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


A guest post from Sir Humphrey.

This is the third part of the short series on UK Defence engagement in the Far East. So far the article has reviewed our commitments, our force levels and our potential engagement. Now in the short final part, we look briefly at the future, and try to get some mobile phone signal on the crystal ball…

What level of engagement is likely to occur in the near future?

So far this article has focused on the level of UK interest in the region, which it is clear is an area in which HM Government has very significant political and economic interests, but which is not a region that presents a direct military threat to the UK.  A good primer on the wider UK level of interest in the region can be seen in the transcript of a speech by the UK Foreign Secretary (William Hague), made in April 2012, which summarises the overall level of engagement by the UK in this region. A copy of the speech can be found HERE.

In terms of the level of future presence and engagement, this author would suggest that the current pattern of activity would seem to be about right – there is a regular flow of staff talks, and international discussions on all manner of issues between the MOD, wider Govt and other nations with whom the UK can work. These are in many ways the main forum for co-operation – by keeping the dialogue alive, even at a relatively infrequent or low level, channels of communication are maintained, and make it easier to ramp up relationships in due course when resources and international interests permit.

A good example of where defence relationships are likely to improve through lower-level talks, and potentially exchanges of information in future, is the recent UK/Japan defence co-operation memorandum, signed in April 2012 (link HERE).

Similarly, the current exercise programme, primarily focused on occasional deployments of RN vessels, backed up by the odd wider deployment of an RAF fighter element to support exercises with the FPDA, seems to be a roughly appropriate level of engagement.

While it is fun to consider the world of ‘what ifs’ the reality is that HM Govt has a limited amount of funds to spend, and Defence is even more limited. With no genuinely credible threat to our interests in the region, it is hard to see the justification for a massive upsizing of purely military resources out there. Instead, this is an area where ‘soft power’ should be used to maximum effect to ensure that UK interests are protected.

This author’s strictly personal predictions for the next few years (based on nothing more than a spot of thinking) would be though:

  1. The UK defence footprint in the region will remain relatively static, albeit with the occasional opening or closing of a Defence section.
  2. The UK will continue to see FPDA as the main focus of military engagement, and deployments to the region will be designed to coincide with major exercises.
  3. Task Group deployments and solo escort deployments will occur, but not necessarily on as frequent a basis as has previously occurred. Future deployments are likely to showcase specific high-end capabilities for training rather than perhaps a fully balanced task force.
  4. The UK will continue to engage in staff talks and international engagement with most countries in the region, but this will not necessarily translate into any form of meaningful and substantive military engagement in the region.
  5. Continued operations against piracy will see engagement with some nations that the UK would not normally operate with (for instance Korea and China), and valuable multi-national operational experience will be gained in this manner, even if there are limited exercises in the region itself.

The reality is that in an age where an overstretched defence budget has to cope with many demands, the ability of the forces to sustain a commitment to a region with negligible threats is limited. Although it is currently unlikely that there would be a permanent withdrawal of UK assets from the region, it will almost certainly remain an area where the UK will seek to influence and engage by means other than the military in nature.


The Far East is the region that most ‘internet fantasy fleet’ discussions get most excited about when talking on ideal future structures of the RN, or how they’d use the existing network of relationships and alliances to put UK troops in the area on a permanent basis.

The reality is that the UK doesn’t need this sort of permanent presence – the threat to justify it doesn’t exist, and the costs associated with permanently basing a large proportion of the armed forces in the region simply can’t be justified by the level of concerns associated with the area.

The current situation, where a primarily diplomatic network, merged with some small exercises and ship visits, works to remind nations of the UK interest, but then exercises, training or co-operation on operations occurs elsewhere, seems to work well and provides for an appropriate level of engagement.

It remains highly unlikely on current international trends that there would be a major shift in UK presence or posture within the region within the next 2-3 years. Therefore, this author would suggest that the current UK military presence in the Far East is entirely appropriate, and in line with the nature of the challenges posed by a vastly complex region.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short series of posts about a fascinating region. If the interest is there, then over the next few weeks and months, I will turn my attention to other parts of the world.

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205 Responses

  1. An excellent and informative series of posts Sir H! I for one would certainly like to read your views on other areas.

  2. I entirely agree with you’re point of view and future predictions Sir H.

    We all like to play fantasy fleets, but realistically their isn’t the money for an immediate expansion of military involvement, and furthermore the Far East doesn’t represent a direct threat to our interests and so just isn’t a priority.

    I think, as you say, that the best plan for the near future is the soft approach. Maintain our current commitments, have the occasional deployment for some specialist training and keep some of the diplomatic chatter going. Brunei, Singapore and Diego Garcia make provision for a fairly rapid and effective build-up in the region, if, heaven forbid we faced some kind of crises.

    The only possible fantasy I would indulge is the idea of an Anglo/Indian partnership filling the prospective void at Diego Garcia if the Americans want to leave in 2016. Nothing fancy though, I reckon that a very minimalist ‘footprint’ in residence would suffice.

  3. Sir H, I agree a very informative series. I also agree with the conclusion that beyond a very unlikely significant event which directly challenges the UK’s or allies existence, nothing drastic is going to change over the next 10 years or so.

    I would say though that low level changes such as investment in the naval base facilities at Singapore, a permanent presence at Diego Garcia of a MRV or two and continued training exercises / defence pact initiatives would reflect appropriately the growing relevance of the region.

  4. V interesting mini-series…and we even found three births for the RN in Singapore in the process.

    I think this Americans leaving DG in 2016 is a myth created on this site (prior to Sir H taking the baton!). There was a “what discussions” question about it in the Parliament v recently and the answer was “none”.Also the 40 staff there seem to be a pure adjunct to the American base.

    Adding to “Brunei, Singapore and Diego Garcia make provision for a fairly rapid and effective build-up in the region” I think I saw a glimpse of the integrated air defence network remaining in place (from the bad Indonesian days) and a couple of RAF bods being with the central node of it; that might be dated information though?

    Finally at the time of the SDSR there was talk about a bilateral defence treaty with Australia, the FPDA being seen as too nebulous (a point of view that I do not share). I guess nothing came out of that?

    As Sir H says, the resourcing level has been well optimised while at the same time leaving room for rapid growth should that for what ever reason be required.

  5. I believe that, in addition to diplomacy, this nation would benefit from being able to submit a small intervention/stabilisation force to work with other nations in the area (FPDA).

    I think that this would constitute something like a single showcase escort and a single RFA (Bay or tanker) and would (I hope) simply be a relocation of assets we had around the Indian Ocean. i.e. no permanent presence, but a nearby presence that can be re-tasked if necessary.

    I therefore agree rather a lot with Sir Humphrey’s three posts on East of East of Suez. A very informative few posts. Thanks.

  6. @ Sir H – Great series, However I am not aware of any UK forces committed to FPDA exercises in the last few years. Perhaps you could fill us in. The last deployment I can remember to Singapore was Taurus 09.

    I think the UK should commit to sending at least one major combatant every year be it a T45, Astute or T23 for some sort of annual FPDA exercise with a possible visit from an ARG or once we have them again CSG bi annually. This would be well with in our capabilities and it may serve to reinvigorate the FPDA.

    While I agree that the UK her self faces little in the way of threat in the area the same cannot be said for our allies. Tension’s in the Spartly Islands and Scarborough Shoal continue to rise. Malaysia in particular as well as Brunei who do not share the same relationship with the USA as the Philippines must be increasingly alarmed and I think they should quite rightly expect some form of support from HMG.

    That being said neither we nor they want to inflame the Chinese so our presence would have to be more low key that the USA’s.

    Given the wind down in the Stan I think now is the time to start looking back towards such things.

  7. Back in the 1960s the late Vice-Admiral Sir Louis Le Bailly proposed in a paper that RN establish a task force for the India Ocean area so that there was a force to help support Africa, Gulf, and contribute to FP.

    What did for our EoS presence was a need to concentrate diminishing resources on the North Atlantic not because it wasn’t needed. Now, apart from the deterrent, there is no great need for the navy in the North Atlantic.

    What surprises me when I read anything about EoS and UK defence today is that younger amongst us (and dare I say those not as steeped in the UK’s maritime history) there is a sense that the Indian Ocean is a stretch, a reach, that it is exotic, and alien to us. Yet for a long time it was “our” ocean. In the space of my short life we have gone from a global security outlook to a parochial one where we abdicate our decision making on security to others and see only as far the Continent.

  8. Churchill definitely did not want to “let go” regarding India
    RE “Yet for a long time it was “our” ocean.”
    – so, x, what’s the moral of the story?

  9. @ ACC

    The moral is “don’t waste time on the internet when there is work to do”…… :)

    Quickly, the Indian Ocean is perhaps the best place for us to concentrate our defence efforts.

    Got to go.

  10. @ X – I would agree with the point that there is little need for the navy in the North Atlantic or even the med and we should look to concentrate what spare capacity we have in the IO as its the area they are most likely to be useful. We actually have a fair presence in the region in the Gulf and the Anti piracy patrols however for some reason we have refused to categorise this force as a single command i.e. an Eastern Fleet.

    Not sure why, half the time I think we outnumber the fifth fleet in the area.

  11. Just checked the fifth fleet and it still larger than what we have out there. Will be interesting to see what happens to it though with the draw down in the region.

  12. martin, google it
    – over the next couple of years the 5th Fleet will be the beneficiary of “repivoting”
    – only in the longer run the true Pacific fleet will benefit
    – guess why the first four of the transoceanic LCSs will be based out of S-pore? So that they will be within a steaming distance from the Strait of Hormuz (they can only cross so many oceans in a hurry)

    @ x, a while back you wrote a v considered comment on setting more focus on the IO; it seems that the RN history books get the better of you when you are in a hurry?

  13. Perhaps the Americans won’t leave Diego Garcia in 2016, however I think either way it’s an area where we could do with a bit more presence.

    I really believe that without getting too adventurous and fantastical we should have a more coherent force in the Indian Ocean. It would be a good way of staying on the sidelines of both the Middle and Far East as a sort of familiar observer, maintaining some soft power and building diplomatic/military ties with our regional allies.

  14. @ Martin re Med

    My main concern for the Med is that Arab Spring turns into a caliphate stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian border. A sort of latter day Islamic commonwealth similar to Medieval Christian Europe but with tangible external threats. All of a sudden the south shore of the Med is no longer friendly. And though not a threat to Europe on the same level as the Warsaw Pact still a threat; armed with Turkish and Chinese weapons, funded by the Gulf, and with a large manpower pool. I am not one of those Islamaphobe whack-jobs. I would be saying this if they were Methodists.

    @ ACC

    I say it as I see it. We live in a world where sending a navy ship to India is talked off in hushed tones like it is a moon shot. Whilst conveniently forgetting how much of what we buy comes from Asia in ships. No not the island don’t you know argument more pointing out a disconnect. I see the West needs to balance China and India. To do that it needs to position itself to be in contact with those two powers. We need to sit across the SLOCs to Africa and Australia. And I still maintain Gulf Oil is Chinese Oil and that if the interconnected world argument was total we wouldn’t be sitting here discussing defence.

  15. I’d like to see three “fleets”:

    1. Based in Blighty.
    2. Based in Ascension.
    3. Based in Diego Garcia.

    They seem strategically sensible places to be based.

  16. @ x, aren’t they already balancing each other?
    “the West needs to balance China and India”

    @ Simon, the USAF 60’s/ 70’s concept of Bare Base comes to mind,
    “2. Based in Ascension.
    3. Based in Diego Garcia”
    as in: there’s nothing there, you bring it all with you (once you deploy, BUT only for a limited period)

  17. The major issue with basing in Diego and Ascension is that we don’t have amy ship’s. We are stretched thin covering half the standing patrols. When the carriers come back they will suck up most of the escort fleet.

    We already deploy a fair bit in the way of assets to the IO. Diego Garcia is a good place to use for resupply ship’s etc. I think we could do with out the need for any major land based facilities out there. However I do think having a two star in the region with a fleet command is important. As Sir H points out having the people in place working on alliances can often be more important than the machines. a fleet HQ with offices in somewhere like Qatar would help us continue to build on the great work we already do in the region. If the USN does scale back dramatically on the 5th fleet which they may then we will be much better placed to capitalise. At present if congress does not gets its act together the US military is going to have to cut $ 1 trillion off its budget over ten years. They are working on the assumption at the moment that congress will work it out however I am not so sure.

    A Eastern Fleet would also put us in a better place for training with FPDA. Even stretched as we are to have a T45 in or near the gulf, the four MCM’s we currently have and maybe a one or two T23’s with an assortment of RFA vessels and an SSN is doable with our current fleet and budget. Indeed this is pretty much the force we have at present. Through in an annual visit from either an ARG or CSG conducting exercises’s with Gulf nations, India, FPDA and Indonesia and we could score a major diplomatic boost in the region with out having to spend much.

    These annual exercises especially in MCM, ASW and AAW could help us better show case our capabilities and may give a major boost to UK defence exports. We might even be able to start going back to RIMPAC once in a while.

  18. @ x- “Three powers in competition, just like just three legs, is more stable.”

    ohhh – the number of essays and articles debating that statement….

  19. The tsunami kept Japan away from the 13th year of this kind of exercises, between India, Singapore, US and Japan (may have missed out one?)
    “conducting exercises’s with Gulf nations, India, FPDA and Indonesia and we could score a major diplomatic boost in the region with out having to spend much.”
    – I think what we are trying to invent, has been invented already
    – how to barge into a party (are we late, uninvited, or both?)

  20. ArmChairCivvy,

    I get your point about the “bare base” but just think that our naval forces seem focused for rapid intervention. The best way to be rapid is to be in the vicinity already.

    DG is about a week away from most nations with coasts in the IO.
    Ascension is about a week away from most of the west coast of Africa and two weeks from, ahem, the Flaklarns – trying not to say it ;-)

    Trouble is I can’t decide where I’d like the carrier fleet to be based and where I’d like the assault fleet to be based – certainly not the UK, there’s no point (other than maintenance).

  21. Sir H
    Just wanted to say many thanks & BZ for your contributions here and over on TPL – they are much appreciated.

    If you are doing requests, then might I suggest West Africa?

    Our backyard, lots of historical involvement (including the only war we’ve unequivocally won in the last 20 years), rising strategic importance thanks to increasing production of oil and other resources, which in turn allow weapons procurement to pursue old ethnic divisions. Good microcosm of the Cold War against China. Plus it would be a perfect place to play with some SIMSS’s….

    Would be particularly interested in your take on what the USN are up to – my sense is that they’re paying lip service to the importance of the area but it always seems to be sacrificed to higher priorities. But that may change as the focus moves away from SW Asia.

  22. @ Swimming Trunks

    Yep. Right up with define the national interest , 2500 words, abstract not included.

    @ Simon re Ascension

    No those islands would be a better bet because of distant and anchorages. The FI were a coaling station at one time. A force in the IO is just as far from the FI as the UK.

  23. IO

    I agree (I think) with Sir H.

    Not a long way to go, not a long way to ship things thru, happens all the time. Not a long way to send a ship on a goodwill trip

    But it is a long way

    : To base anything other than ‘Forwards presence squadron’ (See the MCM’s and our contribution to the anti piracy team)
    And way to far to support any kind of serious solo military operation.

    Lets not get fantasy fleetish about this.

  24. x,

    “No those islands would be a better bet because of distant and anchorages. The FI were a coaling station at one time. A force in the IO is just as far from the FI as the UK.”

    Sorry, I don’t understand.

    Are you suggesting FI instead of Ascension (plus DG and UK)?

  25. @ Simon – I love playing fantasy fleets myself. However to base both a carrier and assault group over seas means we are going to need three of each.

    That’s a hell of an increase in the RN. I take your point about being close however we can move these type of forces from the UK relatively rapidly to the Med, Western IO or mid Atlantic.

    I just don’t think being able to save a few days on deploying forces warrants the massive extra cost. Also if we split up the assault and carrier task force then you risk a situation where neither can do the job until the other arrives. If we needed both in Sierra Leone for example and the assault force is at Ascension with the Carrier at DG then its going to take quite some time for the carrier to make it round.

  26. martin,

    I don’t think we’d need three of each (although I understand your concern). I’d work on one active carrier/LPD with the other in refit for 1-2 years. This means we’d need to rotate the crews (every 6-8 months) who would be based in Ascension or DG.

    As for getting things together I appreciate what you’re saying. I just think that for the most part we need to “fly the flag” and do intervention ops that could (and are/have been) conducted by carriers and/or assault ships.

    It’s only when things go “pear shaped” that we need to bring both fleets together and deploy them to the same location.

    Statistically it is not efficient to have them based from the mid-point of our reach. By this I mean it would be best to have them based in the UK if we might deploy them on our doorstep, but we wouldn’t, we’d use the RAF for those kinds of rapid response ops.

  27. @ ACC – You are correct there is a FPDA annual exercise but as far as I know our attendance has been somewhat lacking as of late. While nations like Singapore send units to RIMPAC it’s not a substitute for conducting large exercises closer to home where more of their fleet can get a chance to participate. The USN holds massive exercises in East Asia with Korea and Japan but as far as I am aware they do not hold anything similar in SE Asia. Certainly not regularly anyway.
    Giving Singaporean and Malaysian forces the chance to practice ASW against SSN’s and the like will I think be well appreciated in an area where Chinese naval ambitions are a concern. Show casing our kit which really is world class can’t hurt either. Many of these nations are beginning to purchase new kit to deal with the Chinese threat. If we bring in RAF units as well it could help with possible future sales of Typhoon to Malaysia and maybe even the Philippines.
    Using this as a format to work with Indonesia as well can’t hurt. It’s not trying to re-invent anything just simply meeting our existing commitments in a better way.
    As for India, I am not sure if they get the chance to train with anyone on a regular basis. The exercises the carried out with one of our T boats in 2010 during David Cameron’s visit seemed to go down well.
    Progressing further I don’t see what would be wrong with a RIMPAC type exercise for the entire IO possibly centered of DG. This would give EU navy’s as well as the USA a chance to participate. It should not be too difficult for us to send a decent sized force to DG once a year.

  28. My point about us attending RIMPAC was more as a chance to gain export sales for ASW, AAW and MCM kit all of which the Japanese, Koreans and others need. Just because we know its the best and the Americans do doesn’t mean that others do. Nothing sells a Sonar like having your subs located over and over again by one.

  29. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think we should base both carrier and assault fleets to DG in the IO.

    It spreads our global influence the most.

  30. You can’t station carrier or assault groups oversea’s, both because of the unjustified costs and the acute lack of vessels to actually do the job. As Martin said, a few days or weeks sailing time is worth the flexibility it brings the rest of the time. Plus without major installations I think you would find these capital ships heading back to UK far more often then one would like.

    Better to have low-end assets acting as forward presence. Heck even without ships, just maintaining overseas bases as potential jumping off points would suffice.

    As many other people have pointed out, soft power, such as training and very limited infrastructure, coupled with strong diplomatic associations is the way forward.

    Keep a vigilant, bystander role 99% of the time, with the ability to rapidly build up a credible force on the off chance it’s required.

  31. @Martin

    ‘Nothing sells a Sonar like having your subs located over and over again by one’.

    I think you hit the nail on the head. All of the talk and specifications can’t compare to a real-world demonstration. It’s only then that observers say ‘wow, this thing really does what it says on the tin’.

  32. I think we’re going in to fantasy fleet territory here; Sir H did say the current set up is more than adequate. However, Never one to pass up play fantasy fleets…

    In the past we have deployed squadrons as well as fleets; with the CVBG/ARG at home ready to sail in an emergency (Home Fleet?), could squadrons be deployed abroad? The smallest I can imagine with current and planned vessels would be 1 Type 45 and one Type 23/26 to compliment each other, with perhaps an Auxiliary in support?

    An alternative using suggested vessel ideas would perhaps be a squadron of (4?) Sloops (Black Swan, etc)with an auxiliary acting as depot ship with UNREP and different modular mission packages to increase flexibility, perhaps JSS or MESHD?

    Such a squadron could perform forward presence, theatre security, training, SLOC patrols, etc. If the threat level rises then the Home Fleet (or elements) can be called to give support

  33. I thought the point in FF2020 was for rapid reaction.

    Isn’t the reaction you’re suggesting no quicker than a load of ferry/container ships packed with regular Army/tanks and tankered Typhoons flown into the nearest friendly airstrip?

  34. Fantasy fleets, lovely!
    I would use DfID money to build an airstrip & deep water quay on all those remaining British dots. So Pitcairn for this region. Not base anything there, but know we have somewhere to operate from in an emergency.
    For Diego Garcia & piracy patrol, one permanent ship. I want something handy & cheap to fill the gap in the shipyards. My fantasy was a new Engadine, 2 Merlins, 2 Wildcats, but armed this time, with a 114mm gun & 20mm Phallanx taken from a retired T42.

  35. @Simon, the first place to base a new fleet would be Gibraltar, no question. The facilities are there and they can move south or east just as easily.

  36. The dedicated power station in GIB is now running the biggest server park in Europe – as we have two patrol boats there, and no power is needed at the moorings or in the repair docks (are they still there?)

  37. Repulse,

    Sounds sensible, but it still doesn’t put a “fleet” within minimum reach of nearly every 2nd/3rd world country – i.e. the ones that have (or will have) “problems” in the future.

    Just look at a globe – if you’re positioned at Ascension and DG (and the UK) you’re no more than 4000nm (ships range) of a lot of “interesting” places ;-)

  38. @ ACC

    They used to be a mini power station under the rock at Gib. The tunnels that aren’t yet open to the public have some interesting stuff all abandoned now of course, left to rot but interesting all the same.

  39. @ Simon

    At 500miles per day that’s a week sailing.

    Ascension isn’t suitable. If you are wedded to the idea look at Sierra Leone.

  40. X, I agree, I think Sierra Leone would make an ideal forward location but the facilities would need some serious work or we might accept that the type of support it would offer would be minimal

  41. Re; The Indian Ocean,

    Not quite sure why everyone is so keen to put a major combined arms/service battle group on Diego Garcia? What is it going to do? Why do you need it there? What Immediate international crisis do you forsee it having to respond to?

    If you want to put a permanent overseas naval presence anywhere you’d be better off putting it at both/either Gibraltar and/or Oman. You have forces then on both sides of the Suez canal and at either end of the med.

    More importantly, these are close to actual areas of interest for us. The Middle East is a large source of export orders for our military equipment, so being very close to them makes sense. These are also countries that Britain actually has some semblence of influence over.

    Gibraltar puts us close to the next source of plausible Al Qaeda tension, that being the Mahgreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia), and is close to Western Africa, which is likely to be a much more interesting place as far as our economy and energy is concerned in the future than the Indian Ocean.

    El Sid was right to highlight Africa. It is incredibly more interesting and important to our future than guarding ships full of plastic toys from Taiwan through the Indian Ocean.

    @ X
    “My main concern for the Med is that Arab Spring turns into a caliphate stretching from the Atlantic to the Indian border”
    — Only in Al Qaeda’s warmest dreams is this likely to happen. The Arab Spring isn’t quite the democratic revolution that the press would like it to be.

    “Whilst conveniently forgetting how much of what we buy comes from Asia in ships.”
    — Toys, shoes, plates, cups, all the life essentials ;) . If Greece wants a way out of its current plight it’d do well to look at all the stuff that’s being imported from the East and considering manufacturing some of that itself.

    @ Martin,
    “The major issue with basing in Diego and Ascension is that we don’t have amy ship’s. We are stretched thin covering half the standing patrols. When the carriers come back they will suck up most of the escort fleet”
    — On this point I have to agree with you 100%. We are struggling to cover some of the standing tasks. The last thing we need is to start permanently sending ships to go wondering around the Indian Ocean.

  42. x,

    Well it’s 4-days sailing for most coasts around DG and yes, 7-days sailing for the furthest islands to patrol in the South Atlantic ;-)

    Not sure what your reference to Sierra Leone is about?

    I’m not wedded to the idea it just looks like a point central to our interests rather than at one end (i.e. the UK).

  43. x,

    I think TD beat me to it.

    Why base a fleet (or capability) in SL when you have UK soil a few miles south? What’s wrong with Ascension?

    I admit it might need beefing up a little.

  44. Sir H

    Much enjoyable read over the three posts a really interesting region the far east and a area which will grow in importance significantly. With the instability along the north african coast and across the suez canal area I for one would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the med region given our bases in cyprus and gib and a popular holidaying region I suppose makes UK interest high I would have thought.

    Ive always seen the the RNs frigate force standing deployments as a sort of early warning system in each region offering time for the UK to ready a further contributions to a region should that be necessary I dont see why that should change greatly and for that reason a regular far east deployment maybe of benefit as opposed to deploying the fleet to Diego Garcia.

  45. @ Chris B

    Unlike Santa I don’t believe in Al Qaeda. Wahhabism, America turning to the Pacific, and “open elections” are probably more dangerous.

    As for the comment about life’s essentials I wasn’t on about what was shipped but the mode of transport and distance covered .

    @ Simon




  46. x,

    Ahh, the penny drops ;-)

    And I always thought South East bay looked like a great place to put a ship… perhaps my dingy will be okay moored there!

  47. I’d like to see three “fleets”:

    1. Based in Blighty.
    2. Based in Gibraltar (or Freetown, SL) :-)
    3. Based in Diego Garcia.

    They seem strategically sensible places to be based.

  48. @ X,

    Open elections are not really much of a threat. Most of the extreme religious parties have agendas about the rest of government that are on an intellectual par with the kid of thing you’d expect to see from the BNP. They may hold some nice rallies here and there, but they lack any real widespread support. And in countries like Egypt, you can elect whoever you want to government, it’s the military that holds the real power.

    As for the shipping to and from Asia, if you’re not interested in what is being shipped then who cares? You don’t protect ships because they’re ships, you protect them because they have something of value in them. Why protect shipping lanes to the Far East if you don’t care what’s in the ships?

  49. Chris B said “As for the shipping to and from Asia, if you’re not interested in what is being shipped then who cares? ”

    My point was “we” (well not me in that we more the collective you) hum and haw when anybody mentions sending a RN ship East of Suez. But we use goods that have travelled those distances by ship every day. At one time the RN had ships everywhere. But when I read stuff here it makes me think that some believe when we are talk about sending a ship out past the Arabian Sea it is like we are attempting a moon shot. Not interested in the goods themselves or the we are an island don’t you know only the distance ships move.

    @ Simon

    Ascension is the top of a volcano. It is round; sections of cones often are. It sits in the ocean in the middle of a healthy major current. Round things in streams of liquid or gas produce low pressure zones. Consequently the sea gets very lumpy around the island. Not good. Islands also tend to create their own weather too…..

    Give the Sierra Leone government £250million of the over seas aid budget and they would happily let you base Trident there…….

  50. Simon,

    with you on the 3 fleets concept, and within each of those 3 fleets a 3-way cycle of ops, training and maintenance. I’d assume that an Andrew officer would do some staff estimating on deployment cycles for the DG and Ascension fleets to ensure that the boys and girls get sufficient time back in the UK, so perhaps an 18 way cycle in ratios*** of (1:1:1)^3:1(1:1:1):1(1:1:1) between the UK and the forward bases (sounds complex, it’s really only simple maths – think of big slow turning gears and smaller faster turning gears)

    *** Gives you a need for 21 escorts doing 12 month tours in the UK fleet on 3 four monthly cycles, and 4 months in 12 in the second 12 month period forward deployed, plus 4 months sea training, to guarantee at any one time a minimum of 3 fully worked up escorts (one each from UK, Ascension and DG) plus another 3 at training readiness – 2 weeks? If you had 3 flagships (whether 2 x CVF + Ocean / Albion / Bulwark) you’d have a mustard little naval reaction force. Everything else like subs and MCMs and RFAs in multiples of 3 or more makes it all very sweet.

    Nice thing is, you can do your defence diplomacy and Caribbean drug patrols, etc, while in the Ops or Training cycle.

  51. @ Simon

    Further the cone of the volcano means the sea bed as such falls away rather quickly too.

  52. X,

    knowing the current and past Government’s for screwing things up royally, after the £250M contract for some new submarine sheds in Sierra Leone, they’d let the security contract to G4S and those numpties would immediately then try to recruit the West Side Boys to do some high-viz jacketing, only to find that none of them turn up.

    Apart from the very odd incident on Astute in Portsmouth a couple of years ago, when an armed guard started firing (killed someone? I seem to recall), Jolly Jack Tar can normally be relied upon to keep his berthed ship somewhat safe.

  53. @ X,

    “But we use goods that have travelled those distances by ship every day. At one time the RN had ships everywhere. But when I read stuff here it makes me think that some believe when we are talk about sending a ship out past the Arabian Sea it is like we are attempting a moon shot”

    The problem is that a container ship travels one way and then rests up in port while being refilled. It then returns home. A Royal Navy ship would need to travel all the way out and then do a series of visits for it to be worth while. How much time do you get in the Far East before harmony guidelines start to rear their head?

    And more to the point… why do you need to send a ship to the Far East in the first place? What does it actually achieve? It’s no good sending anything that far unless it serves some kind of purpose.

    The only explanations I ever here for doing this is defence diplomacy. But how much actual value does a Frigate generate? How much diplomatic weight does it actually contribute? And why that region?

    I don’t understand why people are so keen to spend good money exerting a minimal level of influence over a region that has very little interest to us from a military perspective and that we have very little ability to engage in.

  54. @ Chris B

    I am not on about the specifics of certain ships. What I am on about is an abstract ship travelling to the Indian Ocean. Not bothered about the engines that drive said ship, its colour, its crew size, whether said crew have leave or are shackled to their oars at the start of a commission or what ever. I was just talking about ships and the distances they can travel in a very general way.

    @ James

    It was last year in Southampton. I think Astute was there for Z Berth proving.

    Matelots with rifles? Um. I am sure Somewhat and APATS are very safe with smoke poles.

  55. @ X

    Maybe I’m missing your point, but a ship doesn’t exist in that kind of vaccum. We don’t just send, “a ship” to travel “a distance”. We send a frigate, or we send a mine hunter, or we send an assault ship. It has a crew and it has certain needs in terms of sustainment that we have to consider. It’s travelling to achieve an objective.

  56. I think setting up overseas bases that are not normally used is the way to go. We lack the ability to even put OPV’s into these bases which would offer relatively little utility anyway. SL and Kenya represent great opportunities. SL has the third largest harbor in the world and Kenya is desperately looking for funding for a container port and will have to turn to China. If we could get DFID to pay for large port facilities in SL and Kenya it would do a lot to spur economic development across the entire continent. In would not be much of a stretch to throw some births for RN warships and an RAF airfield near by as part of the plan. In SL in particular we could likely get BNP, Rio Tinto, De Beers and Xstrata on board to improve access for bulk containers and spur growth in the mining industry.
    If we used the soft power options available to us in a coordinated way we could really help both UK plc and the people of the third world while at the same time further enhancing our diplomatic and military reach.
    Putting a naval bases on Ascension island likely offers us little. There is no real conceivable need for a large naval fleet in the area and building facilities on a world renowned nature site would be difficult and expensive. There is also no way DFID would pay for it.
    Basing a fleet in GIb offers us little other than saving half a day on deployment. We would still have to go to all the expense of basing people there not to mention winding up the Spanish.
    @ Chris B – I have to agree with you that if we were to base anywhere out east it should be the Gulf. Oman would be the natural option however Qatar seems to be taking an increasingly active role and is defiantly someone I would like to work more with.
    Many of the options outlined here i.e. squadrons in the IO of 1 T45 1 T23 and some MCM’s with a few auxiliaries is exactly what we have now. Tying this together under a rear admiral based in the gulf might give us a major diplomatic boost with little in the way of cost.
    I believe we already have a naval staff in Dubai coordinating anti piracy patrols any way. Tying it together as a fleet command would also make it easier for us to assume control of international operations in the region.
    I suppose the key element is little or no cost.

  57. @ Chris B – I agree with you about the utility of a frigate in the far east. However I do believe its a key diplomatic and military region for us and the rest of the world. However when we send ships out here it should be for training missions with key allies and we should send something large an useful. I do not believe it would stretch the RN too much to have a bi annual rotation between an ARG and CSG coming out for FPDA exercise.

    I take your point about costs however if we have the ships anyway and we are paying the staff its better to send them out east than having them sitting on the quay side in Portsmouth.

    @ Red Trousers

    “with you on the 3 fleets concept”

    Welcome to the dark side :-)

  58. @ ChrisB – “And more to the point… why do you need to send a ship to the Far East in the first place? What does it actually achieve?”

    I think it comes back to the notion of being a regional+ Great Power, and outside of our region that boils down to SLOCS.

    In asia via the FPDA
    In ME via bilateral defence cooperation with Oman/Bahrhain/Quatar
    In Central America via our colonial possession
    Around South America via the Falklands


  59. W.R.T. the RN’s permanent presence in the Middle East, the UK has its Maritime Component Commander (with personnel embedded in the Fifth Fleet’s CENTCOM organisation) at Mina Salman in Bahrain. The UKMCC is also the Deputy Commander Combined Maritime Forces (DCCMF). The associated port facilities are currently used by the four RN minehunters and their supporting Bay class RFA deployed in the Gulf since 2006, plus other visiting RN warships and RFAs. The 10 acre site was previously HMS JUFAIR, the RN’s main base in the Gulf between 1943 and 1971. It is now called NSA Bahrain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Support_Activity_Bahrain) and is the HQ of CENTCOM (http://www.cusnc.navy.mil/). Also see:

    Combined Maritime Forces – http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/Operations/Enduring-Operations/Middle-East/Combined-Maritime-Forces

    UK Maritime Component Commander – http://www.cusnc.navy.mil/leadership/ukmcc.html and http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/News-and-Events/Latest-News/2011/November/30/111130-GF-UKMCC-Cdre-Ancona

  60. Chris B said “Maybe I’m missing your point, but a ship doesn’t exist in that kind of vaccum. We don’t just send, “a ship” to travel “a distance””

    Chris, mate, it was an abstract. There was nothing beyond a “ship”, a modern ship capable of transoceanic voyages, travelling between here and the Indian Ocean. Nothing to do with crew sizes, international politics, costs of doing so, weapons, containers, their worth or utility, their worth or utility compared to another military system, etc. etc. All I am on about is a ship moving a distance, a vague distance of here and somewhere in the Indian Ocean and here, and another ship vaguely coming from China to here. Both of which naval architecture has been able to deliver for the last 300 years or so. When somebody says there isn’t enough room to swing a cat there aren’t set measures for cats or lengths of arms or how far off the wall cat has to be. Not many know the exact dimensions of the proverbial London Bus but it has been an apocryphal stand of measure for over a century. ALL I said was we live in an age where one sort of ship travels great distances and compared it, hypothetically, to another type of ship and alluded to how some regarded the deployment distance. For the former it isn’t questioned, for the latter to some such distances seem along way. Two perceptions of same class vehicle used in two separate spheres. Rather like how we discuss military systems here all day and then somebody says well war won’t happen because of a list of reasons. Difference between realist and liberal world view models; one set events, two different interpretations.
    Nothing more. There was no subtle hidden meaning. It was just a throw away observation. A ship of one type moves a long way not questioned. A ship of another type moves the same distance and as I interpret it it perceived here by many a great distance, beyond the military facts and in and outs.

  61. @ Dunservin – I take your point about forces in Bahrain, I see two issues with it though. By attaching our forces to the US 5th fleet we effectively gain zero diplomatic traction ourselves while subsidising US efforts in the region.
    Its not like the US government is going to say to Saudi or UAE don’t buy F15’s guys the Brits have helped us out a lot why not buy Typhoon.
    Secondly Bahrain as a regime has many flaws and it’s probably not the country in the region we want to work with. Qatar to me offers better options. In terms of bases facilities I doubt it would be much of a stretch to ether us Qatari naval facilities or get the Qatari government to pay for something.
    The UK’s gas contract with Qatar also make it our biggest strategic interest in the area.

    I am not saying we should not work with 5th fleet we obviously should but we should not be subjected to it.

  62. @Ali

    Don’t knock the deployment of high end assets on such deployments. The Somali pirates may not have “a sophisticated air force and anti-ship missiles” but other forces in the area do and any opportunities to monitor them in situ with a view to developing appropriate countermeasures should be exploited.

    I wish I was still in a position to read the ROPs (Reports of Proceedings) of the ships involved in such operations. They usually contain a fascinating wealth of information ranging from the performance of own and others’ weapons and sensors in the ambient conditions to the many and varied training opportunities presented while operating with the military and civil authorities, ships, submarines and aircraft of other countries with whom we rarely work except in extremis.

    Then there is the regional intelligence ‘take’, including a pretty interesting air picture in that part of the world, right down to cultural and political issues encountered while mixing with the high and the low in some fairly exotic locations. Par example, at the risk of infringing the Official Secrets Act, did you know that French diplomats are singularly unimpressed with the British idea of canapés and refer to them as “hens’ turds on toast”? ;-)

    All this data is fed back into the RN’s corporate knowledge base and used to benefit the rest of the Fleet and other official agencies. Little is wasted. It’s what helps us hone our edge for whenever and wherever the balloon goes up.

  63. Little worries about sticking a T45 right in the middle of an international fleet with Russian and Chinese vessels. Seems like a very easy opportunity for them to spy on her. Fingers crossed they don’t switch the SAMPSON on.

  64. @martin

    Please don’t take offence but I regret your latest post is a prime example of what I have previously termed ‘opinionated ignorance’. Professional personnel take such considerations into account as a matter of course and act accordingly.

  65. @Dunservin

    Fair point!

    Maybe we can look to use this as a training exercise to showcase Type 45 as a worthwhile vessel?


    Maybe look to do a similar deal for a forward base in Qatar as the French have done in Abu Dhabi?

  66. If we want to increase our presence in the IO maybe look to create a joint carrier group with India in the region? But of course we would have to match each others interests first but surely they are similar?

    For this maybe attach a Type 45 or a Type 23/26 to one of the Indian’s future carrier groups. You could also use this as a sort of showcase of these vessels and persued India in procuring some high-tech equipment from us.

    Just an idea of course!

  67. Nice post Sir H, as with many I agree with your outlook completely. Next deployment to FPDA will more than likely be a Type 45, though sales potential is pretty poor, rather missed a trick with the Aussies. Though I expect the Chinese will appreciate the intel gathering opportunity. Regarding generation, port visits have long since ceased to be ‘jollies’ and every one is now a result of the FCO submitting it’s effects requirements documents, turning every single visit into defence diplomacy/influence work or an essential maintenance package. Dauntless has been doing this splendidly with the Cape Verdians of late (http://www.world-traders.org/affiliations/dauntlessNewsletter.pdf).

    Some wonderful comments about deploying our prime AA capability to ‘fight piracy’. Think there might be a little else going on in the region there Ali, maybe a tad further north around the Strait of Hormuz?

    As for sailors with rifles, we have a few trained to a fair standard. They’re called Royal Marines. The rest undertake the same basic close combat shoot training as any soldier, one of the outcomes of the Cornwall incident. As qualified as anyone else in the three Services.

    Dunservin, agreed. The wine storage potential of the average French warship is awesome, having had a couple of very painful ‘entente cordiale’ hangovers!

  68. @ Dunservin

    Sorry to which post are you referring? Was it the one about the T45 being in close proximity to Russian and Chinese vessels?

  69. @martin

    Affirmative. There is nothing new about such situations and you can rest assured that appropriate precautions are taken. ;-)

    W.R.T. the establishment of foreign bases for our maritme forces…

    Wherever established, even a ‘bare bones’ naval base on some foreign shore is an expensive commitment in terms of rental, infrastructure, maintenance and personnel. Sod’s Law also states that it’s liable to be in the wrong place when a situation flares up.

    Far better to share allies’ facilities (such as we do with the US in Bahrain) where possible and rely on our existing assets such as Gibraltar, Cyprus, Ascension, Diego Garcia, Falklands, Singapore, etc., augmented by mobile ‘sea-basing’ using RFAs and STUFT. Sea basing is viable anywhere our maritime forces may be sent. It requires no footprint in a foreign land subject to the vagaries of local politics and enables rapid deployment (and/or swift withdrawal should the occasion deserve). It also has utility for myriad operations in peacetime ranging from disaster relief to the support of forces deployed on distant exercises or other expeditions.

    As things stand, we are struggling to justify the retention of our three surviving UK naval bases and avoid the risk of having all our maritime eggs in one or two baskets. Somehow, I can’t imagine the political will to establish even more bases further afield in the foreseeable future.

  70. Great piece. As always Sir H

    If we want to really win friends and influence people. Instead of sending a sole T-23 or a T-45 on diplomacy work. The UK would better off building and sending a new Royal Yacht off to Foreign Climes. With the Priince of Wales and especially the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on board, now that would be good for business. Getting rid of RY Brittania was disastrous for British Exporters.

  71. @Dunservin

    Maybe sharing the US facilities in the region of the French facility at Abu Dhabi as an extension of the Anglo-French defence pact?

  72. I’d agree with that, Simon257. Getting rid of the Royal Yacht was a narrow-minded objective of the bitter class-warriors in the Labour party.

    Not replacing the Yacht was all about symbolism, ignoring the reality of international trade and the work done by our embassies, trade delegations, and even warships while carrying out ambassadorial roles. Plus, receptions held on the Royal Yacht could impress and captivate foreign leaderships in a way that a visiting bog-standard little frigate never could.

    Personally, I think we should invest in another Royal Yacht; though given its flag-waving diplomatic and trade role -rather than any actual military role- the FCO should pick up the tab for buying, fitting and running the vessel, with the Royal Navy covering only the crew.

  73. Darts with that fine crew in 1973… and a friend of the RN forever after; can FCO do that?
    – Red Arrows do similar things, leaving a lasting impression, but the budget always seems to attract darts

  74. Getting Rid of the Royal Yacht was silly, The replacement was budgeted at just £ 10 million. I also think its crazy that government has never been able to agree on some form of Airbus transport i.e. RAF 1.

    It looked pretty shitty in Jakarta when call me Dave rolled up in an african 747 that was not even allowed to fly in EU sky’s when he was specifically trying to negotiate a Airbus deal.

    For a nation with the second biggest aerospace industry in the world this looks bad.

    The decision to scrap the yacht was nothing to do with the Labour governments class war. The decisions was taken by the palace which was put in charge of its own transport budget.

    @ Dunservin – I would agree with you in term of spending on naval facilities except in the Gulf. I think this region is too important for us to just ride along on the US coat tales.

  75. Martin, it was definitely a class war decision by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Even Mr Blair admitted since that it was a bad idea. If rumours are to believed, Her Majesty the Queen, blamed Gordon Brown personally for the withdrawal of Brittania.

  76. Ah Tony Blair that renowned class warrior. The decision to scarp the yacht and not replace her was taken by the major government in 1994. Labour simply did not over turn the decision. As major said later the thought of forking out £50 million when the country was in the depths of recession and the Royal Family was mired in scandal was too much.

    I think this diamond jubilee year would be a great time to fund a replacement though. Times are tough and the guardian is likely to make a big deal of it but £50-80 million is hardly a lot of money to the UK and I am sure she will pay for her self 100 times over with trade deal’s and the like.

  77. A medical ship performing medical diplomacy would be an alternative idea…

  78. Re Britannia

    Not a fan of HMY to be honest. Apart from her engines she has never been of much interest to me as a ship. But as a “venue” for transmitting soft power and influence she probably paid for herself many time over. The Danes have a lovely royal yacht,


    as do the Norwegians,


    The latter are rich so can be excused indulgences. But the former are more happy clappy wet liberal than we are so it is a mystery why we should be without.

  79. @ Jedi – very interesting link. Ties in what I’ve been thinking vis a vie Engish School Theory and developing a British Grand Strategy.

  80. Talking of Dauntless, her CO had a brief interview on Radio 5 last night :

    As it happens Bob Work has been turning up on ID again, he’s quoted a figure of the USN needing 4.57 ships in CONUS to maintain 1 forward – that’s one reason why they’re looking to forward bases to try and improve that ratio, but he reckons a new overseas base is $5-6bn….

    I like the idea of a really adventurous design for a new Royal Yacht, like the FSP21 sailing ship or the really high tech one – I can’t find it on a quick Google, the closest I can find is the Britannia 2000 (http://www.minimalhome.com/article/show/26 – warning, gratuitous music) but the one I’m thinking of was a lot more bonkers. The FSP21 now seems to be being pitched as a http://www.universityoftheoceans.org but the server is down at the mo. There seems to be a separate appeal at http://www.jubileeyacht.org.uk/faq/ to raise some money to buy an existing superyacht for use by the Royals and other purposes.

  81. The USN needs 4.5 ships to maintain one deployed? Wow – that’s considerably worse than what we work on! Mind you we are running our ships flat out and virtually on back-to-back deployments, so the Yanks have the luxury of a little more fat in their system. Sorry, at 4.5+ a LOT more fat, AND they spend considerably longer at sea than we do. Interesting.

  82. Re Royal Yacht.
    The last years of Britannia. Prince Phil got slagged off by the red tops for having a hol on board. Did he not know how much a day it cost to run? Scared off the royals, so the year after, the same red tops screamed look how few days a year Britannia is used. The royals could not win either way.
    Any new royal yacht faces the same problem.
    At the time & still today, I say we should have stretched a frigate/destroyer(new build), with a multi space amidships that could be switched from exhibition space to dining room or conference hall easily. VIP cabins above.
    Could do normal escort duties, but be switched to defence diplomacy when needed.

  83. SomewhatInvolved,

    “The USN needs 4.5 ships to maintain one deployed“.

    No, El Sid said…

    “..USN needing 4.57 ships in CONUS to maintain 1 forward…”

    There’s a significant difference and the level of that difference is dependent on how far forward it is maintained.

  84. ACC
    HMS Mermaid. They failed to mention it sank HMS Fittleton on 20 Sept 1976.

  85. @ Martin,
    “However I do believe its a key diplomatic and military region for us and the rest of the world.”
    — Why? What diplomatic or military benefit do we gain from the region? What can we offer beyond a very little contribution? As a commercial market it’s growing and certainly our businesses could exploit that, but they can (and will) do that independent of the military and diplomatic corps. If you want to help that region, boost the FCO budget for South East Asia. There is really no military role for us down there beyond some training opportunities.

    “I think it comes back to the notion of being a regional+ Great Power, and outside of our region that boils down to SLOCS,”
    — Repeat after me; we are NOT a Great Power.

    @ X,
    “A ship of one type moves a long way not questioned. A ship of another type moves the same distance and as I interpret it it perceived here by many a great distance, beyond the military facts and in and outs”
    — I don’t think anyone here doubts that if we really wanted to we could sail a Frigate right around the globe. I can’t imagine anybody in their right mind here looks at transoceanic ships and wonders what black magic is in their engineering spaces that allows them to travel such distances.

    I don’t see ships visiting the far east as an engineering challenge. However it is a personnel challenge (time) and when we have resources as limited as we do thanks to cut backs, everything we do has to be justified. If we are struggling to meet our standing tasks then there has to be some justification before we start sending ships off on new tasks out to the far east.

    I think that is what makes people baulk at the suggestion of sending warships to the far east.

  86. Only in the UK could we have this situation like this with Britannia. Most MP’s on both sides of the Parliament think it is a good idea. I dare say even the biggest chunk of the great unwashed would agree. Other than a few wingers at the Guardian most of the country wants it but no politician has the balls to suggest it.

    Typical UK political mentality.

  87. It is hard to justify.

    Think about it from the Governments position; you’ve just laid off a whole bunch of people, including serious cut backs to the armed forces. You’ve slashed pensions and taken a scythe to many areas of public spending. And now you want to spend several million quid (who actually seriously believes it will come in on time and on budget?) on a new yacht for the Royals so they can have holidays and cocktails parties.

    That will get you slaughtered in the press by any editor with a modicum of a nose for a good kicking.

    And the benefits? Again, we all talk about influence and how much it would pay back, but how do we know this? How do we measure it and then show the tax payer “your x amount of millions spent will result in y gain”?

  88. @ Chris B – If we were talking about a lot of money I might agree with you. Even at £ 100 million it’s well with in the stationary budget for the DFID.

    If its built in the UK which it would have to be we would get a big chunk back right away in higher taxes etc. Even if the ship helps close one deal in her life time she would pay for herself in extra exports.

    @ Swimming trunks – Its easy for the politicos to support a charity concept. Quite another to put their hands in their pockets. Its not really the same as a Royal Yacht either. Not to say I am against it I am in favour of it.

  89. @ Swimming Trunks – “very interesting link. Ties in what I’ve been thinking vis a vie Engish School Theory and developing a British Grand Strategy.”

    To the limited degree that i understand IR theory I favour Wendt’s Constructivism, but I am not really in a position to provide a theory specific critique of the stratehic snapshot documents.

    For what its worth I think they are often flawed in making assumptions about the EU’s cohesiveness as a single actor, in ignoring the social and cultural history that informs the preferences of the constituent nations, but the principle outlined in the map seems sensible enough.

  90. @ Martin,

    £100 million maybe small change to DfID, but any newspaper editor with half a brain will do a splash front page showing soldiers walking out of a camp with bags over their shoulders and have the concept art of the new yacht underneath it, along with some suitably outrage rousing headline.

    Now given how much she would cost to build and then run, she’d need to close more than one deal, unless it was a biggy.

  91. @ ChrisB – “Repeat after me; we are NOT a Great Power.”

    From wiki:

    “A great power is a state that is recognized as having the ability to exert its influence on a global scale.”

    Really, is that not Britain?

    “Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength and diplomatic and soft power influence which may cause small powers to consider the opinions of great powers before taking actions of their own.”

    Yup, still sounds pretty familiar, but lets have a closer look:

    “International relations theorists have posited that great power status can be characterized into power capabilities, spatial aspects, and status dimensions.”

    Novel stuff, lets have a closer look at those three functions:

    “Power dimensions
    In his essay, ‘French Diplomacy in the Postwar Period’, the French historian Jean-Baptiste Duroselle spoke of the concept of multi-polarity: A Great power is one which is capable of preserving its own independence against any other single power.”

    Sounds pretty much like Britain.

    “Spatial dimension
    Other suggestions have been made that a great power should have the capacity to engage in extra-regional affairs and that a great power ought to be possessed of extra-regional interests, two propositions which are often closely connected.”

    Ho hum! The very definition of the Regional+ strategy.

    “Status dimension
    Other important criteria throughout history are that great powers should have enough influence to be included in discussions of political and diplomatic questions of the day, and have influence on the final outcome and resolution. Historically, when major political questions were addressed, several great powers met to discuss them.”

    Hmmmm, there was some stuff called; UNSC, G8, and other such jazz i recall………

    So, i’ll finish with a question: if not us, who?


  92. the combination of goods [and] services has been over 50% to the RoW for well over a year now.

  93. One of the reasons I was suggesting oversea basing was due to the increase in “business” with the up-and-coming countries (i.e. with “business” comes “trouble”).

    These obviously include China, but more realistically India and Brazil. The thing about Brazil is that it should (hopefully) lift the whole of South America out of the doldrums – that’s one huge market!

    With Ascension no longer a viable option for forward basing towards South America and FI being rather too sensitive to build up I’m at a loss to know how to “protect our interests” in the future in the most cost effective manner.

  94. I would say we are a tad more independent than most think but not much. And probably a little more independent than France, but not by much. The difference is the French state acts as if it is independent for the good of France; the British state acts cowed and apologetic. An example; the French sink a trawler belonging to a pressure group causing trouble and give a Gallic shrug; the British sink a cruiser of an aggressive enemy state that is a threat and for decades after we guiltily rake over the coals. There is also always this allusion to the system knowing better that their game play is subtler and beyond the intellect of the (rapidly depleting numbers of) voter, the man on the street, for who supposedly the state acts. Then again we sat that here with military matters don’t we? From a defence perspective that is why these constant reductions are so annoying. They numbers of servicemen and platforms we have had may not be up to fighting a pro-longed high end hot war, but the latter isn’t what we are facing. But for the small wars, interventions, evacuations and rescues, pirate chasing, etc. they are ideal if we keep our mass. We need 12 SSNs (a capability that still with force cuts elsewhere puts on the naval top table), we need a dozen to eighteen C17, we need a Parachute Regiment that parachutes regularly, we need AAR tankers that work and are of good value, we need Typhoon with a wide range of weapons, or any other example. We need some of that fat that has been trimmed as we are loosing depth; we don’t want to be the US, but having similar reach and capabilities even on small scale puts up there as a global player. But the biggest force multiplier HMG can deploy is that if pushed we act like the French or Israelis or any of those states who act in their own first and answer for the most part to their own conscience. That why the EU doesn’t trouble France because the French know the state will put them first. The EU bothers the average Briton first because he believes, and belief is all he needs, is that the British state will put the EU first. It is a fundamental disconnect between state and people.

  95. x, sure is
    How about a Europe of regions, just starting near us: Faroe Islands, Scotland, Ireland, The Rump (of)UK,Flanders, The District of Brussels, Wallonia, Basque Land, Catalunia…
    – would that fix it?

  96. x,

    I think the state does put the Briton first. The trouble is that we are so reliant on internationalisation for our way of life that it’s nearly always more important to placate, be that the EU or the USA. This tends to make this state look weak.

    It’s the same thing that’s been said on this site time and time again… shore up the finances first – it’s the foundation on which our way of life is built.

    Having said this, I don’t agree that it should be the case, but whilst ever we pursue the American way (material wealth) we will be stuffed. We need to rebuild this country from the ground up so that we know we can survive without anyone else. This means farming and community, then industry and government, and then, and only then we can purse the faceless multinationals along with a complete lack of national identity.

  97. Sounds like you agree with x (disconnect) and myself (regions, building on identities that actually exist, rather than have been made up)?

  98. @ Swimming Trunks – excellent read, thank you.

    very much favour Bull’s definition in requiring that the status be recognised by [both] others [and] themselves.

    one of the reasons i bang on about the Chatham House poll on Britain’s role in the world, and how it in large part hangs on continuing public support for an active military.

    question – having read only halfway through the chapter at this point: can a Great Power be defined in the 21st century as a Regional Power that is also a Middle Power? Or, is it only the necessary precondition for what may later become recognised (internally and externally) as a Great Power? Explanation – being a Regional Power without any opposing regional pole allows the freedom to magnify the projected effect of a Middle-Power into that of Great Power…… Example – By solving its strategic problem with Pakistan India would de-facto become a Great Power rather than merely a Regional/Middle Power.

  99. @ Simon

    I think it is more complicated than that. Even the US isn’t above the tensions of the nation state system; they are not truly independent but have a greater degree of independence. And the EU as France demonstrates has little power beyond that which states choose to give it or allow to be acted upon them. Which country has the highest outstanding number of infringements of EU treaties and conventions? Who is the second largest net contributor to the EU?

    As for our finances the UK, despite its debt(!), is still a very rich country. Our finances are in a shambles because of mismanagement not structural weaknesses. “We” choose not to do things, we are not bound to do them.

  100. x,

    I’d certainly hope it’s more complicated than I wrote – if that summed everything up perfectly then it’s easy to fix ;-)

    I don’t want to get into a grumpy-old-man type rant but although this country is still very rich it’s all relative. As more and more countries leapfrog the UK, even if we manage to keep our TVs, PCs and mobile phones, we’re being left behind.

    I still think (and I’m not suggesting that this is correct, it’s just my view from my window) that there is a structural weakness in the UK. It’s formed from lowering standards of education and the upbringing belief that “the world owes me”. We need a shake up :-|

  101. @ Simon

    The weakness comes from, wait for it, us “being an island don’t know you”!

    I think the UK entrepreneurial trading spirit has left us too open to the idea that our assets can be bought and sold, and that ultimately the market will deliver the best price. That entrepreneurial trading spirit comes from the simple fact that unlike the French we were soon dependent on outside trade to support the population which was compounded by advancements in agricultural that lead to specialisation. In some ways the UK is a prime example of a globised economy.

  102. @ Jedi – good question. Regional powers with no rivals in their region or reach a understanding with potential rivals can become a regional hegemon which would appear to be one of the preconditions for becoming a great power – for example the US securing its northen and southern borders (by very different means) and England securing its northen border via Union, a strong navy to protect from invasion and the grand strategy of balancing against the threat of a continental hegemon – but it also requires material capabilities, internal stability and an acceptance by your peers. For example, to my knowledge South Africa has no serious regional rivals and is certainly a regional power but appears to lack the desire or capabilities to become a regional hegemon and so a great power.

    To be honest its been a while since I read the book and I forget the exact definintions of Regional, Great and Super power but I believe it rests on capabilities, reach and acceptance.

    The US is a superpower because it is involved on the regional security complexes of more than 2 regions, has the capability to support that, and is accepted as a regional “player” by the states of that region.

    The US pivot is interesting because it hints at the possibility that it can nolonger, or doesn’t want to, continue being a Superpower. Its just a shift in focus at the moment but if it completely removes it self from a region then…

  103. x,

    “…In some ways the UK is a prime example of a globalised economy…”

    And is therefore sensitive to global stability –> requires soft/hard power projection –> lack of money, etc, etc, etc.

    Being reliant on things you can’t control is a recipe for disaster.

    Swimming Trunks,

    I thought the level of “power” that a country has is dependent on it’s capability to influence events, not necessarily it’s engagement in actually doing it. Isn’t this why Germany is considered by some to be more than just a regional power – her industrial “might” could regenerate a capability to become a Great Power again?

  104. @ Swimming Trunks – “The US pivot is interesting because it hints at the possibility that it can nolonger, or doesn’t want to, continue being a Superpower. Its just a shift in focus at the moment but if it completely removes it self from a region then…”

    Indeed, but define “remove” in the context of capability, reach, and acceptance.

    If I can speculate on definitions I have not studied, perhaps the pivot is recognition that it is no longer a hyperpower capable of unlimited freedom of action anywhere, so its pacific ceentury is no more than a re-prioritisation of resources still well capable of protecting its own independence in any given theatre.

    However, the uncertainty above seems equally relevant to Britain’s situation:
    1. We are a regional power
    2. We are a middle power
    3. By operating as part of the EU/NATO we are in effect a hegemon in what is therefore a monopole region

    Does this mean we are a Great Power?
    Or does it merely make us a Regional+ Power?
    What in essence is the difference between the two.

    Given that we will remain a top-ten economic power well beyond 2050, with a top five ability ability to project power in the same timeframe, and provided we retain a public willing to project power and neighbours that recognise than willingness, I’m not sure what the difference is between a Great Power and a Regional+ Great Britain………?

    If we aren’t a Great Power, who is?

  105. @ Jedi – again good qiestions which go to the heart of the problem. We are certainly a regional power but we have global responsibilities, both territorial and institutional so does that make us a Great Power? Or are we attempting to “punch above our weight” yet again? Do we need to choose a region or two to centrate on rather than trying to spread ourselves globally?

    China is a regional power but increasingly active in Africa and South America so increasingly seen as a Great Power, or will be soon. Do attempt to compete?

  106. In terms of terminology we (the UK) are a Great Power.

    There are, of course, greater powers, but few nations can project their influence as widely as the UK. I’m sure, however, that will all change within our lifetimes :-(

  107. “Do (we?) attempt to compete?”

    Yes, where they threaten british prosperity, and only via our local support groups.
    In africa via the EU
    In SA via the US
    In Far East via FPDA
    In ME via bilateral defence agreements

    But given that latter three are outside of our region the objective becomes more focussed, i.e. SLOCS.

    @ simon

    maybe not as much as you might imagine:

  108. If you want to know what type of power we are apply the Bismarck Test. You simply ask yourself, where would Bismarck place us. I believe he would say what he thought back then, that we are a maritime / global actor and a benign one but with potential to mobilise others to its bidding. We are not a regional power since we can not influence the region on our own and we are not a global power for the same reason. Not can we force anyone to do our bidding. But we are a global actor and can be coalition leaders.

  109. @ Justbeef and Phil – I think between you we may have an answer – we act as a “Hub” nation, linking different groupings and regions, promoting free trade and international diplomacy, as well as our own interests? Regional power/Global actor and first call ally? On our own small scale operations, key ally in coaltions offering TD’s capability plus?

    Does that count as Regional plus/Great power?

  110. @ Simon
    “As more and more countries leapfrog the UK, even if we manage to keep our TVs, PCs and mobile phones, we’re being left behind.”
    Who is leap frogging us. On a PPP basis of GDP per capita we are in a stronger position that we have been in a long time. Better than Japan, Better than France, Just recently moved behind Germany. Compare that to our position in the 1980’s and 1990’s when all of these countries were well ahead of us.
    While our finances are f**ked and our military budgets is being slashed we should not lose sight of the fact that ever yone else is in the same position or wosre. Power is relative so relatively speaking we are no worse of that we were.
    @ X – The UK is easily the best example in the world bar none of a truly globalised economy. Second biggest outward investor and second largest receiver of inwar investment on a far higher per capita basis that the number one player the USA.
    Weather this is a good or bad thing I suppose is open to debate.

    In terms of Great Power status we have it but out of all the great powers in the world we don’t use it. It’s interesting living in a foreign country to see just how much influence the UK has on the world. Most people in the UK really don’t comprehend the view that others have of us.

    @ Jedi

    “Does this mean we are a Great Power?
    Or does it merely make us a Regional+ Power?
    What in essence is the difference between the two.”

    Good question, The answer is aircraft carriers :-)

  111. martin,

    A nation’s power is not dependent on the GDP per capita otherwise Luxembourg or Qatar would be hyper-powers ;-)

    It’s to do with GDP or purchasing power and in the last few years we’ve been overtaken by Brazil and China and probably soon by India and Russia.

  112. true, but we will remain top-ten well beyond 2050.

    @ martin and Swimming collectively –


  113. The RN may be unable to compete with the might of the US Navy but, where maritime power is concerned, its senior officers still wield considerable influence compared to those of other allied navies. I have already alluded to Cdre Simon Ancona as Deputy Commander Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) at the Fifth Fleet HQ in Bahrain but other examples include:

    Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC, Commander Allied Maritime Command (Northwood) – http://www.manw.nato.int/page_cv_com.aspx and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Zambellas

    Vice Admiral Charles Johnstone-Burt OBE MA, Chief-of-Staff, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, Norfolk, VA – http://www.act.nato.int/biographies/chief-of-staff and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Johnstone-Burt

    Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, Operation Commander, European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) for counter piracy Operation ATALANTA – http://www.eunavfor.eu/chain-of-command-2/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duncan_Potts

    Rear Admiral Jon Westbrook MBE ADC, Chief-of-Staff, Allied Maritime Command (Naples) – http://www.manp.nato.int/Biographies/cos.html

    I assume our senior Army and RAF officers exert similar international influence in their own spheres.

  114. @ Martin

    I can never tell what others think of us. I think the Left oversell the myth that the brown/black/yellow man hate us with a passion. I think there is still a huge swathe of the American population who genuinely think a lot of Britain, while their politicians are more, um, pragmatic these days.

  115. @ Dunservin

    For me what puts the RN up there is our SSNs. I talk of 12, but I think we need 16, and perhaps a small force of 8 SSKs to support the whole venture. I have said here before I would rather have SSKs and extra SSNs over T26 in big numbers. Different platforms I know for different uses. But the submarine is really where we are on par with the USN.

  116. We are nothing like a regional power!

    Militarily and economically we cannot act alone to rapidly influence the region we exist in.

    We can as part of a coalition, or we can try over the course of decades using soft power, but that certainly does not make us a regional power. We therefore cannot be a world power either.

    There is no regional power in Europe. No one nation has the ability at present to make the rest of the Continent look over its shoulder like a united Germany or France were able to do. Or Soviet Russia. And there is only one global power, and no prizes for guessing who.

    Back in times forgotten, we were a Great Power simply by virtue of the fact that no enemy had caught up with our naval power or had no design or ability to.

    There is no way on Earth we are a Great Power. We are influential in a coalition, we act on the global and regional stage, we have a globalised economy, but we are definitely not a Great Power.

  117. As much as I hate giving bad news, Phil is right. The East of Suez policy and the subsequent “pivot” to Europe as a “co-equal partner”, killed Great Britain’s influence as a “Great Power” by conceeding the field and accepting a lesser role. The vacuum that resulted was filled by the US and by local increases in military, political and diplomatic fields. It’s going to be hard to regain what you once let go.

    Ironically, that policy was also the result of a shrinking budget. 1971, replay to 2012. Some things never change.

    It’s also not helped by the fact that the other regions have grown as well. Influence in coalition, act on global and regional stage, globalizes economy, many countries now fit these criteria. Fields in which only the “Big Boys” used to be able to play in are now open to many others.

  118. Sometimes looking in from the outside makes things so much clearer to see:
    “The East of Suez policy and the subsequent “pivot” to Europe as a “co-equal partner”, killed Great Britain’s influence as a “Great Power” by conceeding the field and accepting a lesser role.”

  119. Our Great Power status was based on three pillars in my view

    (a) Our island situation: this meant we were at a particular and almost unique situation of being able to choose our weapon – the Navy. We thus had focus.

    (b) Our money: this meant, we could oil the cogs of our allied armies and effectively sub contract a large part of the land war, thus still giving us focus whilst being able to have a land force and have great influence over that land force.

    (c) We had no peers at sea which meant we could control it by default. France, Spain and Holland all had to divert most of their resources to land forces. Germany did not exist. Italy did not exist. The US was not interested, Russia was not interested, China was historically uninterested as was Japan.

    What we see is our gradual loss of Great Power status as each pillar was eroded at different times:-

    –Our focus from the early 20th Century was lost as we had to divert resources to the air and eventually land forces.

    –Our money became far less useful relatively speaking as other nations caught up economically.

    –Germany united and developed colonial aspirations, Italy united and her navy started to grow, Russia and especially Japan began to grow their navies and the United States grew hers.

    So at the eve of WWI our Great Power status was already on life support and once it was over, with our money gone, our focus gone, and several powers able to challenge the Royal Navy it was gone.

  120. I’m not following sorry mate. I don’t think I’ve said that at least to my interpretation.

  121. Phil,

    “…So at the eve of WWI our Great Power status was already on life support and once it was over, with our money gone, our focus gone, and several powers able to challenge the Royal Navy it was gone.”

    Sorry, I had to put FF2020 because our current Navy is a bit of a shambles ;-)

  122. Ah I see.

    I was being a bit lazy. No one power at a time bar the still relatively fledgling USN would have been a drama, but from the 1890s onward more and more navies grew stronger and they were geographically dispersed and we then struggled to match their potential and then finally were surpassed. When other navies matured we had a threat in the Atlantic, in the Med and in the Pacific and IO. It wasn’t so bad in WWI but it all came to fruition in the late 30s.

  123. The budget cuts didn’t help.

    From a premier Navy with multiple capital ships around the globe, it was cut to the 2 currently under construction which in all honesty, actually means 0, and even the loss of purpose is felt now (no more Pax Britania to guard and fund the buildup) with many people questioning the purpose of even building such expensive behemoths.

    IMO, the “pivot” and the East of Suez policy was one of the worst things that could happen to the UK. It lost most of it’s income sources from the East and lost out in the huge economic growth of the region, which it could have made a killing in, it relinquished all military power in that region, and as you currently see, it’s very hard to step back in when the US took over, and it lost any edge in diplomatic influence it had.


    Europe wasn’t good for the UK. It encouraged too much inward focusing. And you lost a dumping ground for aimless youths :). I could think of few better cures for aimlessness than dumping them in a foreign country to sink or swim. Which was done in the olde days of yore.

    As for joining with Exercises (capital letter, bwahaha!!), other than RIMPAC, there is also CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) annually. I’m sure the UK can socket into that.

    Militarily, there are a lot of exercises going on in Asia with regards to the Army and Navy and Air Forces. You can easily socket into any of them and having a new opfor would be nice. Not only Navy, but Air and Land too. I know Singapore does training for the Army side in the US, Germany, India, Thailand, Brunai, Australia, Taiwan and New Zealand. That’s 8 per year. I’m sure any of these can be easily expanded to turn into a multi-country training exercise, and I’m very sure they would be happy to. Adds value to the training.

  124. @ Jedibftrx,
    ““A great power is a state that is recognized as having the ability to exert its influence on a global scale.” Really, is that not Britain?”
    — Well I take it all back mate. As long as Wikipedia thinks we’re a Great Power then that’s good enough for me.

    “In his essay, ‘French Diplomacy in the Postwar Period’, the French historian Jean-Baptiste Duroselle spoke of the concept of multi-polarity: A Great power is one which is capable of preserving its own independence against any other single power.”
    — We couldn’t preserve our independence singly against either the United States or Russia. That means we fail the first test.

    ““Spatial dimension. Other suggestions have been made that a great power should have the capacity to engage in extra-regional affairs and that a great power ought to be possessed of extra-regional interests, two propositions which are often closely connected.”
    — By this definition, Holland is a great power.

    “Status dimension. Other important criteria throughout history are that great powers should have enough influence to be included in discussions of political and diplomatic questions of the day, and have influence on the final outcome and resolution. Historically, when major political questions were addressed, several great powers met to discuss them.”
    — And by this definition, Canada and Japan would qualify as Great Powers.

    “So, i’ll finish with a question: if not us, who?”
    — The United States clearly. Possibly China and Russia. Maybe India.

    The problem is you’re using one persons definition, possibly written in another era as the end point, e.g. as long as we meet all the criteria of some written definition then it has to be so. Instead, definitions should serve as a starting point for a debate, where the facts and reality of the current era are addressed.

    Just because we have met the arbitrary list of very vague attributes that some political philosopher believes is important does not mean that back in the real world we are considered a great power.

    @ Mark,
    In response to your link to the Telegraph article, the author appears to have come to a very, very faulty conclusion. They seem to be of the impression that non-EU trade has grown significantly. It hasn’t really.

    EU trade has simply contracted due to the pressures of the economic downturn. Far from businesses hunting out customers in Latin America and Asia and showing some great trade boom to these areas, it simply shows that because export business to the EU has dropped, the percentage of total UK trade accounted for by non-EU markets has naturally grown, largely fuelled by a small increase in exports to the USA. The authors contention is nothing more than a statistical fallacy.

    That doesn’t make the EU any less of a major trade partner for the future. It just means that the eurozone crisis has impacted our export trade for now.

    @ Simon,
    [a nations power]”It’s to do with GDP or purchasing power and in the last few years we’ve been overtaken by Brazil and China and probably soon by India and Russia,”
    — Not really. Economics is a tool to a degree, but really a nations power is directly correlated to its ability to, if you’ll permit me to go all gangsta for a second, “mess your shit up,”.

    You can have a nation that is quite poor, but retains a much larger, better equipped army compared to its richer neighbour. If it chooses to invade the rich neighbour, then modern hospitals, public works of arts, a first class education system and a high personal standard of living are not going to stop tanks and bombs and shells.

    Power is more about the ability to force others to comply with your will, regardless of whether they wish to or not. To an extent that could be achieved by money, but it’s a bit sketchy.

    I’d agree with @Phil and @Observer, in that the UK is not even really a regional power anymore, while still being consider a global actor. If we could just get over the mental hump that the public and politicians have about wanting to be the all powerful rulers of the world, we could probably make a lot of money and do some good along the way.

  125. Chris B, if European trade has suffered more as a result of the economic down turn and euro zone crisis. Trade with the rest of the world proving to be more robust, combined with the growth in the BRIC countries must be a reason for us to concentrate on exploring and expanding these other links?

  126. @ APATS,

    Not necessarily. Trouble is that a lot of countries, like China and India for example, have seen their growth over the years fuelled by the West and by high consumer demand in places like the USA and Europe. As a result, slow downs over here will eventually knock on over there and we may not see the effects for a few quarters to come.

    The main issue I had with the telegraph article is that is was trying to portray export growth in Latin America and Asia as some kind of booming industry that was rapidly out pacing the EU. That’s not really what the figures showed, merely that as EU exports dropped they naturally made up a lower percentage of the overall pie, a percentage that was made up elsewhere.

    Europe is and probably always will be our major trade partner. It’s just simple geography. Turning away from Europe now could be disastrous. If anything these figures show that we need to do a better job of engaging European businesses that are right on our doorsteps.

    As France sets about preparing to open it’s cheque book and spend out of trouble, we should be there with a tray of treats waiting to help them. While I’m against the EU as a legislative and judicial body having undue influence on the UK, I’ve always been puzzled as to why UK leaders don’t spend as much time as their counter parts hob knobbing around Europe.

    Maybe if our PM’s spent less time in Washington and Beijing, and more time in Copenhagen and Madrid we’d be much better off.

  127. Chris, you are very right on the slow down part. It’s now starting. Growth figures and predictions for China and India have dropped last quarter.

    It’s been 4 years damn it. The economic crisis should have been handled long ago. The US has managed to shove their problems under a carpet, for now, but Europe’s still a powder keg waiting to blow.

    Any day now, Germany’s going to pitch a snit and cut funds.

  128. Observer, the advantage that China and India have is that they have huge areas of their own country the at are shall we say undeveloped. The growth figures have dropped very marginally so that China will only grow by 8.0% in 2012 and 8.5% in 2013 whilst India will grow by 6.1% and 6.5% compare this to the 0.6% that the Euro zone is predicted to contract by in 2013.

  129. @ Observer,
    “Any day now, Germany’s going to pitch a snit and cut funds.”
    — There’s another one of those rumours going around that Germany is making plans to start printing D-marks again. Not sure it’s especially credible, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they have a back up plan.

    @ APATS,
    — A lot of that optimisim about India and China is betting on a small contraction of the Euro Zone and reasonable growth in the United States, along with steady growth in South Korea and Japan.

    I’m not entirely sure how well that’s going to turn out. The Greece problem has been stemmed for now, but ultimately I think it has to break. When it does, it’s going to cause a shit storm of epic proportions.

    With the growing cost of borrowing for certain countries like Spain and Italy, and confidence in the Euro going south rapidly, that’ll hurt exchange rates with the East, which will drive down imports from that region (and might actually make local European economies more competitive)

    Those growth rates for China and India might hold for the immediate future (till Summer ’13), but these things take time to filter through. We won’t feel the real effects of stuff happening now until a little down the line. Personally I think that our economy is contracting more than some think and I’m worried that the Olympics income is going to serve as a blinding plaster over a deeper wound.

    These recent export figures are bad news for a start. The knock on effect of them won’t be apparent until perhaps October-December, which is just when all the highly optimistic initial figures about the Olympics will be touted in the press.

    Hold on to your cash boys and girls.

  130. Chris, a very, very important question. Has any Olympics ever MADE money?

    Of the ones I know of, that is since Atlanta, don’t think any one of them has shown a profit.

    “Hold on to your cash boys and girls.”

    Hold on my foot, change to a more stable currency. :) USD if you feel nervous, Asian currencies if you’re feeling adventurous.

  131. “Has any Olympics ever MADE money?”

    Yes. L.A made a shit load.

    But we need to differentiate between money invested in the Olympics offset by income streams such as advertising vs the figures that will be reported by service industries from the tourism and boosts to local economic figures by people travelling to certain areas to watch certain events.

    We’re likely to see very happy people on TV telling us about all the millions of pounds in spending that were generated in various localised economies by visitors to the olympics, and these will artifically inflate spending figures overall for the country, at least for a while.

    Then we’ll get back to normal economic activity….

  132. Chris B,

    I was really only using the generally accepted terms of power (hyper, super, great, medium, regional, etc) rather than one bloke’s essay. Sorry mate, there is no authority on generic definitions.

    Bottom line is I tend to agree in what we are capable of (i.e. enabler) but the point in power is what you can do, not just what you do do. And that is almost wholly linked to your GDP.

    Yes, a poor country can have a big army, but when they come up against a well equipped modern army they’ll lose a lot – e.g. 20 million Russians in WW2 was a huge price to pay for victory over a much smaller Germany.

    Do you really think all the men-at-arms in China will stand a chance against the USA? It’s only when China can afford the jets, cluster bombs, anti-armour guided missiles, etc that they’ll triumph – and that comes from the wealth within the country, expressed for many years as GDP.

    The only exception is Russia operating behind its iron curtain of yesteryear where a totally different mechanism brought about technological and industrial growth.

  133. Latent power doesn’t make you a great power. It makes you a latent or potential great power just as I am a latent millionaire and Olympic athlete. And sex god.

    In 1890 Germany could point to France and say, watch it. And France would notice. And vice versa. These nations had at the time the real power to completely unhinge the region and the balance of power within a couple of weeks of the mobilisation order. We have no such power at all. Our Navy might be able to single out a smaller island nation and terrorise it with our SSNs but that’s akin to saying a man is powerful if he beats a child.

    Yes we are potentially a very powerful nation in the Bismarckian sense. But we’re not.

  134. Phil,

    I like your idea of “latent” power.

    If we ever ditch Trident we will no longer be much of power at all. But whilst we have ~150 nucelar warheads there’s few (save every other nuclear power) that can stand in our way.

    It’s this nuclear capability that makes us “capable” even though it is “latent”.

  135. Nuclear weapons are very much a defensive weapon they are not an active offensive weapon. They could be used offensively, but that conceptual leap would require us to ignore our liberal democratic social norms which isn’t going to happen unless we have an existential threat.

    I think we’re a global and regional actor, our security is assured by our nuclear weapons and we are latently extremely powerful but as things stand we’re just another of an ever growing number of rich countries that eskewed great power aspirations for peaceful economic growth. The difference I suppose is as has been said, we’re very capable and willing to intervene globally as part of and sometimes leading coalitions. We need a new term I think. We just don’t fit easily into a pidgeon hole. We never have. Our situation is unique.

  136. @ Phil – “We are nothing like a regional power! Militarily and economically we cannot act alone to rapidly influence the region we exist in.”

    I believe you are exaggerating the requirement of influence. I don’t believe it means being able to single-handedly turn a region on its head, against the will of all other regional actors.

  137. Is there another actor in Europe (USA is not in Europe and the majority of Russia lies outside Europe)who can actually act at a short notice across the wide (maritime) arch stretching from northern Norway to further S. East in the Med than what Europe goes?
    – and if Atlantic is the ocean of Europe, not just N. Atlantic but all of the S. Atlantic as well (much beyond the NATO limit, which itself has never been made official)

    And other than that, can also contribute in a meaningful way to coalitions outside that broad area?

    I mean taking those two characterisations together, not each in isolation. It was on this basis (seems like long ago by now) I agreed with Jedi about the Regional+ term

  138. Of course it does. That’s power. Power is when you shake your fist and nations cower. Anything else is self pitying rubbish. And that power is very sensitive to context, obviously it depends on the relative strength of other states.

    We’re an actor. Not a power. If we were ever a Great Power it was only by virtue of the context of the time we have never been a true power except from about 1916 to 1919. And 1815 to something like 1871. Maybe.

  139. “Power is when you shake your fist and nations cower.”

    Phil, while I am happy to agree that this is what FP boils down to in the end, the literature and the definitions all agree that Britain is a Regional Power, and we certainly act as a Middle power out of our Region.

    If you want to create the Phil Power concept that is fine, but it is not to be conflated with other accepted definitions.

    I am equally happy to debate (and concede) whether being a Regional Power that is a Middle Power out of its Region can constitute the effect of a Great Power, maybe it can’t, but if it doesn’t then I struggle to find any nations that meet that definition outside the US.

  140. No they don’t agree. It’s patently ridiculous to say we are a regional power. We might be according to some schools but I subscribe to the view that fundamentally, the strong do as they will and the weak suffer what they must. Now the international world may have developed institutions to ameliorate this sad reality but it nonetheless is an unbreakable law. We are not strong. We’re ignored or side lined as much as listened to. If we have power it is through global and regional institutions, but seeing as that is reliant on other states how on earth can we be a power?

    We’re an actor. Any strength we have is at the sufferance of other states.

  141. @ Jedi,

    “Phil, while I am happy to agree that this is what FP boils down to in the end, the literature and the definitions all agree that Britain is a Regional Power, and we certainly act as a Middle power out of our Region.”

    — You presented a list of attributes about what constitutes a power and we failed the very first one. Again, I think you’re getting to attached to what some professor believes power to be, as opposed to what we actually are in the real world.

  142. @ ChrisB – “We couldn’t preserve our independence singly against either the United States or Russia. That means we fail the first test.”

    Arguably, any nuclear nation is able to preserve its independence under the MAD concept.

  143. Whats the difference between power and influence then?


    Is power only derived from military strength

    This comes back to my point about Simon Cowell, there is more to power and influence (which I think are points on the same line) than how many carriers or nuclear missiles you have

    Interesting discussion chaps

  144. Id say it is context dependant. Influence ultimately derives from power if other actors are not on message as it were. But in situations were actors broadly agree then influence is a much more subtle mix of soft powers.

    And ultimately power is derived from military strength and the ability to maintain and use that strength. But again it’s context sensitive, in the world at the moment we have institutions that effectively act as power amplifiers and which we can lead and participate in.

    However, influence and power are fundamentally reliant on military strength, theres a big grey area and spectrum if you will, but when thr chips are down you need a big stick and a strong man to wield it. You just cannot get away from the fact the weak suffer what they must.

  145. Again I believe that that is down to military power. Attempting to do that unilaterally against a strong military may be unwise. This is at the extreme, I acknowledge that there’s a spectrum, it’s not black and white and commercial power can weild influence but fundamentally, a strong military power may not suffer you to do so without consequences. We might be able to influence smaller powers but we are back to the weak suffering what they must.

  146. Nuclear weapons certainly don’t give us power and influence over other nations. If we still matter on the world stage at all, it’s because of our place within the G8/G20 and the P5.

    It is our economic strength (don’t laugh, we are still a rich country) and -possibly more importantly- our UN veto which make our views and opinions relevent.

    To compare the importance of these two aspects; if we gave up the nukes and kept our P5 seat, folks would still need us and our veto. On the other hand, if we gave up the veto and kept nukes, the UK would lose a great deal more relevence to the EU and the rest of the world. We could sail our Trident subs around every day without anyone caring or losing a single night’s sleep to worry.

  147. Our views are relevant I agree good way of putting it. But, they may be relevant but we have no way of unilaterally imposing them within our region and certainly not the world.

    I realise my views are very much in the realist school. I believe institutions and international structures mitigate the worst aspects of the realist world but only while our bellies are full. All questions of power must ultimately boil down to questions of might, military and by extension economic might (since a strong economy is needed to fight and not be ruined). This is why I don’t believe we are a regional or great power. We are an actor in a globalised world and in its institutions which amplify and project our relevant views and what power we do have is entirely dependant on those institutions.

  148. Putting aside semantics (regional, great, hyper, etc) there is power in being impregnable, and my belief is that all nuclear powers are impregnable.

    It means our future is not necessarily dictated by others.

    It’s only by making sure we are not ultimately reliant on others that this still holds. So maybe the UK is not a power at all. We are reliant on the USA to provide our nukes and the EU to provide our jets (we are only a portion of that).

    Maybe Britain is not great, but the EU is?

    On a slightly different note I’d also question the term “superpower” since without direct proof of force projection (and worldly influence) you cannot be a superpower – you may claim you are, but the perception the rest have is just as important. This tends to show that there have only ever been two superpowers (the British Empire and the USA). Russia never demonstrated their capability to influence world events other than through the paranoia of the USA?

  149. Yes perception is an interesting aspect. Are you a Great Power if others think you are and treat you as such?

  150. In a way, both economic and military power are interlinked. Your economy supports the military, even a low tech one, as you need to keep your men fed, paid and supplied. The military in turn, guards the economy to prevent someone from simply walking in and mugging you on a grand scale.

    As for definitions of “Great” “Not so Great” and “Ho-hum”, this really is subjective and really depends on where the person setting the topic posts the bar. In terms of relevance though, I’d rate the UK as similar or co-equal with France and Germany. Would you class either of these 2 as “Great Powers”? “Europe” is a Great Power (if it can get its’ act together), being able to draw upon the resources of a large continent. Same with Russia and China and America, though Russia is in eclipse at the moment. The area where you can draw resources from and in turn generate economic and military influence also counts for a lot.

    The US is a classic example of parlaying military might into economic clout in a region, their presence hindering any adventurous souls to bump off and rob their neighbours, and this indirectly means American businesses are welcome, so as to make them stakeholders in the region and encouraging them to stay.

    On the other hand, Singapore, while not a Great Power by any means, is an example of going the other direction, the use of economy to influence aid in a military direction. It handles enough of the world’s trade that any request for military aid to external threats would have to be taken very seriously. Of course, care would have to be taken as to who gets invited to help. Once China gets in, I doubt it’s going to be easy to get them back out again. Once they lock down the Straits of Malacca, the South China Sea becomes their personal playground. America and India would be safer bets and they would happily help to secure their SLOCs.

  151. Change of subject, but I felt like shoehorning it in somewhere!

    I didn’t realise until I was looking something else up this morning and stumbled on it that HMS Turbulent was recently decommissioned.

    I knew that it was already serving beyond it’s planned retirement date. However what really struck me is that the Trafalgar’s are going out of service faster than the Astute’s can replace them. We are down to 5, with Astute gradually working up and it’s a pattern that will seemingly persist for the next 10 years or more.

    With only 5 fully operationally, exactly how many will be available to deploy, 3, 2?

  152. To keep it interesting, RE
    “America and India would be safer bets and they would happily help to secure their SLOCs.”
    – ask the US
    – let Vietnam ask India
    … create a trip-line that anyone would think twice about, before crossing

  153. Challenger,

    In the Parliamentary Defence Committee stuff you will find how the gaps are covered by staying longer at sea… the men can do it, hope the machines can, as well

  154. @ Simon,
    “Putting aside semantics (regional, great, hyper, etc) there is power in being impregnable, and my belief is that all nuclear powers are impregnable”

    Till someone finds your boat….

  155. Well that would be war.

    And we have a spare. There’s enough uncertainty for anyone wanting to try that to have a death wish.

  156. @ Simon – You are correct that per capita GDP does not mean that much. However looking at nations such as Brazil, India and China when they are very much at the end of their greatest economic expansion and we are in the depths of our deepest recession can be misleading. Prime examples would be Argentina in the 1970’s that had a GDP per capita in line with ours and look at it now. Brazil was a basket case just 10 years ago with 400% inflation. India is in the midst of a dramatic slow down and its debt is being cut to junk. Even the much vaunted Chinese economic miracle is starting to show signs of cracking. At some point China is going to have to transition towards some form of democracy which could get rather messy. If not it may end up being toppled as its own people become increasingly frustrated by the countries Borgeois. Rapid economic growth is the only thing holding the place together at the moment and the laws of economics will eventually begin to hold sway. You can’t keep growing GDP at 10% per annum indefinitely.
    The rise of the new super powers is by no means assured.
    In terms of great power status, it’s all relative. There has to be so may great powers , regional powers etc. If we are not a great power then there really isn’t any nations outside the USA and possibly soon China that can be a Great Power.
    Also lest not forget if Wikipedia says it it must be true.
    @ X I am inclined to agree with you about SSN’s however I think compare well against the USN in AAW and ASW surface vessels as well.
    Going back to TD’s point about other options I think one of the most interesting developments of the last year is the use of the Lloyds Insurance market to project power. Not only has the with drawl of shipping insurance put a major dent in Iran’s ability to move oil but it turned a Russian arms shipment around. This is an ability that no other nation including the USA has. Obviously it’s not one we should use to often but it’s pretty dam effective.

  157. “In terms of great power status, it’s all relative. There has to be so may great powers , regional powers etc. If we are not a great power then there really isn’t any nations outside the USA and possibly soon China that can be a Great Power.”


  158. I we use the definition of influence i.e. ability to force others to do your bidding then there are no great powers in the world. When we were a great power we controlled ¼ of the world including Iraq and Afghanistan. Today the USA with all its might is unable to subdue either country despite having large scale support from the domestic populous and having a benign goal of democracy and stability.
    Syria is presently butchering its people to the cries of not just the USA but Europe as well. Iran is happily building its nuclear weapons program, North Korea already has one. In todays world once a country turns around and tells you to f**k off there is very little you can do about it.
    With the US debt situation they can’t even use the economic leavers they did in the past.
    When the world economy can be brought to its knee’s by a bunch of Greeks not paying their taxes there is no such thing as a Hyper, Super or Great Power in the traditional sense all we can look at is relative position and ours is not that bad.

  159. Actually martin, China’s situation isn’t that bad society wise. People bandy about democracy as the ultimate pleasurable form of government, but that’s not totally correct either. Yes, China is chaffing under corruption, but there is a discord in their thinking between “local government” and “Central Party” government. It’s the local government that’s getting their share of brickbats, but their people still sees their central government as the avocate of their rights, complete with occasional execution of corrupt local official. Add to that the fact that they see the Central Party as bringing them to Superpower status and the nationalistic feelings that encourages, I think they’ll be there for the next 20-30 years or so.

    India? Junk? That’s a new one. Their economy is still expanding. It’s just expanding slower than expected (6% vs 6.5% I believe was quoted earlier). Big difference. You only worry when you hear “contraction” not “slower than expected growth”.

  160. Challenger,

    I’m probably wrong, but they’re all new boats so I’d guess we can deploy about 4 at the mo?

    Chris B,

    “Till someone finds your boat…”

    I guess ;-)


    I agree about the Chinese and Brazilian “boom”. The thing is, many nations that “boom” have foreign investors who want a return on their investment. This means a staying power until they “stop loss. Maybe Brazil does not have the critical mass but I think China does.

    Perhaps, the west has played a sneaky card on the up-and-coming nations by lulling them into the world of finance, only to rip the carpet from under them later on. Shame it happened to the west first ;-)

    “When the world economy can be brought to its knee’s by a bunch of Greeks”

    I don’t think the world’s economy was brought to its knees by Greece. I think an over liberalised western banking system and the American sub-prime default were the culprits.

  161. @Simon

    New boats? The youngest boat currently operational is Triumph which was commissioned 21 years ago.

    How will the 5 remaining boats be able to handle deployment rates of 80%?

    Fair enough, when all 7 Astute’s are in service then a higher ratio will be on the cards, but my point was that the next 12 or so years of changeover will see only 5 boats being available for active duty.

  162. Also I wouldn’t be at all surprised, given the current track record if only 6 Astute’s were procured and the production line slowed once again to nominally save a bit of cash.

  163. Challenger,

    Yep. Try working in Navy HQ these days – it’s a familiar and sinking feeling.

  164. @SI

    You’re crew aboard one of the Astutes then :)
    I vote we name the next one Austerity. It fits the season.

  165. It was only supposed to be 6 anyway wasn’t it? I thought they added the 7th just to maintain a similar presence as the T45s – perhaps they’ll just push them a little harder.

  166. Bit late to the party, but I have brought….. lots of nice numbers. I’m not wanting to get involved in the entire Hyperpower (btw the British Empire so far is the only modern Hyperpower), Superpower, Great Power, Regional Power, etc debate. However I thought it would be interesting to compare the Royal Navy (current fleet and in some cases anticipated fleet) with the 4 largest navies on the continent, who we might also regard as European peers.

    1st rates (Destroyers/Frigates)
    France: 13(10*)
    Germany: 11***
    Spain: 10(9**)
    Italy: 12(8*)

    UK: 19(projected)

    Total Number of 1st rates: 65(57)
    Total percentage provided by UK: 29%(33%)

    SSNs (For long range out of area action)
    France: 6
    Germany: 0
    Spain: 0
    Italy: 0

    UK: 7

    Total Number of SSNs: 13
    Total percentage provided by UK: 54%

    Amphibious Fleets (LHP, LPD, LST, LHD)
    France: 4(3600)
    Germany: 0
    Spain: 4(2513)
    Italy: 5(1700)

    UK****: 7(4530)

    Total Number of amphibious vessels: 20(12,343)
    Total percentage provided by UK: 35% (37%)

    Fleet Oilers
    France: 4
    Germany: 4
    Spain: 2
    Italy: 3

    UK: 6

    Total Number of fleet oilers: 19
    Total percentage provided by UK: 32%

    *Budget cuts may see numbers cut
    ** Spain wants to replace its ASW frigates but again budget problems
    *** Total number for German navy once new frigates come online
    **** This excludes the ability of the point class to ship men, vehicles and supplies

    So of the 5 largest maritime powers of Europe, we little old blighty on average contribute to over 1/3 of the forces. We are one of possibly 2 nations who can land an amphibious brigade (if we chuck in the points we could probably easily add a follow brigade or supply the one brigade with the equivalent of 48,000 tonnes of supplies). Heck if our European neighbours do cut back their 1st rate fleets as predicated we could well be in a position that the RN has the same number as the next two largest fleets.

    So just a little bit of food for thought (please note figures are from wiki so they may be wrong)

    PS sorry for the long post

  167. Hi Observer,

    I would be with you on China “democracy as the ultimate pleasurable form of government, but that’s not totally correct either. Yes, China is chaffing under corruption, but there is a discord in their thinking between “local government” and “Central Party” government.”
    – the start is entertaining in the sense that in the very long period when HK was under British rule, democracy was only rushed in when that rule coming to an end was clearly visible

    RE India; you obviously don’t read what Credit Rating Agencies say?

  168. Hi Simon,

    RE ” I thought they added the 7th just to maintain ” the line, so the Trident replacement decision is still there, to be taken after the Coalition Agreement comes to an end (who knows who will be in Government after the next General Election)
    – and the slowing down for the first 6 was so wasteful that it could have paid for the 7th (but it won’t as the build schedules by now are facts; is the 7th funded though? Or just window dressing to thwart criticism at the time of announcing the SDSR outcomes)

  169. @ACC

    Think that mess was Patten’s fault wasn’t it? He went over the heads of the Foreign Office and HMG to try and press for the UK to stay in HK. I remember a big spat about that.

    RE: India- I see what the credit rating agencies say, then invest on my read of the industrial sector. :P The ratings agencies reports are often only the results of only one or 2 people’s opinion on the area, not a consensus of the whole agency and are often time delayed, so it’s a bit useless for investment where you have to predict, not ave someone tell you what you already know. I should know, my sis did that for J.P Morgan.

  170. ACC,

    Re: The 7th Astute.

    Arrgghh! What a waste of our hard earned money… again!

    Better to cancel T26 and keep building Astutes?

  171. Hi Observer,

    You reminded me to go back to Patten’s book “Not Quite the Diplomat” and I found out that had only gotten to p. 247
    … will report back

    Yes, Rating Agencies are not good in tipping off on investment opportunities, but we are talking about India’s debt outlook and that will certainly impact on their aspirations to build up (militarily, or otherwise) in the medium term

  172. @Simon

    Might be better the other way round.

    The silent service isn’t known for doing visible work.
    OTOH if you want to stealthily kill a pirate dhow, it’s the tool for you. Those guys will never see it coming.
    And the MoD will also never see the bill for pirate hunting coming until it hits them where it hurts. :P

    Other than that, the T26 might have more utility.

  173. @ Observer –
    India is rated at BBB with a negative outlook. About the same as Spain.

    @ Simon – no doubt an over liberalised banking system and American sub prime are the cause but the fact is that in such a connected system no country from the USA to China has real power in the way we once expected of Super powers or Great powers.
    @ Observer
    “You’re crew aboard one of the Astutes then
    I vote we name the next one Austerity. It fits the season.”
    A great name for Astute 8 given Austerity’s popularity amongst the current government.
    @ Observer – As you say China has many problems at local government level. The inability of the central government to keep them in check highlights the difficulty in managing such a large disparate population.
    While the economy grows at 10% per annum the people can put up with a lot. However many countries like Japan, Malaysia and Korea achieved the same 10% growth up to a similar per capita GDP level as China today. Once this threshold is crossed growth becomes more difficult slowing into the 7’s then as they move into the middle income range the 5’s.
    In the modern world dictatorships and single party states are inherently unstable. Our Democracy has lasted for hundreds of years with little in the way of change (other than gradual extension of the franchise) and no revolutions since 1688.
    The Russian one party system lasted from 1917 to 1991 which I believe is still the longest on record. China’s system has been in place since 1949. History would indicate it can’t last for ever. As growth inevitably slows the people will start to ask more questions.
    Transition rarely comes easy especially in China. The result could see a dramatic decrease in Chinese economic capacity.

  174. @ Martin,

    The more we learn about the recent crisis, the more and more most experts agree that only two real groups were to blame; the American Mortgage lenders who fiddled the paperwork of many, many mortgages, and the credit rating agencies who did not properly investigate the source of certain financial instruments before assigning them high credit ratings.

    It’s now believed that had these two problems not occured, then there would have been slower growth through the 2000’s but also the recession likely would never have happened, and certainly a systemic crash of the banking sector would not have occured.

    re; Chinas growth.

    The problem with growth percentages is that the bigger you get, the harder it is to maintain the growth percentage. The obvious basic example is if you start with a hypothetical pound and then grow by a pound over night. That’s 100% growth. Then the next night you grow by another pound. Well that’s good, but that’s only 50% growth. Then the next night you grow by another pound. Well now that’s just 33% growth. Then again and we’re down to 25% growth.

    This is one thing people forget. Percentages are relative to the sum we’re talking about. India’s economy for example is growing nicely on paper, but 6% of the their GDP is not the same as 6% of China’s GDP. Sometimes growth rates are misleading and need to be treated with care.

    China’s problem will really hit home when the domino effect of recession and stagnation in Europe kicks in. You might have to wait one or two years for that to really ripple home.

  175. @martin

    You should read the Standard & Poor’s one in April. :)

    It was funny. It gave reason after reason as to why India was doing well, then all of a sudden, throws an anchor out to windward by saying that investment outlook is negative. Total 180 from the context. IIRC, the basis that it was a bad investment is that it’ll only grow ~5.7% instead of ~7%. Which is setting the bar a bit too high. Investor sentiment on the other hand is still strong, with the rupee up 6% since year open and predicted to climb for the short term future.

    Either way, we’ll see in the next few months.

    RE: China’s internal politics, I’ve to say that all your points are all guessimate predictions and speculations. You talk of “problems” without consideration of the mindset of the population and of the structure of the government and the divide between local and federal government. On the contrary, I believe that due to the duality of the sentiment towards “governments” actually stabilizes the federal government at the expense of the local. In short, the small fry are being sacrificed to please the masses. And it seems to be working.

  176. Yes, that’s how it works “duality of the sentiment towards “governments” actually stabilizes the federal government at the expense of the local. In short, the small fry are being sacrificed to please the masses. And it seems to be working.”
    – the recent purge was easy as the one about to enter a high position in central gvmnt (=party)had so many wrong doings under his belt from the local gvmnt days
    – if there is corruption found out at the central gvmnt level, it is dealt with harshly to maintain the pristine image (“people’s champion”)… was it the minister for agriculture or medicine production that recently got a death sentence

  177. I wasn’t aware that the Visby+ design has actually been submitted both to the US LCS competition and to Singapore (I take it to the multi-purpose frigate programme won by Lafayette):

    “a flight deck and hangar aft for a 10t-class helicopter, and replenishment-at-sea equipment for underway re-supply.

    Accommodation provides for an embarked complement of up to 71. Propulsion machinery comprises four diesels (each about 7400kW) driving four waterjets, offering a maximum speed at full load of 33kt. The engine room is sited aft so as to leave appreciable volume amidships for operations.

    Sensors incorporated in the notional Visby Plus combat system include a three-dimensional surveillance radar, a multi-sensor fire control director, radar- and communications-band electronic support measures outfits, an IR search and track system, and hull-mounted and towed variable depth sonars. Effectors include an Oto Melara 76/62 Super Rapid gun, a Raytheon/RAM-System GmbH Mk 49 Rolling Airframe Missile launcher, two eight-cell Lockheed Martin Mk 41 ’tactical length’ vertical launcher systems, eight surface-to- surface guided weapons, four torpedo tubes, mine rails, two heavy machine guns, and launchers for chaff, IR and acoustic decoys.

    Visby Plus – main particulars

    Length (overall) 88.0m

    Length (waterline) 78.2m

    Breadth (moulded) 15.0m

    Draft 3.2m

    Displacement 1,500t

    Speed (full displacement) 33kt

    Range @ 14kt 3,000nm

    Endurance 21 days”

    Take away the missiles and the CMS can be streamlined to save cost, and the hull made of commercial steel (like in the Holland Class)
    – haven’t seen the price tag for this high end spec, so impossible to say if it would be around the article’s £ 120m mark fitted out this way
    – speed has gone down from 40+ to 33; still plenty

  178. Observer, as it happens I am firmly, resolutely and determinedly NOT a bubblehead – I prefer sunshine and a wider range of runashores. And showers.

    If you want to stealthily kill dhows here’s another idea that will have people getting terribly excited – the Germans have developed a concept for a periscope mounted 20mm cannon.

    Astute 7 is just something to employ BAE workers until Successor is ordered. I chaired a debate on this a while back, on the side of ‘we non’t need nuclear powered submarines’, wiped the floor with the opposition then got shot down by RASM who said ‘yes we do and I’m in charge’. Harrumph.

  179. Somewhat said “If you want to stealthily kill dhows here’s another idea that will have people getting terribly excited – the Germans have developed a concept for a periscope mounted 20mm cannon.”

    Don’t. We have been down the SSN providing fires for SF route recently. It didn’t end well.

  180. @SI

    What are they going to call it? Budget kiler 2000? Army leftover cannon? :)


    Different context. The NGS from sub part was controversial as it risked the sub coming close to shore. Sinking a pirate dhow in open ocean is in no way considered a high risk environment for a sub. Totally different scenarios.

  181. This is one of those horrible traps.

    We can put a machine gun on a periscope therefore we can use our submarines to attack small surface combatants as well as big ones thus making them more versatile!


    Or, you can leave the multi billion pound capital ship to do what it does best and build cheap sloops with several 20mm guns and Sea Brimstone for such duties.

    You then are not risking capital ships and you can do the other job more effectively with vessels that are more versatile and all costing far less than if one of your subs somehow gets damaged chasing after men in rafts.

  182. @ Observer

    I am not going down a rabbit hole with you to day about how the RN operates its nuclear submarines.

    @ Phil


    @ Somewhat

    I want to know more about this SSN debate.

  183. I wasn’t suggesting that their is any evidence of Astute 7 being cancelled. I just wouldn’t be surprised given the amount of pressure the budget is under.

    The mentality could well be that because 6 is seen as the minimum needed then that will suffice, even though it would mean more delays and the inflated costs that delay involves.

    We had a chance to procure 8 boats, we could end up with 6 for the same money, absolute madness!

  184. Make it seven
    – “Austerity” – the 8th – cancelled on the day of naming it, as one more austerity measure

  185. @ACC
    “Visby Plus […] hull made of commercial steel (like Holland class)”

    This proposal comes down to the SIGMA class corvette sold to Indonesia. With the difference, that the SIGMA-concept scales don to 60m and up to 150m.

    We should begin to think in modular vessel-families, like SIGMA, GOWIND and MEKO. Or Ulsteins XBox. This would instantly create export orders. BAE cannot deliver this, RR could, but is a design shop only. Instead, we create a T26, which will be almost perfect for us (but could also be provided by a SIGMA-derivate), but not reaonably scalable to gain exports.

    Wasn’t it my proposal in 2011 to concentrate on subs and carriers, while buying frigates OTS from DAMEN instantly? And if we have a strange feeling about this, we could always phone the Netherlands gov and make DAMEN+Babcock merger.

    “Is power only derived from military strength?”

    Ask the Indonesians. They will be target of over a quarter of BPs direct investment in the years to come. With more and more xenophobic legislation in Russia, more and more venture capital will follow this route. To a lesser degree, this will be true for Sri Lanka, India and hopefully Myanmar.

    This creates a lot of influence, which in turn promotes the idea of UK security involvement in the Indian Ocean region. Because of this, I promote the idea of expanding FPDA to these countries.

    And if anyone here asks, if that is a waste of money: if BP or Shell or HSBC as the largest venture capital provider fails, the UK would loose a large part of its pensions.

    The real question is: are cost directly attributable to protecting BP and Shell assets? If (more or less) yes: how coincides this with the current fact, that these companies are paying nearly no taxes in the UK (BP paid £930m in 2010)? How can we explain this to the entrepreneur, who wants to start a new business, but directly starts to pay 30%+ corpate tax?

    BP will earn up to £60b out of Libya operations over the next 10 years. HMG will see nothing of this money, while putting a billion into enabling ops.

    And while I think, it would be problematic to sell direct security payments from the large multinational resource companies to the MoD, I think developing a true US-style coast guard (which can and shall involve the overseas territories and the crown dependencies) would be another story. Or, better: invoke a Commonwealth-based scheme with a FPDA-core from the start. While deploying a RN-vessel or troops to Socotra may pose a problem to the Yemenis, a “Federal coast guard” squadron with local police involvement is clearly not.

    And here, Ulsteins in various tasks form 2k up to 7k tons would make a lot of sense.

  186. @Sir Humphrey

    Two informative articles rounded off by sensible conclusions – hence the positive comments with which I concur. But can anyone put any meat on the bones of our agreement with Japan – what are we going to co-operate on, as Japan invariably buys American?

  187. @x

    I think it’s a stupid idea too. What I was pointing out was that the discussion that you refered to had a different context and set of “con” arguments that did not fit into the reason as to why it was not a good idea.

    Not pointing out that the idea was good or bad, just that “a text without a context is a pretext”.


    Or just use existing helos and door gun the damn thing to the bottom of the ocean. No need for 50M pound new ships.

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