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Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

In paragraph 25 he seems to go over to the Dark (Blue) Side…for goodness sake nobody mention it to @Red Trousers…he’ll have a stroke…

GNB

Chris
Chris

Interesting to note in CDS’s view the development that has the potential to become the most damaging of all is the creeping aversion to risk in the employment of our Armed Forces. This goes for the nation as a whole – the almost phobic aversion to allowing people to just get on with life without some Auntie Quango declaring what they may or may not do (Health & Safety being the excuse; fear of litigation being the real driver). Most of my childhood was spent engaged in activities that would send modern H&S experts into a frenzy of panic; I survived with not so much as a broken bone. I learnt what I could and could not do, I pushed at the boundaries, I questioned as many “that can’t be done”s as possible. Climbed trees. Fell in rivers. Went on day long bike rides without the tether of the yet-to-be-invented mobile phone. Used the slippery sewage pipes that crossed high over the canal as bridges. Played with electricity. Played with chemistry. Played on building sites. Went exploring in scrap yards. No harm resulted.

The same no doubt applies to the armed forces. I would wager the formal risk assessment is now the most important of the planning activities, and it will insist that eye guards and ear plugs are worn at all times; that harnesses be used for working at height; that vis-vests be used unless in tactical situations; that checklists be used and logged at every opportunity; that initiative may only be acted upon with senior officer concurrence and and and. Its hideous. Whatever happened to common sense? Humanity survived without H&S experts for millenia, making individual judgement calls on the right course of action for a given situation, and assessing risk using basic common sense. I fear with the current deferral to the H&S man on all things, if a situation arises where our Armed Forces cannot find the H&S expert nor find a procedure in SOPs that explains the approved safe way to tackle the situation, the personnel will be paralysed by indecision and fear of legal action.

Ant
Ant

I thought it was an excellent appraisal of the situation we find ourselves in, and am pleased he was so forthright, and in so short a space too.

Looking forward to a modest expansion of Naval capability, plus focussed attention to enablers.

He must be reading this blog.

Peter Elliott

This man is a thinker. And a good one. Probably the best we have generated for a decade or two. How does he compare to professional giants of the armed services like Fisher or Wellington?

Will we lose him once his customary term expires? Or is it worth stretching the rules to keep him for a double shift?

If he went ‘upstairs’ to become Defence guru to one party or the other would he still be so effective? Or would it dilute the impact of his deep but politically impartial insight into the future of defence? Wellington was a genius soldier but failed both as PM and political head of the Armed Forces.

The thing I like most about this address is the people focus. Read in the context of Heloise Goodley and the Quiet Revolution at RMCS. We need agile, agressive, risk aware officers. Are we generating them? Do we know how? Can we captalise on a decade of operational learning to feed back into the peacetime machine?

At the end of WW1 we had some superb officers who had been there and done it and had a huge amount to give: Brooke, Slim, Montgomery, Alexander were all there. The dead hand of conformity cut them all back from wartime to their substantive regimental rank and it took a them all 10-15 years to get back to the top of the tree. In 1939-41 we paid a heavy price for those 4 being Divisional rather than Army commanders, as they should have been if their development had been properly proritised.

Who are the rising stars of the next war? They are the top captians and majors coming out of the sandpit now. Clear the way for them. Make sure they don’t get eased out for being awkward like Tim Collins was.

Houghton makes me feel optimistic. Let’s hope he gets a fair crack of the whip.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

Any Soldier concerned about the Royal Navy has to be a good thing…

GNB

dave haine
dave haine

Seems to have realised that he’s chief of the defence staff, rather than the top shouter for his own service…which is a good thing I think.

As well as the hollow force comment….

“We are critically deficient in the capabilities which enable the joint force. Such things as intelligence, surveillance, compatible communications, joint logistics and tactical transport.”

Hmm….Sentinel into the core budget, more watchkeeper, more containers for loggies, Uplift in A400m orders perhaps, more Wokka’s or a new small airlifter? Medium lift heli?

Dunno about comms- don’t really know about them, would like someone more in the know than me to enlighten me.

And he identified the financial buggering about, that the MOD is so good at. I bet he and Phil Hammond get on right well.

martin

I think we can welcome his comments but I hope his desire for personnel does not simply turn into a cap badge maintaining exercise and how we need more infantry battalions.

The cut to the Army down to 82,000 was long over due and one of the sensible points from SDSR 2010.

With new technology in the navy manning numbers for warships have been reduced quite substantially and the UK cannot compete with other poorer countries on manning levels if we want our soldiers sailors and airmen to experience rising living standards. We can only compete with poorer countries on technology at least in peace time.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Peter Elliot

He sounds good and is clealy a thinker but I would not rush to have his babies quite yet. An important part of his job is how he actually delivers on his thinking and that is very much unproven.
Am hopeful that he is the real deal but still a lot to prove.

Bob
Bob

Yes, some of us are listening and noticing but the RAF No.II Squadron thread domonstrates the problem. Too many people living in a fantasy land dreaming of fantasy fleets tomorrow rather than accepting the reality of the situation.

See this comment:

“One of the Conservative party’s most influential voices on defence has conceded that Britain can no longer be regarded as a “division-one military power”

From: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/15/tory-james-arbuthnot-trident-doubts

It is time to accept just how devastating the 2010 cuts have been to the British Armed Forces rather than just clinging to a hope that something will change.

Peter Elliott

So developing your point further Bob would we be better off increasing the readiness and effectiveness of our 7 FJ squadrons by increasing pilot numbers, engineering support, Intel gatherers and analysts and accelrated weapons integration? And following Houghton is this actually more urgent that expanding back up to 8 or 9 squadrons?

Get Storm Shadow, Brimstone, NSM, and Metoer into service with both F35B and Typhoon. Get some simple satalites up there. Get a few more rooms full of Int Corps to sift the pictures and pick the targets. And train enough pilots and maintainers to enable crew rotation and more deployments per airframe per year.

Massive increase in credibility and force posture without spending a fortune on more Fast Jets.

Bob
Bob

Peter Elliot,

But you are spending a fortune on everything else. It is not just hardware that is expensive- operations are too. All the suggestions in this thread require additional funds.

Sir Humphrey

Very interesting points made.

I’d read it as a fairly clear shot across the bows of the T26 programme and a strong hint that the RN should focus on less complicated vessels in future.

Additionally it felt like special pleading for an army of 82,000 regardless of whether we actually need it or not.

I will try and type detailed thoughts up in the next couple of days.

TED
TED

@dave haine I think hes hit the nail on the head there.

Heard this on the radio this morning, would love to know what he think our really good kit is. Maybe T45?

martin

@ Sir H

“I’d read it as a fairly clear shot across the bows of the T26 programme and a strong hint that the RN should focus on less complicated vessels in future.”

I did not see it that way but now you mention it it does. Fits in well with past complaints about billion pound destroyers chasing pirates. And makes sense why he is talking up navy personnel numbers, is it a way to justify scrapping high end ships that are only justified by what he sees as “defence industrial strategy” or providing jobs on clyde side.

Also fits in well with his comments and what seem like complaints about the British people not being prepared to put boots on the ground (because it worked really well the last two times) Can we justify an army of 82,000 if we refuse to ever use more than a battalion or two in peace keeping operations.

I know its abit of a conspiracy theory but many of hits comments make sense from an Army centric view looking at it like this.

Personally I think if having billion pound destroyers chasing pirates is an issue then just don’t bother chasing pirates.

Chris
Chris

SirH – when on another thread I suggested buying many basic platforms capable of general escort/combat duties was better value than buying a few top rank state-of-the-art ASW/ASuW/AD vessels, those in the know declared such simple vessels were pointless; outclassed; a waste of money. I still think lots of simple platforms beat a few complex ones, if only because the loss of any one platform has much less effect on force capability. I think the same applies with land assets; not so sure about aircraft though.

For years now it has been recognized that tactical comms needs to be spread spectrum of some form, such that a single frequency jammer cannot deny communication. It seems strange that while comms has moved away from using methods that can be taken out by single opposition action, the platform requirements have moved in exactly the opposite direction. A bit of a gift to the opposition really, significantly increasing the overall tactical effect of removing a single platform.

martin

@ Bob the UK is and has been since the end of the second world war a Division 1 Military force along with the Russians, Chinese and others. The USA has been playing in its own Premier Leauge for some time on its own and will stay there for a long time to come. SDSR 2010 did not change that fact although I agree that we are all still coming to terms with it and the larger affects will probably not be felt until the 2020’s when we are trying to pay for a new SSBN out of the core budget.

martin

@ Bob – Its interesting to note that on the Guardian article the UK having the fourth biggest defence budget does not count, nor does the training and capability of the armed forces. All that counts is that we will only have 82,000 soldiers. By this metric the USA barley makes the top ten and North Korea becomes the world’s undisputed super power.

I am afraid as with most things in the press its simple cap badge justification about why we need less capability and more guys standing around in red coats and bear skins. He even talks about the smaller military foot print and the lack of connection with communities.

I will stick with smaller numbers and more capability I think.

rec
rec

Interesting speech, and maybe a clear shot across the bows of BAE, it clearly doesn`t help only having one major arms company.

On equipment budget, how’s about this as cost savers

1) Only 48 JSF F35B and just for the carriers, so soley RN badged
2) Keep T1 Typhoons and upgrade some T3s with conformal fuel tanks and rely on them and drones for long range strike. Have a 3 rd Typhhon operating base ? leeming
3) On Type 26, (ideally I would like 18,) but if the funding isn`t going to be there then either 10 or 12 with the balance made up by 6-8 Holland class

Peter Elliott

OK Bob – so we’ve got a really clear understanding of the problem. We’re skint and can’t afford EITHER more planes OR more enablers.

What’s your prescription? What shoould we do?

Bob
Bob

Peter Elliot,

The answer is simple- scale back national ambitions. The CDS speech hits the nail on the head- the UK can not afford to be a global power and increasingly the UK public does not want to be one either. So give it up, halve the defence budget and spend the savings on civilian industrial R&D and plant modernisation.

All the suggestions in this thread just involve spending more money.

martin,

Unfortunately the UK does not have more capability- it has less. SDSR 2010 reduced the UK’s ability to deploy force and sustain operations, that was made very clear. Please stop with the fantasy and denial.

Bob
Bob

martin,

That’s just more fantasy and denial, look at the change in the defence planning assumptions that accompanied SDSR10 for a start.

wf
wf

@Bob, why is @martin’s point denial?

If we don’t have the numbers to staff 25 regular infantry battalions (ex Para), then we reduce to 20 and staff those fully. Painful but necessary.

Bob
Bob

wf,

Because martin is pulling the classic deniers trick of claiming that somehow the UK can sustain capability even with an ever smaller force. This is nonsense and the MoD admits it every-time it revises down the defence planning assumptions- as it did in 2010.

The UK can now do much less than it could before 2010- this is made clear in the defence planning assumptions.

Sir Humphrey

I am in full agreement with Bob. Looking at the front line figures it is easy to go ‘oh we need another 3 of this and 4 of this’. People continually forget that when you look at the underpinning cuts made to the logistics, support and training areas that ramping up in a short order is almost impossible.
Take a look at what MOD is planning to do now and over the next few years and it is clear that it is able to a LOT less than before.

Mike W

Bob

“Because martin is pulling the classic deniers trick of claiming that somehow the UK can sustain capability even with an ever smaller force. This is nonsense and the MoD admits it every-time it revises down the defence planning assumptions- as it did in 2010.2

Bob, of course you are 100% correct. Can’t really understand Martin – he talks a lot of good sense normally. We need both more manpower and better equipment and that means an increase in the defence budget. We couldn’t even re-take the Isle of Wight with what we have at the moment. But of course people will keep on repeating the fatuous mantra:”Can’t see the threat, can you?” and other inanities and rationalizing our severe loss of capability.

Chris
Chris

Sir H – I don’t like the restricted capability, I really don’t. But if planning assumptions are in accord with the capability reduction, the obvious question is: Are the planning assumptions valid and rational? Do they restrain ambitious politicians from making greater commitments than we are scaled to meet? Do the assumptions retain adequate measures to defend our small rock in the Atlantic? What of commitments further away (Falklands etc) and NATO support?

Its all fine having documents that justify smaller armed forces but if the political expectation isn’t similarly constrained then it will all fall apart.

wf
wf

@Bob: indeed. But you could ask why we need 7 adaptable force brigades if they are not properly staffed. Perhaps reduce them to 5?

Tom

wf – There are 3 actual AF brigade HQs that can actually be considered true deployable brigade HQs. the other 4 are purely regional force HQs, required for civil support and regional management.

IXION

It is time to start eating mayonnaise with our chips. What this man is saying is that you can call it ‘capability gaps’ ‘front line first’, ‘reducing capabilities’ ‘reducing commitments’ etc etc.
We have to makes sure what we have works and is usable, otherwise its just willy waiving.
It adds up to The Imperial dream is over, and so is its bastard offspring ‘We are still a world power you know’.

No more elective wars- the British end will just have to hang loose.

It’s not just that ‘By Jingo we don’t have the ships the men or the money’ anymore. The general population sees no merit in sandpit wars for ungrateful bastards who don’t want us there.

The PM despite what people say, is no political fool. When he lost the Syria vote he could not get to the despatch box quick enough to say ‘Soz can’t come out to play the mother (of parliaments) says no’.

‘We are Belgium, more mayonnaise anyone’.

IXION

It pains me to say this but agree with BOB..

I have spent my share on fantasy fleets, but mine, (whether the maths adds up or not), have always been set against reducing budgets, or at best static ones aimed at getting more usability out of what we do, rather than something extra or impressive looking.

To many on this site see the answer as more cash for (…insert favourite service here), or services in general. Very few actually address the what are we trying to do and why are we trying to do it? Question.

If they do they couch it in fatuous terms – ‘we are globally engaged’ being my favourite self licking lollypop of meaningless bollocks. Coz it means the Germans and the Dutch and the Brazilians and the Koreans, etc aren’t. We are you understand but Johnny foreigner just doesn’t get it like we do.

So I will repeat my own supposedly fatuous mantra ‘ Where’s the existential threat that needs all this kit? what land warfare threat means we couldn’t cut the army to say 3 times the size of the Irish Army and loose the tanks. 6 squadrons of properly manned typhoons with all the necessary back up should deal with any conceivable air threat. And my views on elephants are well known.

wf
wf

@Tom: agreed. So why have they got battalions assigned? Do we need the regulars for anti hooligan patrols or the prevention of bread riots? I’d say we don’t :-)

martin

@ Bob and Mike W

Not sure what I am being accused of. Fact is that we could not do much except contribute to US led coalitions before 2010. The same is true after SDSR 2010 only difference is we can contribute a bit less.

If your talking about my comments regarding the CDS speech then I would hold by my statement of emphasising quality over quantity. I would rather the UK be a well equip hard as nails David instead of a unwildy Goliath able to do little more than parade my forces aka Russia, China France etc.

I would also much rather have a small fleet of very high end Frigates and Destroyers with two massive aircraft carriers and top of the range SSN’s able to surge a substantial force if needed for soverign action than have a flotilla of OPV’s able to do nothing other than chase fisher men armed with AK’s. I have no issue with the RN chasing pirates but I do disagree with spending our scarce budget on special vessells to do this. At the end of the day piracy is a civil matter and an international problem not a UK defence one.

Observer
Observer

It’s a fallacy that smaller numbers means that you lose capability. No, you still have capability. For example if you have only one UAV, you can still say that you have an ISTAR capability, or if you only have one AAR tanker, you can still say you have AAR capability. Only when you hit the magic number of 0 do you actually lose capability. :) It’s going to be a fragile capability, but it’s still there, more or less. The reverse is also true. There is a limit to the number of enablers you can have before you hit diminished returns, e.g having 2 AWACs in the same area is a bit redundant or having 2 air refuelling tankers refuelling when one is enough to top up the entire package etc.

What you really lose with less numbers is the strength in numbers, the endurance to take losses that numbers give and the ability to cover larger areas or multiple areas at once. It’s not an insignificant consideration.

And isn’t it Easter and Lent where there is supposed to be a gnashing of teeth and tearing of sackcloth and not Christmas?

wf, sometimes units are also left deliberately short for slots to fit any reservist troops in. If the command structure is in place, you can easily slot new men in, but if you reduced the command structure numbers to totally top up a force structure, any call up of reservists would mean assignment to a totally new unit with a totally new inexperienced command team and structure. With all the balls up that it implies. Not sure if that is the reason the UK is doing it this way, just pointing out possible reasons why they might do it.

Bob
Bob

Observer,

Not entirely accurate. With a smaller force you lose the ability to undertake certain types of operations and thus restrict the freedom of action that the government has.

Tom

wf – Bns are garrisoned in that brigades area of control, therefore falls under that brigades command. This is actually makes some sense since the reg bn will be paired with nearby reserve Bn – the brigade HQ can co-ordinate the training activities better….

… or something.

martin

@ Bob a smaller force can lose capabilities but a larger force with less capability will definatly have less capabilities. UK forces are small and always have been but our capabilities are much broader than almost any otherer military force outside of the USA.

I think retaining as many capabilities as possible is the best thing a peace time military can do because its much harder to regain lost capabilities than had to exisitng ones.

Enablers like ISTAR platforms, AAR and strategic lift are no longer just force multipliers. it’s almost impossible to employ force with out them.

Observer
Observer

Bob, which capabilities do you have in mind when you say that less platforms restrict certain operations? The broad brushstroke ones are AAR, ISTAR (IAR), AEW, all of which are single platform enablers, not network based.

martin, I think you overstate the case a bit, even without force multipliers, the basic bread and butter FJs can still do the job, just not to the point of optimum efficiency. In reverse, a lack of fast pointy jets is also a big problem. No point having all the enablers only to have the enemy steamroller you through mass and AEW or no AEW, a plane going 1v2 is always going to be in a bit of trouble.

martin

@ Observer – Thats true if you have enough of them and you can base them close enough to not require AAR

wf
wf

@martin: I tend to agree with you with regard to loss of capabilities. However, given the budget, we cannot retain the ability to develop and produce all of them: we must pick and choose. Personally, starting from the top, I rather wish we had the ability to maintain our own Trident D5’s, rather than relying on the USN to do so. Farming out parts of AWE to the French also seems highly unwise.

However, national or collaborative programs to do things like develop and produce specialised low volume roles like transport and surveillance aircraft, or at the other end, relatively simple products like torpedo’s, missiles seems like a waste of resources.

Chris
Chris

I have always thought numbers to be important. Attrition is a given in conflict; without significant numbers of platforms attrition is rapidly a major problem. In my humble opinion too much emphasis has been given to Force Multipliers; the assumption seemingly made is that platforms carrying many Force Multipliers are invulnerable; and that any basic platform is instant toast. A lot of trust is being put in high tech defensive/offensive gizmos, and force numbers are being ground down as a result.

Sadly (for the planners) such gizmos find their way to other nations’ armed forces, including those not necessarily friendly. Having reduced numbers because own forces have a specific gizmo where others do not, when other nations get hold of the same sort of gizmo you would imagine there would be a swift purchase to rebuild force numbers? There never is. Indeed with T45, reduced from 8 to 6 ships because CEC was going to make each much more effective, when CEC was dropped the other two hulls never came back.

So given a budget I would set a proportion aside to buy lots of basic platforms – a mix of lots of basic and a few whizzy platforms would seem sensible. More so than just a few whizzy ones anyway.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

Will everyone take a chill pill. What he actually says is that we are approaching the stage of being a ” hollow force” and if we have further cuts then we may as well sell the kit as I will have neither the man power to man it nor the budget to train them.

martin

@ Wf – I see nuclear weapons and missiles as the last thing to waste money on for sovereign production. Massively expensive to create almost certain to never be used and zero export potential. The D5 gives us a top notch capability at an affordable price and near 100% sovereign operating capability.

@ Chris

The problem is with so few whizzy platforms if we need to spend money on basic platforms then we will have even less whizzy platforms. if the s**t hits the fan then it’s the whizzy platforms we will need? Just look at 1982 lots of basic platforms able to do little else than catch bullets and only two whizzy platforms with sea wolf.

Today a force of three or four T45 and six or seven T23 would be almost invulnerable to argentine forces.

agreed on CEC but it was £500 million. if given the choice between CROWSNEST or CEC I think I would take CROWSNEST. This was basically the position the RN was in. I see CEC as a force multiplier but CROWSNEST as a enabler in that I would not want to undertake a 1982 style op without AEW no matter how good and well connected the T45’s were.

Phil

Not entirely accurate. With a smaller force you lose the ability to undertake certain types of operations and thus restrict the freedom of action that the government has.

Yup but we’ve always had restricted freedom of action. Nearly (in fact now all) nations have that restriction. Hence alliances. It still baffles me why people give these the cold shoulder – even with a WWI or WWII level of mobilisation we’d still need an alliance. There is no getting away from the fact. They are a perfectly normal part of the international world. To rely on an alliance is simply reflecting reality and not fantasising.

Phil

Take a look at what MOD is planning to do now and over the next few years and it is clear that it is able to a LOT less than before.

But as you well know drawing the line around UK military capabilities is an artificial delineation that does not correspond to the real world. Certainly the UK has less mass than before and it will rely on allies to get anything more than a bushfire battle done, but so it always has been.

Tom

APATS – CHILL?!?! CHILL ?!!? This is the internet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

;-)

dave haine
dave haine

@ wf

Thinking about what you said, and I certainly agree with you on the loss of capabilities….I just wonder, wouldn’t it be more sensible to be able to produce low end stuff rather than high end?

What’s prompting me to think this way, is not, not having high end capability, it’s more the relative attrition and usage rates.
For Example we only have 6 Sentry in service, with one parked up getting algaefied. As these are high value assets we wouldn’t use them in a high-risk environment without doing something to mitigate the risk either by escort, or operational procedure.

Whereas in any conflict, munitions are used at prodigious rates, often greater than we had planned for and tactical airlifters by their nature will be in harms way, because that’s where you use them.

So…we either make sure we maintain vast stocks of munitions, to cope with the expected usage rate, with all the problems of controlled storage, shelf life, protecting them etc, or we have the industrial capacity to rapidly ramp up production to sustain usage rates and replace such ready-use stocks as we do hold.

Otherwise, we have the situation where we are reliant on another country, to ramp up production for us- not a problem if their in the current alliance, but it could be a prob if they’re opposed, say, to the campaign.

Similarly with tactical airlifters, or light attack, or whatever relatively simple airframe, we want to talk about. Do we hold an reserve against expected attrition, or do we maintain a capability to build replacements at need…a sort of just-in-time policy for operations.

Bob
Bob

Observer, martin,

There is no such thing as a “single platform enabler” less platforms can be in less places, can generate less sorties, move less things, etc, etc, etc. If your amphibious force shrinks you can land less troops, if your air lift fleet shrinks you can carry less stuff and so it goes on.

El Sid
El Sid
Observer
Observer

Bob, I disagree, some things are single platform enablers, for example a single AAR tanker is a single platform enabler for AAR, or even something like the SR-71 is a single platform for strategic recon. You hardly see 2 of these examples up at the same time in the same region as having more than 1 is redundant.

And I think you are talking about capacity and coverage, not capability. In the example of airlift that you chose, the country X HAS the capability to do an airlift, the capability is not lost, just rather pathetic. Think a better term for capability might be “ability” instead. I agree numbers matter, just clarifying that the discussion should not be “loss of capability in a smaller fleet”, but “lack of coverage, flexibility and attrition endurance due to limited numbers”.

JohnHartley
JohnHartley

DH Is there a third way? I am thinking of making better use of equipment being retired early. For example the T1 Typhoons. If we retire them early then rather than flogging them off for peanuts or scrapping, I would suggest keeping them in good nick. Say we get stuck in an unexpected war & our T2 & T3 are getting shot down, but we are recovering the pilots. Then dig the T1s out of storage & our pilots have something to fly.
Same applies to ships. We got peanuts for scrapping the Invincibles & T22 batch 3. I would have mothballed them for a few years as a precaution. Even if it takes nine months to get them back into service, it is still a lot quicker than building from scratch.
Of course storing retired equipment costs money, but it is cheaper than keeping it in front line service, or paying through the nose to a foreign source when they know we are desperate.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix

@ GNB – “Any Soldier concerned about the Royal Navy has to be a good thing…”

Agreed.

Re: Arbuthnot – “I don’t think that we are a division-one military power any more,”

If we aren’t, is the term itself rather meaningless… unless the US exists in a First Division of one.

I do sympathise with him on the deterrent; it will draw funds from conventional capability and we are very close to losing any useful sovereign and strategic capability for power projection.

Bob
Bob

Observer,

You are wrong, capacity and coverage is capability.

Mark
Mark

It gd to see mr Arbuthnot comments on the ssbn replacement some people have been making that case for some considerable time!

the generals comments are interesting but nothing really new. Is the military ready to accept the 75% solution to to its capability requests is the government willing to accept a higher risk of casualties by not driving round in 100tn super tanks? Are we prepared to ditch high end state on state capability to go after the irregular warfare. I don’t know but a sure warning the 2020 force structure is based on real rises in the defence budget and if doesn’t happen the equipment budget will feel the pain and its majority is stealth jets, ships and subs in 2015 onward.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy

The “No CASD equals more conventuional capability ” idea is completely illusory…any Government that abandoned CASD would be “making a statement” about their internationalist/non-intervention/self-defence only/pacifist stance NOT freeing up cash for doing more out there in the world…the politics would be completely wrong…

Oddly, that would be an even stronger impulse if the SNP evicted us from Faslanr…the UK Government couldn’t afford to be seen to being lectured by a group of self-righteous CND Jocks…so would need to make out they thought it was a good idea all along…being seen to be rogered up the fundament by Wee Eck would finish any party in the UK for at least a generation unless they could find a way to spin a different meaning to the event…

IMO

GNB

Think Defence

Some good points made here, nice one chaps.

A point I, Jed, Mark and many others have made right from the beginning of this place and others have made the same as they started commenting is there is nothing at all wrong with reducing size/capabilities as threats decline or national spending priorities change and it must be said that debt and the financial crisis is the largest single real threat the UK faces.

So the very real reductions defined by SDSR2010, accompanying Defence Planning Assumptions and subsequent planning round induced change are all fair enough.

The problem though is that no one seems to have told the politicians who still seem to fantasise about the UK not enjoying the joys of ‘strategic shrinkage’ They continue to claim that SDSR2010 would be a bit of tinkering and better able to face the challenges of the new security situation.

It is this that we have always complained of, becoming all fur coat and no knickers. Maintaining the bluff and bluster and strutting on the world stage when in reality (although we are still much better placed than our European peers and that includes France) there are significant gaps in the enablers.

A bit of honesty would go a long way and that honesty might conclude that a smaller Army is indeed OK, for example. As for Trident, I am still of the opinion that in a world of priorities, that comes first. If that means an Army of 20,000 and a Navy with 6 frigates and 6 destroyers, so be it.

Talk of divisions, thats for idiots like Mr Arbuthnot

Phil makes a good point about coalitions, look at defence planning assumptions about we are able to do alone and it is clear that if that were it, the capabilities we have in place are vastly over sized. So anything else is ‘with others’

The problem here is those others are possibly looking elsewhere (the USA) and even less capable or willing than we are (Europe)

No easy times ahead but the CDS’s speech seemed to be to be the same old business as usual stuff we have been hearing from the same old people for years.

Phil

No easy times ahead but the CDS’s speech seemed to be to be the same old business as usual stuff we have been hearing from the same old people for years.

It’s always going to be though. Speeches like this I find interesting but people in those positions can never just spout what is really on their minds. He sets out the challenges and I think he is bang on the money. He’s made about as big a point as his position allows him to in public.

Think Defence

Agree Phil, that’s why it is interesting but not massively newsworthy

Fedaykin

In the end with all this talk of honesty and looking at things realistically what I want going into the future is stability in operations and procurement. Remember even after the horrors of 2010 SSDR and the upcoming joys of SSDR 2015 the UK has one of the largest defence budgets in the world. We have unfortunately been getting poor value out of that budget in many respects.

I want the three services along with the MOD to stop treating defence procurement like a science fair! I remember a documentary in the 90s about DERA in their pre QuinetiQ days where one of their engineers was talking about their concepts for future soldiers. He then proceeded to talk about how Robocop and Aliens influenced their thinking, they even went and talked to the people who put together the smart gun in Aliens carried by Vasquez. He never mentioned that the Ari steady-cam mount used for the gun costs tens of thousands of dollars at the time, also heavy, unwieldy and highly complex. Hardly an ideal piece of kit out in the field for your average soldier.

IXION

TD

Given who this guy is actually I think it is news worthy.

He is saying give us the budget you have promised or some of our kit becomes white elephants. He is also pointing out we will have to pay our war fighters more, and treat them expensively better in future. That has not been provided financialy for. He worries about our increasingly risk averse nature.

But he has no answers in this piece. Pointing out the lack of existential threat, and rise of the non state actor, is trite. The question is what’s that to do with the price of fish, or FRES. For that matter?

Most of this speech is a bit ‘no shit Sherlock’.

What he does do is plead for more money which he won’t get. But what is a first is he is saying if he does not get it capabilities will HAVE to disapear.

His point about NATO is bollocks. NATO powers will never agree to share out tasks on a national speciality basis.

Also he has an unambiguous pop at the defence budget as industrial subsidy.

But he has no answers except more cash or else.

Oh and the UK defence est has sent years being snotty about UN peace keeping, its a bit rich to start saying can we play now.

martin

@ TD

“A bit of honesty would go a long way and that honesty might conclude that a smaller Army is indeed OK, for example. ”

Agreed but the CDS seems to be going the other way complaining about high end capability and enablers at the expense of head count. For an island there is little point in maintaining an army if we cannot use it as its sole job will be to invade other’s or defend others.

I still think that UK thinking needs to move towards a more naval centric environment and accept that well we can’t do everything we can do what is required really well. So no large armoured division but the ability to land an amphibious brigade anywhere in the world and support it with aircraft etc.

I also think we need to give the RAF the ability to conduct at least a limited air campaign like Libya without US support so we need better ISTAR which means keeping Sentinel and Reaper after 2015, Better ELINT and the ability to conduct jamming operations and SEAD.

I think the Army post 2015 should re task back to high end warfighting with the ability to rapidly insert 16AAB into a theatre and the ability to deploy up to three brigades with sufficient notice. If there are to be cuts to the army then i think the axe should fall on the sustainment forces. Because I am really not interested in sustainment operations ever (accept very small deployments and training missions) If the job can’t be done rapidly and handed over to someone else to deal with then the job’s not worth doing period. Europe has 2 million + soldiers capable of such missions but can barley deploy a few brigades in a contested operation away from its shore’s.

I think this is affordable inside the budget that we have and are likely to keep but it will need new thinking and I don’t think the MOD is there yet. They still look to bench mark themselves against the USA. Who if we are being honest spends with its $650 billion dollar a year budget should probably get allot more bang for its buck. We need to look else where. Just look at what Italy manages to do with just 30% of our budget.

I also agree about giving up CASD. International politics is as much about appearances as anything else. China is being hailed as a super power now although I doubt their current ability to conduct any operation beyond their first Island chain. Much the same for Russia. Giving up CASD is akin to giving up. If the people want to do this then that’s fine but removal of CASD should be accompanied with the removal of 75% of the defence budget and a pacifist constitution and resignation from UNSC.

martin

@ Fedaykin

“UK has one of the largest defence budgets in the world. We have unfortunately been getting poor value out of that budget in many respects.”

Agreed as I said before just look at what Italy does with its budget vs us with our’s ( I previously misquoted there budget is closer to half than a third of ours. They even manage to fly the exact same aircraft as us and in some way have higher capability i.e. operating F35a and F35B as well as Tonkas and Typhoons. They also have a pretty decent carrier.

martin

To summarise my point If SDSR 2010 was about anything it was that the illusion of SDR 1998 of being a mini US style force is a fallacy. Our politicians are simply unwilling to fund such a force in peace time (even when the economy is doing well) but I don’t think this mindset has reached the top brass and the politicians have also failed to change their ambitions on the international stage. But going back to Bob’s earlier point I don’t see that SDSR 2010 made a major material change in UK capability other than the “capability holidays” which should mostly be closed again by the end of the decade.

Its worth noting that all western militaries at present face the same issues. Even the USA has some severe capability gaps with only two combat ready brigades for instance.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

I really think that a lot of people on here have unusually grasped the wrong end of the stick. Had a chat and quite a debate yesterday about this with a few ” colleagues” yesterday.
The consensus was that CDS was firing a warning shot to Politicians that any further cuts and indeed no real term increase in funding post 2015 would render the equipment procurement plan meaningless as he would neither be able to man the platforms nor train in order to maximise the potential.
He was not saying that he does not like having the equipment we do and are planning to procure. Remember he was VCDS and highy involved in this for some time.
We have accepted for a long time now that we have lacked persistence and are suffering from capability fragility.
CDS was making the point as clearly as he could that any further cuts would see us lose the capability not merely the ability to persistently employ it.

Phil

Agreed as I said before just look at what Italy does with its budget vs us with our’s ( I previously misquoted there budget is closer to half than a third of ours.

We shouldn’t be blinded by force structures and kit. If you can’t employ what you have effectively then you may as well get rid of it. I’d love to see a line by line analysis on how we and other European countries actually spend our military budget and how much is spent on personal kit, fuel, training ammunition, exercises and facilities etc etc etc

martin

@ Phil

“We shouldn’t be blinded by force structures and kit. If you can’t employ what you have effectively then you may as well get rid of it. I’d love to see a line by line analysis on how we and other European countries actually spend our military budget and how much is spent on personal kit, fuel, training ammunition, exercises and facilities etc etc etc”

This is true and there are far too many paper tigers around the world. However with a peace time military arguably the most peaceful time we have ever lived in should we maintain a high state of readiness and be prepared to sacrifice numbers and capabilities or maintain numbers and capabilities and sacrifice readiness. Its a balancing act but one I wonder if our mindset is still on the wrong side of still following the USA’s lead but without the budget.

@ APATS

“The consensus was that CDS was firing a warning shot to Politicians that any further cuts and indeed no real term increase in funding post 2015 would render the equipment procurement plan meaningless as he would neither be able to man the platforms nor train in order to maximise the potential.”

I hope this was his main thrust and not that we need to bin high end capability to have more basic platforms especially on the naval side.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Martin

Trust me if CDS was advocating binning high end Naval Platforms then you would have heard from 1 SL by now as he is very very firmly in the FFs can pretend to be a high end OPV but the reverse is impossible. Looking at it logically, having more lower end platforms is not going to save you much in the 2 areas he highlights, manpower and training.

Phil

should we maintain a high state of readiness and be prepared to sacrifice numbers and capabilities or maintain numbers and capabilities and sacrifice readiness.

As you say it’s a balance.

I think the thing to bear in mind is that holding even small force elements at a high readiness costs a lot of money in terms of the kit, the investment in resources the rest of the force has to put in to getting that high readiness force to readiness and keeping it there and the logistical enablers to actually get them from A to B: not to mention the ready reserves of kit and supplies needed for a whole host of potential theatres from desert to arctic and the duplication that involves (for example you don’t need 10,000 pairs of spare boots, you need 10,000 pairs of desert boots and 10,000 pairs of cold wet weather boot and so on and on).

If we don’t keep a good chunk of the Army at high readiness, with a lack of existential threat, we should logically simply drop it down to a regeneration only force completely.

Think Defence

Having a pop at the defence industry and our buy British policy….

He should pop over to France, Germany or the US to see examples a hundred times worse.

The UK has a remarkably diverse and open defence market and the SDSR 2010 was actually very clear that this would continue and any future programmes would consider exportability before investment decisions.

Everyone thinks we only buy from BAE but last year, BAE accounted for 14% of the MoD’s procurement spend

Rocket Banana

Well it’s nice to see that this chap has a brain and is not afraid to say it how it is.

If it really is as doom and gloom as all that then all I can suggest is that we specialise. We do not have the numbers or finances for a broad spectrum capability so should cut the spectrum otherwise we’ll end up with an ineffectual air force, army and navy.

The only thing I sense from the speech and the ether is that Trident replacement might not happen. This saves us such a lot of money, enough probably to do the other things properly. In fact (although this is a total guess) it probably allows us to concentrate on a decent ballistic missile defence system and associated rocketry to put satellites into orbit to do some bloody proper intel rather than relying on other people for the most basic of military requirements – intelligence.

BigDave243
BigDave243

As I don’t think its been mentioned yet, yes we have a fairly substantial defence budget (double that of Italy I think someone mentioned?) and it’s been said that we aren’t same bang for our buck with regards to this budget and our procurement of equipment.

However compared to Italy and probably many of our other allies we (those of us serving and ex serving) probably get paid a significantly higher wage and get a significantly better pension etc. The standard of accommodation (certainly at Brize Norton) is pretty decent so once again a large part of the budget is probably being swallowed up with infrastructure projects like ‘SLAM’ among others.

So don’t get me wrong equipment is important but so too are the people who use it, giving these people decent wages and accom etc is all part of retention. Without that retention we wouldn’t have an armed forces anyway.

As for the the ‘hollow force’ stuff……I still think (perhaps wrongly) that the UK armed forces has massive prestige around the world, and our standard of equipment is still pretty high. Like for like we’d give most nations a damn good kicking as we are still one of the best trained armed forces in the world.

Anyway that’s just my opinion and i’m sure i’ll get shot down soon enough.

Phil

The only thing I sense from the speech and the ether is that Trident replacement might not happen.

That decision is WAY above him.

dgos
dgos

As matter of interest do we still have adequate domestic capability to produce sufficient explosive , propellants and even ammunition.( I get impression that we import a lot now.)

Can this be ramped up in time if we get in high usage state

I include nitric and sulphuric acids in game.

Similarly with electronic / computer components!

HurstLlama
HurstLlama

“I still think (perhaps wrongly) that the UK armed forces has massive prestige around the world, and our standard of equipment is still pretty high.”

We certainly have some very good kit, not much of it, but it is jolly capable stuff. As for the prestige of UK armed forces around the world, I fear you may be a tad optimistic. Fallen far and still falling, might be a better description, particularly amongst those who do not wish us well.

Decision makers in the chancelleries of Europe and Asia will have looked at the events of the last decade or so and drawn their own conclusions, totally uninfluenced by HMG spin-doctors. Good people, good kit but not much of either and a lack of political will to actually do (and spend) what is necessary to achieve what we say are our aims, might be the lesson some may, reasonably, draw. A toothless old lion who dreams its dreams but no longer has the energy or will to hunt and will run away if seriously challenged.

Mind you that’s not just us. The same could be said for all of Europe and, increasingly, of the USA.

Phil

A toothless old lion who dreams its dreams but no longer has the energy or will to hunt and will run away if seriously challenged.

Three interventions in 13 years one of which has involved boots on the ground and fighting for 12 years yet we run away when seriously challenged?!

I’ll grant you we bit off more than we were willing or could chew in 2006-2009 but it’s quite some running away if it takes 13 years!

I turned 18 in 2001 – my entire adult life so far, has been coloured by over a decade of continuous combat across two continents in three separate theatres. My boss’s sisters husband is dead. My other half’s friend is dead. This is without my military connections. Former members of my local TA detachment are dead. Immediate military colleagues are dead. Again, this is quite some running away.

BigDave243
BigDave243

@HurstLlama

There many words my friends would describe me with….optimistic isn’t one of them ;-)

On the matter of our reputation, there are still alot of countries who come to the UK to train, using the likes of Cranwell, Sandhurst and whatever the Naval equivalent is (please excuse my ignorance). The pessimist in me says they are taking advantage of us…..the optimist in me says that we still train the very best.

Even the RAF’s basic training is 10 weeks long now, thats only 2 weeks shy of the USMC training the ‘elite’ of the US armed forces.

wf
wf

@Phil: I’m afraid @HurstLama is right. We’ve suffered, but our politicians and top brass have developed a “peacekeeping” mentality, where our word is given freely, but it carries an indeterminate expiration date. We won the Cold War because we were believed when we said we would fight, and we proved it in the FI.

I’m sure we are admired when it comes to the tactical level, where no one doubts we are amongst the best. But wars are not won by doing platoon and company attacks, and having seen examples of the British Army being challenged to “bring it” in Iraq, and having our top brass (including the then COS!) basically say, “we can’t, please can we fight somewhere else instead?”, no one still thinks we’re something to be feared long term. We will have to “prove it” again, probably rather sooner than we would wish.

Phil

We’ve suffered, but our politicians and top brass have developed a “peacekeeping” mentality,

Where’s the evidence of that? Brimstones firing at Libyans, drones smashing Talibans, soldiers advancing to contact from over a hundred check points and bases in Afghanistan and an armoured division driving into an Iraqi city. Where’s the peacekeeping mentality? I don’t see it. It was there in the 90s when we could afford to have a blue beanie mentality but I really see little evidence of it since then. Well over a hundred thousand servicemen have rotated through operational tours in the last decade, the vast minority wearing blue.

Army being challenged to “bring it” in Iraq, and having our top brass (including the then COS!) basically say, “we can’t, please can we fight somewhere else instead?”

Because politicians wanted out and then sent resources to Helmand. If you read into the campaign you will see that the CDS etc were given what they were given – there was no political will to hang around in Iraq because it was a political shitstorm from D-Day minus 365 let alone D-Day + 1000.

You’re confusing perfectly normal (if lamentable) political forces with a lack of desire or willingness to fight. A decade of fighting shows clearly that we will commit when we need to – but nearly all commitments will be highly political.

Honestly – I doubt there are many states out there betting their existence on Britain running away like a girl from a fight. The same Britain who risked her entire fleet for a bog nobody previously had given two shits about. The same Britain who invaded a sovereign nation because of the moral compass of its Prime Minister. The same Britain who fought for 13 years in Afghanistan for its fourth party over there.

wf
wf

@Phil: it’s easy to do quick “some fighting, then home for tea and medals” campaigns, especially when your casualties are minimal. What counts, and what has been missing over the last couple of decades (hence why I noted the Cold War and FI as exceptions), is the determination to achieve the stated political objectives, whatever the cost.

The last decade has seen a lack of commitment to meet our stated objectives. There’s not much we could do about Afghanistan once Obama grandly declared he was going to withdraw in 2009, but we ran away from Iraq as soon as we could get away with it despite our position being entirely recoverable, as the Yanks promptly proved. When the Army COS says “get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems” he was both wrong and an idiot: you cannot gain allies in COIN that way, and the effect on our current allies was and still is disastrous.

Countries don’t need to bet their existence on us fighting or not, because we are very unlikely to ever threaten the former. As the Iranian’s have proved more than once, there’s precious little downside to attacking the British armed forces, and once you’ve let that slide, our formerly “critical interests” will suddenly become “negotiatable”. Firing missiles with no risk to our people doesn’t impress anyone.

Bob
Bob

And the greatest denial of all raises it’s head. The UK has very little militarily in the last 12 years. The US had to clear up it’s mess in both Iraq and Afghanistan- and that was with the pre-2010 force.

The toothless old lion comment above was the most accurate and realistic in this thread.

Phil

What counts, and what has been missing over the last couple of decades (hence why I noted the Cold War and FI as exceptions), is the determination to achieve the stated political objectives, whatever the cost.

The invasion of Iraq occurred and was pushed forward even though it was very nearly fatal to the politicians in question. That shows determination to gain the objectives stated. That things went tits up does not show a lack of determination, it shows politicians making a political calculation that a war that started out as a shitstorm was going to remain a political sword of Damocles hanging over their heads the longer it went on.

The objectives in Afghanistan have been pursued at the cost of billions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of troops and nearly 500 UK lives in a decade of engagement and almost endless tedious news about failure and wasted lives and neo-colonialism. But when push came to shove, beyond the media types most people are happy to let the Government get on with it and so the Government has got on with it.

That Afghanistan must end at some point is common sense, not running away.

but we ran away from Iraq as soon as we could get away with it despite our position being entirely recoverable, as the Yanks promptly proved.

I’d check fire on any pronouncements about the Yanks fixing fuck all in Iraq unless being off the news and no more dead soldiers is called fixing (which it so often unfortunately is considered to be).

Firing missiles with no risk to our people doesn’t impress anyone.

If Gaddafi was alive I’m sure he’d be sticking his hand up in the air at this point.

Again you’re mixing up political decision making with a lack of determination when we have shown anything but when the issues have been clear cut.

Iraq was never clear cut but we still invaded.

The Falklands were and we risked the cream of the Navy.

Afghanistan was and we spent 13 years there.

The Cold War was the very definition of an existential threat hence a 50 year presence in Germany.

It’s quite obvious to me that the risk aversion he was talking about was in the political domain – that politicians shouldn’t put their necks above British interests and bottle it because things might not go well or all according to plan. Not in how the armed forces conduct their operations. When things are pretty clear cut and the interest clear the politicians send Tommy on his way and they keep him there for decades.

Phil

The toothless old lion comment above was the most accurate and realistic in this thread.

Bob just fuck off. I don’t agree with wf but at least he’s making an argument unlike you, you complete turd.

TD feel free to roll my dummy spitting back!

Bob
Bob

Phil,

And there is denial in it’s extreme form. It is a fact that the UK screwed-up Basra (corrected by the Iraqi Army with US support) and it was the massive USMC build-up that stabilised Helmand. The pre-2010 force, in terms of achieving definable objectives, proved inadequate and now that force as been further reduced.

You can get as angry about it as you like and throw around every expletive you can think off but that is the harsh reality.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

One of the isdues we have faced and now face to an even greater degree is force level planning. It is fine to say we can almost indefinitely rotate a Brigade Plus force on Ops but what happens when you have to reinforce or “surge” midway through to get out of the shit?
Twice we have seen this and twice the US has stepped in. We need to ensure this is taken into account in future planning, especially if we decide to embark in any more US led elective COIN Ops with dubious objectives and zero exit strategy.

Phil

And there is denial in it’s extreme form. It is a fact that the UK screwed-up Basra (corrected by the Iraqi Army with US support) and it was the massive USMC build-up that stabilised Helmand. The pre-2010 force, in terms of achieving definable objectives, proved inadequate and now that force as been further reduced.

It was the build-up in general that stabilised Helmand Bob. The stabilisation was done as part of an alliance – which is precisely how alliances are meant to function. It is the purpose of the alliance – being part of the alliance was in itself a key capability that has been maintained at great expense.

That troop density was a key element to get anywhere there is a week one, day one staff college lesson.

But that wouldn’t fit in with your tedious troll agenda would it?

You can get as angry about it as you like and throw around every expletive you can think off but that is the harsh reality.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Bob
Bob

Phil,

Interesting attempt at spin but you can’t hide the truth. The UK was responsible for Helmand and could not generate the force to meet the objective- so the USMC had to come in and bail them out.

Phil

Twice we have seen this and twice the US has stepped in.

Twice the US has deployed capabilities in mutual interest as part of an alliance to achieve mutual objectives.

This is precisely how alliances are meant to work.

On what planet do we have to feel shame that we achieved (for the sake of argument) objectives with the assistance of an alliance? An alliance is a capability as much as an aircraft carrier is. Do you think the Russians would get all sentimental and shameful or give a toss as long as the job was done and they came out with a big tick in the box? Nope. In fact it is such a second nature train of thought to them that they constantly accused us of exploiting our alliance with them from 41-45 and using them to achieve our object.

wf
wf

@Phil: “The invasion of Iraq occurred and was pushed forward even though it was very nearly fatal to the politicians in question. That shows determination to gain the objectives stated. That things went tits up does not show a lack of determination, it shows politicians making a political calculation that a war that started out as a shitstorm was going to remain a political sword of Damocles hanging over their heads the longer it went on.”

Some of that is true, although the Nelsonian ability to draw down forces in Iraq despite the obvious need for them to remain is hardly “determination”. The initial war was not unpopular either, despite all the marching. The trouble is that you are assuming political will is something different from national will. We elect politicians to manage the state for us, and their decisions are national ones, not sitting in some mythical “political sphere”. Blair’s decisions are rightly seen as British ones, and will be remembered long past the time his perma-tan has faded. When he said our objective was an Iraqi democracy, then he has to behave and act as though this was the case. He did not, and so everyone else to whom we address warnings and concerns from here onward will take them with a large pinch of salt. They wouldn’t have done that in 1983….

Gaddafi is actually not an example of us impressing everyone, because the risks to us were low, and despite some SF operations, we worked to keep them so: we were never going to land an armoured brigade at Benghazi and said so repeatedly. Very PC to hamstring yourself while your enemies would never dream of doing the same….

Phil

The UK was responsible for Helmand and could not generate the force to meet the objective- so the USMC had to come in and bail them out.

Bailing out, working together to achieve mutual aims.

I mean you could look at it like the USMC were our little bitches and you came running when we called.

Or we could just think of an alliance in the same manner countries have thought of them for a thousand plus years – as adjuncts to security and a perfectly valid and useful tool of statecraft, membership of which is a defence capability in itself.

Phil

Some of that is true, although the Nelsonian ability to draw down forces in Iraq despite the obvious need for them to remain is hardly “determination”.

You could say the opposite if we get pedantic and discuss the nature of determination. Not withdrawing every soldier on May 1st when Bush proclaimed victory and keeping them in the field for 5 more years despite things going south might be said to show determination. In the end the decision was political – Iraq simply did not have the legs Afghanistan did. So we switched fire.

The initial war was not unpopular either, despite all the marching.

That is wishful thinking – it was unpopular where it counted – in the Chamber. Not to mention constant criticism from the media. Iraq was a huge thorn in Blair’s side and its completely tainted him beyond redemption in most people’s eyes. He wanted out as soon as he possibly could – he wanted a strategic raid by driving a division into Basra and then pissing off for tea and handing out medals. The whole campaign was a gross military and political miscalculation.

They wouldn’t have done that in 1983….

You’d have to be pretty retarded to ignore the fact we invaded the place in the first instance. I think we forget now just what an incredible decision that was. Pre-emptively invading a sovereign state in the 21st century by two democracies. It was a stupendous decision to make. Far more ground breaking than 9/11 was. That it went tits up doesn’t detract that we did it in the first place and thereby crossed a rubicon and also that we remained engaged somewhere else for 5 years after pulling out of Iraq.

Bob
Bob

Phil,

Your level of delusion is a wonder to behold, it really is. But you can not change the facts- the UK could not generate the required force to meet the objectives in Helmand so the USMC had to come and bail them out. This is because, even prior to 2010, the UK was too militarily weak to meet it’s ambitions.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Phil

If the theater level planning nominated US assets as the “reinforcements” for UK led areas then I have no issues. That is how ops on that level should work. If we let it be known or even thought that we could surge to support our own assets then had to go cap in hand to the US then heads should have rolled.

I am in the wrong service and too far down the food chain to know which it was.

@WF

The initial war in Iraq was anything but popular and that was before we discovered Tom Clancy (RIP) had written the intelligence estimate.

The UK impressed a lot of people in Libya making a huge contribution to the Command Infrastructure, especially organising the set up and battle rhythms as well as niche capabilities. Staff Legal advice was almost solely UK, the reorganisation of merchant traffic in and out was achieved by some very talented RNR Officers.

I could talk about SSN contribution but will refrain.

Of course none of that is bloody enough for you?

Phil

This is because, even prior to 2010, the UK was too militarily weak to meet it’s ambitions.

Those ambitions were never framed in a unilateral manner. Afghanistan was always going to be a coalition effort and the intervention was undertaken in that vein.

The lengths you go to to troll, including making the self-sacrifice of deploying arguments of a High School student level that make you look incapable of any sort of nuanced thought, are a wonder to behold also Bob. You are a very determined troll to the point of being quite happy to make yourself look dense in the process.

Bob
Bob

Phil,

You efforts at diversion and spewing of insults are all very telling- that even you know you are wrong but can not bring yourself to admit it. The UK took responsibility for Helmand- that was it’s coalition role, then could not generate the force necessary to meet that objective so had to be bailed out by the USMC. It needed to be bailed out because of it’s military weakness and it thus failed in it’s role even within a coalition.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@Bob

My point stands and I do not know the answer, what was the theater level contingency plan to up scale Ops in Helmand? It had to exist (assuming a semi competent command staff overseeing whole country ops). Was it alwsys going to be US forves if required?

Phil

Bob I’m not repeating myself.

If it calms you down and makes your carers job easier then sure, the USMC bailed us out.

Bob
Bob

Phil,

I have been perfectly calm, you were the one spewing insults and expletives. But yes, your admission of reality is certainly an improvement.

APATS,

The situation was exactly as I described. The UK took responsibility for Helmand, there was no plan for a greater US involvement, but the situation deteriorated rapidly and the UK could not generate the required force so the USMC had to come in.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@Bob
Have you ever served on a Command Staff? There would have been a plan for contingent ops in Helmand. I would merely be interested in what it was.

Phil

@APATS

It would be interesting to know. And as we know the initial idea of what was going to happen down there turned out to be a bit wrong.

wf
wf

@Phil, under international law Iraq is just fine and dandy. Iraq had not complied with the ceasefire agreement (ratified by three Security Council resolutions) and hence GW1 could restart at any time. Blair even got Westminster to vote approval (a mere two days in advance!). The fact that Blair (unlike the Americans, who were planning, however incompetently, for a 4-5 year occupation) wanted to hit and leave ASAP merely demonstrates he lacked the qualities to be a British PM.

@APATS: Iraq is now a very dodgy democracy. But unlike 1990-2003, it is now, 2 years plus after the last foreign troops have left, not a threat to the wider Middle East and it does not require a British and US garrison stationed on it’s borders at all times. It, thanks mainly to the US, is a qualified win. Afghanistan, on the other hand, will rapidly revert to status quo ante within a few years of us leaving. No one is going to look back in 2020 and say, “qualified win in Afghanistan” . Even the results of the old colonial wars will look better then, with the exception of Elphinstone’s expedition, naturally

MrBeanCounter
MrBeanCounter

Bob

I’m new round here so I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember this:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3764912.stm

Now I don’t for a moment consider this to be an example of the US needing to be bailed out by the plucky Brits, more like sensible allocation of forces in theatre as needs dictate. But I’m happy to have your thoughts….

HurstLlama
HurstLlama

@Phil December 20, 2013 at 11:59 am

Please re-read what I said. I make no criticism of our people, they are good, very good, have done and always will do everything that is asked of them. That is one part of the UK defence force’s reputation, its prestige.

However, from an outsiders perspective, which is what I was replying to, it doesn’t matter that you and I (and I go back a long way further than you) have lost friends in action, people who died doing what they joined up to do bravely and to the best of their considerable abilities. People outside look at a wider picture, and what they see is not Tommy Atkins doing his bit with the same dogged bloodymindedness he has displayed since Senlac Ridge. They might look at numbers and they will certainly look at what happened.

With the best will in the world, I cannot see how our performance in Southern Iraq could be described as anything other than a failure that culminated in us running away. Nothing to do with the calibre of the troops on the ground, everything to do with the lack of will by our politicians to a) commit the resources necessary to do the job that they didn’t plan for but committed us to anyway and b) stomach the casualties that would have ensued if they had. So a deal was done by us with the bad guys and we fucked off leaving them in charge.

In Afghanistan we see a similar sequence of events. No proper planning, massive optimism, insufficient resources committed, too many casualties for the Nation to stomach, failure of strategic aims (in so far as they were ever declared) and withdrawal.

As for Libya, technically a very proficient campaign that has left the country in chaos, big chunks of it in the hands of our enemies and apparently created the biggest supply of black-market arms (including surface to air missiles) non-state actors have ever seen. Our enemies are pissing themselves laughing, our friends are in despair.

At sea, well the Iranians tested us a few years ago and what they found cheered them up no end. Full respect to our RN members here but the state of our Navy is a disgrace, again no fault of the lower deck or even the current wardrooms.

Now, you and I can debate the finer points, but we are both on the side of the angels and what we think don’t matter when it comes to the prestige of British Forces. It is what the others think especially those who do not mean us well. So, unpalatable as it may be, I think I’ll stand by metaphor of the toothless old lion dreaming his dreams.

Fedaykin

The thing is Bob you are right the UK made a mess of Basra and the USMC had to bail us out in Hellmand but you are being rather dismissive of the blood sacrifice made by my country. The UK could of not got involved at all in either conflicts yet there are still troops in Afghanistan now, we didn’t cut an run like some countries globally. In the 1990s somebody could join the army realistically thinking that they might never see combat. In the last decade an eighteen year old recruit was guaranteed combat. Regardless of the decisions made by the politicians or the often naivety of our senior officers our troops have seen real combat and we have suffered many casualties. That is why people are getting a bit upset at you. When we have been watching this over the last thirteen years:

It is hardly surprising that people are going to be a bit sensitive, the problem is you are coming over a bit like you want rub are noses in it. Now I am not insulting you are dismissing you points about Basra or Hellmand just asking you understand the sensitivities. Yes the UK is far more militarily weak in comparison to even ten years ago but please understand that we haven’t cut and run, we have offered up the lives of our young men and woman as an ally to America. American domestic public opinion required it to be seen that there were other countries supporting those operations, we have done that at great cost. Finally have a look at this website and then consider if the UK has cut and run:
http://icasualties.org/oef/

Finally before you put finger to keyboard again have a look at this first Bob and then consider what sacrifice means:

Again I am not shouting at you Bob, I agree with some the strategic points you are making, I am typing this completely calmly and I am not dismissing your points but you do need to understand that there are some sensitivities around this matter.

Bob
Bob

My understanding was there was no contingency plan for a large US troop deployment to Southern Afghanistan- this was a direct consequence of British military failure. Just as Charge of the Knights was in Basra.

HurstLlama,

Great analysis.

Phil

under international law Iraq is just fine and dandy.

I’m really not arguing it’s not. But it was a hand grenade. I’m again not saying it would have bought down Blair or anything like that but from reading sources and even Blair’s autobiography it is quite clear he wanted in, photo op, then out. The rest of the campaign was gradual build up of tension which developed into a bun fight over resources and then things really dropped in the shitter in July 2006. Blair was like a schoolkid pacing up and down waiting for his parents to finish getting dressed before taking him to Disney land – he was very impatient to walk away as soon as he conceivably could and Afghan added to that pressure.

wanted to hit and leave ASAP merely demonstrates he lacked the qualities to be a British PM.

You partake of too much Churchill! He wanted to hit and run and intelligent people in the armed forces on both sides of the pond still think you can hit and run (strategic raiding…). It’s hardly his fault as a non-specialist that he couldn’t see he was walking into a web.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama

“as we know the initial idea of what was going to happen down there [Iraq] turned out to be a bit wrong.”

Masterly understatement.

“There would have been a plan for contingent ops in Helmand. ”

I think you mean there SHOULD have been a plan for contingent ops in Helmand. Given that it all started to go horribly wrong in 2006, when we first committed overt troops onto the ground and almost immediately thereafter tore up the plan for their deployment (from which situation we were only rescued by that base bloody mindedness of the Tommy Atkins – in that case displayed by the Paras), I don’t think there was ever any proper planning above the tactical level. Force levels in those days were decided by that one-eyed maniac in the treasury not what was required to do the job his boss had committed us to (e.g. one RM Commando was forced to leave people behind because to take the whole lot would have contravened HM Treasury spending limits).

Phil

Please re-read what I said. I make no criticism of our people, they are good, very good,

I’m not saying you criticised people, and even if you did it’s fair cop. What I meant was even though outside of my time in the forces as it were, I do not move in military circles I still know people who have suffered losses. A decade of fighting has affected the country more than I think we realise. It sadden me how many people I know genuinely know someone who hasn’t come home alive. The effects are deep and they have been sustained.

With the best will in the world, I cannot see how our performance in Southern Iraq could be described as anything other than a failure that culminated in us running away.

I really haven’t made my final mind up about Iraq yet. All I know is that it was a fuck up of biblical proportions from the get go and there’s enough buckets of shit to be poured over everyone’s heads several times over. The grand context was we dipped our toe into Helmand and then just didn’t have the political will to remain in Iraq. The history of the insurgency is a history of us trying to get out because after a short while it became obvious where it was all going. The Americans again won lots of battles but Iraq is hardly looking like a healthy country at the moment – the only difference is it is now looking too inward to be a bother to the US. But really the US didn’t need to spend 7 years and 4,000 dead achieving that.

Prestige is a straw man in my view. Capabilities are what counts and the facts are except for a few neo-colonial interventions, upstream engagement and possibly the bog down south we will always be bringing along our friends (and us with them) and that is a huge capability right there.

Any enemy sees a country with a powerful say in the most powerful alliance in history with a decade of invasion and fighting behind it. People talk about “oh we’ll never do another war like Afghan”. Well in 1999 people were saying we’d never be able to withstand a few tens of dead and that our enemies knew this. They were wrong.

Phil

Force levels in those days were decided by that one-eyed maniac in the treasury not what was required to do the job his boss had committed us to

Always has been, even in WWII there was no blank cheque until the Americans began lend-lease. There were serious concerns about foreign currency reserves and finances in general – no money, no swiss.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Bob

If there was no plan for contingency ops of any sort then heads on staff should have rolled. That is gross incompetence. My interest is in who signed up to support any such ops.

@HL

The Iranians tested the RN on a few occasions post Cumberland and came off 2nd best. Including 1 CO driving a 22 Batch 3 between the IRGC and a merchant vessel they were attacking and using the 4.5 to force a rethink. The Cumberland episode was embarassing although other than conduct after capture they did the right thing. However the inquest was very bloody and the outcomes in training and procedures profound.
Easy to smirk about Libya but would you have let Gadafi massacre the population of Benghazi? That was where we were before the French decided to intervene. We acted iaw a UN Security council resolution. It was also a NATO op so any and I detect little despair is equally shared.

Reference the respect for the armed forces. I sat in a room in Kuwait Naval Base in 2006 and the Head of the Kuwaiti Navy would have signed a training contract there and then but he wanted uniformed training personnel. mOD wanted to use bloody Flag Ship :(

This thread has become a ” we are all doomed thread” notably not by those actually serving though.

Phil

This thread has become a ” we are all doomed thread” notably not by those actually serving though.

That’s because you’re indoctrinated and in denial ;-)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Hurst Lama

Afghanistan was a NATO mission, having worked in NATO command HQs it is a failure at the top not to have had an ISAF plan for contingency ops.

Bob
Bob

Phil,

Not indoctrinated, just in denial and delusion.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama

Mr. APATS,

Re the incident in the Gulf, I think you meant HMS Cornwall, not HMS Cumberland. You might want to clarify your post.

The problem with the Cornwall incident was what it showed us and the world about the quality of the RN people, then. I am aware that measures have been taken since, but by the cringe they were embarrassing and not just the people involved but right up to the admiral who met them with their goody-bags. Very few people will have heard of the other incidents you mention, but they lots will remember the conduct of HMS Cornwall and her crew and the response of the RN. Cunningham (“it takes two years to build a ship and two centuries to build a reputation. The Navy stays”) must still be spinning in his grave.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@Bob

I am neither in denial or delusion. I have a full understanding of our capabilities. I also understand our issues with persistence and some of our capabilities are fragile.
In order to avoid exacerbating the situation we need to avoid further cuts ( the point CDS makes). IMHO and as I pointed out earlier we also need to be careful about being dragged into elective wars and if we do so we should have clear plans to reinforce troops on the ground and an exit strategy.
None of that makes us doomed nor me in denial or suffering from delusions.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ HL

No need for Mr in front of monikers.

Sorry Cumberland was the other T22 B3 I was referring to. Yes was embarassing but your phrase branding the entire Navy a disgrace today in 2013 was an unfounded and ill informed slur.
Trust me the IRGC has noted the difference.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama

@APATS

I am very pleased to note that HMS Cumberland was at the forefront of correcting the IRGC’s idea of the RN’s capabilities and attitudes. A proud ship and a worthy successor to her WWII namesake, with which I have family connections and whose story I have been researching for years and will, one day, finally publish.

Nonetheless, I did say that the current state of the RN was a disgrace and I will stand by that remark. Good kit, some very good people. Not enough of either.

wf
wf

@APATS: so…regarding the Cornwall incident. Did the presence of a female inhibit their response to the IRGC ambush? Just setting the cat amongst the pigeons, you understand :-)

dgois
dgois

Suggest that a study of the Endurance enquiry gives a worrying view of current competence in RN. in what I always thought was core competence. ie control of critical engineering work.

Most ex RN engineering personnel I have worked with have been very good.

I would have been well and truly bollocked for far less what went on there. (and I might add was!)

Lord Jim
Lord Jim

For decades the Government/Treasury has looked upon the Defence as only needing to spend the “Minimum Wage” on it and going to Wonga.com or UORs to hold things together on operations. In the 1990’s there was the major rethink in the MOD and the introduction of “Capability Managers”. Unfortunately the focus has always been on the capability and not Capacity. On a recent Question Time in Portsmouth a Government Minister countered claims that the Royal Navy was too small by saying with the new carriers Portsmouth would be hoem to more Naval tonnage than ever!!! I wonder which Spin Doctor came up with that one?

Well since the 1990’s the Treasury has used to golden Egg of Capability to drasticall reduce our capacity of our armed forces and their effectiveness. Yes we have some fantastic kit but it can only be in one place at a time, it will not be in sufficent numbers to be effective and we won’t have the spares to keep it operational. Add to this there will be insufficent kit to allow proper training especially for Reservists and Territorials so only a limited pool of personnel will be able to use it, inreasing the number of choke points in the Armed forces personnel skill sets.

CDS’s speech was a breath of fresh air, with him steering as close as he could to the edge without declaring war on the Government. Will anyone take notice? Probably not as defence will not even appear on the radar at the next General Election.

In a previous rant I stated that the balance of FF2020 was wrong and I stand by this. Enduring operations are Toxic to our Armed Forces and as CDS stated we seem preoccupied in planning to fight top tier state on state engagements. Yes I know the arguements about crystal balls and not knowing what the future holds, but even a basic risk assessment shows we are far more likely to be involved in mainly intervention against low tier opposition and COIN operations. For this we do not need Heavy assets but rather light and medium formations backed up by sufficient air and naval assets to provide air superiority, air to ground support, air and sea mobility and air and sea logistics. If you control the air you do not need a tank to take on the enemy’s armour, a Hellfire or Brimstone does that for you. Sufficent ISTAR assets allow you situational awareness that limits the need for aggressive patroling and airmobility reduces the vulnerability to IEDs. Medium Armour provides acceptable protection form IEDs and RPGs as well as effective fire support.

WE have a budget and cannot have all the toys we want. I said before the 2010 SDSR we must concentrate on what we really need. To work that out we have to be realistic about what threats we will face and stay focused. The CDS seems to agree with this chain of thought. His worries about FF2020 are very real. To meet its target we need to speed up the removal of redundant eqipment to free up funding for essential equipment. An example would be the Artillery. GMLRS and the AS-90 are great pieces of kit but what we really need is a light weight 155mm able to fire GPS munitions and a much lighter GMLRS like the US HIMARS. Army kit costs peanuts compared to the major air and naval programmes and if the MOD can retain its underspends then this is a feasible programme especially as the logistical tail of the new systems is far smaller than what it replaces.

DO we need FRES SV, NO!!! we have the Warrior 2 comming on line and the infrastructure in place to support it. We need a medium APC to equip the majority of our Infantry battalions, using a platform that can be used for a multitude of roles. The Modular Boxer fits this perfectly and was designed to UK requirements.

These are two examples of where the Army needs to go. As for the RAF, well its future is the Typhoon and UAV/UCAVs for its spear point with more of each than is curretnly planned. The F-35 needs to be a Naval programme but obviously RAF personnel will swap into the system. As for the Navy, the T-26 should be the platform we need but I would rather have a few more than have just 13 “Gucci” platforms. The new OPVs are a good sigh, but additional platforms to allow rotation to permenent overseas station would be better, say 6-8 instead of just 3. Crowsnest need to be accelerated to be in service the same time as the new Carriers as does an order for sufficient F-35s to allow them to operate as Carriers and not simply a replacement for HMS Ocean.

So we need to focus on who we are likely to face, what we really need including manpower and ensure at the very least there are no further cuts to the Defence Budget upto and beyond 2020, Oh and teh Trident replacemnt must be funded outside the Core Budget or scrapped!!!

martin

The US had to clear up it’s mess in both Iraq and Afghanistan- and that was with the pre-2010 force.

I might agree in Iraq Bob but we are still in the stan and as your best Marines needed bailed out by the RAF regiment no so long ago I would not be too quick to throw stones.

As for Iraq we may have headed for the door early as we were not overly keen on a massacre of civilians storming into Basara but who were the muppets that caused the post war Iraq mess in the first place. Who were the as*holes that disbanded the Iraq army and left the country in chaos. Who thought they could invade and hold a country the size of Iraq with a handful of divisions. That was not on us and given the decent job we were doing in Basara until the entire sectarian mess blew up you could understand our frustration at the lead partner and our unwillingness to get sucked in further. fourteen years fighting your wars with you side by side you would think we might expect a little gratitude. We have certainly given you more support that your “greatest ally” Israel or your “oldest Israel” France.

martin

“Yes we have some fantastic kit but it can only be in one place at a time”

But for a peace time military who has only fought ellective wars for the past 70 years do we need to be in more than one place at a time. Yes we will only have 7 Astute submarines but if we sent them all to the same place at the same time we could probably sink almost any battle fleet fielded by any navy with the exclusion of the USA (and we would make a bloody mess of even that)

We can’t justify invading a country unless we have a UN resolution and broad coallition so we don’t have a need to deploy a corps anywhere a light division will do. Same goes for enduring ops. Sustaing a light brigade is enough. What we do need to have because no one other than the USA has it is the ability to hit hard and fast with a resanably sized force in a single theatre and be home in time for tea and medals.

martin

@ Lord Jim – I agree that the Trident project should be funded outside of the core equiptment plan. Perhaps the CDS and other senior staff should make a point of this i.e. scrap successor or fund it out of the treasury or we will resign because the core budget cant handle it. I think nay government will role over on a threat like this especially if new in office. Having a mass resignation of all senior staff for the want of a billion a year would seem like a pretty simple political face saver.

If we can get a steady budget atleast increasing with inflation and no successor program to pay for then we are not in too bad a shape.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

Re HMS Cornwall,

What happened was disgraceful, but I would focus more blame on the ship’s Captain and those above him in the chain of command resposnsible for intelligence threat assessments and ROE. You don’t blame the sailors.

I’m pleased to read APATS’ response that things have tightened up since. I don’t know what happened to the Captain and others, but hopefully they were court martialled and got rid of.

Rocket Banana

Martin,

Are you aware your gravatar is of the French PA2?

Merry Christmas :-)

Topman
Topman

Not sure but I think CM are publically announced, not sure anyone would want a media frenzy over that particular incident. I think in the case of the RN it would be let sleeping dogs lie at least publically.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Red Trousers re F99

No sorry you cannot blame the captain. You can start your blame chain further up.

I would say blaming Cornwall is like blaming a infantry battalion CO for sending his men out in Snatch Land Rovers and shooting only when under fire.

Yes you are right about the intelligence. How the Iranians operated around the Shatt Al Arab shouldn’t have been news at all.

What was needed at the minimum were additional ship’s boats to provide additional cover, and for the boarding parties Marines not dabtoes or loggies or clankies wanting the occasional boat ride to break the monotony of ship’s routine . What should have been provided was a dedicated depot ship (say Galahad), proper boats (initially RIBs t small PBs to built), a few Mk10, a commando, and something should have been done to mark out Iraqi waters (though problematic).

I know I bang on about frigates being ultra flexible. But for a sustained task within a sensitive area with limited sea room not the right tool beyond the first year. But as we all know there was no post war plan, the Admiralty is bereft of leadership and imagination, and Blair was reluctant to spend money that didn’t buy votes at home.

WiseApe

@Simon – I think perhaps Martin is just “rubbing it in,” not behaviour I condone towards our new bestest allies.

“Syria vote was an out break of common sense.” – here here.

What hope the next SDSR will actually live up to its name? Given the lack of run away success of IDS’s plans to reduce the Welfare State, I am expecting another round of pruning here, nip and tuck there. Same carry on.

Topman
Topman

@x

‘No sorry you cannot blame the captain.’

Not wholely no, but not even partially?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

There were Marines in the boarding party but I do not blame any of the actual boarding team. Other than for some of the behaviour post capture.
A few thoughts of mine.

1. The RM Officer was correct to decide that heavily outnumbered engaging HMGs with small arms was a losing proposition.
2. We were in a period where we were being non confrontational, we did not want to escalate the situation. What would the fall out have been over a short sharp firefight resulting in 15 dead RM/RN personnel?
3. We had got into complacent routines and had not even completed a Command Estimate for the boarding. No thought given to enemies most dangerous course of action or a response.
4. Why did we not withdraw the team when we had to recover the helicopter?
5. Yes we probably could use more suitable assets but see point 3.
6. There had been no conduct after capture training completed?

Mark
Mark

You know if the general is correct and less state on state conflict is likely and more irregular warfare is the future and that the RN is short of manpower and were too kit centric then why not flog pow to brazil (there in need of a new carrier ) and run on ocean and with the manpower saved from needing to run 2 carriers you may even be able to keep the rivers to take up some frigate strain and we don’t have to buy anymore f35 ticks all the boxes.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Mark

I will be shocked if we see both Carriers running simultaneously. I think we will have an LPD cycle with the ability to run the 2nd in a limited way in a crisis or work it up properly over a longer period should the geo political landscape change.

Rocket Banana

Anyone know it there is a “light” crew designed for the carriers when operating as an LPH?

I find it hard to believe that it would need the full 600 when pootling around as a floating copter pad.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Simon

Somebody would have to write the Scheme of Complemen or (SOC) for a Carrier as an LPH. This was done when we started using the Invincibles in this role.
This is very difficult to do until we refine the Carrier SOC so unlikely to happen for a few years.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

X,

Respectfully, I think you have misread what I wrote, and misinterpreted accordingly.

I said that the Captain and others above him should be blamed.

A bit of Google reveals that the Captain Commander Jeremy Woods was relieved of command (ie sacked) several months later. Not immediately by flash signal, but several months later. The Admiralty themselves need to answer why, as well as asking which gold-cuffed utter twonk thought it wise to let the sailors sell their stories to the press.

Sailors are no longer fighting people. It’s not their fault, the last 20 years of recruiting policy have chosen technicians to operate complex equipment. They don’t have a spit in the enemy’s eye mentality. They should not have been put in that position by their Captain. He should have been better supported by accurate Int, decent ROE, and an embarked squad of RM from the old FPG RM, and also given some training in common sense.

Officers, particularly COs, of all 3 services have responsibilities not only for their soldiers/sailors/airmen, but when deployed for our national reputation. Commander Jeremy Woods RN appears to have got away very lightly indeed for his utter and total failure to protect either his sailors on the day, or our national reputation. Only he decided upon that course of action, and he has not been court martial led. Frankly he should have been, along with others above him for their contributing parts to a systemic failure.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ RT

The boarding party was a mix of RM and RN. The ROE and desecalatory policy was HMG. Look at my points, it was a systemic failure at several levels but a Court Martial of the CO for following laid down SOPs ( as flawed, stale and complacent as they were) would have had no chance of success.

Out of interest what should the CO have done?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

APATS,

He should have used his common sense. The sea was calm enough to launch 2 RHIBs, so it was calm enough for his on board systems to conduct a horizon scan that would have detected the IRGC fast boats. He had a helicopter that he choose not to employ. He appointed as the boarding party commander a junior officer untrained in boarding, while he also had on strength an RM Captain who was, but who was given no official role among the 15. Read the BoI: it is a shocking catalogue of errors, and to my mind, certainly mounts up to CM level incompetence.

Now, a very good point to be raised against what I say above is “we’re all human, no one makes no mistakes”. True, and I will happily admit to more than a few in my service days. None resulted in my court martial, because I was lucky enough that my mistakes did not cause huge national embarrassment. It goes with the job: cock it up big time and expect to get it in the neck.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@RT

The helicopter was up but had to return to refuel. Again legally it is not required to cover boardings with a helo. So yes we do not like it but not grounds for court martial. In the NAG you regularly have more than 150 surface contacts within 3 miles and heat haze makes it a nightmare ( been there done it).
I have read the BOI, trust me but my point remains he did not deviate enough from the admittedly useless procedures to allow for a Court Martial. Legal advice was sought. He was levered out of his role administratively.
The sad fact is that the system was not fit for task :(

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ RT

I read what you said. As I said the “blame chain” should start above the captain.

As for him being relieved of command that is the modern day forces for you where politics come into play more than they should.

Agree about sailors selling stories utter disgrace, but it is the age we live in.

As for,

Sailors are no longer fighting people. It’s not their fault, the last 20 years of recruiting policy have chosen technicians to operate complex equipment.

Sailors have been mostly technicians for the majority of the 20th century. I have said lots of times here that there is a lack of, um, fighting spirit. The modern RN is more concerned with political correctness than having sailors ready to fight physically. We can’t say the latter isn’t needed because if not so they shouldn’t be placed in situations like boardings. Do the police drag beat bobbies away from their day job, give them cursory training, and then throw them into deal with sieges and such like? No. Doesn’t the Army drill and drill and drill again for FIBUA? Sailors aren’t trained to a sufficient level to do boardings as it is a specialist job its own right. We have RM for that work, the USN has its Masters At Arms branch. Ships are unique environments. You can’t go into such situations believing they won’t go south. Unfortunately that is what the RN did, and really still does, believe that boardings are benign. And that is the framework in which the captain would have made his decisions.

I want to be quite clear I am not advocating that the boarding party should have fought back. The RM officer made the right decision, and standing down in the face of threat isn’t something that RM do naturally. But they shouldn’t have been put in that position. Look what happened afterwards where are RN boardings were covered by U heavily armed USN boats. No boarding should have taken place without 5 boats present. Two to cover the boarding, two on the other side to secure the blind side, and one standing off/orbiting in overwatch. FFS it is like no of them have ever sat in a boat next to even the smallest of ships. And as I said ship’s boats RIBS may be have been adequate as a top gap measure but once it was apparent the UK was there for the long haul something better should have been fielded. Yes there was money to do that if there had been the will do it, both politically and militarily. But the RN doesn’t push it isn’t going to get is it?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

APATS, not good enough excusing. A planned boarding operation and he doesn’t think to synchronise a heli refilling with the critical moment? And as for the multitude of contacts, that’s weak. If it was a problem, he should have had all hands manning binos, radars, bridge wings and so on. He didn’t, it’s in the BOI. He was actually asked about it. No excuse.

And no excuse either for “it’s a nightmare”. Just not good enough. I’ve been sacked from both a military and a civvy job for cocking things up, but never for making a completely girly excuse about weather conditions or information overload. I have myself sacked young officers and once a civil servant programme manager, but it was because they were useless and tried to make excuses.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@X
I actuall think that in the last 5 years RN Sailors have become more comfortable with and experienced in operating outside their comfort zone than ever before.
Before 2009 we would send matelots to augment land ops with about 6 days total training. We now have a 2 week course just for the L85-A2 culminating in the trained Soldier shoot.
OPTAG expanded to 2 entire weeks run by RM and culminating in 4 days out in the ” field” practicing what you have been taught.
A 9mm course is completed by the vast majority and conduct after capture training is mandatory.

You will always get those that simply look awkward and will never be comfortable but that is no longer a result of lack of training.

Boardings are split into 3 categories.
1. Compliant- Able to be undertaken by trained RN boarding teams.
2. Non Compliant but not opposed (welded doors, mvring etc) – RM task.
3. Oppossed- SF only.

Procedures have been revised in terms of pre boarding Command Estimates and classifications.

Observer
Observer

Wasn’t there also comment on how the draft in the area was too shallow to bring the frigate in closer?

RT, I’m not really sure I’d blame the CO too much as well. For one, they did send 2 RHIBs with RM and RN personnel, which was a point of yours.

Another point was that he was ordered to hold fire.
http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/blair-convenes-cobra-team-as-crisis-in-iran-escalates-1-1425343 Assuming this is correct.

A third point is also that Iranian interference can be considered “outside interference” to the mission, which was I believe a search on a freighter for suspicions of smuggling. One of the points that the search party could have done better was radio contact with the frigate. IIRC, the captain only knew of the boarding party’s predicament only after they had been escorted deeper into Iran, which pretty much took away any response he could have made unless he wanted to do an invasion of Iran.

Any way, that incident is over and done with. Think of it as a learning experience.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ RT
I am not making excuses for his actions, merely explaining why he was not court martialled.

As much as you and indeed I do not like it he did not break from the stupid SOPs by enough to justify a Court Martial. That was the legal opinion and we may not like it but it is a sad fact.

You have never tried to maintain a surface picture plot in the NAG, I have but again whether he should have or not it still did not deviate enough to justify a Court Martial.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the fact is that he did nothing different from what we had been doing for over 3 years. The sytem was not fit for purpose and he was the one who got caught out.
However trying to Court Martial would have failed.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

APATS, no I have not tried to maintain a surface picture in the Gulf, but it strikes me as not too complex. I have maintained a picture for 1st (UK) Armoured Division when I ran G3 Current Operations for over 2 years. When on exercise, we typically had over 10,000 “entities” from section level upwards in around 20,000 square kilometres to keep track of (and most with no comms to my position commanding the bird table), and in Bosnia the same but with added civpop and 3 warring factions all operating in multiple languages. So I’m not much impressed with your NAG example, because I know that competent officers can cope.

I also don’t give much credit to the “it was within the SOP” argument. That does not excuse incompetence and a lack of common sense. The truth is, if someone senior wanted to make an example of him, then it would have happened. And it should have done. Personally, I think the HMS Cornwall debacle was of sufficient magnitude that CJO and CDS should have resigned, and CNS and FOST should have been court martialled and stripped of their pension rights, along with multiple subordinates.

I’m in agreement with you on all of the measures put in place since the incident.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@RT

You talk about a strategic picture of units. Now try and imagine being able to see 4-5 miles in a haze and sand. You have 150-200 contacts in that space dhows, fvs, small speed boats moving within the area. You have to monitor and label everyone in real time. Continual tracking as they all move, pass behind each other, stop change direction etc. It is very very difficult and totally different from kaintaing a large area but limited update plot.
I have worked in a NATO Maritime HQ maintaining a world wide plot and fully understand the difference. However even disagreeing on the difficulty it still doesn’t earn him a court martial.

Your second para is you letting off steam. Funny but not very practical. You would have gone to Court Martial his Defence Lawyer would have produced the patrol and post boarding reports for the last 3 Units in that area and asked the prosecution to demonstrate what their client had done differently and why he should have. Would have been a short Court Martial.

A good CO may have done things better, would and should have but unfortunately being dull, unimaginative and doing the bare basics is not enough to court martial somebody.

Observer
Observer

Post got eaten up, so I’ll summarise.

RT, if I recall correctly, there WERE 2 RHIBs deployed, with RM personnel too.

And I believe that the captain was ordered to hold his fire by higher command.

So you are going to court martial someone for following orders? Think that’ll only wash if the order was illegal. “Hold your fire” is going to be hard to prove as an illegal order.

As for alternatives, the other ones are using the helo for an intrusion into Iranian waters, which the boarding crew was already in when the captain finally found out about their predicament, god knows how their air force would have responded, and bringing the frigate closer was out as the draft in the area was too shallow IIRC.

It was just a bad area and a bad time that Iran chose to flex their muscles.

The boarding crew’s behaviour post capture was a bit sad though, especially the book sales.

Rocket Banana

Simply put, the HMS Cornwall incident was the Royal Navy (and the in-place ROE) being outmanoeuvred in an almost non-military way.

If our rules are not to engage and kill any small threat because it might escalate into a full on war, then so be it.

Personally I think there was a lack within the frigate’s capabilities. Two Lynx would have given us deployable force which the threat of may have stopped the event happening in the first place. Faster RHIBs would also have stopped the problem happening. Even a few star-bursts could have changed the course of action, either forcing the Iranians hands or neutralising the situation.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Simon,

If the boarding part had engaged the Iranians they would all have died. If we tried to engage them after they were taken we would have killed our own people.
Remember ROE is driven by Political Considerations but I do not see a military solution here.

The procedures were flawed.

Think Defence

I think it was a systemic failure from top to bottom, the Army, by the way, is not without its own massive failures, arguably with a greater impact but that matters not in this discussion.

That the SOP’s were in place and wholly inadequate is one thing but the captain was supposed to be a Captain of a Royal Navy warship, not some team leader in a call centre shackled by a script and unable to act outside of that. If the Captain’s training, character or leadership qualities were found to be wanting and eased out when the dust had settled then that is abject cowardice on the part of senior leadership in avoiding a courts martial.

The blubbing sailors and fat biffas selling stories cannot be shrugged off as ‘the times we live in’ and they should not have needed a course on how to behave when captured either, another excuse for mediocrity, it wasn’t their fault, bollocks, its the fault of anything else, typical bollocks.

The RN, in its lust for the elephants decided to let other important equipment needs wither on the vine because don’t forget, proper warships can do the job of coastguard vessels or corvettes not the other way around.

So not enough aviation, not enough small craft and no small UAV’s providing wide area situational awareness. I mean its not like these things are actually expensive is it or available off the shelf.

Rotten, from a top that accepts mediocrity whilst lusting after being back in the big leagues (second only to America TM), all the way down to the matelot blubbing because he had his iPod stolen.

And so we come to today, no doubt things have changed and so they should but still we have the cringe inducing knuckle biting displays like flowers in gun barrels on mothers day, sailors posing with love heart hand gestures on valentines day and the latest vomit fest called Yule the Waves

Overweening political correctness and a media team who think the Royal Navy are some vast social media experiment designed to make the nation feel sorry for them because they away from home over Christmas, are just the latest incarnation of an organisation in trouble.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@TD

Do not hold your true colours back. Cornwall was the Carriers fault, fing priceless!

How can it be abject cowardice not to proceed with a court martial that the Legal Advisors informed there was no chance of winning.

The fact that you do not think conduct after capture training is important is really shocking. The kids that are recruited these days were not brought up on a diet of name rank and number, or Steve Mcqueen in the cooler. They have to be trained and in this instance the training let them down. They did not help.

This was a cock up of quite serious nature and identified some seriuous issues but to listen to drama queens like you, you would think we had let them cross the Channel.

I do not like the current media ops drive but you obviously have a huge issue with it.

It is amazing that those that no longer or have not served are so obsessed with appearances.

Think Defence

APATS, let me explain (and as I said, don’t for one second think I don’t think the Army and RAF are without their own brand of failures either)

When I said the elephants I meant something that I have been saying from day 1, that is we pursue high end top flight equipment for use in scenarios that are increasingly unlikely whilst allowing their rapacious lust for finite resources kill off any equipment that is used in the day to day. So in this case, the pursuit of high end as personified by QE’s meant that on the day, the captain of the ship was unable to call on properly resourced boarding teams, a decent set of small craft that could overmatch some half arsed lashed up go faster with a heavy machine gun or a simple UAV like Scan Eagle to provide advanced warning of what and who was operating in the area.

i.e. the very personification of a hollow force, or all fur coat and no knickers.

The RN was operating in an area with a collection of resources that were patently not up to the job and no one was screaming about it

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