A Theoretical Construct for UK Defense

Spot the spelling, this is from Jeremy M H, one of our many friends from the USA;

Intro

The United Kingdom appears to occupy a unique niche in the defense landscape.  As a major player in any military actions for both Europe and the United States the UK has both the benefit and the curse of trying to occupy two often divergent alliance structures while still looking after its own sovereign defensive needs.  This is further complicated by the fact that its sovereign defense needs are quite unique given the island nature of the United Kingdom proper and the far flung nature of the various possessions it desires to protect.  Meeting all of these needs on an increasingly pressured defense budget will be a challenge that is ongoing and demands a clear sense of purpose for those in position to make major decisions.  This piece is intended to explore one set of options that might be available.

Before getting started it is important to note what this collection of articles is not going to address.  Specifically the at sea nuclear deterrent question is going to be left unaddressed here.  In and of itself it is worthy of a far more lengthy discussion that would be afforded it here.  The objective here is to address the key conventional defense objectives of the United Kingdom and a potential way to best meet the objectives laid out at a minimum of cost.

Key Defense Objectives- The Four Pillars

Four key defense objectives are proposed as the broad framework for this organizational document.  Essentially any program or capability that does not facilitate these key defense objectives will not be supported.  Please keep in mind that these objectives are not necessarily what the author would support as key defense objectives but they are designed as objectives that would seem to best fit with the actions of British political figures and the appetite of the public for both defense spending and military action.  These objectives are as follows.

Maritime and Air Defense of the UK and its Possessions

The primary task of the armed forces, and it should go without saying, is to secure the state from external threats.  As the UK faces little to no conventional land based threat the focus will be on the maritime and aerial threats.

Extended Maritime Engagement

The UK, having far flung possessions it wishes to continue to hold, must be capable of and willing to defend these territories against reasonable threats.  One could almost call this the Falklands rule but it applies much more general than that.  It is best explained as saying the UK military will endeavor to retain the ability to act defensively or offensively in the maritime environment against a reasonable threat.  What exactly constitutes are reasonable threat is a bit vague but suffice to say we are not proposing a force structure that would allow for the Royal Navy to go duke it out with China in the Yellow Sea.  Rather we are looking for a force that could contest someone nosing around the British Indian Ocean Territories in a manner detrimental to British interest and generally prevent anyone from seeing any part of the overseas territory as being ripe for the taking.  Additionally such a force would be a major part of a European and/or US effort to keep sea lanes open for trade.

Alliance Partner

The UK is unique in that it, more than any other European power, operates in two major alliance structures.  Legally these are generally NATO and the European Union but in a more practical sense it can be said that the UK operates with the United States in many respects and with Europe (mostly France it would seem) in many others.  One of the dangers for any defense policy is that in attempting to please both sides everyone ends up unhappy or worse that other core defense issues for the UK get neglected.  This document will focus on providing unique and useful alliance capabilities for both of the UK’s primary partners.

Europe- It is proposed here that the UK provide a unique contribution by providing expeditionary warfare capability and a kick in the door capability.  No other European power can really provide this type of capability which should help to assure the UK primacy of place in the European defense structure.

United States- Rather than providing ongoing support for sustained operations as it has for years in Iraq and Afghanistan British forces would now provide their US partners a flexible and deployable intervention capability that should facilitate the US pivot towards Asia and in extreme circumstances be able to support it.

Affordability

We have to do these things in a manner that is affordable.  There is no apparent appetite either politically or among the majority of the citizens for increased (or even sustained) defense spending.  That means there is a minimum amount of funding for new equipment not already in the equipment plan.  It also means that overall the force will have to be reduced in size.  To protect the military to an extent the hope is to use this organizational paradigm is to enforce discipline on the political leadership.  Simply put the military budget cannot afford sustained, deployed operations at this time and one of the things this plan does is deliberately deny the necessary number of troops to facilitate operations of that type.

Those four pillars are the primary concepts this plan will embrace.

The Land Force Paradigm, a Modular Army Organized for Expeditionary Warfare

The Army would see the most changes of any of the major services in order to meet our stated defense objectives.  In short this plan would propose a basic reorganization of the army with a focus on expeditionary warfare capabilities rather than sustained presence operations or major armored combat operations.  This should fit with our defense pillars.  It should be affordable as it necessitates little in the way of new equipment.  It will not imperil the defense of the UK proper or its extended maritime defense in anyway.  For allied nations the UK will now provide a different but still valuable component of any intervention force.  Under this paradigm the Army will have to endure some fairly substantial cuts to its equipment replacement plans.  The Royal Marines are also slightly reduced, though the two remaining Commando units will be beefed up substantially.  16th Air Assault Brigade will also be augmented as its role in expeditionary operations is seen as critical.

Organizational Concepts- Currently the Army 2020 structure calls for a split of land forces between a reaction force and an adaptable force with a large portion of the adaptable force being made up of territorial units.  The new organizational paradigm will be quite different in that there will be three levels of ground forces organization.

Contingency Groups- These forces will serve as both operational combat formations and as headquarters for any larger deployment.  These formations rate a Major General in command even though in their basic form some are quite small.  They have supplemented HQ staffs sufficient to manage a significantly supplemented force.

Modular Force Additions- The army will provide modular additions to these forces in a variety of forms from tanks to artillery to protected infantry.  These formations are generally of regimental or battalion size though are organized in such a way that small detachments can be sent if necessary as well.

Reserve Force- The territorial forces will, for combat operations, have one primary purpose moving forward and that is to provide replacement and rotation troops within a reasonable timeframe for the above groups.

This organizational framework is designed to do a number of things.  Primarily it is designed to emphasize the overall expeditionary nature of the military moving forward.  Some of the most senior commanders are going to be regularly deployed with the contingency groups.  Some will view that as deploying a senior level general to command little more than a battalion at times.  It would be more accurate to think of it as forward deploying a senior level general to manage a situation into which other troops might be sent.  In the proposed Army 2020 structure many of those most senior officers were going to be working in brigade and division command structures with very lengthy deployment times.  By organizing in this manner some of the best minds in the service are put out at the sharp end.  More importantly it ensures that your deployed commanders should be familiar with both the contingency group capabilities and the capabilities of many of the modular forces that may be attached to their command.  That broad level of expertise is not possible in lower level commanders that would typical be deployed with contingency group sized forces.  This way of thinking and organizing is key in making the UK armed forces an important part of both of its alliance structures as well where the rank of an officer involved in coalition operations is often quite critical.  If the UK has to quickly work with another nation its voice in military affairs is taken much more seriously coming from a senior level officer.

Major Cost Reductions- Several major programs for the ground force components will go by the wayside as part of this plan.  FRES (Future Rapid Effects System), which effectively is looking to replace a large portion of the army’s armored vehicles, is going to be scrapped.  There are a variety of reasons for this but the primary one is rooted in another cost savings cut and that is the elimination of the 3 armored cavalry regiments and the recon squadrons from the armored regiments.  This capability will be provided as best as can be by a combination of UAV’s and rebuilt Warriors with their improved weapons and optics.  This allows for the elimination of a whole series of vehicles from the army as we essentially standardize with the following major direct combat vehicles; Challenger, Warrior, Mastiff, Foxhound.

In terms of direct force number reductions they are substantial compared to the Army 2020 plan as demonstrated below.

Army 2020

Proposed

Reduction

Units

Air Assault Battalions

2

2

0

Commando Units*

3

2

1

Armored Regiments

3

2

1

Armored Cavalry Regiments

3

0

3

Armored Infantry Battalions

6

4

2

Protected Infantry

7

3

4

Artillery Brigade

1

1

0

Light Cavalry Regiments

3

0

3

Light Infantry Battalions**

4

7

-3

Total

32

21

11 Less

*Commando units will larger, no cost savings likely
**Light infantry numbers not stated in Army 2020, 7 battalions of territorial replacements for Armored Infantry and Protected Infantry in Proposed

Estimated combat personnel directly involved in the main force ground components (special forces excluded) is cut by around 30% which should allow a somewhat corresponding cut of the support services as well.  This force is intentionally not built for sustained combat operations.  It is built to be a rapid reaction force that can be utilized in an adaptable manner when needed.  Indeed the primary reason to make all the light infantry battalions into territorial units is to force politicians into a call up the part-time soldiers in any sustained conflict.

Expeditionary Oriented Streamlining- The 105mm light howitzer will be replaced with the M-777 to ensure ammunition compatibility with the AS-90.  This should allow the UK to procure some of the more advanced 155mm rounds out there as it will no longer be necessary to procure rounds for the 105mm guns.

Transport Helicopters are being made organic to the Army or Royal Marines as that is who utilizes them.  The RAF may or may not still provide support for them.

New Equipment Necessary- Very little other than the M-777 guns which is a fairly minor expenditure.  With FRES scrapped the next generation of vehicles is put off some ways into the future and taking a holistic view of the ground element it is quite possible that we look first to replace the BVS 10 with a more combat oriented amphibious vehicle that would allow us to remove the Warrior from the Commando groups and thus reduce the number of major combat vehicles that units support from 3 to 2.

The Contingency Groups- Three units will comprise what will be known as the Contingency Groups of the UK ground component.  These are the 16th Air Assault Brigade, 40th Commando and 42nd Commando.  45th Commando will be disbanded for the time being.  These units will form the core of the UK’s expeditionary warfare capability.  The units will be organized as follow for operations.  We are only going to address major combat equipment in this plan.  Assume that the necessary trucks and light vehicles will continue to exist.

16th Air Assault Brigade
2 Infantry Battalions (Each with one parachute capable company)
1 Artillery Battalion (M777 Guns)
1 Aviation Brigade
18 Pumas for medium transport and utility (Effectively all of them when replacements and spares are considered)
12 Wildcats for light transport and light attack
24 Chinooks for heavy transport

The 16th Air Assault Brigade is designed to deliver an air-mobile or parachute infantry company in support of UK operations worldwide.  The helicopter assets in the aviation brigade are sized to provide an air mobile force of up to a battalion in size.  Expense will be saved by reducing the size of the parachute capable force.  The formation receives some of the new M777 guns as part of our streamlined logistical approach.  It does not get organic attack helicopter elements though these are always available for attachment.  This force can be deployed on its own as a standalone contingency for or in support of either of the two commando units to provide it with additional airmobile assets.

40 and 42 Commando
Roughly 1,000 troops total with 500 infantry and 500 support, command and maintenance troops.
1 Tank Platoon (4 Challengers)
8 Warriors
16 BVS 10 Vikings
6 M-777
~30 Land Rovers
~30 Trucks
Shipboard Mixed Aviation Battalion
10 Merlin Transports (HC3’s)
6 AH-1’s

The new commando groups are organized to take maximum advantage of the proposed Naval Action Groups that will form the basis of the UK’s maritime expeditionary capabilities.  Most importantly they are designed to be light and logistically simple forces to deploy that can, for a short time punch well above their weight.  One of the keys to this is the permanent attachment of the Apache’s to the carrier air group and commando’s.  That provides a robust, organic anti-armor capability against reasonably sized threats.  As a rapid deployment force to any of the UK’s overseas territory it is not something to be dealt with on the cheap and the force would more than overawe most militia type forces as part of a humanitarian intervention.  This force can be accommodated comfortably on a Bay, Albion and Queen Elizabeth that will make up the core of the Naval Action Group giving that group a broad scope of utility.

The Modular Forces- The three contingency groups are supported by what we will call Modular Forces.  These straddle the line between the reaction force and the adaptable force in the Army 2020 plan.  Depending on the situation these could be deployed in any number of means up to and including placing them on Point-Class ships and sending them out with a commando group.  These forces will consist of the following units.

Modular Units
2 Tank Regiments (Challenger)
Artillery (AS-90 and MLRS)
1 MLRS Battalion, w/3 deployable sub-units
3 AS-90 deployable units

4 Armored Infantry Battalions (Warrior, FRES is dumped)
3 Mixed Protected Infantry Battalions (2 Companies Mastiff, 1 of Foxhound)
3 Squadrons of AH1 (12 Units Each, 19 in training and replacement group)

These forces are designed to be bolt-on attachments to existing contingency groups and as such they don’t have any real parent command they report to that is intended to be operational.  They are training and force management establishments when they are not paired up with a contingency group.  One would also house the major support units within this portion of the ground forces even though those units are not listed here.

The Reserve Force- The reserve force is composed of territorial forces that are designed to provide replacement and follow-on forces to man the infantry components of the modular force.  The force structure is very simple in that it is composed of 7 infantry battalions to match the 7 infantry battalions in the main force.  There are no replacements for the contingency forces as most of those troops are fairly specialized.  Within the UK these forces are equipped with trucks and light transport only.

The Four Pillars

This new force structure should admirably embrace the four pillars that were set at the beginning of this exercise.  The size of the ground force component is going to be reduced from the Army 2020 plans by around 30%, which embraces our core need to achieve affordability.  Given the absence of a conventional land threat to the UK proper (and really to any of its core allies at the moment) this force structure neither imperils the ability of the UK to defend its home territory nor does it threaten its ability to defend its overseas possessions.  Indeed by transitioning to a more expeditionary mindset a more responsive and robust defense of the overseas territories could be seen as an outgrowth of this change.  As an alliance partner this force structure would certainly meet the criteria of being a valuable and unmatched asset within Europe.  The United States will probably not be in favor of the structure, at least initially, because it would rather have support for enduring operations.  But in the end the US should be fairly content with the structure as it will have the effect of freeing up critical rapid reaction forces for a Pacific pivot.  Finally, quite by design, this force is unsustainable in a continual deployment without calling up territorial soldiers or increasing the size of the ground element.  This will force political debate to the fore on any issue that would necessitate such a commitment.  One of the major downfalls of Army 2020 in the view of this author is that it seems to be structured around a long-term deployment of a brigade when such a deployment is not likely to see strong support within the UK and would have ruinous impacts on the broader military budget.

The Naval Paradigm, Force from the Sea

With a focus on expeditionary warfare and maritime defense of the UK and its possessions the Royal Navy was always going to emerge a relative winner under this scheme.  The Royal Navy does face significant pressures on its assets given the demands of escorting carriers while still maintaining a presence elsewhere on the globe given the overall low numbers of escorts available now and likely to be available in the future.  Similar pressures exist on the maritime helicopter force as well.  For the Royal Navy to provide the kind of capability called for in this plan efficient organization is going to be critical.  This document will for the time being remain silent on the issue of both the continuous at sea deterrent and the overall size of the SSN force and will focus primarily on the surface navy and associated aircraft.  For the sake of this exercise we will leave support units and follow on transport units such as the Point Class to be addressed at some later date.  Given the overall expansion it is fair to assume that the support forces for the Royal Navy are not going to be reduced at this time and the new sustainment ship program will need to be completed as scheduled.

Organizational Concepts- The Royal Navy will organize itself for action in two different base formations.  The primary expeditionary warfare capability will be provided by Naval Action Groups while a naval presence can be provided by Surface Action Groups.  The following general premise of deployments would be followed.

Table 1
Table 1

Major Cost Reductions- There are few major cost reductions that can be found in the future structure of the Royal Navy.  Providing escorts for a major expeditionary group along with other units for detached deployment will be highly tasking for a force that will features only 19 escorts and has considerable demand for those units beyond simply escorting a carrier or amphibious group around.

The best reduction we can accomplish is really to combine the operations of the Queen Elizabeth, Albion and Bay Classes into groups in an effort to reduce the escort demand.  Simply put it will be nearly impossible for the Royal Navy to provide sufficient escorts to independent amphibious and carrier task forces while still being able to maintain standing commitments elsewhere and providing down time for maintenance.  This plan accepts that as a reality.  Additionally this plan accepts that there will be gaps in the ability of the Royal Navy to put major task forces to sea.

There is an attempt to constrain training cost and downtime by going to a system that would see a crew worked up before making a deployment.  They would then have a maintenance and rest period and make another deployment with essentially the same core crew before going in for a heavier maintenance and training period for the ship that would see the crew turned over to a larger degree.

Ocean and Illustrious will be retired without replacement and for the time being the fleet will operate without any flat decked amphibious ships.  Active Bay Class ships will be reduced from 3 to 2 to keep cost down.

Expeditionary Oriented Streamlining- The Royal Navy helicopter situation lends itself to a fairly easy organizational change that should streamline maintenance expense and increase spares availability which is important to any distant expeditionary operation.  By swapping out Apache for Wildcat on the decks of the carrier we can have a common engine with Merlin.  By carrying only Merlins with the other escorts in a carrier group one can dedicate all storage space other than F-35’s spares to the Merlin and Apache combination.  Wildcats can then be used by the Surface Action Groups to give them a more multi-role helicopter on their decks while keeping them from cluttering the maintenance and spares situation of the Naval Action Group.

Finally, and probably most controversially, the Fleet Air Arm will get the first 48 F-35’s assigned to it directly to support the planned carrier air groups.  The RAF may continue to be the prime maintenance arm for the aircraft when they need major depot work but to support the planned deployed F-35’s the first 48 ordered are going to be assigned directly to the Fleet Air Arm.

New Equipment Necessary- The Royal Navy or Royal Air Force will be getting a squadron of at least eight P-8’s.  These will have a dual role of maritime surveillance and providing a long-range strike option by integrating Storm Shadow.  In the short term they become a way for the UK to delivery cruise missiles it already has over a very long distance and thus hold just about anyone at some level of risk.  The P-8 (or MPA generally) is seen as vital in ensuring that the Royal Navy can cover its other task with the 19 escorts expected to be in the fleet.  Simply relieving the escorts of certain task near the home islands by having MPA available will go a long way towards easing demands on an already overtasked fleet.

The Naval Action Group-  These are the primary naval contribution to the UK’s expeditionary warfare capability and consist of a large naval task force, the embarked air wing, an embarked commando unit and amphibious landing craft.

Queen Elizabeth Class Carrier
18 F-35B Fighters

4 Merlin ASW Helicopters

10 Merlin Transport Helicopters

6 AH-1 Apache Attack Helicopters

2 AEW Helicopters

~250 Commandos comprising the air mobile component of the Commando Group

Albion Class LPD
4 LCU
4 LVCP
4 Challenger MBT
8 Warrior IFV
8 BVS 10 Vikings
Trucks
400 Commandos

Bay Class LSD
1 LCU
8 BVS 10 Vikings
6 M-777 Howitzers
Trucks
350 Commandos

1 Type 45 Destroyer
1 Merlin ASW Helicopter

2 Type 26 Frigates (2 ASW)
1 Merlin ASW Helicopter each

This force is designed to deliver our redefined Royal Marine Commando unit anywhere necessary while providing a strong force for controlling the seas at the same time.  The carriers are necessary to enable the Albion and Bay classes to operate at maximum efficiency and to give the Commando group the air mobility it will need to be successful in many environments.  By pairing up the carriers and the amphibious ships the Royal Navy can multiply the effectiveness of both types.  This force is logistically coherent as the attached carrier is capable of providing the maintenance for all of the group’s aircraft from a limited spare pool due to engine and airframe commonality.

Operationally the unit is well suited for action in most reasonable threat environments.  The 18 F-35’s gives it a potent strike and self-defense capability.  The vertical lift more than replaces what is lost by not having Ocean around.  In an amphibious scenario the carrier can operate well behind the Albion and Bay class ships using those vessels as bases of operation for the transport helicopters while still being present to provide air support and helicopter maintenance.  Trading Apache for Wildcat does represent some loss in the ASW and ASuW realms but is a huge step forward in the ground support role where the Apache can really allow a small and relatively light force to punch well above its weight.  The Apache should be more than adequate for whacking fast attack craft as well when necessary.  The task force would have two excellent ASW frigates with towed arrays (enabling them to get cross bearings on a lot of contacts which is why two are assigned here) and 7 Merlins at its disposal so in the authors view it can do away with the Wildcat in favor of the Apache.

Ideally one would have more than one area air defense ships and certainly there are more Type 45’s available if the fleet were to deploy into a very high threat area.  In such a scenario a Surface Action Group would almost certainly be attached.  Having two Type 45’s assigned to run with the carriers at all times would effectively utilize the whole force.  In the end it was deemed more prudent for peacetime operations to make the extra Type 45’s available for other duties.

Surface Action Group- The surface action groups provide the Royal Navy with three capabilities.  First they can be used as powerful independent forces in their own right.  Secondly they can be contributed as part of a coalition force where they would provide a broad range of area air defense and ASW capabilities.  Finally they can be used to supplement the screening forces of a Naval Action Group that is entering a high intensity conflict.  They are composed of the following units.

1 Type 45 Destroyer
1 Wildcat Naval Helicopter

2 Type 26 Frigates (1 ASW, 1 GP)
1 Wildcat Naval Helicopter each

Pairing Wildcat with the standalone forces gives them a utility helicopter that can accomplish a number of missions as well as one that should presumably be less maintenance intensive than the larger Merlins.  By using the same helicopter on all three you can raid the stores of any of the escorts to keep all three in flying condition.  It is not ideal that only one ship has a truly world class sonar outfit but there is not much that can be done about it.  From a cost perspective this pairing gives you the maximum capability in multiple realms on the smallest footprint.  Both the Type 45 and the Type 26 GP variant are enhanced by having a true ASW frigate around.  The Type 45 provides area air defense for the whole group.  Depending on the strike capabilities finally installed on the Type 26 this provides a reasonably potent force in many scenarios.  It is a little light on ASuW options but that is a capability that can be patched over with relatively minor upgrades if it really becomes an issue.

Detached Escorts- The remaining escorts (1 Type 45, 1 Type 26 ASW variant and 2 Type 26 General Purpose variants) will effectively be unassigned.  They are available for detached duties, equipment and tactics trials and covering maintenance emergencies in the various major task forces that the Royal Navy will be operating.  Presumably ships would swap in and out of this category to facilitate the longest operational life for all deployed units.

The P-8’s- The addition of P-8’s is the biggest expenditure that is not currently planned in some official or semi-official fashion.  The capability of having an MPA around, preferably in larger numbers than 8, is too critical for an island nation like the UK to ignore.  For the purposes of this plan the author is unwilling to get stuck in procurement hell by considering an option that is not off the shelf.  The P-8 offers range, speed and commonality with a major allied power (the US) the potential of commonality with another (Australia) and with India where the UK still retains a great deal of interest as well.  As a deployable MPA it has the advantage of drawing on a huge and global spares pool for many parts.

It already has weapons pylons built into it that should be able to accommodate Storm Shadow enabling it to act as a strike platform as well.  Most critically in the short term the availability of an MPA should free up the escort fleet to the other task we are assigning.  They can help escort SSBN’s (presuming they are retained) to open water.  They can respond to sovereignty challenges.  In general they can just handle a lot of the task that the navy really can’t spare escort ships to do.  Finally it seems likely that the P-8 (or 737 more accurately) will be the basis for any US AWACS, JSTARS or Rivet Joint replacement so this opens up the door to commonality among all those various types going forward.  They can also be a critical contribution to European operations moving forward where they provide a capability that many other nations are cutting back on or don’t have at all.

The Four Pillars

This force is primarily designed to push two major pillars of the new defense policy to the fore; extended maritime engagement and the maritime defense of the UK’s home territories.  The addition of MPA is helpful to the latter and critical to the former.  The Naval Action Groups give the UK instant credibility in realm of extended maritime operations and a major expeditionary presence.  This should push the UK to the fore of many European centric operations where no other nation (even France with its one carrier) can project that sort of power.  In interactions with the United States there is scope for cooperative work as well as the ability of the Royal Navy to at times replace a carrier battle group or expeditionary strike group in a critical area of joint interest.  Again this should help facilitate the Pacific pivot that the United States wants to undertake.  From an affordability standpoint the Royal Navy portion of the budget would undoubtedly rise with the addition of some new capabilities.  But one could not make the argument that such capabilities were not be productively employed both in pure operational terms and in terms of the amount of influence they would provide amongst the UK’s primary allies.  Politically the things that the Royal Navy can do are likely to be acceptable to both politicians and to the public so they ought to enjoy broad support in that regard.

The Air Paradigm, Sustained Airpower

Much like the Army the Royal Air Force will undergo some fairly drastic changes in order to bring its structure into alignment with the four major pillars of the new defense policy.  The Royal Air Force obviously has a critical role to play in the Air Defense of the United Kingdom.  It could, but is currently not really equipped to, play a role in the maritime defense of the same.  The Royal Air Force is a major component of many UK contributions to alliance operations but its role in the extended defense of extended British maritime interest is not entirely clear.  The challenge with the Royal Air Force will be creating an affordable force that is also well suited to goals beyond the air defense of the United Kingdom.

Organizational Concepts- The Royal Air Force really has two major tasks that it can directly perform under this defense plan.  However it is a critical supporter of any expeditionary conflict with its transport aircraft, tankers and other ISTAR assets.  The RAF will have three functional wings.

QRA Wing- Primarily responsible for the defense of UK airspace.

Expeditionary Wing- Primarily responsible for expeditionary air warfare.

Support Wing- Oversees support aircraft of all types (transports, tankers, electronic warfare ect)

The organization piece of the RAF is really fairly simple in that regard and can thus be left behind at this point.

Major Cost Reductions- Major cost reductions for the RAF will have to come from direct force reductions and changes to future projects planned for the air arm.  Some very hard choices are going to have to be made in this regard.  The plan for this is outlined in general terms below.

Table 2
Table 2

These are not choices that are going to be widely popular.  But they are reflective of several hard realities that one cannot escape.  First, as it stands the UK is forced to operate the F-35 if it wants to operate two very expensive naval assets as they are intended to be operated.  There is no other viable alternative available in the short or even long term without incurring substantial addition cost either on the ships themselves or in developing an alternative aircraft.  So long as the carriers exist the UK is going to be operating some F-35’s.

Secondly at present time the future path of Typhoon is somewhat unclear.  There are certainly development objectives laid out but exactly who will pay for what and when it is going to happen still has a great deal of uncertainty as can be seen in the difficulty in getting the actual contract for an AESA radar signed is still demonstrating.  Yes, the same could be said of the F-35 to a degree but again, the UK is effectively forced to operate the F-35 to get value from a very large investment it made in its aircraft carriers.  The UK has that risk regardless and can’t really get away from it.  A major export order that pumps money into the Typhoon program and brings clarity to the development path might change views on this subject but the first issue will always be present.  There are substantial savings that can be realized by going to a single type fighter force and with the amount of pressure the defense budget is under it is reasonable to recognize that savings.  Additional money can be saved in the short term by ceasing any non-mission critical upgrades to the Typhoon.

Given the focus of this defense policy moving forward the F-35 makes more sense as well.  Expeditionary support structures can largely support both variants of the F-35 equally as well.  Supply chains are simplified.  Heavy maintenance can be unified for both services.  Training facilities can be shared.  Given the focus on expeditionary warfare it is of a great benefit if a carrier group operating in support of the Falklands could fly over replacement radar for a broken F-35A on duty there.  Indeed UK forces worldwide can draw on what will be a significantly more distributed support network with the F-35.  Weapons fits become fully interchangeable as well.  For an expeditionary force being able to share the vast majority of spare parts for all combat aircraft, be they RAF or FAA, is invaluable.

New Equipment Necessary- Procurement of the F-35 would be a major ongoing exercise through the 2015-2030 timeframe and may have to be extended beyond that for affordability purposes.  An exact timeframe would be determined by the useful life one can get from Typhoons that are not going to be getting mid-life updates or life extensions.

QRA Wing- In the near term this capability will be provided by the Typhoon as it is today.  As the Typhoon is a highly capable interceptor and capable multi-role aircraft it should be able to meet this duty largely without major upgrades well into the late 2020’s unless the threat environment changes substantially.  In any extended conflict these aircraft can also provide a supplementary ground attack capability.

The functional if not stated structure of the RAF would change substantially when the Typhoon is replaced by the F-35A.  As this aircraft will have a great deal of commonality with the F-35B’s already in service with the FAA and the expeditionary wing the lines between the QRA wing and the expeditionary wing will blur.

Expeditionary Wing- The expeditionary wing of the RAF is designed to support combat operations worldwide either in concert with the Royal Navy or on its own.  In the short term this capability would be provided by the ground attack capable Typhoons.  Eventually this would transition over to the F-35B so that commonality gains with the FAA, low-observable characteristics and austere basing capabilities can be realized.

Support Wing- The support aircraft the RAF will need are largely all already in service or on order.  Voyager (even though the PFI contract is…questionable at best) is a capable aircraft.  The C-17’s and A400M will provide more than sufficient lift capabilities to support the relatively modest expeditionary warfare capabilities laid out as the centerpiece of this defense plan.  The E-3 and Air Seeker will remain relevant for a lengthy period of time.  Other support aircraft are important and should be retained if the budget allows but their retention is likely to be driven by finding efficiencies elsewhere in the core capabilities outlined under this defense plan.  One benefit of purchasing the P-8’s is that there appears to be a radar development program in the works for the 2016 timeframe that would allow for those aircraft to also handle many of Sentinel’s duties.

The Four Pillars

The plan for the RAF is driven very much by the need for affordability and expeditionary capability.  Both the F-35 and the Typhoon are capable of accomplishing the defense of the United Kingdom proper, particularly given the limited nature of today’s aerial threats.  Both the Typhoon and the F-35 would prove to be capable aircraft to contribute to either a European or US centric alliance.  If one were to really examine the allied operations pillar the F-35 does offer a low observable characteristic that other major European nations lack (particularly depending on what Spain and Italy end up doing with their F-35 purchases) and would be a substantially more compatible aircraft with US operations.  Other realities (the carrier program) dictate that if a one aircraft solution is to be adopted the F-35 is really the only logical choice.  Retaining the vast majority of the RAF’s major support platforms ensures that it can continue to be a key player in alliances in general and European alliances in particular where the large C-17, A-400M and tanker force will be very valuable.

Conclusion

Cuts are likely looming for the armed forces of the United Kingdom in the next round of budget negotiations.  A compelling argument must be put forth by defense advocates that embraces a clear purpose for the armed forces and embraces affordability as one of its key pillars.  This plan is not the only reasonable alternative.  It simply provides one fairly coherent set of goals and options to consider as the debate begins for real among the government.  None of us here can control a national debate on defense posture.  Most here would likely argue for a much more robust force than is presented here.  But the political reality is that the military is going the other direction.  Any plan that does not embrace that would first have to rally a public and political consensus to sustain and/or grow forces from their present size and that seems unlikely.

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Tom
Tom
June 12, 2013 2:16 pm

Certainly a detailed and thought out proposal Jeremy; makes a nice change from the fantasy fleet comments that crop up too often here and elsewhere.

I’m not convinced by the (significant) up armouring of the Royal Marines though. Seems a very heavy force for the majority of operations that such a unit will be involved in, particularly if you have Apache and large numbers of F-35s permanently attached. Perhaps it would be better to replace both the CH2, Warrior and Vikings in your Naval Action Groups with a family of vehicles based on something like the Terrex or one of the contenders from the USMC MPC programme – Amphibious with enough armour for most of the enemies that they are likely to face.

JS123
JS123
June 12, 2013 3:05 pm

With all these cuts, if you keep defense spending at 2% GDP, it seems like there should be a lot of new stuff you could buy. I thought you were going to up the number of amphibious units with the savings.

Salty_Rupert
Salty_Rupert
June 17, 2013 7:00 am

An interesting article, and one for which I mostly agree with. ‘Cold War mindset’ is bandied about quite a lot in defence circles, even for modern and essential technologies such as ASW and Typhoon, but I think a significant example of it is the current UK focus on land forces.
After our land interventions in the First and Second World Wars, and the preparation for the Third in the Cold War, the Army is now the principal service – perhaps out of proportion to the actual needs of the UK. In an era of decreasing land threats and decreasing budgets it is no longer possible to fund ideals, and necessities are sometimes sacrificed as a result. This might best be seen by the current lack of MPA.

While it is understandable that over the last decade there has been a priority to invest in the Army, of necessity given Iraq and Afghanistan, it did seem that Future Force 2020 was a bit of a half-arsed attempt to revolutionise defence. Invariably the UK will be required in the future to engage in some sort of sustained land combat operation abroad, even if there is little political or public appetite to do so at present. However, given that in such an eventuality there would hopefully be general support for such an operation, it is likely that reserve forces would be more utilised. Despite having both an Active and a Reserve doctrinal review, neither has resulted in anything particularly of note aside from the Reaction/Adaptable split.

The opportunity therefore appears to have been missed to introduce significant change to the system, given the unlikelihood of the active forces alone being called to effect a sustained combat operation like Iraq or Afghanistan. Despite Jeremy decrying his ‘unpopular’ changes, to me they would make perfect sense. In the case of Armoured Regiments for example, it would make a lot of sense for the active Army (keeping the TA designation was at least more prosaic with Army/TA than Active/Reserve) to have only one or perhaps two armoured regiments (as he suggests) and to give the others to the TA. The removal of other formations required for sustained operations would streamline the active Army into the expeditionary force intended and would have the side effect of giving the Reserve forces much more of a purpose, with more cool toys and hopefully higher levels of recruitment & retention.

Whether it would be politically possible to decrease the active army by a few more tens of thousands (despite increasing the reserve forces by a similar amount) is another question entirely. As salaries now occupy a significant part of the MoD budget, these savings could be plowed into other capabilities such as the MPA which Jeremy talks about, or perhaps allowing the funding of a more certain future for Typhoon, or increasing the numbers of Type 26 which he illustrates as a restriction on our expeditionary capabilities. In terms of the expeditionary approach which is proposed above, it would make the best use of the UK’s strengths – which have never really been in sustained land operations.

The main contention I have with Jeremy’s proposals is with the contingency groups. While it makes sense to restrict the numbers of parachute trained personnel in 16 AA (given that we don’t have enough parachute-capable aircraft to drop them), the transformation of the Royal Marines from light infantry to mini-battlegroups wouldn’t be ideal. Although it would be perhaps be useful to have heavy armour available at short notice, the general structure and ethos of the RM doesn’t really support making them a US Marine style formation complete with tanks. It would remove perhaps the best specialised light infantry capability which the UK possesses, with a capability which could be supplied by one of the expeditionary Army armoured units.

Perhaps I misunderstood and Jeremy was not proposing the RM having organic armour capabilities, if so – my apologies. Were the army to supply the armoured units as well as the follow up formations then this would help bridge the divide between the assault units (16 AA, 3 Commando) and the follow up units – hopefully leading to better cohesion. Finally, is there a reason for reducing the number of Commandos from 3 to 2 units, given that there would be little cost reductions (as the 2 remaining would be larger)?
Also N.B. – it’s not 40th, 42nd or 45th Commando, it’s 40, 42 or 45 (pronounced Forty, Four-Two and Four-Five Commando)…confusing I know.

Also, I’m aware that Jeremy has decided not to look at fleet support for the expeditionary force – but the support ships would also be able to host helicopters. Perhaps this would allow more firepower to be carried on board QE with the Wildcats, with ASW Merlins moved to the support ships.

In terms of the RAF, is it a necessity to have 200 fast jets? Assuming we take Jeremy’s plan to have F-35As (although I would prefer a longer Typhoon period), would the RAF really need F-35 Bs or could we simply have the FAA operating its 50. In the event of a full-scale war, it would be possible to bring out the Typhoons from the warehouses. Given that 62 FJs were used for the Op Telic (sic: wiki), surely around 150 would be more than sufficient for general needs including Falklands and home defence. The saved ££ billion would be more useful in other areas I’m sure.

Sorry if this post did not make sense, was far too long or was infantile – my first post on TD, although I think I’ve been following it from pretty much the beginning!

JS123
JS123
June 12, 2013 3:31 pm

A while ago Martin did something similar on his blog, reducing the army and putting more emphasis on the navy, while keeping costs stable. He was able to fund a much enlarged Navy with 3 carriers and 32 Astutes (!). The article is here: http://fantasyfleet.blogspot.com/2010/10/towards-maritime-doctrine-super-power.html#comment-form
What is the difference between your two different outcomes?

Ace Rimmer
June 12, 2013 4:00 pm

“The UK is unique in that it, more than any other European power, operates in two major alliance structures. ”

Does the Commonwealth count as an alliance structure?

Also, getting rid of light guns and replacing them with M777’s means your artilley can only be shifted by Chinooks, LG can be carried by Puma, with the forthcoming HC.2 providing even greater capability, might be worth keeping a few for flexibilities sake.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
June 12, 2013 4:29 pm

@JMH
Thx, an interesting read.

Your Naval Action Groups are fine for peace time cruising but are at least 2 Frigates and probably a T45 as well short of operating in any sort of realistic multi threat environment. You are trying to protect 3 HVUs and you will need an RFA as well. You simply cannot obtain the sort of screen coverage required with your numbers.
When escorting a TG the ASW profile will be active as you want to keep the submarine away. No real point in a quiet ASW Frigate trying to be passive with a 65K tonne CVF doing flight ops and 2 noisy Amphibs around.

Rocket Banana
June 12, 2013 4:37 pm

Looks like you can get another “surface action group” out of the remaining ships and use the ones on workup to cover the UK based standing tasks (FRE, TAPS).

Can I assume you’d still use the escorts for the current standing tasks and only build the “surface action group” formation on demand?

I think I completely agree with what you suggest for the RAF fast jets. I also semi-agree with the movement of Chinook to the Army. Interesting you do not put Chinook on QE for heavy lift. I rather like the USMC 4-6 big + 12 medium + 6 small distribution.

I couldn’t quite make out, are you suggesting the creation of two larger Commandos or just ditching one of them?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 12, 2013 5:03 pm

I don’t disagree with the overall thrust of the force structure, assuming fixed resources and the commitments outlined. I do think there are some fairly serious anomalies though.

Can’t quite see the logic of reducing the number of Cdo manoeuvre units (and indeed removing the Cde Bde as a structure) while retaining 16AAB tbh. At least the Cdo Bde is deployable over distance with current assets. I can’t see how you’d get 2-3000 blokes and 50-odd helos anywhere of interest in a hurry. As others have suggested, swapping M777 for the L117 is not without it’s issues. When FH70 was trialled with 3 Cdo back in the late 80s, they found that shifting the ammo (never mind the gun itself) was a major challenge. Not sure why there’s a battalion of arty with 16AAB and only a battery with the Cdo. The same logistic burden will aslo pertain to attaching chally 2 and Warrior to the Cdos. Particularly as you’ll have pretty much removed the Cdo Logs regt in your new construct.

Just as a point of order, you don’t need to make the support helos organic to the Marines, there’s a reason 845, 846, 847 and 848NAS are organised as the Commando Helicopter Force. You may find one or two adverse responses to 40th, 42nd and 45th commandos as well……Its Forty, Four-two and Four-Five.

On the Naval Groups, you do not have enough Merlin to do sustained ASW or AEW, 6 and four respectively would be a minimum. The statement that the vertical lift more than replaces what Ocean brings is also substantially incorrect. Ocean brings 12 Merlin plus half a dozen Lynx/Wildcat or Apache (as well as some landing craft). You’ve got fewer cabs than that on QE and you’ll probably struggle to get six operating spots consistently if you’ve got 18 F35 running a f/w profile.

Lastly, there is little justification for replacing Typhoon in the QRA role with F35A. For QRA you’re talking about ability to get out quickly and carry some AAM for which there is little difference between F35A & B. If you must drop to a single type, which is the only rationale I can see for ditching a perfectly good multi-role fighter, then what replaces it ought to be able to swap between the QRA pool and Exped pool as required. Which means B only.

I would be very concerned with the lack of logistics and sustainment capability though. That isn’t about nation building, you need good logs to be able to sustain operations beyond a few days. Your exped forces need to be beefier in that regard, manpower, stores, POL, workshops, vehicles to move it all and then FP for them.

Peter Elliott
June 12, 2013 5:18 pm

I have thought for a while that for practical purposes the Paras and Royals should form a single Rapid Reaction brigade, with 4 principal manoeuvre units, with the option to tweak the Task Org accroding to the mission circumstances, logistics and readiness states.

The third para batallion and 3rd commando unit could remain in being for other detached tasks or for force generation purposes.

But as a fully tooled up fighting formation able to be delivered by a mix of air and sea it is a fiction to pretend we have two full RR brigades available – so lets save one set of HQ staff and have a single organisation jointly staffed by the two cap badges.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
June 12, 2013 5:43 pm

@JMH

My bad, missed that line!

On NABs point ref 24/7 cover you would increase the AEW cabs at the expense of the ASW cabs. In an ASW threat you are looking at 4 T26 with 1 Merlin each and maybe only 2 on the Carrier. Enough to allow decent coverage and supplemented by the T45 Wildcat as weapons Carriers.

Mark
Mark
June 12, 2013 5:50 pm

Nice post Jeremy and it gd you took the time to write it and some interesting strutures are proposed with merit I do think the marine formation has merit.

However as all the major uk overseas territories have rather large airbases. Diego Garcia, ascension, Falklands Cyprus, gib. Perhaps we dispense with naval vessel designed to recapture these islands and instead assign typhoon merlin awac and a future mpa to protect the islands on air and sea and save a fortune on large ships being naval orientated doesn’t necessary mean ships (sorry x I know how much you like them). We did contribute to a coalition operation of some size in the gulf without recourse to either carriers or amphib ships a model for the future perhaps.

Second you may think there’s no development path for typhoon but there is and significant changes are under way with the aircraft and have been for some time it is however not been publicly communicated for whatever reason. As for aesa, test aircraft are being covered to aesa radars as we speak. It also makes little sense to spend somewhere in the region of 15b pounds to buy 200 f35 to replace a more than adequate aircraft with superior performance in order to save money or in some vain hope of forming carrier battle groups.

Rocket Banana
June 12, 2013 5:52 pm

Jeremy M H,

“All standing patrols would end for the most part…”

I think that might be a bit of a problem, although I understand your rationale.

Seems a bit of a waste to have a Chinook capable carrier and then not use one of our most useful assets on it. Furthermore you’d half the number of spots you’d need to launch an assault of a similar size which on CVF might be necessary whilst operating AEW, ASW, and CAP/CAS.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
June 12, 2013 6:07 pm

@Mark

However as all the major uk overseas territories have rather large airbases. Diego Garcia, ascension, Falklands Cyprus, gib. Perhaps we dispense with naval vessel designed to recapture these islands and instead assign typhoon merlin awac and a future mpa to protect the islands on air and sea and save a fortune on large ships being naval orientated doesn’t necessary mean ships (sorry x I know how much you like them). We did contribute to a coalition operation of some size in the gulf without recourse to either carriers or amphib ships a model for the future perhaps.

Again that does have merit but lacks the flexibility of maritime assets which can project “expeditionary” power elsewhere as well and jeremy does talk about expeditionary power. In 2003 3 Cdo Brigade and 15th MEU took Al Faw from land and ships, with the Geography allowing land based air to contribute when sand storms intervened but that may not be possible outside of the unique geography of that area.

x
x
June 12, 2013 6:11 pm

@ Jeremy M H

Interesting. :)

Couple of thoughts. I would ditch Puma from your aviation set-up. It takes 18 Chinook lifts to move one light battalion so if you have all or most of the 24 Chinook available you would be all right. Better off with more Wildcat. I would aim for one heliborne battalion and one parachute battalion, rather like your own country’s 101st and 82nd. The saving for us is that the parachute battalion would have very light scales of kit; remember when the British Army say “light role” it means “we can’t afford to give them a proper vehicle”!

As for you mini-Brit-MEUs I would drop Challenger. A US ARG may get away with 4 M1A1s but far to heavy for us; tbh they only just get away with it. (Rather embarrassingly our BARV is base on the Leopard not Chally…) I would put all the light tracked vehicles into the LPD and move Warrior to the Bay. I have long been a fan of the MEU’s light cavalry squadron. Probably again a bit too heavy for the UK but swapping the 4 tanks for 4 Warriors as a screening force, reserve, or the “strike” element for the “raid” once the AOA has been established it is an interesting thought.

Lastly and not wishing to be pedantic it isn’t 40th or 45th Commando. It is forty for 40 Commando, four two for 42 Commando. And so on. Sharing knowledge not scoring points.

x
x
June 12, 2013 7:25 pm

@ Jeremy M H

I see what you are saying re Puma. Concentrating them to support one formation makes sense too. It takes 34 Puma lifts to move one light battalion. Shame (?) we don’t have a land border to defend or police they would be ideal. Perhaps Mr Cameron will feel the need to have some ground forces to help the French? Who knows? As NaB says you have to get the helicopters and their support stuff into theatre and that is no small task. Lastly don’t think helicopter warfare (a la We Were Soldiers) against a peer enemy is a goer. But as we don’t tend to do that much no problem. :)

If we were keeping them longer I would suggest something really left field and have them receiving some light navalization, permanently assign them to CVF (12 out of the 18 rebuilds; 6 ashore for training and spares) for trooping and cargo. We could then run them into the ground until Merlin came along or something else. I am constantly reassured here that the RAF chaps would love to be at sea so no probs.

French army Puma on the deck of CdeG……….

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-zsx0NHJiARc/TfeFs-en2WI/AAAAAAAAEQU/KJxHq94vA6o/s1600/040326-N-5319A-006.jpg

A civilian Puma vertrepping for the USN………..

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/US_Navy_091013-N-9123L-187_An_AS332_Super_Puma_helicopter_assigned_to_the_Military_Sealift_Command_dry_cargo_ship_USNS_Richard_E._Byrd_(T-AKE_4)_departs_the_guided-missile_destroyer_USS_McCampbell_(DDG_85).jpg

Saying that I still think it is a waste of £600m that could have been spent on other helicopters. £600m is like 10 F35b. 4 or more tankers. A T45. A brigades’ worth of 8×8’s and so on.

As for Warrior trading 4 tanks for 4 Warrior I didn’t mean just 4 Warrior I meant plus the 8 you had already suggested. Still think it is a bit too heavy for us. But I do like the idea of a cavalry squadron for the UK ARG.

You do know that RM Commandos have a different structure to British Army battalions? It might interest you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commando_21

Good fun.

Rocket Banana
June 12, 2013 7:27 pm

Perhaps keeping HMS Ocean and the third Bay would provide a less capable Naval Action Group which would allow sustained operations on a Battalion level or allow a intervention Battalion capability AND a non-sustained Brigade?

Mark
Mark
June 12, 2013 7:49 pm

Apas

I agree the al faw was a classic example of uk amphibious usefulness. But I would also say aircaft are able to project expeditionary power and do so regularly. My comment was more a hypothetical counter to the post that because we have oversea Territories and want to project power the answer is more navy. It does not necessary have to be so.

16 air assault were expeditionary in serria leone, Iraq as much a 3 commando were.

Jeremy yes selex have been pushing for government funding but that hasn’t stopped the project progressing. Typhoon is much freer now to be upgraded nationally than it was in the past and is currently going under such upgrades. Aesa is not the be all and end all there are pros and cons but as time goes on more pros outway the cons in certain missions.

Where are still not sure what capability f35 will deliver and what capability partners will have and in what time timescale but once you get to around 60 f35 the argument for more will be less about carriers and more about what capability they bring and at what cost against what we already have in typhoon. There will be little budget in 2020-2030 timeframe to buy aircraft as the ssbn program will be eating most of it.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 12, 2013 8:01 pm

@mark

Agree that airpower is very useful to project expeditionary power and that is why I have always supported balanced forces. I also strongly believe that F35B capability will be as useful from a land based concrete strip as it will be from a steel strip in the oggin.

Rocket Banana
June 12, 2013 8:07 pm

Mark,

Why don’t you do a post explaining how we deliver expeditionary power without the need for CVF, LPDs etc. Not having a go, just saying it would be an interesting discussion especially in the current “cut costs” climate.

We could start by assuming a naval task group can get to the area within a month, deploy a Brigade, unleash 600 strike sorties and then start to worry about sustained ops, so the non-carrier solution will need to get everything in place in a similar time frame (or be ready to back things up).

Rocket Banana
June 12, 2013 8:20 pm

Jeremy,

4-6 Chinook + 6 Merlin per CVF
8-12 Merlin on Ocean

???

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 12, 2013 8:23 pm

Simon,

I prefer to think how capabilities compliment each other rather than compete. There will be occasions when flying in a battalion is or land based airpower is more appropriate then deploying a CBG. There will be times when the deployment of airborne/air mobile forces as part of a larger op centered around a CBG/ARG is appropriate.
There will be occasions where maritime power projection is the best or only solution but if you are Commander UK JFC then you want as many tools in the box as possible.

Rocket Banana
June 12, 2013 8:36 pm

APATS,

Agreed. I really wasn’t trying to dismiss the availability of options. I am rather curious that if our airpower and network of available airstrips and fuel supplies is sufficient then why not explore the possibility that a CBG is not strictly necessary? Maybe it is cheaper to invest in airlift than it is to build an assault ship?

Mark
Mark
June 12, 2013 8:44 pm

Apas I would agree entirely. I sometimes like the devils advocate position in the water based threads.

Simon well very busy at work at present program nearing a first flight so no time for a post anytime soon. I would say we did just that projected power in the gulf war in 91 without deploying a carrier or amphib force.

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 12, 2013 8:46 pm

Simon. Your airpower needs range to achieve that, so unless the RAF gets Vulcans/B-52s/LRS-B or FB-22s , the UK still needs carriers.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 12, 2013 8:47 pm

I don’t see a need to permanently attach a Challenger and Warrior troop to the Marines. The commandos and paras seem to be appropriate for a light structure, and you can always build a battlegroup around them if a tank or two is ever needed.

Having said that, a protected fire support and recce vehicle might well be suitable for working with light battalions.
It’s often been suggested on here, a new CVR(W) vehicle, light on its feet and able to operate with the likes of Jackal and utility trucks. Something that can chuck a bit of high explosive about, but not be so heavy as to destroy local infrastructure or to require disproportionately heavy logistical support.
The ERC-90 and Scorpion-90 both came in under nine tonnes, so conceptually easy. If a 90mm gun would be too unique for you, how about a 40CTA and 60mm mortar combo?

x
x
June 12, 2013 8:47 pm

That Chinook deployment for S-L was epic. S-L shows we need a sensible amount of “strategic” air lift to compliment our maritime capabilities. But I wouldn’t call S-L expeditionary warfare. UNAMSIL though not large (not large enough perhaps) was in country. The Indian Army aren’t some Third World hick force. It was sensible for HMG to despatch the RN. But if this was an example of expeditionary warfare by air then there would have been no need to send the ARG. Especially considering the first act of British forces was to secure the airport. Good example of what British forces can do and sensible use of available forces and capabilities, but expeditionary warfare sorry no.

Rocket Banana
June 12, 2013 8:48 pm

A350?

Mark
Mark
June 12, 2013 9:16 pm

Simon

All I’m gonna say is it happening shortly.

Ian
Ian
June 12, 2013 9:48 pm

Lurker here commenting for the first time. With respect to the Navy I fear we are putting a great number of eggs in a limited number of very expensive baskets, which we will in consequence hesitate to use. Conversely, if we do use them for the expeditionary purposes of other countries, we risk assets essential to our own defence that will be very difficult to replace in a timely fashion. Jeremy’s proposals aren’t sufficiently radical to address the first problem; and his political and expeditionary assumptions reinforce the second.

Rocket Banana
June 12, 2013 10:07 pm

Interesting, very interesting how my “A350?” managed to be applicable to two parties when it was only really directed at one :-)

Good luck to the party it was directed at.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 12, 2013 10:34 pm

Mark

Granby had the “luxury” of a six month unopposed build up in a friendly staging area, while Saddam tried to fortify his new possession. Those land forces projecting power you speak of arrived by a particular medium as well – via Hamburg & Bremerhaven if memory serves, as did the vast majority of their log support.

It’s also fair to suggest that with six USN carriers, two battleships and a full MEB embarked, with an MEF ashore, any UK carrier or amphib would have just got in the way. As it was our DD/FF, PCRS and MCMV made a very valuable contribution. Ark Royal did deploy to the Med while the Sixth Flt carrier went round to the Gulf of Oman, to keep the colonel honest.

A more demanding timeline and a smarter opponent might have exposed the UK power projection capability at the time for what it actually was.

Opinion3
Opinion3
June 12, 2013 11:39 pm

@J M H

I have often wondered if the armed forces could be combined into a sort of Marines, some interesting thoughts posed here.

The one that causes the most horror is the scrapping of the perfectly new, effective and largely British Typhoons. It makes no sense to suggest it (as some politicians have, whilst others try and sell them) nor to do it.

Putting all our eggs in one basket is far from sensible, indeed it is a shame GEC Marconi and BAE merged, I fear one design weakness (e.g. T42 aluminium superstructure) in a complete fleet is poor risk management. Plunging for a sole F35 fleet doesn’t get my vote I’m afraid.

The infantry could probably be arranged differently though.

Topman
Topman
June 13, 2013 1:47 am

A lot of the reasons why we scrap fleets is down to cost or capability rather than fatigue or lifing issues. For example the F3 would have gone on for many years past it’s (recent) scrapping.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
June 13, 2013 2:24 am

I cannot see you supporting 200 fast jets. A much more likely scenario is a mix tied around 150 Typhoons and 10 F-35B by 2020 with F-35 building up slowly as Typhoons are retired.
I believe the last Tranche 2 is due shortly and the first Tranche 3 Typhoon is not due for delivery until late this year with deliveries continuing into 2017. Even allowing a 20 year life (which is very short) this gives withdrawl dates for Tranche 3 between 2033 and 2037 at best. Much more likely you will be operating Typhoons on things like GRA And the unmentionable Isles into the 2040’s.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
June 13, 2013 6:49 am

OOPS, QRA

Opinion3
Opinion3
June 13, 2013 7:00 am

I don’t entirely disagree with your thinking about the out of service life of the Typhoon, but I am struggling with the F35 as the sole replacement, as I said previously a single replacement and one designed decades earlier doesn’t quite feel right.

Fundamentally I uneasy with a continually diminishing force, too much is spent on welfare and insufficient revenue is collected from companies.

Opinion3
Opinion3
June 13, 2013 7:00 am

I don’t entirely disagree with your thinking about the out of service life of the Typhoon, but I am struggling with the F35 as the sole replacement, as I said previously a single replacement and one designed decades earlier doesn’t quite feel right.

Fundamentally I uneasy with a continually diminishing force, too much is spent on welfare and insufficient revenue is collected from companies.

Repulse
June 13, 2013 7:44 am

Jeremy, good post and interesting comments so far.

I agree with the position that the RN has too many HVUs versus the number of escorts that can be afforded. This, limited airframes and the lack of man power makes me nervous of investing in additional LHDs to replace the LPDs. Ultimately there resources will never be there for seperate ARGs and CBGs. Hence this is the nub of the discussion on how best to achieve a OTH amphibious assault capability.

I have often thought about a USMC type structure to provide offensive capabilities, but the UK already has a colour for that and it’s called Purple. 3Cdo working alongside British Army armoured battle groups, watched over by RAF UAVs etc is fine by me as long as the approach is balanced and effective.

Given the limited funds, the UK not only needs to be laser focus on the capabilities it wants to provide but also creative as we have been in the past. Rather than being a mini USMC, being inventive and dare Isay quirky actually makes us more useful in my view.

For example, why not base a RM Cdo solely around a CVF, LPD and a SSS auxiliary? Never gonna get 36 F35Bs on the CVF by doing this, but does it really matter when combined with other assets?

Also, why not structure Army armoured battle groups on what can fit in a modern LST? Regardless of if its a amphibious assault or land invasion, it needs to get to the threatre most likely by sea.

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 13, 2013 7:54 am

I do wonder why there is a rush to get RAF Tornado GR4 out of service when the Luftwaffe is going to keep theirs going beyond 2025?

topman
topman
June 13, 2013 8:19 am

They’ll be flying them for longer than that. I’d be more looking at 2040 before the GAF stops flying them.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
June 13, 2013 10:11 am

Hi Repulse, RE your
“I agree with the position that the RN has too many HVUs versus the number of escorts that can be afforded… the nub of the discussion on how best to achieve a OTH amphibious assault capability.”

I am glad you brought that underlying question into focus
– whereas ‘too many HVUs relative to escorts’ ignores the fact that most navies in Europe are rich in frigates
– so the point of view depends on how unilateral, or with the USN only, we want to go (in the latter case there are plenty of escorts, again)

Radwulf
Radwulf
June 13, 2013 10:43 am

Any Typhoon jet fighter replacement would have to be significantly British in order to maintain our domestic expertise and jobs. F35 may make sense from an American and economies of scale side but it does not benefit Britain becoming an optional cog in the American Military Industrial Complex. As I understand it we only opted into the program for a relatively cheap and capable STOVL aircraft we otherwise may not have got.

The Taranis based UCAVs are estimated to be in service in the 2030s and they could probably be relatively easily modified into being manned as well, so that will likely be the preferred option.

Rocket Banana
June 13, 2013 1:37 pm

I agree with that premise of the assault but still think you’re better off launching a wave of Chinook from CVF in the first instance. You’d then launch a wave of Merlin again, from CVF.

The Merlin would then continue to operate from CVF as two “service flights”. The Chinook would work from the spots on Albion/Bay with a couple in the hangar of CVF.

6 Merlin + 6 Chinook can then service about 1800 troops (3Cdo) in the field, which means that you’d need to bring the other Bay along to host the extras (400 on CVF, 600 on LPD, 400 on each LSD).

Each of the ships take on their “overload” of troops in transit from a more comfortable distribution over the other RFA support vessels ready for the assault.

Unfortunatly this “third Bay” breaks your tidy mould of pre-defined task groups, but would only really be needed for a full scale operation. This is why I like the idea of HMS Ocean (or new one) flitting around with the third Bay providing three task groups on cylce with the ability to surge two together (usually CVF+LPH) for a full scale op.

1 Active, 1 Ready, 1 Unavailable of:
CVF + LPD + LSD + T45 + T26(ASW) + T26(ASW) + 40Cdo + 2Para
CVF + LPD + LSD + T45 + T26(ASW) + T26(ASW) + 42Cdo + 3Para
LPH + LSD + T45 + T26(ASW) + T26(GP) + 45Cdo (+ 1Para when needed?)

1 Active, 1 Ready, 1 Unavailable of:
T45 + T26(ASW) + T26(GP)
T45 + T26(ASW) + T26(GP)
T45 + T26(ASW) + T26(GP)

Plus one spare T26(GP)

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 13, 2013 2:45 pm

I apologize for this intrusion, I’m just an observer of the military debate.
I was for the FRES SV project, but when I see the weight of your future vehicles and I compare them with the weight of future french vehicles, I look capacity aircraft and helicopters of transport, all your ground forces are not deployable by aircraft.
The french armoured vehicles that will replace our current vehicles weighing less than twenty tons, except VBCI that weighs 29 tons, which corresponds to your warrior will weigh about 40 tons.
You have a big problem. But maybe I’m wrong.

mickp
mickp
June 13, 2013 4:27 pm

@JMH / Simon, re Simon’s proposal. For me keeping Ocean (and ultimately a replacement) makes a lot of sense. In the worst case we would ever face (need to put troops ashore from OTH into hostile space) then CVF with Ocean allows CVF to operate F35 heavy and Ocean to provide Helo facilities for the assault. I understand the intended flexibility of CVF but its not without limits and there may be some times when it would be too compromised to do everything. Ocean gives us dare I say a quasi 3rd carrier capability, and in peacetime / low intensity stuff would be able to deploy as part of a ‘surface action group’ perhaps. You are right about cost though. I would mitigate the cost by keeping one of the Albions in extended readiness. One Bay would go or be ‘sold’ to the DFID (see below). I would ultimately replace the remaining 4 Bays and Albions with 4 large LSDs / LPDs, perhaps with one RN manned and the other 3 RFA – or even all 4 RFA manned. Argus would go without direct replacement. The SSS would come on stream solely to replace existing ships. All would have some degree of hospital / helo facility. Any PCRS / Argus replacement would ultimately come out of the DFID budget operating in peacetime for disaster relief etc (and replacing the Bay already assigned). I’m not proposing making Ocean II F35 capable other than perhaps for emergency landing but could be flexible for assault, ASW, attack and AEW helos. I appreciate the need for well decks to meet strategy but the reality is its a far less frequent need than that for helos. I’d rule the cost of an LHD out – going for an LPH supported by the common class of large LPDs, largely in RFA hands.

Observer
Observer
June 13, 2013 4:50 pm

Frenchie, I don’t think the British goes for air deployed units as much as the French do. In fact, I believe France may be the foremost or among the foremost experienced air deployed practitioners in the world, it is just not too publicly demonstrated.

This means that the Armee de Terra tends to favour light units that can go by air, backed with heavy MBTs, the “high-low” approach.

The British army prefers to go by ship or train which allowed them to go medium-heavy. Slower, but more protected.

Different ways to do things, can’t say it is wrong, different situations need different solutions.

Challenger
Challenger
June 13, 2013 5:07 pm

I don’t see anything wrong with the F35A being brought into service,,,,,but only after we have got our money’s worth out of Typhoon first, the later tranches will after all be good until the early 2030’s and if Tornado and other contemporary aircraft are anything to go by it will be relatively easy and inexpensive to keep them running well into the 2040’s.

I think a two type fast jet fleet would be a headache for the UK to try and set up now, but we are in a position where Typhoon has been largely paid for and is well on it’s way through production and the F35 will be bought in small numbers at a time to first provide a basic carrier capability and then to in part replace Tornado.

Hopefully as others have said the rumours of more than 107 Typhoon being retained into the 2020’s are true. A sizeable fleet coupled with an advancement in weapons integration/software updates (if we wait for the other partner nations it will never get done!) 48 F35B now, more to follow and then a straight choice between the A and B variants to replace Typhoon way into the 2030’s or 2040’s (with either type offering good overall commonality and hpefully a decreasing price-tag) sounds like a solid plan to me.

Challenger
Challenger
June 13, 2013 5:15 pm

Couple of additional questions/musings for you…..

Firstly does anyone know whether the Oman Typhoon order is still slated to come out of the RAF purchase or will it be a batch of new builds?

Secondly after reading all of the debate over the future amphibious force how do people feel about hedging our bets by first and foremost trying to secure both CVF and all 5 LPD’s/LSD’s in service but then theoretically if the money and manpower where there after that trying to keep Ocean in service until 2025?

If she were replaced by another cheap LPH built to commercial standards then the build time would only be 5 or so years, factor in a bit of time for design and it could potentially allow us to defer the decision on replacement out to 2018 at the earliest, possibly later.

May sound a bit mad under current limitations but a ship of her type only requires around 200 (not including flight personnel) people to crew her, would provide a much needed degree of flexibility and cover the bases whilst (again theoretically) PoW is brought into service.

The rumoured OSD for Ocean of 2018 just seems too soon to me.

Mark
Mark
June 13, 2013 5:20 pm

Challenger

The original idea was sell uk tranche 1 jets to Oman. They reject that and wanted tranche 3 jets which is what they ordered they are not from the uk order of 160.

Frenchie
Frenchie
June 13, 2013 5:30 pm

Thanks Observer for your explanation :)

mickp
mickp
June 13, 2013 5:35 pm

@challenger – I agree on Ocean. Fundamentally I think it will be more useful, more often than the other amphibs. It creates much more options and makes even more remote the nightmare scenario of ever having to crew up both CVFs at once. It gives a dedicated large helo support capability for a variety of tasks that otherwise would have to be squeezed on CVF or spread across RFAs. It would remove my ‘Karel Doorman’ type requirement.

RedTrousers
RedTrousers
June 13, 2013 5:52 pm

I hope this isn’t going to sound really very stupid… Naval force groupings are certainly not my area of expertise.

What about thinking of force projection of land forces in terms of paired capabilities. Ocean makes a pretty good helicopter carrier, the CVF will be even better. But you can’t get that many people onboard: probably not even a full light role BG by the time you’ve got the boat’s crew and air wing embarked.

Something like this, as a companion troop carrying ship might be one answer. http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/fleet/cruise-ferries/pont-aven . Militarise it by having the forward roof bit flattened off and able to act as an HLS for 2-3 Chinooks (it already has an HLS behind the funnel, big enough for one Chinook), and you’ve got a ro-ro capacity big enough for 650 cars.

Ocean + Pont Aven deploys a light wheeled Brigade easily. The airlanding handled by the BG(-) on Ocean, and second waves can be landed by shuttle running helicopters to Pont Aven or docking in a port and offloading by ro-ro.

Pont Aven cost £100 million, quite a lot of that on fripperies such as cinemas and bars. An austere build to the same design would be less. It does normal sea speeds, and is built to handle rough conditions that often occur in the Bay of Biscay.

Buy a military Pont Aven, or possibly have some enabling contract for Pont Aven itself to be on call for STUFT at one week of notice, £5 million a year. It’s never more than 2 days sailing from Portsmouth or Plymouth.

(Disclaimer – no connection to Brittany ferries, but we have as a family sailed in Pont Aven a few times to Spain. Excellent ship. No doubt “other ferries are available”, so I use it merely as an example.)

Now, it’s just a thought.

Rocket Banana
June 13, 2013 6:00 pm

Peacetime operation with HMS Ocean and a Bay is more utilitarian than offensive. You can’t say that about tipping up with a CVF. “Hi, how many bombs do you have aboard?”, “well over 1000”, “could you please leave”.

The LPH one works a little more like: “Hi, what offensive capability is embarked”, “well, we can take out subs, enemy ships and a few tanks, but generally we move people and equipment around”, “great, welcome in”.

Together however, in an offensive scenario we can embark Commando lift on Ocean and the amphibs (CVF for Chinook maintenance) and leave CVF as a potent strike and sea-control carrier with 30-32 jets and a dozen Merlin. Not to be messed with ;-)

Peter Elliott
June 13, 2013 6:19 pm

All depends for how long you’re going to need that second deck at sea. Personally I can’t see it happening more than for 4 months and only in a screaming once-every-30-year emergency. Why’s that? becuase its only needed in a UK Sovereign operation against a peer enemy. In any serious coalition op we can make the assumption that there will be at least one other flat top around: CVN, LPH, LHD. Against a non peer enemy one QEC will do just fine.

For such a rare UK only emergency I would imagine that by cancelling all leave and shore training and raiding the desk wallahs a suitably experienced crew for the second QEC crew could be cobbled together for the single tour required.

And in exchange for that you save both the build cost of your replacement LPH and the cost of crewing it for the other 29.8 years.

So for me no nightmare. FWIW I agree that Ocean may well limp on for a few more years, mostly in reserve or filling in for Argus with a skeleton crew. But that will then be it.

“nightmare scenario of ever having to crew up both CVFs at once.”

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
June 13, 2013 7:03 pm

“1. Finding a way to keep both CVF’s in service with useful air wings.
2. Getting MPA’s into service to gain a lot of flexibility.

What you propose has merit but I don’t see the funding there to do it.”

The first is easy: take the F35B’s away from the RAF and give them all to the Navy, adjusting staffing levels between the two forces to take into account the necessary fitters etc.. The Crabs will kick up a stink, but into every life some rain must fall, and they will still have their Typhoons and UAVs to play with. From the capability point of view nothing will be lost (the RN can go land-based mud-moving if required – they did in Afghanistan), and much could be gained.

As for restoring MPA, the only way I see that happening, short of a war that forces the politicians to accept the need (as per AEW and the Falklands), is a miracle. It is traditionally a RAF responsibility but “Coastal Command” has always been their red-headed step-child, even at the height of the U-Boat menace, when the very existence of the Country was threatened, they starved it of resources.

Rocket Banana
June 13, 2013 7:26 pm

My take on the MPA capability is that it’s a nice to have, but we’ve just scrapped Nimrod and the MPA capability that provided, so why would we suddenly rekindle that capability?

The idea was that MPA tasks can be covered by other assets. What these truly are and if they are more efficient at the job I really don’t know.

Is there really any threat to our waters that justifies a change of tack?

What is the benefit of P8 being able to deliver Storm Shadow? We will be able to do that (theoretically) with Typhoon and F35… With Astute and (possibly) T45 delivering a similar capability in the form of TLAM.

Peter Elliott
June 13, 2013 7:29 pm

@JMH

I am a fan of your proposal to fund a fleet of modern airliner based ISTAR planes. But I think you undersell the idea by branding it mostly as P8-MPA .

The context for me very much includes: E3, Airseeker, Sentinel as well as the ASW MPA role. Our future airliner ISTAR platfrom needs to combine capabilities in these fields with a single set of modular workstations and a variety of podded sensors that can be tailored to the mission. Cost savings must be there from fleet commonality, and a modern worldwide logistic chain, even if the individual aircraft remain in one role or another for months and years at a time.

This is a contestable market too and Airbus really should be pushing its mission systems from C235/C295 into a jet airframe such as Voyager. But I agree that at the moment 737 / P8 is in the lead.

Don’t really see it as a strike platform though. You may as well send Tranche 3 Typhoon with Conformals and a Voyager if you want a long range Storm Shadow strike. At least then the Tiffies can also escort the airliner. Remember we have the option of sub launched TLAM too.

And Storm Shadow isn’t an Anti Ship Missile (yet). If you were talking about NSM or one day Perseus you might have more of a point.

x
x
June 13, 2013 8:02 pm

HurstLlama said “The first is easy: take the F35B’s away from the RAF and give them all to the Navy, adjusting staffing levels between the two forces to take into account the necessary fitters etc.. The Crabs will kick up a stink, but into every life some rain must fall, and they will still have their Typhoons and UAVs to play with. From the capability point of view nothing will be lost (the RN can go land-based mud-moving if required – they did in Afghanistan), and much could be gained.”

Young man you can’t say that sort of stuff here. Rule 4 of the Think Defence Posters’ Handbook clearly states,

4) When a capability has to be surrendered, shared, or provided by an alternative platform owned by another service it is fair if it is the RN that is losing the capability and even fairer if the joint capability is to be run by the RAF. Posters are encouraged to use the word purple over and over again and say uniform colour doesn’t matter, infer that the commenter is a dumb civilian who doesn’t really know how the military work, accuse any pro-RN poster of living in the past or sentimentalism or tribal or all three, infer that the commenter has no understanding of airpower if there is reasonable argument for not using airpower (VL or artillery launched PGM), or a combination of any of the former.

In the past I have suggested all those recruited as maintainers for F35b go through Raleigh. I see the FJ pilot pool as a shared resource, but not the rest of the operational personnel associated with the platform. The trouble is the more dark blue F35 technicians there are the less RAF personnel are needed. But if you argue the reverse say the that youngsters don’t join the RAF to go to sea or if uniforms don’t matter why not have them wearing dark blue it all goes a bit squiffy. Sad but true. Saying that I did recognise that carrier FJ will have to rely some RAF expertise. But yes what not transfer those too? Uniform don’t matter. Being at sea doesn’t matter. Shouldn’t have joined if you can’t take joke etc. etc. and so on.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
June 13, 2013 8:05 pm

“The idea was that MPA tasks can be covered by other assets.”

That was the story that was fed to Parliament by the then SoS – he was lying.

“Is there really any threat to our waters that justifies a change of tack?”

Currently, or within the life span of defence planning assumptions now being made (i.e. out to the mid-2030s)? The only non-nuclear existential military threat that I can see in that time frame is one to out trade – the UK depends on just in time arrival of imports of food and energy. Shut down the main ports for just a week and there would be rioting in the streets and the collapse of civil order, the government would have to give in to whoever was causing the shut down.

Given six months prep and a few submarines,and, I think it could be done with as few as three reasonably modern subs, the UK would be stuffed – unless it had the ability to find and destroy those few subs. As the UK stands at the moment with the state of the RN and the lack of MPA, I suggest it, it couldn’t.

I think the relative difference between the UK and the Japanese is instructive. Despite all the wittering of Cameron (our Prime Minister for any overseas readers) about the UK having the 4th largest defence budget, I note that Japan manages to maintain a fleet of of 50 MPA.

De-lurked
De-lurked
June 13, 2013 8:06 pm

Allow me to de-lurk and suggest that your proposal doesn’t take itself sufficiently seriously. If you want a powerful expeditionary capability, good. But what good is an army of just 21 brigades? If you cut the army down to just what can be delivered in an assault by sea or air, you could use the savings to create a much more powerful navy, perhaps even a third carrier group. This plays to the UKs strengths, which is its technology, and not to its weakness, which is its size.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2013 8:34 pm

Ref the P8 proposal. Yes would like to see MPA back but storm shadow does not deliver an ASuW capability, for me integration of JSM would be a much higher priority.

Rocket Banana
June 13, 2013 8:36 pm

“The main justification for changing that MPA situation is that there are going to be much higher demands on escorts than there currently are once you get carriers up and running”

Please don’t say that too loudly. ;-)

Given that we are an island nation we need to defend our shores, but how many P8 would be required to police the air sufficiently to disuade an argressor? I’m of the opinion that E3 is quite capable of detecting any air or surface threat better than almost any other platform (with Typhoon dispatched to intercept). It’s then just the submarine threat that needs to be addressed, which could be provided by a network of static sonars, frigates, SSN, Merlin, etc.

In addition if it is port closure that would hit us the worst then we can concentrate our surface assets in those locations.

Not 100% convinced that P8 is necessary.

As for the “poor mans strike” I really don’t think that’s a selling point, in fact I think it’s quite the opposite (in diplomatic circles) :-(

Rocket Banana
June 13, 2013 9:00 pm

RT,

I hope you’d paint your Pont Aven grey?

To be honest that’s how I see Bay working… hardly a military ship… just happens to deliver ground force (not the gardeners) to a port seized by a light Commando battalion.

Lose the LPDs, their capabilty can be regenerated with relative ease.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2013 9:23 pm

Landing material into a port is why we have the point class.

Somebody once told me that the problem with using ferries to move troops is that they do not have the logistic capacity to house the number of pax that they can carry for more than a short period.
As they are used to being able to embark provisions and offload waste, take on water etc on a regular basis. Makes sense I suppose.

mickp
mickp
June 13, 2013 9:29 pm

@PE

Notwithstanding the (remoteness of a) nightmare scenario I would contend a LPH has more utility in general than an LPD for the tasks we are most likely to face; I might even consider going to just 3 large RFA LPDs to fund it. Whilst a mixed air group will be ok most of the time, if push comes to shove even in coalition ops, I think there will be more demands on CVF to operate in a more conventional strike carrier role. The other option is to let Ocean soldier on and defer any decision until replacing the Albions with a compromise LHD design and the 3 Bays with two large LSDs. Much as it pains me to say, I think Amphib is one area that could be cut in the next round and re-size our aims of what we expect to be able to deploy from the sea.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 13, 2013 9:37 pm

Hi, HurstLlama.
What do you mean by “shut down the main ports”?

Peter Elliott
June 13, 2013 9:37 pm

@Mick P

Port facilities can be denied by asymetric action, hostile populations, or just the weight of supplies needing to flow through them. The ability to land and sustain a ground force across the beach is a vital piece of strategic flexibility.

Lose that and you might as well wind up the regular army altogether…

Peter

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
June 13, 2013 9:44 pm

APATS, interesting loggie bean counting exercise. How many cubic metres of water / rations are needed per 100 embarked troops / day. I suspect it’s not the long pole in the tent.

Civvy ferry, optimised for 2,500 passengers per 24 hours, complete with cinemas, spas, casinos, pussers’ office, etc. And cabins that for military use you could probably treble up on occupation if you don’t mind squeezing up.

Al of those cubic metres for ration packs, and water.

Now, I’m not claiming that it’s an easy swap, but come on, soldiers on board a ferry don’t need several cubic metres each per day. We can squeeze more out, once we ditch the cinemas.

It’s just a loose idea. Pair up ships, rather than try to have one ship that does it all.

How much does a RAS fit cost for a ferry? A few million? Still cheap as chips.

Opinion3
Opinion3
June 13, 2013 9:46 pm

I’m not pessimistic about getting P8s, there are currently numerous programs going to keep the skillsets warm. Unfortunately the Nimrod programs (in all guises) had some healthy capabilities but whether the MPA program had a bit of ‘gangreen’ or ‘necrotizing fasciitis’ has always been a worry for the MOD & Government, chopping the limb off seemed drastic but entirely understandable.

We can cope without MPA but medium to long term this doesn’t make sense. It would be the most obvious contender for the ‘unallocated’ fund after UOR to Core funding and Sentinel. Would I add to the P8 capabilities? Yes

1. AGS if possible
2. JSM
3. I’d consider Brimstone (modified) too
4. SS
5. BAMS

probably in that order, you could even add crowsnest too, lots of potential

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 13, 2013 9:59 pm

@RT

My comment was not a criticism merely an observation. It was an answer to a question I asked many years ago and even if true would only be applicable to standard commercial designs.
If you are building a hybrid then easy to put in big freezers and some desalination kit.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 13, 2013 10:55 pm

Here’s a precedent for using ferries as troop transports, RT.
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195112
In the space of a few months in 1939, over 150,000 troops deployed, utilizing requisitioned civilian ships and ferries. No need for fancy amphibians, simply pull into a friendly port and offload your army. What on earth could go wrong?

Mind you, a few landing ships with amphibious craft would have been handy the following spring.
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205022146

x
x
June 13, 2013 11:19 pm

Moving troops by sea to a friendly port isn’t amphibious warfare. Just as flying a battalion into a safe airport isn’t air assault (or indeed expeditionary.)

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
June 14, 2013 6:51 am

I’m not sure why some seem to have a downer on ferries. The Falklands would not have been re-taken without civilian ships ferrying soldiers down south.

Brian Black, that’s a bit irrelevant, because I’m not making an argument against having amphibians. Unless you think that the Navy should have enough amphibians to transport an entire expeditionary Division of 30,000 troops and 10,000 vehicles.

A single Chinook could cross-deck troops faster than the limited amount of landing craft could make a return trip from an LPD to shore and back. If the conditions are suitable, the Chinooks could take the troops direct to shore. A ferry like the Pont Aven could provide enough HLS space for 3-4 Chinooks.

I’ve got no problem at all with the pros / cons of the various LHPD / CVFs arguments, it’s just that to me there’s a very large piece often unaddressed in the to’ing and fro’ing. How do you transport the soldiers? It seems to me that a specialist ship dedicated to carrying people is a better place to start from than a ship that is not.

A troop carrier ship, particularly as they are not very expensive to build, seems like a reasonable investment, and if sensibly paired up with another ship that is optimised for helicopters or whatever, getting the best of both worlds.

Then there are the peacetime uses. Transport to very large scale exercises in Europe or further, British citizen evacuations, whether because of civil war, or volcanoes shutting down the air lanes. Hospital ship, disaster relief….

The clever decision would be whether to buy such a ship, or have a clever enabling contract with a ferry company, or even a PFI arrangement (but not one as stupid as Air Tanker).

martin
Editor
June 14, 2013 7:07 am

@ Jeremy MH and JS123

My original post was based on a significantly higher MOD budget than the current one at least 8% higher. Total Land forces budget at present is £8 billion and thats not including kit, pensions (£3 billion) etc. Jeremy seems to be holding the RN at future levels i.e.19 escorts etc and reducing the RAF while decimating the Army with only 8 P8’s being bought and a handful of M777. Our £33 billion could go a fair bit further than that.

The Navy’s operation budget is only £2 billion per year. Obviously kit takes up a fair bit in total £16 billion per year spread amongst all three service’s. Even 32 Astute SSN’s which I agree would be unaffordable on current budgets and unnecessary would only cost less than 1 year out of 30 of the total defence budget to acquire.

In relation to T45 again when I wrote the previous article the T45 was still in build and the marginal cost for an extra one was around £550 million which we could not get now as the build has finished. Just as with the CVF where the marginal cost for an extra ship is only around £1 billion.

Your comparison with the USN is fair however the USN wastes vast amounts of money on certain things that we could avoid. For Instance Nuclear Powered Aircraft carriers which will cost at least double what our’s will. USN ships also tend to have significantly higher crew numbers than ours not to mention the sheer number of aircraft the USN operates. Frigates and even SSN’s are relatively cheap to operate and acquire compared to Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carriers with massif Air Group’s. On our current budget if we put everything into the Navy as we once did then we could operate a pretty substantial force.

Before anyone says anything I should mention after years of reading think defence I have changed my point of view and I don’t think we should butcher one service to raise up another. I think the Army’s force 2020 seems pretty sensible and affordable.

martin
Editor
June 14, 2013 7:33 am

@ John Hartley
“I do wonder why there is a rush to get RAF Tornado GR4 out of service when the Luftwaffe is going to keep theirs going beyond 2025?”
It’s a good point. Many nations are now buying F35’s to replace F4’s. In some ways we are buying F35’s to replace the aircraft that replaced the F4’s. I think our forces need to get out of the mindset of always buying new kit. Just like our Tranche 1 Typhoons that we are planning to scrap at the end of the decade.
@ Peter Elliott
“For such a rare UK only emergency I would imagine that by cancelling all leave and shore training and raiding the desk wallahs a suitably experienced crew for the second QEC crew could be cobbled together for the single tour required.”
I agree, Just look what was done in a few days in 1982. Hermes sailed in four days and she was pretty much on her way to the scrap yard. I think we could look at having vessels like LPH and LPD on extended readiness and possibly even look at using naval reserves to make up at least part of the crew for these very rare situations. If we have the ships we are always going to be able to find some way to crew them but no ship equals no capability. The Indians are still sailing round in Hermes and the USN operates 50 year old aircraft carriers with little issue and even keeps 70 year old battle ships in reserve yet we have to turn a ship into razor blades the minute the paintwork gets chipped.

@ Jeremy MH
I think the P8 is the logical choice especially if it can replace Sentinel with its new radar. I would like to see it equipped with up to 4 Storm shadow on the wing as I think it would give us a pretty decent intercontinental strike capability but I agree with APATS that an Anti ship missile would be the priority given that we now basically don’t have a fixed wing naval strike option.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 14, 2013 8:45 am

Book me a stateroom on the Red Trousers Line by all means…I’m assuming a decent cellar and a variety of malts come as standard…

GNB

Ant
Ant
June 14, 2013 9:13 am

How about Condor Rapide, aka HMAS Jervis Bay, currently registered at Dover and operating to the Channel Islands?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSC_Condor_Rapide

Observer
Observer
June 14, 2013 9:27 am

I take it the RT Line runs from Dunkirk to Dover? :)

Hey, it worked then, don’t see why it can’t work now, if they don’t have to travel too far.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 14, 2013 9:45 am

The big problem with “ferries” (even those as big as Pont Aven) is their ability to support life for extended periods. As others have noted, they’re designed to shuttle between ports where they get “serviced” every 48 hours or so. That servicing includes resupplying food stocks, drinking water, fuel and removing gash and emptying the poo tanks.

A troopship application would need to allow the ship to operate for several weeks – so certain elements of the ships “life support” would have to be drastically increased. Sewage treatment, cold and frozen food stowage etc would all add major demands. These ships are not easily reconfigured to overcome these, particularly with the new maritime regulations that are in force now compared to 30 years ago.

On Corporate, the only “ferry” that embarked significant numbers of troops was Norland. the rest of lift was aboard either naval ships or the liners (Canberra and QE2) which are set up for supporting lots of people for long periods. Even so, you only have to look at recent failures on cruise ships to understand that if some systems fail, it can get grim fairly quickly.

The RT Line ain’t going to get too many users if the catering plan is basically hexe stoves and compo rats in the cinema for weeks on end and the facilities are as Edmund might put it “the very latest in front-wall,
fresh-air orifices, combined with a wide-capacity gutter installation below” – ie cr@pping over the side.

It is actually very difficult supporting thousands of troops afloat, which is why all those navies with expeditionary aspirations tend to have a relatively small force to secure an APOD and SPOD, which lets ships do what tehy do best (carry large amounts of cargo) and aircraft do their thing (large amounts of Pax). It does mean that you end up with a very obvious objective, the APOD (which is a weakness in itself), but then so is a port. GIven that it’s extremely unlikely you’d deploy that scale of force (division) without some sort of permissive environment, it’s hard to justify, even on a PFI-type basis.

Ant
Ant
June 14, 2013 9:45 am

Another possibility for RT line:

Condor Rapide High Speed Cat, ex HMAS Jervis bay, registered in Dover and operating to the Channel Islands?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMAS_Jervis_Bay_(AKR_45)

NaB:
Very pertinent comments. Does the above still have the ability to revert to its original troop carrying capability, and would that be sufficiently useful?

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 14, 2013 10:34 am

I think the ‘RT Line’ is one of your poorer ideas. The Bays are a good example that troop transport can be done cheaply – accommodation, endurance, vehicle deck & ro-ro, helicopter deck, plus a wet dock. That’s great utility at modest cost, and the idea was sold to us on Bay’s ability to fulfill various less-than-war missions.

That we used liners to transport troops to war thirty years ago does not mean that it is a great idea and something we should adopt as standard today. That was done because there was no other options available; a cobbled together solution because we had no ships fit for that purpose.

As folks have pointed out, ferries are short-legged. As for modern liners, unlike ships of the QE2 era, they are built very top-heavy to maximize capacity; but the lack of regulatory control over the bloating of designs into floating tower blocks, single hulls and a sparseness of effective bulkheads means that modern liners are prone to throwing themselves onto their sides and drowning everyone onboard the moment they take on a bit of water.

The idea of using a ferry as a peacetime transport for regular troop movements is incredible. We’re in the jet age! This isn’t the 1940s. Can you really imagine loading a brigade onto ships to go off and exercise in BATUS? Aside from the fact that we don’t have a thousand troops to spare sitting on their arses for weeks at a time, think of what it would be like for poor seasick Tommy, particularly after you’ve ripped the casino and pool out of the ship.

What is the increase in annual idle passenger manhours if you replace Voyager with RT Lines? All the thousands of troop movements between the UK and North America, South Atlantic, Middle East, Med, East Africa and elsewhere. We’ll only have 80,000 troops; we’ll need another couple of divisions to replace all the unavailable manpower we’ll have at sea.

x
x
June 14, 2013 10:41 am

Observer said “Hey, it worked then, don’t see why it can’t work now, if they don’t have to travel too far.”

Many a true word spoken in jest. That’s the problem in one line. The majority of those running defence got their training when Ivan sat across the Inner German Border. Structurally even though the campaigns happened in the Middle East Iraq and Afghanistan were business as usual as the US did, are doing, all the heavy lifting and under pinning the whole. There appears to be no real comprehension of distances or logistics required to operate globally within the green or light blue tribes. Perhaps because the majority fly everywhere and the world has become Westernised it dulls recognition of the hard facts? Look at all the spin the RAF put out over support for Operation Ellamy. What was it 8,500 tons they moved? Just over a million miles driven? 800 or so C130 loads or something; if only we had a tenth of that number of lifters. What is 8500 tons? Less than 450 container loads. Though “stores” can’t always be conveniently packed in to containers in weight term 8,500 tons isn’t much. I know a few lorry drivers who used to drive all over Continent week in week out and never got a medal for it All that to operate just from the other side of Europe to support 26 FJ. One assumes there are plans to move similar amounts of freight world wide to support RAF expeditionary adventures? That is assuming there is a CAIT available with all the necessary supporting supplies of AVCAT, water, etc. and so on. And that is without mentioning other needs like FP all of which need supporting. Look at all that I can see why some regard shoving it all into ships that can go everywhere with everything they need as sheer madness, not. Moving to green things it take 17,500 tons of stores to support a light re-enforced brigade (such as UKNL Landing Force) for 30 days. It takes a lot, lot more to support an armoured brigade once it gets into theatre……

x
x
June 14, 2013 10:49 am

Brian Black said “As for modern liners, unlike ships of the QE2 era, they are built very top-heavy to maximize capacity; but the lack of regulatory control over the bloating of designs into floating tower blocks, single hulls and a sparseness of effective bulkheads means that modern liners are prone to throwing themselves onto their sides and drowning everyone onboard the moment they take on a bit of water.”

If you look at the Cunard fleet you will it is composed of 1 liner QM2 and two cruise ships, the QV and QE. The former is built to meet schedules, as liners in the past were built to meet schedules, and so are constructed from heavier steels with powerful engines all poured into a hull shape designed to take a beating from nature. Your description is nearly perfect for cruise ships. A cruise ship isn’t designed for heavy seas. It is about volume and cheaper build. I think NaB will have something to say about safety. SOLAS is quite stringent.

Rocket Banana
June 14, 2013 10:50 am

” It takes a lot, lot more to support an armoured brigade once it gets into theatre……”

Isn’t the figure about 1000t per day?
30,000t per month?
That’s one MARS tanker and one MARS SSS… probably plus a Bay for “bits”.

Peter Elliott
June 14, 2013 11:12 am

And Simon remember we will only have 4 of one and 3 of the other. And they have to bring supplies for the task group(s) at sea as well as the soldiers ashore. As well as hosting various bonus rotary and landing craft. As well as going to and fro over a sustained period to fetch all this stuff from its point of origin. Which is why the whole process is called sustainment. Its a big ask for 7 ships. So I would imagine that even in a nominally ‘sovereign’ operation we would in fact be begging and borrowing tankers and store ships off our allies left right and centre.

(which is much easier politically for them to send than fighting forces)

Topman
Topman
June 14, 2013 11:22 am

‘There appears to be no real comprehension of distances or logistics required to operate globally within the green or light blue tribes.’

You might well want to double check those assumtions. I know you like to think only the navy singularly has a grasp of various areas, whereas the rest of us mere mortals blunder along, but thankfully in the real world it’s some what different.

As to the comment about truck drivers and medals, I know you are online fan of the navy, and so the chip on the shoulder comes naturally, but really?

Peter Elliott
June 14, 2013 11:40 am

@Topman

Interesting point though. We talk a lot about maritime logisitics but very little about air logisitics.

For instance if the RAF needed to send 100 FJ plus ISTAR flight plus Helos to an friendly but austere airbase in Africa for 3 months how many tonnes of supplies and kit would be needed? How would it get there? Would our C17+Voyager+Atlas be enough? Would civvi freight aircraft be suitable and could the appropriate number be easily chartered? Could it all be done by air or would some heavy supplies have to come overland. By road? By rail? How many RAF Regt to secure the perimeter. How would they be supplied?

We don’t talk so much about this stuff and its really quite interesting to know more.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 14, 2013 12:28 pm

“they are built very top-heavy to maximize capacity; but the lack of regulatory control over the bloating of designs into floating tower blocks, single hulls and a sparseness of effective bulkheads means that modern liners are prone to throwing themselves onto their sides and drowning everyone onboard the moment they take on a bit of water.”

You’ve obviously been listening to the bloke from NUMAST who was everywhere on the media when Costa Concordia had her little accident. What he didn’t say was that the ship was damaged way beyond what she was designed (or required) to survive and hence rolled on her beam ends. It had nothing to do with double hulls (asymmetric flooding doesn’t help), bulkhead disposition, or being “top heavy” (whatever that is supposed to mean). She was damaged to that extent because the skipper was (allegedly) showing off to an (alleged) Moldovan
hooker (allegedly) to get a gobble.

SOLAS is very stringent when it comes to regulatory requirements and damage and it is going to get moreso in future. However, there comes a point where the design implications of being able to survive every conceivable level of damage become uneconomic. Even our warship damage requirements only stipulate that the ship survives a certain % of the hull length or number of main compartments flooded.

More significant (and certainly more relevant to this debate) were the significant number of other cruise ship accients over the last 2-3 years where power has been lost and propulsion and life support functions disabled, leading to serious risk of loss of life / disease through thirst, sanitation, heat exhaustion. There are regulations for this aspect (Safe return to port), but demonstrating compliance with them is non-trivial and needs more quantitative methods.

Observer
Observer
June 14, 2013 1:13 pm

“they are built very top-heavy to maximize capacity; but the lack of regulatory control over the bloating of designs into floating tower blocks, single hulls and a sparseness of effective bulkheads means that modern liners are prone to throwing themselves onto their sides and drowning everyone onboard the moment they take on a bit of water.”

Makes you wonder how passenger liners pass safety inspections then. I’m sure the hundreds of thousands, in not millions of people who travel by ship annually would be really interested to know they were sailing on death traps.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 14, 2013 1:39 pm

“You’ve obviously been listening to the bloke from NUMAST”

IMO Maritime Safety Committee, 92nd session, 12 to 21 June.
“The MSC will have for its consideration the Costa Concordia casualty investigation conducted by the Italian authorities with an extensive range of recommendations addressing stability issues” …and other equipment and procedural issues. Power supply and essential systems redundancy seems also to be on the cards.

There has been more emphasis on survivability and safe return to port for new build passenger ships over the past few years, and there’ll be further regulation as you say, NaB. But the authorities are as much responding to events, accidents and new designs as they are setting the safety agenda.

AFAIC ferries, liners or cruise ships are not the right solution for the Navy. The Army should travel in tubes instead. A global network of tubes; climb in at your departure point and, a moment later, pop out the other end.
I’ve not yet thought through all the details :(

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 14, 2013 2:08 pm

““The MSC will have for its consideration the Costa Concordia casualty investigation conducted by the Italian authorities with an extensive range of recommendations addressing stability issues””

The vast majority of which refer to procedural measures, training and use of on-board stability computers to be able to rapidly assess the likelihood of swift capsize. It’s worth remembering that CC was required to survive two compartments being flooded, when the actual number experienced was five.

Don’t disagree with the conclusion that liners are the answer to a question no-one is asking though…..

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 14, 2013 2:12 pm

“I’m sure the hundreds of thousands, in not millions of people who travel by ship annually would be really interested to know they were sailing on death traps.”

There isn’t the same compulsory reporting of accidents or fatalities that you find with aviation, Observer. And so no compiled list of all the casualties.
But you have overboards, disease – norovirus, legionnaires etc, capsizing, sinking, lifeboat accidents, piracy, collisions, groundings, onboard violence.

Passengers probably would be interested in the figures for accident and incident rates, and in the number of casualties, if those figures existed. They’d probably be quite shocked, particularly if all the various tin-pot operators around the world were included in those figures.

I have no doubt though that RT would fulfill, to the best of his ability, his duty of care to the unfortunate passengers of RT Lines.

x
x
June 14, 2013 2:18 pm

@ Brian Black

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Beneath_the_Earth

It may or may not be available on the YouTube…..

NaB said “Don’t disagree with the conclusion that liners are the answer to a question no-one is asking though….”

Say again station.

Observer
Observer
June 14, 2013 2:32 pm

“But you have overboards, disease – norovirus, legionnaires etc, …… lifeboat accidents, piracy, collisions, groundings, onboard violence.”

And this is the fault of the ship?

And Legionnella Pneumophila on board ship? That would be an interesting case. Most of the cases I see involving sea men are usually dengue, malaria or microfillaria. I worked in a hospital where all the MV (Marine Vessel?) cases are funnelled through, the public hospitals tend to be earmarked for citizens so the government, insurance and private hospital have a sort of/ kind of deal where they get treated at a designated private run hospital and the insurance company pays. Saves insurance the trouble of running all over to check claims, and poor sailors don’t have to up front the medical bills. At least this way, it is a one stop shop.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 14, 2013 2:40 pm

Troopships are the answer to a question no-one is asking……..

Rocket Banana
June 14, 2013 3:36 pm

I still think there’s value in splitting the forces in a defensive/ofensive split to isolate and protect what is required to secure this nation.

So:

RAF = Sentry and 80 Typhoon (4 QRA, 3 UK, 1 split over Ascension/Falklands) – defend the air.
RN = OPV, SSK, MPA, Merlin – defend the sea.
BA = I struggle here but mainly reserves, AS90/Chally2, Apache and Chinook – defend the land.

What seems to then happen is that we say “hey, we can get a pretty good offensive capability if we strap bombs to Typhoon, upscale the OPVs to frigates/destroyers and build a couple of ships to carry the Chinook/Apache and troops of the British Army into battle… and then increase numbers accordingly to cover the “expeditionary capability”.

I would do it slightly differently and simply buy the offensive assets separately. This means:

No conformal tanks on Typhoon. Procure long-range strike jets (or jets and tankers).
No strike capability on Typhoon. Procure strike jets.
No “upgrade” of an OPV to a frigate or destroyer. Procure less frigates/destroyers.
No “upgrade” of an SSK to an SSN. Procure SSNs necessary for expeditionary strike only.
No Apache navalisation. Buy Viper.
No Chinook capable carrier/hangar. Select pre-navalised heavy lift that is not so huge and has folding rotors.
No LCU that can carry only a single AS90/MBT. Use L118 or other lighter/smaller gun or procure proper AAV.

When the crunch comes we can then ditch the strike aircraft, air tankers, frigates, destroyers, SSNs, Vipers, Stallions, L118, AAVs, etc.

As I said I struggle with the land forces and my example isn’t great because I think an air-mobile gun is needed to defend our land anyway.

Topman
Topman
June 14, 2013 3:43 pm

@PE

The numbers you suggest would be too high for us to deploy, 100 FJ plus SH and AT. I’m not sure about the amount of ISO loads it would take for a large op. To an austere base (rather than bare?) In your scenario I assume you mean large war fighting ops. A lot of it would go by sea generally speaking. For normal exercises we use civvy shipping for example on N. America detachements in addition to AT. If we did some sort of all out effort in an austere/bare base would take a large amount of kit, beyond 2 group to move it all.
AT would brings in the stuff we need as a priority, people, classified/secret stores, high priority replens etc. As to the exact plan it would depend on the exact location, we’d use whatever is appropriate at the time.

Topman
Topman
June 14, 2013 3:49 pm

Simon, surely under that plan the equipment budget would increase. You’re buying twice the equipment one for defense and offensive ops. It’s cheaper to modify than buy more, for example Typhoon upgrades vs a strike a/c. I can’t seeing it saving any money or give us better flexibility, to me it looks worse.

Rocket Banana
June 14, 2013 4:05 pm

Topman,

I am suggesting a core Typhoon fleet of 80 aircraft. We would not be spending money on “upgrades”. We would buy strike airframes designed for the purpose they are used for and defined by a cohesive “expeditionary” vision rather than bastardising existing assets until they fail to do their primary task efficiently.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
June 14, 2013 4:08 pm

NAB: “Don’t disagree with the conclusion that liners are the answer to a question no-one is asking though…..

OK, well let me ask it without solutionising to a liner / ferry type of ship. How does the Navy currently plan to project 10,000 troops to the Falklands?

(I will certainly be out of date, but back in 2003 there was a candidate SAG scenario, not specifically about the FI, of a need to project a significant land force to a place where we had no airport access)

I imagine the answer will certainly involve STUFT, and it may well still be a good answer. The ownership of the ship itself is not so much the point. My wider point is that I can see some good utility to such a capability – perhaps scaled down to the ability to have a Brigade afloat and sea-deployable – as a permanent asset. Whether it is a single large troopship, or the Brigade spread over a number of assets, is certainly not something I’m qualified to have anything other than an uninformed opinion. All sorts of factors, including asset cost, to balance.

I’m grateful to the experts for increasing my knowledge though. I wouldn’t have thought of ferries typically only doing short hops, so configured accordingly.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 14, 2013 4:10 pm

“Very pertinent comments. Does the above still have the ability to revert to its original troop carrying capability, and would that be sufficiently useful?”

Think of it as a large fast landing craft, but one that can’t actually interface with ships or beaches. In essence it’s just a ferry shuttling between two ports over a distance – say 500nm. The troop carrying capability is the existing passenger accommdation. All they did was put some RAN comms on it and allow it to carry mil vehicles rather than cars. The strengthening elements should still be there, possibly even the self supporting ramp which allows you to theoretically offload onto a pontoon – easier said than done though.

mr.fred
mr.fred
June 14, 2013 4:10 pm

Simon,

Why would you advocate the removal of strike capability from Typhoon and where would you get these strike jets?
Why would you de-navalise the Apaches?
Which Naval Heavy lift would you be after?
How would you size your LCUs? Or do you just not want them at all?

Topman