack of anti-ship/air missiles along with the ability to deploy a small force to land. I’d suggest this too is a little more effective than many think. It would seriously unsettle this country if it let rip off the shores of Scotland.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
June 27, 2012 12:18 pm

if we are to accept that unit-selection is driven by desired outputs on MoD scenario planning, and not purely the chequebook, then we can be pretty sure that we will be getting a larger fleet of F35b than would have been the case if we had stayed with “c”.

i will put money on the fact that:
1. an every day gin-palace cruise will have twelve jets.
2. an ATG with a job to do (like Libya) will have twenty four jets.
3. an event like the islands-that-must-remain-unnamed will have thirty six jets
4. and likely the second carrier alongside as a spare airfield with twelve hot-spares and lots of empty deckspace

we’ll buy at least 72 F35b, even if over a period of time.

milner
milner
June 27, 2012 12:38 pm

The view from is the region is that a UK is presence nice to have, but don’t count on it. Its like the Queen monarch, mostly ceremonial.

All the big operational exercises are US-focused; Cobra Gold, Talisman Sabre, RIMPAC etc. Very few UK hardware have been involved.

Jim
Jim
June 27, 2012 1:37 pm

Do we really want to send HMS Prince of Wales to the Far East, look what happened to the last one.

Simon
June 27, 2012 3:04 pm

jedibeeftrix,

I’d bet (not much mind you) that we’ll never see more than 24 jets on QE.

However, if we get Albion/Bulwark replaced by a couple of proper LHDs then I’ll up my bet to 30 (three squadrons of ten).

Observer
Observer
June 27, 2012 4:16 pm

lol Jim, good one.

@AJ

I remember that incident. The Australian media didn’t help. Should have handwaved it away as “possibility studies” “similar to what you guys do for the US.” etc. Oh well. As for military alliances, it all depends on how aggressive China behaves I guess. Aggressive enough to scare everyone together is the needed level of tension for this to happen.

@Simon

Most countries in Asia yawn at a Battalion. Seriously. Their manpower pool is so huge, and their labour costs so low, they can afford scary amounts of soldiers, not to mention their “militia”(not soldiers) tend to be fighting rebels year in, year out. Very experienced jungle fighters. Unless you go in as part of a huge force, I’d recommend “don’t”.

As I mentioned before, and AJ concurs, unless you have 40+ jets on your carrier, don’t expect us to be impressed. All we’ll think of is “Another Thailand, wanted a carrier, can’t afford the aircraft.”.

Simon
June 27, 2012 8:20 pm

Observer,

I’m not sure I’d be terribly interested in simply impressing. It’s a matter of what a dozen stealth jets can do to your barracks and air-defences whilst you’re asleep that matters. The battalion is there simply to wipe away the mess that’s left.

Sorry that sounds a bit ratty but we’re not talking about 12 Harrier from 50nm – we’re talking about 24 x 1000lb Paveway (or cluster bombs if I could have my way) from outside most Asian’s countries early warning range for stealth jets.

Observer
Observer
June 27, 2012 9:38 pm

Simon, China has the J-20. The F-35 is simply a “sanitized” “cheap” version of the F-22 intended for export. It’s stealth characteristics have been degraded to “Acceptable Congressional limits”, not to mention it’s primarily configured for anti-air radar, it’s weaker against ground based radars which uses different frequencies. I’ve always considered the “stealth” part (LO actually) to be a lot of LM propaganda.

I suspect you seriously underestimate the region. Ask AJ if he’s going to be worried about 24 Paveways from mythtical “invisible jets”. Which we are going to use too, results pending. In batches of 100-150. As opposed to…. 12.

Wasn’t the point of “showing the flag” meant to impress? Or did you want to skip the preliminaries and go straight to the bombings?

As for cluster munitions, you’d have to ask HMG why they signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty. And guess who refused to sign it?

Brian
Brian
June 27, 2012 9:41 pm

Better to focus our efforts as currently deployed and leave the Far East/Pacific to the US… Our forces would be more effective relieving US + other partner nations forces in the Atlantic/Med/Indian Ocean, freeing up their forces to deploy there.
As stated we just dont have the combat power to effectively deploy to the Far East/Pacific in anything more than a token gesture with all the committments the UK has abroad.

Observer
Observer
June 28, 2012 12:21 am

True Brian.

I always thought it was a mistake for the UK to disassociate with Asia so fully. Militarily and administration wise, there was no choice, sentiment of the time didn’t support it. But economically? There was a total shift to Europe, which chopped almost 1/4 of the world market away from British companies with some exceptions (e.g BP). Admittedly, it might have looked to make some sense then as Asia was fairly undeveloped as a market, but it failed to take into long ranged account that regions grow. Oh well. We can only wait and see.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 28, 2012 2:32 am

@ Brian,

“Better to focus our efforts as currently deployed and leave the Far East/Pacific to the US… Our forces would be more effective relieving US + other partner nations forces in the Atlantic/Med/Indian Ocean, freeing up their forces to deploy there”

Precisely. I think this is the most value we can offer to that region, by allowing nations like the US to focus their efforts there. Our contribution to the region is likely to be marginal at best.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
June 28, 2012 2:44 am

Observer, the Australian media never help, in a rather even and stable environment they tend beat up stories. They are currently making a dogs breakfast out of boat people.
Getting back to what Europe might do east of Suez I stick to my original point ‘no european country individually has the resources to have much impact alone’. Defence spending is growing significantly across Asia. It is patchy but countries tend to fall into 2 categories, growing economies with growing Defence forces or countries which (for what ever reason) are missing out on growth but are not particularly target rich unless you are prepared to go for the civilian infrastructure.
If Europeans want to extend there influence you really have to coordinate your assets somehow. Take AWD’s for interest, you have 6 modern T45’s (not enough). But the Dutch have 4 AWD’s, the Germans about 2 or 4(building I think), the French have 2 with more AWD Fremms coming, the Italians have 2, the Spanish have 4 or 5. That is suddenly a force of over 20 vessels.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
June 28, 2012 6:49 am

Oh, I forgot Denmark’s 3 AA frigates based on the Absalom hull. Thats around 25, and second only to the US, and you can do similar calculations with other vessel types.

Repulse
June 28, 2012 7:21 am

@AJ, re ‘no european country individually has the resources to have much impact alone’ – you are right of course, but the UK does have interests and historical ties to the region and could bring to bear sea / air military assets even at that distance that only a handful of countries in the region could even try to emulate.

The area where we cannot have much impact (outside of total war and drafting civilians) is on the ground. Sure we could provide SFs, Training, weapons or even a limited short duration intervention from sea, but beyond that a token battalion or two is all we could realistically offer.

Having significant naval / air bases at Gibraltar (and Cyprus for air base) and Diego Garcia, forward supply / lesser military bases in the Falklands, Ascension, Oman and Singapore and small detachments / training facilities in Belieze, Canada, Brunei and Kenya would give the UK a truely global reach. Hang on… Apart from bulking in up Diego Garcia and making more use of Singapore we have this already right…

The UK should just start by confirming the relevance of the Five Power pact and it’s position as an equal to the other nations involved. We should then abandon our efforts to cosy up with the French and start to commit more resources for training etc.

Repulse
June 28, 2012 7:31 am

Sorry, missed we should be making more of “Gibraltar” also…

Europe will be a deadzone for the next 50 years; some minor strife maybe. As long as we do not ignore the primary duty of defending the UK, Europe will be decreasing in relevance and our future prosperity will be dependant on getting out their and engaging in the world as a whole (the military is only part of this of course!)

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 28, 2012 8:24 am

“Europe will be a deadzone for the next 50 years; some minor strife maybe. As long as we do not ignore the primary duty of defending the UK, Europe will be decreasing in relevance and our future prosperity will be dependant on getting out their and engaging in the world as a whole (the military is only part of this of course!)”

— Just as the Eurozone is on the brink of collapse, the EU wants to create a European Superstate, and a lot of raw national feelings are being rubbed together around the continent?

Europe may just get a far lot more “interesting” shall we say in the next decade.

x
x
June 28, 2012 8:38 am

@ Chris B

Further to that I expect a push against immigrants too. Here in places like Oldham, Leicester, Bradford, etc. And London is a powder keg. Whether the threat is imagined or not.

Simon
June 28, 2012 8:40 am

Observer,

“…China has the J-20. The F-35 is simply a “sanitized” “cheap” version of the F-22 intended for export. It’s stealth characteristics have been degraded to “Acceptable…”

Remind me again why we’re buying these ;-)

“…we are going to use too, results pending. In batches of 100-150…”

Sorry who are “we”? I thought you were based in Singapore? Didn’t know anything about an F35 purchase there.

As for impressing. 100 jets certainly is a fair few sorties per day, but a squadron on a carrier close in could generate 100 a day too (if you wanted to burn them in a little ;-)).

Repulse
June 28, 2012 9:19 am

ChrisB: “Just as the Eurozone is on the brink of collapse, the EU wants to create a European Superstate, and a lot of raw national feelings are being rubbed together around the continent?”

Maybe, but I can’t see country fighting country or anything even close to the early 20th century. Plus, our trade (interests) should be primarily with the broader world, not a dying closed club.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
June 28, 2012 9:55 am

Hi Johnno, RE “Oh, I forgot Denmark’s ”
– Norway got theirs from Spain, just like you (gives you a few more)

Observer
Observer
June 28, 2012 11:55 am

@Simon

“Remind me again why we’re buying these?”

Because LM has media hyped and strong armed American aircraft development to the point where it is the ONLY aircraft with a future development program, not to mention all the vested interests to create a “too big to fail” project. I dare you to deny that the F-35 is not a sanitized F-22, especially with all the claims stated to the American Congress no less, and published from multiple sources.

“I thought you were based in Singapore? Didn’t know anything about an F35 purchase there.”

Outstanding requirement on a light bomber to replace A-4s retired earlier. Tempororily using F-16s for the role, but they are light fighters/interceptors. Hardly the ideal platform for it. And read more. We’ve been a “Security Cooperative Participants (SCP)” for the project for a long time. (Translation: We and Israel tossed a few million in to keep a foot in the door just in case it does turn out good.) Most analysts estimate a minimum of 100 planes.

“100 jets certainly is a fair few sorties per day, but a squadron on a carrier close in could generate 100 a day too”

Bullshit. That is for a full combat load of 48 fighters. A squadron of 12 I’d estimate at 24 normal to 48 pushing the limit (16 x 4 = 64 best case) and this is assuming defences stripped out and planes operating as singletons (which is definately NOT SOP). The IAF, even when operating off static air bases and hot loading aircraft in the 6 Day War only managed 4x per plane per day, and this is off airfields, not complex carrier ops.

I suspect a bit of rose coloured bias in your expectation of results regarding the QE-class. You want to show it off? Wait till it gets a full complement of 48 F-35s. Otherwise, you’re just begging for HTMS Chakri Nareubet comparisons.

Simon
June 28, 2012 12:41 pm

Observer,

Sanitised F-22: Dare? No chance – I think you’re spot on ;-)

100 F35: Oh! Good move.

Sortie generation rate increases as sortie range and endurance decreases. If you move close in you can generate a whole lot more sorties than the declared 3-4 at 450nm radius. So parked 150nm away I’d suggest 12 jets would indeed just about manage to notch up 100 sorties a day, sustained for about 2-3 days and then dropping off to 50 a day for 2-3 days.

Challenger
Challenger
June 28, 2012 1:00 pm

I love how little time it takes to get back to CVF!

My overarching point was simply that I would love to see a carrier group heading east, even for just a one off ‘don’t mess with us’ deployment.

However…their is only a point in carrier aviation if you have the whole package. That means two ships on a one on one off pattern, enough jets and helicopters to stick on the deck, enough pilots, munitions, spares and enough other ships to flesh out a reasonable task group.

What’s the point in sending a carrier off if it fails in it’s primary objective of displaying Royal Navy power?

This isn’t just about the level of capability you can reach for one task group either. It’s something that needs to be easily repeatable. I’m not saying we could or should have an American level of ability, but the whole point of a fully functioning carrier is that it can travel at short notice thousands of miles, fully loaded and park off a coast for months at a time.

Having a carrier capability in a minimal ‘cut to the bone’ sense defeats to the objective.

I really hope we do end up with a good level of commitment to the project, but well…I will believe it when I see it.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 28, 2012 2:04 pm

@ X,

“Further to that I expect a push against immigrants too. Here in places like Oldham, Leicester, Bradford, etc. And London is a powder keg. Whether the threat is imagined or not”
— Not a bad shout.

@ Repulse,
“Maybe, but I can’t see country fighting country or anything even close to the early 20th century. Plus, our trade (interests) should be primarily with the broader world, not a dying closed club.”
— You’d be surprised just how many paralells exist between Greece now and Germany in the 1920’s-30’s. All they need is for a few more years of economic hardship followed by a far right party winning power and they’ll be well on their way to creating a mirror image. It’s actually a little quietly unsettling (though still unlikely at this stage) just how closely the conditions are matched.

@ Simon,
“Sortie generation rate increases as sortie range and endurance decreases. If you move close in you can generate a whole lot more sorties than the declared 3-4 at 450nm radius. So parked 150nm away I’d suggest 12 jets would indeed just about manage to notch up 100 sorties a day, sustained for about 2-3 days and then dropping off to 50 a day for 2-3 days.”
— As much as I believe the F-35 will be more than adequate for our needs, that kind of sortie rate would shag the shit out of them in short order. You’re also being a tad optimistic with the 150nm away range. Remember “them Islands”. Having paid damn near £7 billion for the two carriers to become the centre of the future Royal Navy, it’s unlikely we’re going to be taking undue risks with them.

Simon
June 28, 2012 2:30 pm

Chris B,

Yup, it’d run the things in a bit ;-)

My point is that 12 x F35B can do quite a lot if needed. Some SHARs in 1982 did eight sorties a day!

A full onslaught of an Asian nation would be park in the lee of the prevailing wind. Wait for a night with a wind in that direction so that we can steam towards the target area and create WOD at the same time. Launch alpha wave of 12 jets to take out air defenses within our target area. Second sortie wave would bomb the middle of a target airfield (we can still operate STOVL from the remaining ends). We’re now at about 200nm and can up the sortie rate to 12 per hour and risk 4 Paveway (no stealth). A few hours later we can up the sortie rate yet again and start to see a drop off in mission capable airframes. This is when we throttle back to CAS for the landed battalion with (hopefully) eight available airframes at all times.

…as you can see, I have no real idea :-)

PS: it would be completely unfair for the nation under attack to have moved a sub into the waters of the Falklands/Ascension and let rip a cruise missile offensive because that would be a proper game of chess ;-)

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 28, 2012 2:46 pm

@ Simon

If you’re letting rip on some unspecified nation in Asia, wouldn’t you prefer to let an Astute do some of the early shooting? Of course if we had TLAM capable T45 then that would make things easier still…

What about CAP? Allies?

Simon
June 28, 2012 3:01 pm

Chris B,

Wouldn’t use TLAM from Astute because I want to get my first wave in without them knowing (stealth).

However, I do tend to agree with Observer in that I doubt F35 is that stealthy esp from ground based radar arrays (i.e. more than one radar working together) so am not sure my strategy would really work anyway.

Don’t need CAP – I have a T45 to protect the fleet. The tatty remains of my squadron doing the CAS would also be armed with a couple of AMRAAM each so we’ll have adequate air defence.

Observer
Observer
June 28, 2012 3:55 pm

@Simon

As much as I have some severe disagreements with Chris, I actually think his TLAM move is MUCH better than a F-35 first strike. Stealth for the F-35 is comparable to a RAMed F-15 with canted tail (Silent Eagle). Which, while an improvement, isn’t really a quantum leap in stealth (or LO to be precise). A TLAM barrage takes SAM totally out of the question in a fairly cost effective manner (1 F-35 costs about 70-140 TLAMs, depending on whose estimates you use) and at massively less risk of life.

And I really think you misunderstood the roles of AEGIS type ships. They are not supposed to be the primary means of defence, they are the final, or 2nd to last line of POINT defence or LOCAL area defence. The BEST defence is a fighter shooting the bastard down before he can even launch. This is ideal because a single enemy plane can spawn multiple AShMs, more than doubling your number of threats that need to be shot down. This was the thinking behind the AIM-54/F-14 missile platform idea.

“If you move close in you can generate a whole lot more sorties than the declared 3-4 at 450nm radius. So parked 150nm”

I wasn’t aware of any “Littorial Aircraft Carrier” program. Watch out for their ballistic anti-ship missiles if you want to get that close.

Challenger
Challenger
June 28, 2012 3:55 pm

@Simon

‘Don’t need CAP – I have a T45 to protect the fleet’

I really wouldn’t place that kind of faith in the T45, much rather pair them with some Lightnings overhead…just in case!

Challenger
Challenger
June 28, 2012 3:58 pm

A lot of talk about TLAM.

I agree that they are a better option for an initial strike, but only in decent numbers. 1 Astute firing a handful at an enemy is of questionable use.

Observer
Observer
June 28, 2012 4:08 pm

@Simon

I was checking on sortie rates for the Americans. Their surge is 220 max off their Nimitz for a full war load ~4 squadrons. Since you are using only one squadron, 220/4 = 55. Which puts it in the bracket of my estimates of 48-64 per.

I agree with Challenger. Whole package or forget about it. Carriers are even more about systems intergration than any other ship, as without planes, a carrier is just a floating cargo ship. And an inefficient one at that.

“100 F35: Oh! Good move.”

Results pending. No point buying if it turns out to be a lemon. Then you’ll end up with 100 lemons. Results, then an order, not order and wait 10 more years for results or a Sopwith Camel. You heard of “show me the money”? Well, we’re waiting for “show me the plane”.

If not for the Arms Control Act, I’m so tempted to suggets luring Northtrope away from the US. If we can’t get F-22 and F-35 is a failure, I’d be seriously thinking of kidnaping the designers of the YF-23. At least it’s SOMETHING. Congress will flip it’s lid though. :) Isn’t that a bad thing… right…

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 28, 2012 4:16 pm

@ Simon
“Wouldn’t use TLAM from Astute because I want to get my first wave in without them knowing (stealth).”
— That’s why you fire the TLAM at the main radar sites, all of this assuming that it’s a Brit only/Largely Brit op. You’ll have a better chance thwacking the radars and then going in with F-35 vs just going straight in with F-35.

@ Observer,
“And I really think you misunderstood the roles of AEGIS type ships. They are not supposed to be the primary means of defence, they are the final, or 2nd to last line of POINT defence or LOCAL area defence”
— Generally yes, but it depends. Who are we fighting and how do we rate their airpower? Type 45 is supposed to be this all singing, all dancing area defence toy, and by all accounts it has so far lived up to a lot of the hype. With a limited air group (not sure why the carrier hasn’t waited for reinforcement, but it’s not my hypothetical) I’d imagine the thought would at least be tabled of using a Type 45 as the primary forward air defence, to free up the aviation capacity for air attack. Otherwise 12 aircraft is just about enough to mount a 24 hour CAP and not really a lot else.

Going back to range, again I think it would be target dependent. I’d imagine you want to keep the Carrier as far back as is reasonable, and certainly we (the Royal Navy) have demonstrated a proclivity for keeping the Carriers well away from hostile shorelines.

@ Challenger,
“1 Astute firing a handful [of TLAM’s] at an enemy is of questionable use”
— Depends what you fire them at. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of mix the Astute carries, not that we’ll know until it’s probably gone out of service. The blurb says space for a mixed load of 38 weapons but we routinely only ever seem to fire 8 or so weapons ourselves, so would Astute carry say 10 TLAM and 28 Spearfish or perhaps 18 TLAM and 20 Spearfish?

10 well placed TLAM could make the F-35’s lives a heck of a lot easier.

Repulse
June 28, 2012 4:17 pm

Chris B: ” You’d be surprised just how many paralells exist between Greece now and Germany in the 1920′s-30′s. All they need is for a few more years of economic hardship followed by a far right party winning power and they’ll be well on their way to creating a mirror image. It’s actually a little quietly unsettling (though still unlikely at this stage) just how closely the conditions are matched.”

Maybe the economic hardships are similar and so is the resentment, but to compare Greece today with the relative power of Germany in the 30’s is way off. Plus, any try of emulating Germany would see Greece severely slapped by Turkey in less than 48 hrs.

Simon
June 28, 2012 4:18 pm

Observer,

I’m being a bit feisty today (I think it’s the heat). You’re right, of course, but my point was always that even a dozen F35 is a step change in capability… assuming LO actually works.

As for the F35 being only as good as Silent Eagle – I doubt it. I don’t think you’re looking at the angles. It’s way more “deflective”… doesn’t have vertical sides for a start!

T45 would be my 2nd and 3rd layer of air defence after CIWS (working outwards). Yes, it would be great to have CAP overhead but my main threat axis is actually in the same direction as my offensive so effectively I do. In addition, you may remember I’ve taken out (well, tried ;-)) the most local airfield.

Also, I think you’ll find all the Harrier Carriers (CVL, CVS, LHD, LHA, etc) are “littoral aircraft carriers” designed to work frighteningly close to shore defences. Harrier never had the legs and paired too well with copter assault ranges so got pigeon holed as CAS.

It’s all a bit academic really as my “Asian Offensive” above was a bit of a prod and joke. I hope it hasn’t offended. I’m not really a megalomaniac :-)

Simon
June 28, 2012 4:26 pm

Observer,

Four sorties per CATOBAR jet is double their published expected figure.

F35B STOVL jets have much less strain on their airframes and combined with shorter ranges are already giving 5.5 sorties a day sustained (6.1 for surge).

I’m simply suggesting that they’ll “push” 8 a day if the need arises and the operating demand is reduced.

x
x
June 28, 2012 4:33 pm

@ Chris B

When I say stuff like that some think I am some looney white supremacy. (Ok perhaps the looney bit is spot on.) But I know how much the Muslim has become a fold devil to many in the, um, under class. I know there are real tensions. And I think it Europe wide.

For what it is worth I think the US will be at “war” on her southern border before the decade out.

Observer
Observer
June 28, 2012 4:48 pm

“Four sorties per CATOBAR jet is double their published expected figure.”

And you want 8… that’s quintuple. And you were suggesting ~10 sorties per earlier on? Slave driver much? :)

Anyway, it was never about the airframes. It was about pilot fatigue. When Israel hotloaded their planes, they swapped out their pilots as well. Assuming a triple shift roll, can your pilots do 3-4 sorties per day without flying their planes into the ground through sheer exhaustion?

Anyway, we are way off the original topic. You want to show the flag, do it right, not try to show off a carrier with 3/4 bays empty. People are not stupid, they’ll know you couldn’t afford the other 36 planes.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 28, 2012 4:53 pm

@ Repulse,
Germany of the late 20’s, (which is more where I’m equating modern Greece) had no air force, a severely restricted Navy and a capped army. Over the course of the next decade it trained and equipped it’s army, air force and navy to levels not really thought possible, all while adapting to a completely new style of warfare. If Greece tried it on today then maybe Turkey would slap them down (48 hours is bloody optimistic to say the least) but a decade of investment and planning down the line?

Never say never. Not saying it’s especially likely, no more than the hundreds of other scenarios that “could” happen, just that the paralells are there mate and they’re very paralell. Turkey need not even be the target. Macedonia anyone?

@ Simon,
The only time we’ve had to use Carriers recently in an aggressive, indepedent operation against strong enemy air threats the Carriers were parked well back out of harms way.

@ X,
I’d expect ethnic and cultural tempers to flair a little as the decade progresses, with London certainly having quite the potential, but the scale of such riots is up for debate? I’d imagine if things got too out of hand then you’d see a police crack down sooner rather than later.

Repulse
June 28, 2012 5:38 pm

Chris B: Similarities are there I agree, but Greece is well and truely f*d as they have far from the industrial capacity that Germany had to build a military machine. The other thing is that they would be fighting primarily a land war with Germany their main “foe”.

Italy or Spain could go pear shaped, the latter possibly trying it on by an attempt to grab Gibraltar which would be interesting. However, if we increase the military footprint their as it furthers our global aims it kills two birds with one stone.

Basically if anything kicks off within Europe they will be fighting each other or internal civil wars. Can’t see the scenario when we would want to send another BEF over the channel…

x
x
June 28, 2012 6:07 pm

@ Chris B

It isn’t so much the scale more what will it says about our national out look.

Challenger
Challenger
June 28, 2012 6:09 pm

B

If an Astute went into action and fired a dozen or more TLAM then id call that a worthwhile effort.

It’s disappointing that often British subs seem to fire a couple whilst the Americans fire hundreds.

Challenger
Challenger
June 28, 2012 6:13 pm

I very much agree that Harrier carriers the world over are primarily designed for littoral operations. Enough CAP to provide one part of a multi layered defence, plus enough CAS for landing a battalion on the beach, that’s all these types of carriers and aircraft are really designed for.

The Americans like huge air-groups to provide very long range strike, but hey that’s them! We aren’t the Americans and so don’t need and also can’t afford those kind of fireworks.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 28, 2012 6:46 pm

Observer, dissapointed with you comaped to the Thai Carrier point, As we all kinow the Thai carrier no longer files jets and is effectively a mini 11k ton LPH

Observer
Observer
June 28, 2012 7:09 pm

lol APATs

On the phone I take it :)

Anyway, the situation for the two really are very similar. The Thai carrier can still operate jets, it’s just that the carrier capable jets cost a bit too much when the Asian Financial Crisis hit.

Sounds familiar?

From the proposed loadout of the QE, the only differences I see between the 2 are, 1) tonnage and 2) 1 fighter squadron.

Take away the fighter squadron and the only difference would be… the tonnage. Oh and the cost, don’t forget the cost. :)

What goes around, comes around. Hardly a unique situation.

Simon
June 28, 2012 7:59 pm

Observer,

I suggested 12 STOVL airframes could deliver 100 sorties (at a push) from about 150nm for 2-3 days. I make that 8.3 per jet – similar to what some SHAR managed in the Falklands.

Slave driver? Yup. Although there’s space for 1000 aircrew on CVF even if we only have a few jets – just cycle the pilots! However, each pilot will only have to do 8 x 1-hour sorties rather than 3 x 2.5-hour sorties ‘cos I’ve reduced the range. That would be muchmore exciting for them… take off, get up to speed, “hey, we’re here already”, drop bombs, go home for a cuppa… in the cockpit… and then do it all again ;-)

I’m going to give up now as I’m being reminded that 150nm is not far enough which is one of my arguments for why CVF + Albion is such a stupid fleet design :-(

badrobot
June 28, 2012 8:21 pm

The question is do we need to deploy east of Suez…if we’re honest we only have the resources to do be a regional+ power. We should focus on improving the stadning European commitment so that we’re able to take care of anything like Libya and Kosovo without the yanks. The European theatre is not settled, Bosnia / Kosovo / Libya, not to mention the Russian ‘invasion’ of Georgia and recent threats over countries like Finland joining NATO. Throw in the economic shocks and European NATO is going to need to develop stronger capabilites.

The “+” bit is for when we are forced to operate out of area by a crisis that threatens our vital interests = Falklands, oil out of the Gulf, theat to commonwealth members like Aust and NZ, taking part in coalition or UN actions. Flying the flag, defence diplomacy and police actions are a waste of scarce resources, watering down the effectiveness of task forces and have little impact on any foreign power. Would we even notice if the Japanese deployed a frigate or RFA type vessel to European waters? Would we consult a UK-based Indian defence attache when making any decision? I think not.

We need to concentrate critical mass in our region. Let the USA corset a Pacific naval alliance with the aussies and japanese. We could be the lead European nation, focus on bulding up European NATO task forces and exert real influence with the zone that has half our trade and whose decisions directly affect how we live, everyday.

Repulse
June 28, 2012 8:52 pm

: “Would we even notice if the Japanese deployed a frigate or RFA type vessel to European waters?”

No, but we would if they had offered a SSN (with TLAM) or a CVF (even with just 12 F35Bs :)) to assist in the Libyia conflict.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 28, 2012 9:01 pm

@ Repulse,

A hallmark of Hitlers Germany was socialist spending on projects perceived as being in the national interest. For Greece that would equate to investing in their domestic manufacturing. What better way to kick start your nations manufacturing capacity than by developing domestic military kit?

I’d imagine the UK would get roped into any engagement, either through involvement in Cyprus or as part of a NATO/UN force. If we’re not going to intervene in Europe then we might as well give up full stop and just go back to a UK defence force. Can’t let wars wage unchecked on the continent and then worry about pretending to influence Asia.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 28, 2012 9:06 pm

“No, but we would if they had offered a SSN (with TLAM) or a CVF (even with just 12 F35Bs ) to assist in the Libyia conflict,”

— Would we? Or would we have said ‘sorry chaps, but you’re going to be a pain in the arse to integrate into our operations for such a small contribution. Thanks for the thought, but not this time,’

@ Badrobot,

Everything you just said gets a thumbs up from me.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 28, 2012 10:25 pm

@ badrobot – I agree with your region plus idea but I’m afraid I disagree with that meaning no show the flag, DA’s, etc. We are a security council permanent member and as such we have a say on global issues; having some influence and first hand knowledge of the area/issue is never a bad thing. That doesn’t mean we need to make any other region our centre of attention.

As the US pivots towards the Pacific we (that’s us and hopefully NATO in Europe) might have to take up its “System Administration” roles in certain areas. The question then is do we also develop security and stability forces or concentrate on being Europe’s big stick.

Observer
Observer
June 28, 2012 11:12 pm

GJ, to be fair, Russia and China tend to do less of these things than the west, but that didn’t threaten their seat on the UNSC, why should it threaten the UK’s seat?

Repulse
June 29, 2012 6:22 am

@ChrisB: “I’d imagine the UK would get roped into any engagement, either through involvement in Cyprus or as part of a NATO/UN force. If we’re not going to intervene in Europe then we might as well give up full stop and just go back to a UK defence force. Can’t let wars wage unchecked on the continent and then worry about pretending to influence Asia.”

Defending the sovereign areas on Cyprus maybe, but again Turkey will be on them like long before we got the BEF on the easy jet at Luton.

I am not excluding UK intervention in Europe, we could easily participate in naval blockades and no fly zones if we wanted, but to gear our defences to performance major offensive ground action in an unlikely European war is bonkers – especially as the importance of Europe is diminishing.

The world is now our backyard, trying to pretend that Europe is all we need to care about is both dangerous and a self fufilling prophecy to a minor player part in world affairs.

Even now, what would have the biggest impact on the world economy and the UK’s prosperity – Greece invading Macedonia or China invading Vietnam?

Repulse
June 29, 2012 6:35 am

@ChrisB: ” Or would we have said ‘sorry chaps, but you’re going to be a pain in the arse to integrate into our operations for such a small contribution. Thanks for the thought, but not this time,’”

No, if Japan had conducted regular exercises to build a common understanding and way of working together. Remember Canada was involved in Libyia, surely they should just stick to North America?

Japan is an interesting case as it is only just opening up to working with international partners. Australia and NZ are much more likely partners and we have a lot in common in how we train and fight.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
June 29, 2012 7:13 am

ACC, I tossed up including the Norwegian ships in the total but for reasons I don’t quite understand they appear to be equipped with only an 8 cell VLS which is loaded with 32 Evolved Sea Sparrow (4 packs).

Seemed to be a bit light weight when you have paid for AGEIS.
My total only included ships equipped with Standard or the French one, Aster?.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
June 29, 2012 8:59 am

@ Badrobot – “The question is do we need to deploy east of Suez…if we’re honest we only have the resources to do be a regional+ power. We should focus on improving the stadning European commitment so that we’re able to take care of anything like Libya and Kosovo without the yanks.”

My (personal) understanding of Regional+ as mentioned by Lindley-French to the DSC (anywhere else this term has cropped up?), is that the “regional” involves britain (and thus europe) taking care of europe, and africa, whereas the “+” bit refers to strategic interests outside of this such as global chokepoints in trade.

So, east of suez will continue via the FPDA if only as our commitment to keeping the Straits of Malacca open for business.

Likewise, we’ll continue to man Hormuz and its neighbour in the ME.

You could even argue that our continued interest in the falklands and the windies slot is due to Cape Horn* and the Panama canal!

* by 2014 post-Panamax vessels will comprise 48 percent of the global container fleet.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
June 29, 2012 9:36 am

Hi Johnno,

I never realised that the Nansen’s actually have the pocket-model of AEGIS and they are officially classed as ASW (not AWDs that your count was about)
– the bids came in such that for the budget it was either 3 full-fat AEGIS, or 5 frigates with the smaller F-model of the radar
“The 133 meter long Fridtjof Nansen Class will be the smallest AEGIS vessel built to date. They are manned by a crew of only 120”

McZ
McZ
June 29, 2012 11:34 am

@observer
“Why can’t they [..the US…] “diplomatic gesture” in the Philipines?”

I was @Manila three weeks ago.

The newspapers in the Philippines are full of comments of giving the USN access to Subic Bay and offer them a site for building a new airbase (Clark is used as a commercial airport). This would not only add some impetus to the philipine GDP, this would also solve the Okinawa-Problem and easen eventual support of Taiwan.

I agree with Repulse, that we should concentrate on the FPDA. But we should probably not stop there. Indonesia, Brunei and Sri Lanka are logical expansions, as well as Mauritius and maybe the Seychelles. The wider question behind this is the still open matter on where India is heading, pro-west or aggressive wannabe-superpower.

Observer
Observer
June 29, 2012 11:54 am

” The wider question behind this is the still open matter on where India is heading, pro-west or aggressive wannabe-superpower.”

My bet is on pro-west aggressive superpower with a side helping of Russian. :)

And parking the LCS in the Philipines would make a lot more sense than tying our Min. Foreign Affairs into contortions that would make them a shoo-in for Circ De Sol.

As for the rest (Indonesia, Sri Lanka), I’d say not for now. Wait for the economy and by extension your military to recover, then consider. Right now, the UK is overstretched.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 29, 2012 12:25 pm

@ Repulse,

“Defending the sovereign areas on Cyprus maybe, but again Turkey will be on them like long before we got the BEF on the easy jet at Luton.”
— They’re quite closely matched as it is. Additional expansion by Greece of its military would create a more protracted situation. Any war between Greece and Turkey would have to be considered an international emergency, at the very least for Europe.

“I am not excluding UK intervention in Europe, we could easily participate in naval blockades and no fly zones if we wanted, but to gear our defences to performance major offensive ground action in an unlikely European war is bonkers – especially as the importance of Europe is diminishing.”
— I’m not saying we should gear our defence around a ground campaign in Europe. But given the choice between that and building a force that can go to war with China, I’d take the Euro-centric one because I consider it to be more likely.

“The world is now our backyard, trying to pretend that Europe is all we need to care about is both dangerous and a self fufilling prophecy to a minor player part in world affairs.”
— The world is and it isn’t it. How much of the world we actually rely on is open for significant debate. We can’t police the world in the same way that America can. What we can do is posture ourselves to provide some stability in Europe and Africa, while contirbuting to the Middle East.

I would also suggest that we already are a relatively minor player in world affairs.

“Even now, what would have the biggest impact on the world economy and the UK’s prosperity – Greece invading Macedonia or China invading Vietnam?”
— Which is more likely in the next 20 years? Neither is especially likely, but if I was a betting man I’d take the Greece bet. Why? Because I consider it more likely for a local heavy weight to invade it’s far inferior neighbour that few people care about in the hope that nobody will intervene, than for a Super Heavyweight to invade its inferior neighbour that people do care about and risk the major confrontation that is guaranteed to follow with another local Super Heavyweight.

“No, if Japan had conducted regular exercises to build a common understanding and way of working together. Remember Canada was involved in Libyia, surely they should just stick to North America?”
— Canada is a fully integrated NATO member with over 20 years of experience fighting alongside countries like the US and UK. Japan is not.

Opinion3
Opinion3
June 29, 2012 2:48 pm

@Challenger

“I do agree however with the sad truth that the carrier project has been so regularly underfunded and appallingly mismanaged that any substantial deployment will look hollow to the point of national embarrassment”

This seems a bit sweeping to me, is this comment fair? The politicians delayed it by 3 years (funding) and reviewed the design (EMALS CATOBAR wasn’t an option initially, they considered it before it was too late and changed their mind before it was too late – based on ridiculous figures).

Carrier Alliance seem to be doing OK.

Challenger
Challenger
June 29, 2012 3:47 pm

@Opinion3

I was trying to make a wider point about disjointed policy.

Taking aside so many other examples of the RN being underfunded and stretched to breaking point, I look at the carrier project as a whole and really feel their is a wide gap between intention and the materialising reality.

I totally agree that the carrier alliance is doing a grand job of constructing the ships. Once they were finally ordered the pace was pretty rapid, I have no doubt that they will be delivered on time and to a high standard.

My argument was that a carrier capability is so much more than the ship. You need enough aircraft, the pilots, support staff, munitions, spare parts, and of course a whole host of other ships that will slot in-to a task group.

It’s not good enough either to have a bare minimum of resources that can achieve temporary results. Getting either QE or POW out for a few weeks with all the assorted components is pretty hollow if I can’t be called upon regularly and efficiently.

I can imagine a situation where a crises erupts and a carrier is requested, with conversations revealing that their aren’t enough JCA or personnel because a load are off on an RAF exercise, that no frigates, destroyers or auxiliaries are around because they are all either in dry dock or off on standing commitments, or that their isn’t a sufficient stock of Paveway, Brimstone etc for more than a couple of days of intense activity.

My scepticism was over whether the intention will be met across the board, or whether we will end up with gigantic ships that embark a pitiful air group and struggle to make even a fairly limited peacetime deployment without a substantial stretch of resources.

I hope things are done properly, the way they should be, but sadly I remain sceptical.

Simon
June 29, 2012 7:34 pm

Perhaps we should abort the tranch 3 purchase of Typhoon just to make sure we get enough F35B to actually have any effect at all (both land-based or on CVF)?

I still think the best way to make sure we have a credible force in the near/medium future is to scrap Trident. Worry about rekindling that technology rather than rekindling the basics of strike sorties from land and sea???

repulse
June 29, 2012 8:20 pm

ChrisB: We will probably need to agree to disagree. Just in the avoidance of doubt:

– “We can’t police the world in the same way that America can.” – I agree and that is not what I am proposing, we just need, in my view, to be engaged world wide supporting our allies and interests. In fact a small amount of distance between us and the US may not be a bad thing.

– “I would also suggest that we already are a relatively minor player in world affairs.” – I agree here also. We have made it that way by withdrawing from the world and focusing on Europe.

– “Canada is a fully integrated NATO member with over 20 years of experience fighting alongside countries like the US and UK. Japan is not.” – True, but what you are saying is that Canada is relevant because it has engaged with Europe (even though it is a North American country) hence can offer support and influence (without any attempt at being a world policeman).

Phil
June 29, 2012 8:26 pm

We abdicated our position in the Far East in 1945 when all we could send was a 4 carrier fleet that was nothing more than a US task force and for the invasion of Japan, one division was promised (which would have been Commonwealth and equipped to US scales) and a bomber force that was scaled further and further back.

Once we beat Germany we really had no interest in making any large effort to finally defeat Japan. We did not attempt to transfer 2nd Army to the Far East nor Bomber Command en masse.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 29, 2012 10:19 pm

@ Repulse,

“True, but what you are saying is that Canada is relevant because it has engaged with Europe (even though it is a North American country) hence can offer support and influence (without any attempt at being a world policeman).”

— No. What I’m saying is that due to its extensive experience of training with NATO and its standardisation to NATO levels, if Canada offers 6 aircraft to something like Libya then the leading nations say “ahh thank you”, with a polite nod that acknowledges the contribution even if it is only 6 jets. Japan probably wouldn’t be able to slot in that easily.

Now, offering six jets to an operation like that is beneficial and doubtless much appreciated, but again this goes back to that whole damned notion of influence; the curse of modern defence discussions. Providing six jets is not influence. Maybe on a very low level, maybe with the commanders involved etc.

But the influence gained is absolutely minimal on a level that really matters and makes a difference.

Think about how much “influence” we’ve gained with the US after all these years? So much influence that they call the Falklands Islands “Las Malvinas”. The reality is that people are motivated and influenced by what you can actually do for them, tangibly, in the long term. Not because you wave an aircraft carrier in their face or do a fly past with a flight of Typhoons.

We have the chance to throw some political, economic, and perhaps military weight around in Europe, Africa, and to a degree the Middle East. We really have no business in the far east and little to gain from it. Those countries know that the US offers them ten times the kind of benefits that we could even dream of offering them. You have no chance to compete against that.

What you can do, with the US shifting posture to the Pacific region, is fill some of the void left behind closer to home. That’s where the money is to be made, and that’s where the greater energy and food security is to be found. Not in Singapore (no offence to Observer) or Malaysia, but right here on our own doorstep and near abroad.

Observer
Observer
June 30, 2012 12:16 am

No offence taken Chris, militarily, I feel the same way. Economically though, you need to expand. Eggs in one basket and all. If you had diversified, even if Europe dropped the ball (and the looks of it is that it’s a steel wrecking ball, and the dropped location is on the toes), your investments in India and China would have helped prop up your position. ~50% of your trade partners in recession would still hurt, but it beats 80+%, and gives a source of funding for rebuilding/recapitalization without resorting to the banks.

I’m actually a very strong avocate of government controlled companies, provided they are run as COMPANIES, not as welfare. Right now, investors are risk adverse, hence low company startups -> low employment. A country has a massively less risk starting a company than an individual, and it would help employment and hence social problems. I’m starting to feel that all these austerity programs may be going in the wrong direction income wise. What is wrong with a government starting companies, stabilizing their economy and social systems, then privatizing it after the crisis to get money back?

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 30, 2012 1:20 am

“What is wrong with a government starting companies, stabilizing their economy and social systems, then privatizing it after the crisis to get money back?”

— Our governments track record on managing things for a start ;)

Economic diversification yes, but it has its limits. Distance being one of them. Most of the goods purchased from Asia are low quality, bulk products, the kind of thing Mexico is starting to get a foot back into the door of what with rising wage costs in China.

Our exports tend to be quite high value products that not many nations can afford in bulk. In SE Asia, what with America slowly getting more comfortable, it’s probably more likely (and certainly more in their interest) for nations of the region to buy American.

There’s a lot of nations that make up Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Still plenty of demand for our products. Rolls Royce engines. Lots of defence sales to the Arabs. Trainers to Africa. BAE South Africa, or whatever the hell its called now, has quite the potential market for selling MRAP designs to on that continent.

And with Europe trying to push for greater consolidation of its defence market, separate, independent British suppliers could offer competition for the Euro nationals.

Fact is that most nations do most of their business locally. We export almost as much (pound wise) to the combination of Holland and Belgium as we do to the US. It’s only natural and not something we can really drift too far from.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 30, 2012 2:03 am

A couple of points of order.

1. Phil the RN/Commonwealth fleet in the Pacific consisted of 15 Carriers 4 Battle Ships and escorts.
2. Chris B an offer of an extra TLAM firer or a Carrier with 12 F35B from someone like Japan would have been snapped up. We integrated aircraft from several Gulf states. The Carrier would have helped a lot in the CSAR role which at one stage almost did not meet requirements.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
June 30, 2012 2:08 am

Thanks, ACC, the Nansen’s are good looking vessels and they clearly have the capability to take more VLS tubes.
Budgets do funny things.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 30, 2012 2:21 am

“Chris B an offer of an extra TLAM firer or a Carrier with 12 F35B from someone like Japan would have been snapped up. We integrated aircraft from several Gulf states. The Carrier would have helped a lot in the CSAR role which at one stage almost did not meet requirements.”

Fair enough, but I was under the impression the Gulf states didn’t exactly do a lot because of the difficulty with trying to blend them into NATO procedures.

Still, it’s only a minor amount of influence. The way some people talk you’d think that a small contribution like that was worth billions in fresh trade deals.

Observer
Observer
June 30, 2012 2:24 am

I agree that Japan offering would have their equipment snapped up in short order. Their military equipment has the same standards as their civilian export stuff, and it has a very good reputation for reliability.

I have this feeling that you seem to seriously underestimate stuff from the East Chris.

Observer
Observer
June 30, 2012 2:33 am

“I was under the impression the Gulf states didn’t exactly do a lot because of the difficulty with trying to blend them into NATO procedures.”

More like trying to explain to their population why they allied with “The Great Satan”.

And actually Chris, it’s not billions, only millions. But hey, every bit counts. A million here, a million there, soon you’d get a pretty decent piggy bank.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 30, 2012 2:44 am

Chris B the extra flat deck capable of hosting both rotary wing recovery assets and the required fixed fixed wing overhead cover would have ensured we could have had the force3 assets overhead a downed pilot 90 mins quicker than we did at one stage. CDG, Kearsage and Garibaldi did sterling work but you never refuse an extra deck. For 2 weeks the CSAR assets staged out of a ground base.

Repulse
June 30, 2012 8:05 am

@ChrisB:” Still, it’s only a minor amount of influence. The way some people talk you’d think that a small contribution like that was worth billions in fresh trade deals.” – I am not one of these, it’s is fundamentally a difference between raising the drawbridge of a “small Europe” or engaging globally (as equals).

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 30, 2012 2:17 pm

@ Observer,

I’m not underestimating Eastern equipment or its personnel. Just a matter of wondering how easy it is to integrate them into NATO procedures, tasking, conlficted air space etc? Given how much time we spend working with allies to achieve the required level of smooth operation, I was cautious over just how easily you could slot a completely new force into the wider group. The Americans certainly have plenty of experience operating alongside Japan, but what about the rest of NATO?

As for the millions? From what? So they turn up with a few jets or we turn up with a few for an exercise. How much trade talk gets done during the exercise? How much real value does it bring in terms of non-military benefits?

People often talk about the influence of visiting ships and aircraft and while it has its place, perhaps in strengthening ties a little from a military perspective, people seem to think that a port visit or an air to air exercise is worth this sudden huge boost to the UK economy and regional influence.

I would hasten to suggest that it takes more than one visit to do that kind of work, and that historically the foreign office has played a much greater role in this kind of thing.

I just think people grossly over value the benefits of “defence diplomacy” versus how people actually do deals in the real world.

@ APATS,

Fair play. Again, my concern was over how easily we could slot a Japanese vessel into the system. Wondering if they had offered a carrier with fast jets, how easy or not would it have been to work them into the airspace and get them hitting ground targets, especially if you’re relying somewhat on NATO ground personnel to provide target information for CAS?

@ Repulse,

I’m still talking about going beyond Europe, just sticking to what is more productive, such as African and Middle Eastern markets. There seems to be a lot of people, not necessarily yourself, who believe that we can have some major impact on the far east. I would suggest that our impact in that region is actually very minimal on a level that really matters.

It’s nice that we can work with nations of the pacific region and maintain ties with places like Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia etc, but our ability in the long run to have any meaningful impact in this region is limited.

By comparison we provide a lot of tools and a lot of legitimate interest in the African and Middle Eastern theatres, as well as here in Europe. If Somalia is in the hot insurgency news this year then next year, possibly even by the end of the 2012, Western Africa will be the next hot story.

It’s just around the corner from us, with much shorter transits and we have a sovereign base off the coast, as well as deep ties to many of the nations in the region.

If we really want to make a difference to our economy and our energy security, it’ll happen there. Algeria and Nigeria are prime sources of energy. There’s cheap coal on the continent to diversify away from Russia. Investement in agriculture on the west and south west coasts, plus better trade agreements could ease some of the issues we have with food prices. Mineral resources and other energy sources are also their for the active parties.

The long term value of closer cooperation and stronger ties in Africa far out weighs the value of South East Asia, at least from a British perspective.

badrobot
June 30, 2012 2:19 pm

I think many are missing mine and Chris’ point. Any military contribution is welcome and has influence on the operation. But that contribution would have to be enormous to translate into tangible influence. On the scale of the US strategic umbrella.

If the Japanese (or any other far east nation) contributed a small to modest capbility for a one off intervention (Libya) or made a standing contribution in augmentation of a NATO standing group (say a frigate), would that translate into any advantage for Japan in the UK? Would we prioritise Japanese defence exports (if they revoked their export ban), would we lower tariffs on Japanese exports (we can’t cos of the EU common external tariff), would we support Japan to overturn the whaling restrictions (nope) or would we come to Japan’s aid when it has to fight North Korea or China (hardly bloody likey would we).

Now reverse the equation. No far eastern country is going to disadvantage its national interests because we train our CBG in the far east for a couple of months every other year, or becuase we have a single vessel standing commitment out of Singapore. It’s a complete waste, pure and simple.

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 30, 2012 3:17 pm

“Now reverse the equation. No far eastern country is going to disadvantage its national interests because we train our CBG in the far east for a couple of months every other year, or becuase we have a single vessel standing commitment out of Singapore. It’s a complete waste, pure and simple.”

Seconded.

Opinion3
Opinion3
June 30, 2012 4:34 pm

This is the second article which has had me wondering about the cost of operations and the cost of no operations.

Surely the additional cost of a tour in the Far East is not that great and training/exercises can be completed which need to be done anyway to get our forces up to the desired standard. I was thinking the same thing when the idea for smaller ships to patrol the pirates was discussed. We need the Bay class, overkill for pirate patrols but the crew would be at sea anyway.

Any comments?

Chris.B.
Chris.B.
June 30, 2012 6:13 pm

@ Op3

Why bother though? What benefit justifys the increased cost?

McZ
McZ
July 1, 2012 11:59 am

@observer
“What is wrong with a government starting companies, stabilizing their economy and social systems, then privatizing it after the crisis to get money back?”

Starting nationalized companies has three problems:
– if operating in legacy sectors, they compete with private companies, the difference is easy access to government money and hence no need to get competitive
– if operating in innovation sectors, it would disencourage private initiative
– in both cases it doesn’t help to avoid competition from abroad

Btw, the negative input the austerity measures have shown on wages are due to the fact that relatively well payed governement jobs have folded.

The reason for ever increasing debt is due to ever decreasing COMPARABLE productivity in western countries. So, the real question should be: how do we expect to compete in a globalized world?

First, western europe as a whole has big problems with their education policies, largely due to the fact that nobody needs to struggle. We need to restrict the negative impetus of the welfare state on peoples will to advance economically.

Second, when looking @Germany: they have the ‘Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau’. It’s a government internal development bank, which invests in high-risk, innovatings sectors no private bank is interested in (at least not, if the produce is not put together by asian wage-slaves).

Third, how do we expect to make money through exports, and how do we make our companies ready for export? Once again Germany: every company can take ‘Hermes Bürgschaften’ (guarantees for the exporter on the outstanding payment).

Fourth, the government needs to end practice to sell capital imports as ‘investment’. Required is national capital accumulation through savings.

Fifth, to achieve this, we have to balance the trade deficit. Which means: fewer energy imports.

Sixth, why does it happen that british scientists are leading almost any industrial innovation wave and the UK as a nation gaining so few economical advantage out of it? My take: because the once greatest nation of practitioners became a nation of unconfident hesitators.

Any of those points can be achieved, but any of them would require the politicians to aspire LESS state.

Observer
Observer
July 1, 2012 7:37 pm

I did mention in the start of the paragraph

“I’m actually a very strong avocate of government controlled companies, provided they are run as COMPANIES, not as welfare”

Continually feeding money into a company after startup and not staying competitive fits into a broad definition of welfare, only this time for civil servants.

– if operating in innovation sectors, it would disencourage private initiative
– in both cases it doesn’t help to avoid competition from abroad

This part is true, but it would be a better solution to unemployment than Parliment getting on their knees and praying for divine intervention. And it was suggested as a temporary measure for the economy, to be released as a company in its’ own right later.

“My take: because the once greatest nation of practitioners became a nation of unconfident hesitators.”

This is one of the reasons why I suggested the government make the 1st move, with investors being scared off from starting new businesses in the current climes, there is less work for people, hence increased unemployment -> gloomy economic outlook -> less startup companies -> less jobs. A vicious cycle.

Income direct to government coffers isn’t such a bad idea too, less pain from austerity measures and less social unrest as the public is less affected.

It’s a real mess out there…

Chris.B.