The Ideal SDSR 2015 Wish List Part 2

As I said in the previous post my SDSR wish list is based on the assumption of a new government post 2015 prepared to spend a bit more on defence with additional funds being made available in three forms. Firstly removal of the successor submarine project from the MOD budget, perhaps a £ 1 billion a year in the next parliament and as much as £2 billion a year post 2020. Secondly, a one off fund to rapidly fill any gaps in military capabilities, perhaps £ 3 billion and thirdly, above inflation increases to the defence budget for the life of the next parliament.

While I feel the government acted correctly in 2010 by enacting an 8% cut in the budget to help reduce the country’s massive borrowing, the stealth cut enacted by Osborne and the Treasury of forcing the MOD to pay for trident replacement was shameful. I say this because most of the funds required for the program are to be paid after 2015 when the budget deficit is likely to be under control. The cuts seem to have been enacted more out of spite than anything else by a chancellor who was unhappy he could not cut more from defence and a Lib Dem party that want rid of Trident anyway.

My 2015 Wish List

Retention of Sentinel R1

RAF Waddington Air show, Press Day 2006.

This aircraft is perhaps the most useful single platform we have at present. Given its capability it would be insane to scrap it in 2015. In addition to retaining the aircraft I would also like to see it enhanced with the addition of much of the imaging systems used in the RAPTOR pod. This will in some way go to replacing a high altitude reconnaissance capability we lost with the retirement of the PR9.

Purchase of P8 Poseidon MPA

The loss of MRA4 left the UK with many capability gaps. Beyond MPA there is also the ELINT and ISTAR capability the Nimrod would have provided. I believe that while the P8 would not be the perfect successor to the MRA4 it’s the best thing available on the market that can be purchased quickly enough. It also comes with the added ability to tap onto USN training and support systems which will be important when operating a small fleet. I don’t care if it’s flown by the FAA or RAF but as far as possible it should be a purple asset.

Minimum modifications should be made to the base line USN version but we should seriously consider adding the following if feasible

  • Refueling Probe
  • Sting Ray Torpedo Wing kit
  • Elta EL/L – 8300UK Electronic Support Measures suite

Four aircraft should be procured from the special fund with a further five procured at a later date as the budget allows.


I am really hoping this will have happened before SDSR 2015 but it’s too important a capability to lose even for a short period of time. Ideally a solution that could be installed on any Merlin would be great and if the funds were available it would be good to see the forced beefed up with the upgrade of the surplus to requirement HM1 aircraft brought up to HM2 standard.

Buying Out of the FSTA contract

RAF Voyager lands in UK for the first time

Great aircraft and capability but trying to provide such a capability via a PFI was a mistake. The cost and complexity of this contract is likely to cause problems for years to come. So use the one of contingency fund to buy out today and save the money and hassle in future. Keeping the 14 planes and still keeping the consortium onboard for training maintenance etc.  Also consider using spare aircraft for UK VIP transport and leasing out spare capacity to EU or NATO or anyone who will pay for it.

Install strike length VLS on T45

MK-41 america VLS 0

Should have happened already but for one reason or another it hasn’t. Naval launched cruise missiles are a large part of any offensive air campaign especially when conducting opening night SEAD operations. It’s a key enabler and crucially something that virtually no one else outside the USA can do. We only have 7 SSN’s that can conduct this missions which is simply not enough. In the longer term once T26 comes on stream we should aim for a capability to be able to fire no less than 100 TLAMS in a single night. Currently T45 is our only surface ship capable of undertaking such a mission. My preference would be for 12 Mk41 Strike Length VLS on each. I would also like to see the GP version of T26 armed with 32 Mk 41 VLS instead of the currently planned 16. An increase in UK stores from 70 to at least 200 TLAM should also be considered.

 Crewing both Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers

A move that will cost around £70 million a year but one that will allow us to have one carrier either at sea of on short notice all of the time.

Retention of River Class OPV

All three River Class patrol vessels of the Fishery Protection Squadron, HMS Severn, HMS Tyne and HMS Mersey are pictured exercising off the coast of Cornwall. The Fishery Protection Squadron (FPS) enforces UK and EU fisheries legislation in order to ensure the long term sustainability of the UK fishing grounds. In addition, the three UK based Ships are the only warships on permanent patrol around the UK, contributing to the policing of UK waters and delivering an intrinsic element of the UK’s Maritime Security
All three River Class patrol vessels of the Fishery Protection Squadron, HMS Severn, HMS Tyne and HMS Mersey are pictured exercising off the coast of Cornwall. The Fishery Protection Squadron (FPS) enforces UK and EU fisheries legislation in order to ensure the long term sustainability of the UK fishing grounds. In addition, the three UK based Ships are the only warships on permanent patrol around the UK, contributing to the policing of UK waters and delivering an intrinsic element of the UK’s Maritime Security

I would like to see a commitment to retain the River Class OPV’s in service once the three new OPV’s arrive. The new OPV’s should be used to supplement the escort force and should be forward deployed with one in the Caribbean to replace APT(n), One of the coast of West Africa and One of the coast of East Africa. Possible basing could be considered in Sierra Leone for West Africa and Kenya or Bahrain for East Africa.

Replacement for HMS Ocean and RFA Argus

HMS Ocean Royal Navy Amphibious Helicopter

A dedicated LHD should be procured with sufficient hospital facilities on board to replace both HMS Ocean and RFA Argus. While two ships would be nice we have managed well enough with just a single LPH for the past decade. One of the QE’s can stand in for the LHD when in refit. Not a perfect solution but one I think would be good enough for us. The vessel could be a derivative of the mistral or Juan Carlos on simply a revised Ocean but the vessel should have a well deck, be built to commercial standards and be incapable of operating F35B (I say incapable because as soon as we have an LHD that can support F35B we can kiss the carriers goodbye)

Retention of Reaper and Cancelation of Scavenger

Armed RAF Reaper Aircraft Approaches Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan

The ten Reapers we are bringing back from Afghanistan should provide a decent enough MALE UAV capability. Combined with Sentinel, Watchkeeper, RAPTOR on Typhoon and other smaller UAV’s I don’t think we will be short on eyes in the sky. We certainly don’t need to be thinking about spending a £ 1 billion plus on another UAV program like scavenger until well after 2020.

Change in Law to Protect Reservists

People should not be penalized for being in the reserves and similar levels of employment protection should be given to UK reservists as their US counterpart’s receive. We should also conduct a review of reserve recruiting and try and learn from other nations such as the USA better ways to recruit reserves.

Doubling up on F35B

On June 14, 2012, F-35B Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft BF-2 completed the first test flight for the short takeoff and vertical landing variant with an asymmetric weapons load. BF-2 flew with an AIM-9X Sidewinder inert missile on the starboard pylon, a centerline 25 mm gun pod, and a GBU-32 and AIM-120 in the starboard internal weapon bay.
On June 14, 2012, F-35B Joint Strike Fighter test aircraft BF-2 completed the first test flight for the short takeoff and vertical landing variant with an asymmetric weapons load. BF-2 flew with an AIM-9X Sidewinder inert missile on the starboard pylon, a centerline 25 mm gun pod, and a GBU-32 and AIM-120 in the starboard internal weapon bay.

Doubling our order for F35B will be expensive. However I believe that this aircraft will be a real game changer for the UK. I also believe that a combined RAF/FAA fast jet fleet of just seven squadrons is too few in the long term. A buy of 96 (or their about) should allow us to raise four squadrons of F35B which would be complemented by five squadrons of Typhoon giving us nine in total. Four Squadrons would allow us to have two permanently available for carrier use and the ability to surge a full 72 onto both carriers if ever needed. We should defiantly avoid the temptation to have a mixed F35A/B fleet because the day we do have such a fleet will be the day that we kiss carrier aviation goodbye yet again. Plenty of F35A’s will be in NATO service with a number of allies but very few carrier or STOVL versions will be in service. As such we should concentrate on the naval aviation side of the equation. If funds are too tight to add an extra two squadrons then we should consider reducing Typhoon squadrons.

Typhoon Development

RAF Typhoon Aircraft Carrying Meteor Missiles
RAF Typhoon Aircraft Carrying Meteor Missiles

Commitment to upgrade Typhoon with AESA radar even if we have to go it alone. Integration of SPEAR 3 missile, storm shadow and RAPTOR reconnaissance pod as well as Conformal Fuel Tanks. Consideration to be given to keeping tranche 1 typhoons if financially viable until at least full purchase of F35B’s has been completed.

Confirmation of T26 Program and Increase in Numbers

Type 26

T26 program confirmed and numbers increased from 13 to 18. The additional five frigates will allow the navy to return to deploying separate ARG and CBG instead of single RFTG. This should allow for the following standing tasks

1* T45 East of Suez

1* T26 East of Suez

1* T26 APT (s)

1*T45 Carrier Battle Group

1* T26 Carrier Battle Group

2* T26 Amphibious Ready Group

1* T26 FRE/NATO/Spare

If T26 can match or exceed the T45 availability then it may be possible to do this with slightly less than 18 but it would be nice to have some flexibility in the escort fleet as well.


Apache Retention and Upgrade Funded

Apache Helicopter
An Apache helicopter from 4 Regiment, 656 Squadron Army Air Corps, during live firing training at Otterburn Ranges in Northumberland. Photographer: Peter Davies from

I don’t really care if it’s a total rebuild to Block III standard, partial to block II or just sticking with what we have. Whatever is the cheapest way to keep it in service.

FRES SV funded


We have already spent a fortune on this and we need to finally get something out of the FRES program.

Conversion of HC3 Merlin as Commando Carrier Funded

Merlin helicopter sling load Light Gun

Something that is sitting on the whiteboard at the moment but funds need to be put into this ASAP or our amphibious capabilities will suffer greatly after 2016.

FRES UV selected and funded


I don’t care what it is Boxer, Striker whatever just pick something off the shelf and buy it with only minimal modifications and a fixed price contract. It really should not be that hard.

Reinstatement of 16AAB third maneuver Battalion

While I think the army 2020 plan is broadly a good balance between required capability and what is affordable I think the cuts to 16 Air Assault Brigade make little sense. This formation has proven the most useful part of the Army since the day it was formed. Cutting it to two regular battalions with 2 Para and 3 Para makes little sense to me. Reinstating the third battalion along with the support elements will allow one battalion to be kept on high readiness and it will allow us to deploy a full sized brigade if needed. It could be a reinstatement of the rifle battalion or moving 1 Para from its Special Forces support role and instead having a separate battalion dedicated to SF support.

Reverse of cuts to 3 Commando Brigade

As with 16AAb, 3 Commando Brigade has proven a fantastically useful formation. Reversing the cuts it has received to engineering and support units should be a high priority.

MARS SSS Confirmed

Three ships to replace the Fort’s leaving service in the 2020’s.

MHPC Confirmed

Royal Navy Sandown Class MCM Vessel HMS Bangor
Royal Navy Sandown Class MCM Vessel HMS Bangor

No less than 8 vessels to replace the Hunt, Sandown and Echo’s with first vessel entering service around 2028.

Purchase of AAR kits for A400M’s

Airbus A400M AAR

One of the advantages of buying out of the FSTA contract is that we will be able to use our A400M tankers as a reserve AAR capability. This will be particularly useful in the Falklands were we can use a single A400M instead of having to deploy both an A400M and A330. With the 14 Voyagers and additional A400M’s the UK alone should be able to supply much of the required AAR capability for an operation the size of Libya.


Review of SEAD and Electronic Warfare Capability

"THUNDER42" VAQ-135 Black Ravens F-18G

One area that Europe is falling down on is its ability to conduct SEAD operations without US forces. With the increase in our ability to launch TLAM’s, the ELINT capability of the P8 and the inbuilt electronic attack capability of the F35B and eventually AESA equipped Typhoon we won’t be in a bad position but consideration should be given to some form of stand off jamming especially communications jamming which would seem vital for even the smallest operation today. Consideration of a joint program with the USMC to integrate the Next Generation Jammer on the F35B should be considered and also the possible acquisition of any stand in jamming capability the USAF eventually acquires.

The development of SPEAR 3 and its integration on F35B and Typhoon will probably mean that there is no need for a dedicated ALARM replacement.

 Participation in Aster 30 Block II

This should provide a decent theatre ballistic missile defence capability for the T45.

I’m sure that there will many people who will accuse me of living in fantasy land with this wish list however it is worth noting that many parts of this will be included in current funding programs if budgets are not cut in 2015. There are few big ticket items and a lot of it is simply making better use of what we have. I think it’s entirely conceivable to get everything on this list with a relatively modest (given the government’s £600 billion + a year budget) increase in funding over the next decade.








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December 23, 2013 9:23 am

@ martim

How much do estimate all this would cost?

Small point re Conversion of HC3 Merlin as Commando Carrier Funded. I believe it is, Renamed HC4/4a plans are in place and are set to be converted.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 9:54 am

Seems a bit pricey, and in my belief over-focused on platforms. Nothing about the costs of manpower needed to operate that lot, nor about the less visible command support capabilities such as effective intra-theatre comms and joint battle management systems. Nothing on logistics. And that’s before even knowing anything about what the future threat might be (I acknowledge your first post addressed that by saying that no one knows: I happen to disagree that should be the case, and so believe that future procurement decisions should be as well informed by intelligence assessments as possible).

December 23, 2013 10:12 am

I think what TD proposes is sensible, maybe in addition SSks to supplement the ssn force and provide training and costal protection, 6/7 bought of the shelf from Sweeden

December 23, 2013 10:37 am

Yeah a nice navy wish list which will probably require a doubling of the defence budget to implement.

I would like to see a top to bottom look at istar capabilities from the platforms that gather it to the process and people who interpret it and communicate its findings especially uavs and if small manned aircraft may offer a better solution in many areas. If mpa is to return then it will be a multi mission platform the current contenders the c295 and p8 is potentially the classic gold plated against gd enough option an interesting conundrum no doubt.

Equipping the chinook force or the puma force for the csar mission. I also think it would be gd to go round each force/base and ask the operators for one or two small things they think could be fitted to there existing fleet of planes or ships that would improve capability or safety and then do that.

In the navy bring back the second Lpd and use it as fwd base mother ship at the expense of frigates if necessary. Movement on Mars SSS would be most useful. I would keep the 2nd carrier mothballed.

The army need to sort out armoured vehicles foxhound development is a must, someone needs knocked over the head with warrior and fres sv. Apache needs to stay.

Work out a better way of doing diaster relief missions between the services (initial airhead / port capability, puma helicopter deployment capability) have a more joined up quicker proactive response at the political level between departments. Fsta contract does get lots of stick and rightly in some areas but its cost to defence each year for the whole service is equivalent to the cost of just operating the type 45 fleet for a year.

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
December 23, 2013 10:55 am

Some queries about the T-45 change:
Mk-41 comes in 8-cell modules*, so it would be either +8 or +16. Conversely, the Mk-57 comes in 4 cell modules, and is larger, which is significant, as the US seems to be looking to larger missiles for the ABM role, which is the only sort of US missile we would really want on the T-45…
…except that you then advocate Aster 30 block II for ABM capability, so we would be following the MBDA development path instead. I see no point in choosing a launcher “for future compatibility with future US missiles” whilst also having policy of “developing future missiles via the European missile house – which uses the Sylver launcher”.

* If any of you know better, and are aware of a 4-cell strike-length Mk-41, please do correct me!

Rocket Banana
December 23, 2013 10:57 am

Retention of Sentinel R1 – agree.
Purchase of P8 Poseidon MPA – disagree.
CROWSNEST Funded – ahh, man, now you’re talking :-)
Buying Out of the FSTA contract – does it matter?
Install strike length VLS on T45 – agree, as long as we get 16 dedicated on T26 too.
Crewing both Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers – agree.
Retention of River Class OPV – disagree, better to replace with more of a more useful class.
Replacement for HMS Ocean and RFA Argus – two LHDs please, not one.
Retention of Reaper and cancellation of Scavenger – agree.
Doubling up on F35B – well, I’d settle for 80 would be okay.
Typhoon Development – not going there ;-)
Confirmation of T26 Program and Increase in Numbers – build 8 x ASW T26, use remaining funds for the River Class OPV replacement above.
Apache Retention and Upgrade Funded – scrap ’em, unless carrier strike goes horribly wrong.
FRES SV funded – scrap it, use Challenger II for forward recce. No point in FRES-SV unless you can carry two on an LCU.
Conversion of HC3 Merlin as Commando Carrier Funded – agree.
FRES UV selected and funded – agree.
Reinstatement of 16AAB third maneuver Battalion – disagree.
Reverse of cuts to 3 Commando Brigade – agree.
MARS SSS Confirmed – disagree, scrap the project, spend the money on the above LHDs.
MHPC Confirmed – agree.
Purchase of AAR kits for A400M’s – agree, but only if we get MORE voyager.
Review of SEAD and Electronic Warfare Capability – good God, yes, perhaps a little education of what it actually is and why we’re pretty useless at the mo.
Participation in Aster 30 Block II – as long as this is my eagerly awaited Aster45/Aster75.

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
December 23, 2013 11:10 am

On one hand, the cut of the four type-22 block III seems to me to have made us short of frigates, in terms of the tasks we keep asking the navy to do, so I would like that made up – and that looks like the Type-26 to me.
On the other hand, an extra four Type-26 frigates would go at the end of the production run, and so be well outside the bounds of the SDR 2015 review anyway.

As an aside – to reduce gloominess – a lot of the proposals for the MHPC platform (the ship portion of the project) have it as well armed and equipped as the old Type-21 Amazon class frigates, but with a much bigger mission deck. But that capability gets called a “global corvette” these days.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 11:11 am

Simon, Challenger 2 for forward recce? You are trying to wind me up, right?

FRES has been a debacle (both UV and SV), and personally I would scrap the concept. Buy enough 8 x 8s off the shelf to equip the infantry destined for UV, buy something small and fast for recce, make do with Warrior conversions for the rest of the SV fleet. Don’t over-think it, just get on with it.

December 23, 2013 11:19 am

Martin, interesting article, but I think there is one major flaw with your assumptions IMO – Trident will stay funded by the main defence budget. Now that it’s been done, none of the parties have any reason to move it back. It won’t win any political favours.

On your wishlist:

Retention of Sentinel R1 – Agreed, and would be surprised if it didn’t happen. I’m in two minds about adding RAPTOR to Sentinel.

Purchase of P8 Poseidon MPA – Agreed. This is the lowest risk road to regaining a high end MPA capability.

CROWSNEST funded – Agreed, and I think will happen, once the various financial planets align. I can’t see any additional HM2s coming into the force other than as a replacement airframe.

BUying out the FSTA contract – Nice idea, but something that I can only see actually happening if the contract caused some problems on operations that casue political backlash against the government of the day.

Install Strike length VLS on T45 – Agreed, and something I could see happening when we eventually get a new ship based AShM. The GP T26s are going only going to be the T26 without Towed Sonar and other easy to delete ASW kit. EVERYTHING else will be the same.

Crewing both Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers – Agreed, and again something I can see happen so long there is small bit political will to do so.

Retention of River Class OPV – Nice idea, though I’m not sure what one 80m OPV would bring to the West and East African Coasts? Basing one or two out of Bahrain to beef up the RN/US force protection fleet there makes sense. Maybe sending one/two to Gib/Cyprus?

Replacement for HMS Ocean and RFA Argus – Nice idea, but sadly unlikely to happen. The best we can hope for is a RFA stores ship with a decent secondary helo capability. When we eventually replace Albion & Bulwark, can could see something like a LPH.

Retention of Reaper and Cancellation of Scavenger – Agreed and quite likely. I would argue that it’s more likely that Reaper will simply fill the Scavenger requirement.

Change in Law to Protect Reservists – Agreed, but will need a bit political will to work through businesses (both large and SMEs) caution.

Doubling up on F35B – Nice idea, though I think your over reacting wrt a mixed fleet of As and Bs. Additional F-35B squadrons will be dependent on getting the 2nd QEC manned on a permanent basis and other factors. I wouldn’t expect a decision untill SDSR 2020.

Typhoon Development – Agreed, though less fussed about Tranche 1 Tiffys. I see 2 Sqns of GR4s being kept at Marham until F-35B comes into service.

Confirmation of T26 Program and Increase in Numbers – I think it’s very unlikely that we will see an increase in numbers of T26s. Also I’m not sure what establishing a separate ARG and CBG over a single RFTG will really do. I would rather the UK maintain a high tempo of ops and availability with a single RFTG. RFTG is not a fixed size formation.

Apache Retention and Upgrade Funded – Agreed, and will likely happen in some form or another. The numbers that are upgraded are a different matter though.

FRES SV funded – Isn’t this already happening?

Conversion of HC3 Merlin as Commando Carrier Funded – Again, is already happening to my knowledge.

FRES UV selected and funded – Agreed, but can’t see anything happening with this until SDSR 2020.

Reinstatement of 16AAB third maneuver Battalion – I’m less bothered by this, as I’m not so enamoured with large Air Assault formations. FRES UV and host other projects/units would be much higher up my priority list.

Reverse of cuts to 3 Commando Brigade – Agreed. Perhaps via additional ring-fenced funding to the Navy?

MARS SSS Confirmed – Agreed and Numero Uno on my priority list.

MHPC Confirmed – MHPC isn’t about getting a new ship, it’s about looking the MCM, Survey and Patrol capabilities and updating, making them ideally modular, so that a theoretical single class of ship could be used for all three missions. But I agree that the first ship to replace the Hunts/Sandowns/Echos should be coming into the fleet in the late 2020s.

Purchase of AAR kits for A400M’s – Nice idea, and would certainly make sense for the Falklands.

Review of SEAD and Electronic Warfare Capability – Agreed with NGJ for F-35B (possibly more important than Storm Shadow?). Stand off jamming it something to consider, but is likely to be way down priority lists.

Participation in Aster 30 Block II – Agreed and something that I can see happening once the financial/political/technological planets align.

Couple of things that I would add in:

Replacement of LCU Mk10 and LCVP Mk5 with something nippier – PACSCAT or a development of the French EDA-R; what ever makes sense.

Retention and possible expansion of Exactor system

December 23, 2013 11:43 am

“was hoping to write a post on this at some point. Unless anyone else is willing too because it’s really bloody difficult to find out anything about RAF EW capability ”

Do you think there maybe a reason for that? Probably better it stays out of the public eye

Anyway it’s not like the uk don’t practise these things.

“RAF Spadeadam is the only Electronic Warfare Tactics Range (EWTR) in the UK, and the only one of two such facilities in Europe. The other facility being Polygon, in Germany.

The Range provides realistic Electronic Warfare training for aircrew, primarily for the RAF, but other NATO Air Forces use the range as well. The task sounds straightforward but in practice is difficult to achieve and extremely expensive. The task is achieved by fielding a variety of equipments that emit signals that appear to aircrews as threat radars. The threat systems consist of Short Range Air Defence (SHORAD) systems, Surface to Air Missile systems (SAM) and Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) radars. Additionally, they have an array of visual targets including a dummy airfield, complete with aircraft, missile sites and vehicle convoys. The aircrews try to evade the threats, whilst carrying out their assigned mission. The aim is to achieve realistic Electronic Warfare training.”

And in conjunction with the AWC at waddington who provide the following

“The Thomson Building is also home to the tri-Service Defence Electronic Warfare Centre (DEWC) which contributes to the operational capability of the British armed forces by providing Electronic Warfare (EW) support directly to the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) in Northwood and to a wide range of operational units and platforms. The DEWC is an integral component within the AWC’s Integrated Mission Support process and is jointly staffed by Royal Navy, Army, RAF and civilian personnel who maintain the UK’s Defence Electronic Warfare Database and provide Electronic Warfare Operational Support for all aircraft, ships and some Army units.”

December 23, 2013 11:48 am

“While I feel the government acted correctly in 2010 by enacting an 8% cut in the budget to help reduce the country’s massive borrowing, the stealth cut enacted by Osborne and the Treasury of forcing the MOD to pay for trident replacement was shameful.”

Is it right to call it a stealth cut in 2015 when this was known and understood before the CSR and SDSR in 2010?

As to the wishlist, mine is shorter:
Buy some P8
Crew the second pale elephant
Add a third maneuver formation to 16AAB
Return support elements to 3Cdo that give it independence

December 23, 2013 11:51 am

On the MPA front, the C295 might be a more affordable stop-gap, with the added benefit that it can also be used for cargo transport and as a gunship.

I’ve wondered on the logic of getting on-board with the next Airbus project for a medium-weight airliner, such as the future concept they are banding about.
If you could incorporate something that would work as a weapons bay and modular equipment fits then the platform could operate as MPA, Air-to-air-refuelling, permissive environment and long-endurance bombing, cruise missile carrier, transport etc. etc. It wouldn’t necessarily be that hard to arrange, either.
One of the concepts that Airbus have been looking at is modularising the payload so smaller sections can be loaded simultaneously without the constraint of the door cut in the outer skin. This would reduce turn-around times at airports if you have multiple modules (i.e. you don’t have to wait for the plane to load up) and provide a suitable location for a weapons bay, which would reduce drag and reduce damage to the weapons, prolonging their life if you don’t use them.

This would be a long-term solution, but probably worth getting in on at the earliest opportunity. The more closely your utility aircraft aligns with the airline-spec ‘plane, the cheaper your spare parts and maintenance is.

December 23, 2013 12:14 pm

@Red Trousers

“FRES has been a debacle (both UV and SV), and personally I would scrap the concept.”

I agree, but I am not sure we should buy anything in its stead. In what circumstances would such kit be used? Will the UK ever again join in a land war or at least one that requires armour? I struggle to think of circumstances in which we would, certainly not over the next twenty years.

Maybe the next Government should take the opportunity of the 2015 review to actually set out a new strategic direction rather than yet another round of Treasury driven salami slicing. Or to be more accurate perhaps the UK should return to a modern version of a very old strategy.

Just bin the army. Do away with it completely. We don’t need it any more and its very existence gives politicians an excuse to meddle in other countries’ affairs. Take out the need to support extensive land operations and the RAF is also 50% redundant. Use the dosh saved to seriously beef up the RN because our trade is our life and that is done at sea and refocus the RAF on defending UK airspace.

December 23, 2013 12:45 pm

Getting bored with the number of lost posts. Salient points of last post:

Scrapping FRES gains no cash back. Therefore: Buy a small number of SV for cases where they might be the right tool for the job. Scrap FRES UV competition and use ASCOD/Scout derived tracked APC/role specific armour for cases where heavyweight protection is needed. Use saved cash from reduced SV buy and lack of UV competition to get smaller lighter armour that is readily transportable (more than one per aircraft/LCU) and has high utility in ops as befits rapid reaction forces for small scale rapid interventions.

Agree ref FRES/Warrior FLIP – heads should roll for wasting such a mountain of funds to determine the shape size weight & capability of FRES Scout was the same as Warrior.

I must agree the service that is in need of beefing up is the RN. I believe in weight of numbers. If we require the RN to keep a credible presence in every ocean then there need to be enough platforms to station around the world (taking into account the proportion in refit and on turn-round between tours) while still having a fighting fleet worked up.

In all these SDSR rounds, the overwhelming loss has been contingency.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 1:30 pm

Apart from the competing list of platforms above (and everyone has their pet fancies), what about enabling capabilities? For example, DII will need replacing in that timeframe, Skynet 5 will need a mid life update in order to cope with ever increasing volumes of data, the Joint Forces Intelligence Group in Wyton have a very expensive shopping list of new information management needs, Bowman needs an MLU…

There is also great personnel costs associated with even the modest uplift in platform numbers suggested above. Please all note that I don’t begrudge any of the services increasing in size, but I think we’d all do well to remember that these costs exist. Someone reasonably knowledgeable about manpower cost planning (the Command Secretary at HQ LAND) once told me that she used a rough Figure of 2.5 times military salary for the annual cost of employing a serviceman, when all overheads including accommodation were taken into account. Slightly surprising and scary how it all mounts up.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 1:35 pm


Can you please change your spam monster’s diet to something other than posts from known contributors? ;) I appreciate that you are fighting a noble fight against a tide of junk, but still….

And while I’m feeling cheeky, can we have a “jump to the bottom” arrow for Christmas? Those of us on iThingy devices are getting RSI scrolling to the bottom on the longer posts.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 1:46 pm

@ HL,

Blimey, that is radical.

I sort of agree with you on the need for armour rapidly diminishing. Despite be a retired cavalryman, I don’t necessarily support retaining the levels of armour foreseen in the 2010 SDSR. Rather I think we need to re-role existing units to give greater wheeled capability, which is more strategically deployable. The French are quite inventive in their use of wheeled armour: we could learn something from them.

I do disagree with you on not having the capability to deploy intervention forces. But, your’s is a perfectly valid opinion.

December 23, 2013 2:23 pm

The global trade one is a golden oldie an unbiased reference

If there right only 14 percent of trade comes from outside of Europe, Norway and America. And while 98% by volume goes by sea according to presentations in dubai recently 30-40 percent by value goes by air.

How beefed up a navy do we need to protect sea lanes in the channel, North Sea and Atlantic?

Rocket Banana
December 23, 2013 2:25 pm

Can someone please explain why MPA is so high a priority.

What is it that MPA gives that AWACS doesn’t?

What is it that MPA gives that can’t be provided by SSNs and frigates with tails?

What is it that MPA gives that can’t be delivered by Merlin?

December 23, 2013 2:53 pm

Mr. Trousers,

The bootnecks would still be there, beefed up a bit perhaps with their own loggies, engineers and maybe even artillery (or rather having those assets returned to them). So HMG could still pull off a Sierra Leone type operation if needed or do a hostage rescue in foreign climes (those awfully nice gentlemen at Poole are a pretty capable bunch).

Looking to the future I just don’t see what the army is for. It is too small to defend the UK and nobody is going to want invade us anyway. The Sovs, if they kick off, will threaten us at sea and in the air not on the ground. The public won’t stand for another ground war in the ME, not there is much chance of one happening that we would want to get involved in (just buy the oil from the winners). The Empire is gone and the battle for dominance in Europe has moved on from the military sphere. In short, all the reasons why for the last five hundred years the UK needed an army have gone and so I would argue the army should go too.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 23, 2013 3:01 pm


An MPA brings range, speed and endurance to the equation.

It conducts vis id of surface vessels and is a weapon carrier in both ASW and if required ASuW roles.
It is extremely useful in a SAR role and its ability to loiter makes it fat better ar shadowing surface targets than a helo.
The height at which it can operate allows it to monitor a wide spread of buoys. Its range and speed make it useful for sanitising a potential choke point well ahead of a surface transit.
In short it bring a unique set of attributes to the party.

December 23, 2013 3:09 pm


Next year is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. The war to end all wars. Look how quickly that fantasy ended. So too with the 1990s ‘peace dividend’. In the realm of defence, we should NEVER SAY NEVER and as such should rationally fund our forces properly. And that means an appropriately-sized and equipped land force capable of committing expeditionary operations as HMG sees fit and forming the basis of a defence force as and when required.


I see where you’re coming from, but MPA are an essential part of a force mix which complement those assets. AEW&Cs, SSNs, FFGs and Merlins provide a good enough force mix, but they could do with being backed up by an asset such as C-295 or P-8 which give range, speed and certain ASW capabilities which other assets cannot. Without wishing to sound too alarmist, we need to keep a constant eye on that GIUK gap… something wicked this way comes…

December 23, 2013 3:22 pm

@RT: not to proclaim the Frogs are mainly using their wheeled fleet against wielders of sharpened kiwi’s, but their African adventures in ex-colonial policing do sort of rely on the forces densities being low and the local terrain not being too challenging.

Looking at the weights of say a Mastiff and a Warrior, there’s not a massive difference, certainly not enough to assume we can airlift significant numbers. A Mastiff can deploy from a port far faster and further than a Warrior of course, but if we have a port the decision isn’t quite as fraught.

I do worry that a lot of our defence planning seems to assume that our likely enemies have a surplus of the aforementioned sharpened kiwi’s and a shortage of say, Kornet’s. So far this has proved to be the case, but it won’t last for ever, and we don’t want to find ourselves with another “IED problem”…..

December 23, 2013 3:22 pm

HL – ref “all the reasons why for the last five hundred years the UK needed an army have gone” – after a thousand years France is still just 22 miles away…

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
December 23, 2013 3:36 pm

Two of the cheapest ideas in the list are activating the PoW and retaining the three batch 1 River-Class OPV’s. There would be no outlay for new equipment only the maintenance, manning and running costs for the vessels.

The running cost of the PoW will be 70m and for each OPV it is 5m, so for approx 85m you can keep an extra four vessels in the fleet.

Personally I would leave the three River-Class vessels to patrol Home waters with the support of one of the new OPV’s, this will leave two of the new OPV’s for overseas duties, I would forward base one out of Kenya or the BIOT for anti-piracy and other duties, the other I would base out of either Bermuda or Gibraltar.

December 23, 2013 3:54 pm

On MPA for the reasons others have set out above I see that as a key requirement for 2015. The P8 is very high end and way over the top for routine SAR. In the current absence of hordes of Russian SSNs around our shores I would have thought the C295 fits our bill and allows commonality were we to chose some light transport versions or SF insertion aircraft

@Engineer Tom – agreed on retaining Rivers, perhaps move Clyde back to the Uk to head up the Uk EEZ patrol fleet and put one or two of the new ones in FI. I would like us to seek a total of six of the new OPVs to give a more balanced fleet structure (looking for 12 T26s at least) and allow us to push MHPC out a bit maintaining our current upgraded MCM fleet until we are clearer on future patrol and MCM designs

The Securocrat
December 23, 2013 3:55 pm

Lots to wade through here, but my first comment would be that it is interesting we’ve all rushed to the capabilities thread and not commented on the strategy thread (and like a sheep I have joined in!).

Off the top of my head, CROWSNEST is already in the core funding. And SCAVENGER is the description of a capability requirement, not a vehicle/platform itself. So the SCAVENGER requirement could easily be met over the next decade by upgraded Reapers.

And finally, after a couple of years I have finally snapped: it’s F35Bs, not F35B’s; OPVs (or OPV) not OPV’s’; SSN (or SSNs) NOT SSN’s. Please please please pretty please stop encouraging me to have a stroke through abuse of the humble apostrophe. My pedant gland can’t take it any more…

December 23, 2013 4:25 pm

Just to set the cat among the pigeons, why the P-8? Why not the P-3? It’s not as high end granted, but it still gets the job done and is cheaper.

Martin, lots of new stuff but no talk on funding increase? :)

I think that with the cut happy government sentiment, the armed forces should set aside 1% of it’s budget annually into investments, at least it’s an alternate fallback source of funding just in case the government decides to bugger them over again. It IS going to be painful for them, 1% in already tight circumstances, but if they can stay the course, give it about 100 years, they would be able to save a sum capable of handling an estimated 60(?)% of the military budget (assuming serious inflation) in case they get hit by cuts again.

We have already seen militaries hit very hard by economic “attacks”, it’s high time to think of a way to “storm proof” the military from economic fluctuations. Having their own sources of funding would help a lot. Rental of military land for commercial development?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 4:29 pm

Just a thought, building on the figure of 2.5 times military salary as the annual cost of employment….

Bringing Nellie 2 into service (1,000 complement, about), plus 6 additional T26 (each about 150 complement), and given an average military salary of £35,000 at today’s money is annually £166 million.

I’m not saying that is not worthwhile, merely that it should not be ignored.

December 23, 2013 4:31 pm


You buy the stop-gap because you can’t afford the full thing?
Or if it gives you the opportunity to get in at the right time on a more native next generation general utility aircraft that can fulfil AWACS, ISTAR, MPA, AAR, ELINT and transport.

Rocket Banana
December 23, 2013 4:37 pm

APATS and Martin,

Thanks, but I think you’ve just proved the point why it isn’t a high priority. We can do all of that with the assets we already have.

MPA is a “nice to have”, not an essential.

December 23, 2013 4:40 pm

Just to add further to the costs point.
You’ve things like training schools to add on. Are they large enough, are there enough instructors? Then you’ve things like housing, we may have enough on paper but are they in the right places? Then there’s the base sp to support them a bigger base eg means more trips to the med centre, bigger MT section etc. When you start adding them up it will add quite a chunk to just working out the running costs.

If I’m honest martin the money you’ve laid out doesn’t look enough to pay for what you want.

The Securocrat
December 23, 2013 4:50 pm

@Red Trousers

DII and Bowman are funded for replacement and upgrade through the Defence Core Network Services and Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems (DCNS and LE TacCIS) programmes respectively.

And yes, I wish they just had simple names like ‘Bob’ and Fred’ rather than long aggregations of nouns…

December 23, 2013 4:54 pm

“The C295 might be a decent MPA but it’s the other capabilities lost in MRA4 like ELINT and ISTAR the worry me more than the pure MPA role. Why waste money on a stop gap when you can buy the real thing.”

Why would the cn295 not be the real thing or more than a stop gap? Considering other air systems have been introduced or are being introduced to replace the nimrods on the overland tasking since they were withdrawn do you not think the other not pure mpa role may not be as neglected as you might think? Anti submarine warfare sar and surface/sub surface weapons release maybe the area the current istar fleet are lacking in. A long endurance platform is always welcome but these are not cheap assets and will require long hard thinking on what you may need to cut to afford them along with a look at how critical strategic airborne istar will be delivered going fwd.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 23, 2013 4:56 pm


You cannot respond to a SOSUS contact, take scene of incident commander or support an ASW action at a range of 1000 miles in 2.5 hours with anything we have.


Would love to see a breakdown of that 2.5 times and see what they were including. You are talking about an average of 52k per person on top of salary.

To illustrate up until this Summer I was foreign and shore based. I was expensive.
I lived in an apartment that I know cost the MOD £1k per month more than I paid.
So 12k. I got £1440 a year domestic assistance allowance. So £13440. My other allowances LOA and LOSLA amounted to about £1k a month tax free, so £25440 or if MOD picks up the tax just over 30k, now obviosly the MOD contributes to my pension but 22k a year worth and that would only be to meet the average not 2.5 times my actual salary which would have required not 22k more but in excess 50k more.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 4:58 pm

@ Topman,

You are certainly thinking along the right lines. I don’t know the detail of the derivation of the 2.5 times salary figure, but it was along the lines of the official capitation rate ( so including pensions etc) plus the additional costs. Basically, the cost of running LAND Command including capitation rates divided by the number of regular soldiers and a proportional cost of the TA and Cadets.

I certainly don’t know the details because I’m not a finance geek, but I suspect that the equivalent for the Kevin’s and the Andrew might be even higher per head, but only because the costs of training with the really big toys are higher than some boxes of bullets, a five pack of Max Factor@@@ cam cream per platoon and a bucket of range stew.

@@@ yes, they really do have the contract….

December 23, 2013 5:01 pm


I’ve seen those figures banded about before, I think 2.5x includes the salary.

Naples was it? Is it a dump as the rumour mill suggests?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 5:02 pm


See comment immediately above. I think that it might partly address your comment? Basically, the cost of the Command divided by the number of personnel.

December 23, 2013 5:05 pm

APATs, you eat on base/ship? Water? Uniform et al? Medical coverage? Insurance? Hell, even admin staff man hours to process your paperwork?

Lots of little things. Even the really weird ones like rental of space to store the thousands of records of people in service, alive or passed away and all the incident reports stored over someone’s entire military life. God only knows if they ever throw those old records out.

December 23, 2013 5:10 pm


The assets we have can each do a portion of what a decent MPA can do, but each is lacking in some respect. The Frigates and SSN are slow, the AWACS can’t do anything about what it can see and the Merlins have short legs.

The area coverage, as in the area within which we can actually do something for a four hour window is a whole lot smaller with our current assets than with a fixed-wing MPA.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 23, 2013 5:15 pm

@ Observer

The admin staff have their own cost line, surely? Actually I ate out or cooked, no extra money on top of what I already described.

So we are actually including all the support, logistics, training etc. Remember these things can only appear in one budget line. So actually the cost is not a pure personnel cost at all but rather the cost of having trained and equipped personnel doing their job on their “platform” which makes a lot more sense.

December 23, 2013 5:39 pm

Your spam filters at it again spam spam spam spam lovely spam……..

Basically this isn’t a review its a straight forward give defence more money for existing commitments or else.

December 23, 2013 5:41 pm

“after a thousand years France is still just 22 miles away”

True, but the buggers show no sign of wanting to invade and even less capability of doing so. Maintaining an army against the remote possibility of the Frogs trying to invade and the even more remote possibility of them succeeding – they never have yet (William the Bastard wasn’t French) seems a bit silly. Of course, we have invaded them any number of times but that was their fault – the next time anyone from the EU stands up to shout about treaty obligations are inviolable we should wave a copy of the treaty of Troyes at them.


“that means an appropriately-sized and equipped land force”

I agree. Where we differ is on what we is an appropriate size. I think a beefed up RM would be enough. Where is the land war going to come from that will require us to need more? What threat is there for the army to defend us against?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 5:47 pm


I suspect that in reality the finance ninjas have it down to several more layers of granularity than we mere G3/Warfare operators, but then they are paid to perform that level of analysis. Hence the Command Secretary not bothering to worry my pretty little head with confusing details about the cost base differences between cavalrymen and gunners versus staff officers and MT drivers.

But, at large scale, it makes sense. LAND Command was there for only one purpose: to generate force elements at certain readiness levels. Everything else was subordinate, including the cost of training, replacement engines, housing, the GOC’s cook, and buses for the children to get to school in Salisbury or Osnabruck. And indeed Alison my civil service PA who was paid an inadequate £14,000 (2002 salary) and who could not afford to buy her own small flat in Salisbury, but who cheerfully dug me out of the shit on numerous occasions. None would need to be paid for at all were LAND Command not in existence. The same for FLEET and AIR.

Divvy all of those costs up by number of soldiers employed by LAND Command and I’m not surprised it was 2.5 times salary.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 23, 2013 5:54 pm


Now I realise you were including training, operating, civilian support etc it makes sense.

December 23, 2013 6:11 pm

could not agree with you more on any of your points. But P8a, if we are making fantasy fleets I want c295 for reasons I’ve discussed.

I think the HC4 contract has been signed so that bits sorted!

A definite plus 1 for getting out of FSTA.

December 23, 2013 6:15 pm

A bulk order of these for RN…………

Yes its the USN 1937 and not a RN 1903. But Cold Steel do make a good value product.


Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 6:45 pm

Careful x, you’ll have someone’s eye out with that….

I wish we had a Navy that would cheerfully have several barrels of those conveniently close to the RHIB in its’ davits, just for shits and giggles. But any such suggestion would I expect be greatly frowned upon, and indeed the Army seems likely to have a similar corporate reaction.

It’s only 20 years since I got spammed to do the Annual Report on a Unit (ARU) on the Defence Animal Veterinary Centre in Melton Mowbray. Good 2 days out that was. Among the horses, they also had a bunch of Alsatians which had collectively failed their guard dog training for being too brutal and berserk. Huge fun getting dressed up in the kapok suit and having a pack of them launched at you(well, I thought so). It was only a 1.5 day task, but we stretched it out a bit.

Rocket Banana
December 23, 2013 6:46 pm


You cannot respond to a SOSUS contact, take scene of incident commander or support an ASW action at a range of 1000 miles in 2.5 hours with anything we have.

Mr Fred,

The area coverage, as in the area within which we can actually do something for a four hour window is a whole lot smaller with our current assets than with a fixed-wing MPA.

Why would you need to engage or support a slow moving sub/ship at 1000nm or within these kinds of timeframes?

Mike W
December 23, 2013 6:57 pm

, Mark et al

Martin says: “I believe that while the P8 would not be the perfect successor to the MRA4 it’s the best thing available on the market that can be purchased quickly enough.”

I don’t know whether this point has been mentioned so far in the dialogue in this thread or in other discussions but while contributors are arguing the relative merits of the two aircraft, it does seem that they have at least got the two contenders correct. In an article on the Jane’s website, entitled: “UK will not use UAVs for maritime patrol … for now”, we are informed that the two platforms being considered for the manned MPA and ASW role are the Boeing P-8 Poseidon and Airbus Military C295 aircraft. The article mentions sources confirming that statement and Jane’s sources are normally pretty reliable. I don’t know whether Mark was already in possession of that information when he mentioned the “current contenders.” Am I late with all of this?

December 23, 2013 7:16 pm


At the end of that four hours, even a slow moving sub can be somewhere within a 40 nautical mile circle, or 5000-odd nm^2. That area is only going to increase in proportion to the square of the time, so the longer you take to get there, the larger your search area is. If you can get there at all.
The other thing that MPA are used for is SAR. A ship can certainly sink in four hours. An MPA can drop life-rafts and vector other assets to an exact position.

Four hours is an arbitrary time frame, but the concept holds true until you get to days.

John Hartley
John Hartley
December 23, 2013 7:41 pm

I am starting to think, that there is no point spending billions on defence, when an invading army can fly in on Ryannair & walk through our open borders.
No French invasion! They have taken over London.

Rocket Banana
December 23, 2013 7:44 pm

Mr Fred,

Please forgive me but again, why do you need to locate a sub that far out?

1000nm makes no difference to ballistic or long-range cruise missile strikes so seems pointless to me.

1000nm is outside of our EEZ and there’s no way we’d get the “go” to engage a Russian sub in the Arctic Ocean.

It just seems like the MPA enthusiasts are living in the old (cold war) world.

We need EEZ patrol and the ability to engage something that has broken the surface (i.e. a Sentry contact). This could be a cruise missile or the whole sub.

As for SAR, well, any airliner can do that – including Sentry (but preferably not).

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 7:57 pm

I’m all for the military utility of MPA. Shame we do’t currently have that capability.

But as a taxpayer, and citizen, I think that our political masters have sold us short for in-year savings. The UK as a sovereign nation has responsibilities for civil maritime SAR under UNCLOS that we are not fulfilling (although Christ knows how the Paddies have managed to not assume responsibilities for our patch of the eastern Atlantic to the west of their bit of rock).

Looking to the future, there’s a bit of money to be made in doing the systems engineering for a UAV that can carry 100 kg of life raft and other necessaries to support life for ten people out to 1,000 nm and drop it within 10 yards of a sinking ship, then circle about for 12 hours acting as a comms rebroadcast until a proper ship gets there.

December 23, 2013 8:03 pm

100,000 TAVOR

December 23, 2013 8:05 pm

– That’s quite a shopping list – what no LRBs? Some of the more useful things are actually at the cheaper end, like AAR kits for A400 and CFTs for Typhoon.

I share RT’s astonishment at the notion of using Challenger for a recce vehicle – I imagine there are quite a few places a 70 ton MBT can’t go, which is not good for the mission profile.

I also share earlier commenters’ doubts about a P-8 purchase – smacks of gold plating, though I concede your point about it being a long term investment.

Also Apache – if we really are going to be using attack helos off ships more in the future, perhaps we should look again at bespoke alternatives like SeaCobra, or whatever it’s called these days. Is Tiger marinised? Would hate to see Apache go though.

Also, what’s the point of new equipment without the personnel to use it, which is surely what CDS was on about in another thread?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 23, 2013 8:10 pm

@ Simon

You do realise we try and track Russian SSNs whenever they poke their nose South of the GIUK gap. Much easier to pick them up there than let them dissapear into the North Atlantic. Their greater range speed and endurance make them an ideal response platform.
MPA also offers an ability to support the detterent that is greater than a helo can provide. They can provide support to expeditionary ops at great range and their ability to sanitise water is infinitely greater than that of a helo.

They can track surface units at long range and provide cueing or simply shadowing. They are capable of being fitted with ASuW weapons.

A sentry contact is just that a contact. The radar cannot tell the difference between a barrel, a yacht and a FV, trust me I know. The way you employ E3 in a matitime role ( proven on Op Active Endeavour in the Med) is you use an AIS fitted E3 to compile a large area picture and match its contacts against AIS data. The HQ feeds in with potential COIs and you then compile a list of targets, non shiners or potential COIs. Then you use the MPA to vis ID them.

December 23, 2013 8:22 pm

A compulsory and ongoing Taekwondo programme for all the UK armed forces and MoD Police.

Rocket Banana
December 23, 2013 8:37 pm


Forgive me for appearing to pick you helpful response to bits but I’m still not convinced.

…we try and track Russian SSNs whenever they poke their nose South of the GIUK gap…

Okay, so MPA can “track” subs if it happens to ever figure out they’re there in the first place. What do you do? Drop a dozen sonobuoys every day? Sounds prohibitively expensive for a cold war that we’re no longer in.

I appreciate the range, speed and endurance thing, but not the projection of this capability. Why not have a frigate or SSN stationed in GIUK gap doing sonar sweeps? Why not have a cheap little OPV with a Merlin dropping the same sonobuoys and using Sentry to relay the transmissions?

MPA also offers an ability to support the deterrent that is greater than a helo can provide. They can provide support to expeditionary ops at great range and their ability to sanitise water is infinitely greater than that of a helo.

How does it support the “deterrent”? How does it “sanitise” water? It can only prepare a corridor which it announces to everyone with a splash and ping. I appreciate it is more effective than a copter but not as effective as a ship which can change course ahead of the SSBN and fool any listeners.

Then you use the MPA to vis ID them

I get the Sentry “contact” thing. I’d use Typhoon or F35B to id and engage a surface contact. Much better than sending a whopping great SAM target. I’d use Merlin to id and engage a sub “contact”.

December 23, 2013 8:46 pm

60 to 72 SuperAV for the RM.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 8:53 pm

Simon, “I get the Sentry “contact” thing. I’d use Typhoon or F35B to id and engage a surface contact. Much better than sending a whopping great SAM target. I’d use Merlin to id and engage a sub “contact”.

You slightly forget that there’s no such thing as a Typhoon precision guided anti-ship weapon, nor an in service F35B. And even if there was, you’d still be reliant on some young Kevin, probably from the wrong service, to visually ID some innocuous fishing boat in fog and in darkness while trying not to crash his enormously expensive little plane into the sea, so you couldn’t trust his judgement anyway.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 23, 2013 8:55 pm


You are not. The fact is that you are in a very very very small minority that does not see the utility of MPAs, you and the Govt :)

An MPA can respond far quicker to a SOSUS os SURTASS detection than a Ship or a Helo. They can react and localise, because of their speed and ability to drop buoy lines aid ely dispersed. Then their ability to change altitude quickly allows them to monitor buoys over a wide area.

You want to permanently station a unit in the GIUK, so we now need 3 as they have to be there all the time. So we are spending more money permanently tying down units.
Merlin is slow, short ranged and barely carries any buoys compared to an MPA.

You want to put a Ship ahead of an SSBN, why not just broadcast its position on tv. The MPA because of its speed, range and endurance can drop buoys in various locations and choke points, therefore not giving away which one actually matters.

Sentry can get surface contacts at 150 miles, it can take Merlin 90 minutes to get there and then it has no endurance. As for your other scenario I wad talking about peace time surface picture complilation, an MPA has the endurance and systems to work with an E3 far better than an FBA.
Even in war time scenario the MPA with Wescam or modern equivelant can ID the contacts at far greater distance than an FBA, outside the vast majority of SAM ranges.
Your STOF distance is based on enemy SAM capability not the size of the platform you are sending in.

December 23, 2013 8:57 pm

@ Martin. I would support the aircraft that was best for commonality. Why can’t they strap on stuff to C295 like they will do with P8a.

C295 can operate at gentlemanly MPA altitudes.

@Simon to add to other posts protection of our own subs. Its a deterrent against deterring the deterrent!

December 23, 2013 9:01 pm

18 Tu-95 :)

December 23, 2013 9:03 pm

X “100,000 TAVOR”
I wondered who was going to mention the SA80 replacement.
100,001 Beretta ARX160

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 9:11 pm

Bloody hell x, are you the TD Chrimble Cryptic Crossword setter, or just 100 yards down range on that case of decent Claret you picked up in last January’s sales?

December 23, 2013 9:14 pm

@ Radish239

Um. But I am also buying 5000 P90 for the RN. :)

Rocket Banana
December 23, 2013 9:15 pm


Okay, now for a question (or two) you may not be allowed to answer and one that might make me understand the value of an MPA…

How long do the sonobouys stay operational?

…And… at what range can they detect a contact?

PS: The questions are in response to my idea of stationing a ship in the GIUK gap. Basically, I’m saying, better a ship than a few fuel guzzling jets on 24-7 surveillance.

PPS: I don’t see the value of MPA over and above what we currently have. If we didn’t have Sentry, Astute, 2087 and Merlin then I’d want them immediately ;-)

December 23, 2013 9:18 pm

@ RT re 18 Tu-95

If we are chasing Russian SSN’s around the Atlantic by air surely the best tool is a Russian MPA? ?

Note the range.

December 23, 2013 9:20 pm

Since someone else mentioned small arms…
100,002 MSBS, license built and adaptable to different calibres (changeable barrels, receiver able to accommodate longer overall length cartridges)
Plus a smaller number of Minimi Mk3 in 7.62mm (adaptable to other calibres) provided the weight is suitable.

December 23, 2013 9:20 pm

Wiseape – ref Challenger – agreed it is a daft thing to use for recce because its too big and too heavy. But take a close look at Scout SV and you find Scout is 2/3 Challenger weight, width at over 3m is about the same, height at about 2.7m to cupola top is about the same – only in length is Scout smaller, something like 6.8m hull length instead of 8.3m. Track length on ground is about 80% of Challenger’s but I believe the track links are narrower too meaning Scout’s ground pressure will be somewhere near that of the MBT. So we have a new recce car that is as wide and tall as an MBT, with ground pressure of an MBT, but less armoured and much lighter armed. Accessibility looks like it will be about the same then – which would you rather take on recce given the similarities – the lightly armed weaker armoured one or the MBT?

Like I said I think an MBT is daft as a primary recce wagon, which by the figures has to be the conclusion with Scout. But if you really think Scout is just peachy for the recce task, Challenger 2 is nowhere near such an idiotic option as you’d initially believe.

December 23, 2013 9:23 pm

Replace it? You just got it! :)

Simon, the operating procedure of an AWACs craft and an MPA is also different. AWACs stay behind a CAP and flies high where it uses the radar to compile a picture at stand off ranges, an MPA goes out and down low to visually/FLIR identifies an enemy. If you mixed the roles, how are you going to operate the MPA/AWACs? Stay behind? In which it can’t go out to track the sub’s heat signature/sonar contact. Or forward operate it and risk getting it intercepted? Fly high for the radar? Or low for the FLIR? FWIW, that was also one of the reasons I was suggesting a cheaper plane, MPAs are unfortunately units to be put at a fair bit of risk, you’ll cry less if you lose one. AWACs does not need to be risked at all.

I’m still saying a P-3 might be sufficient for needs at this point in time.

Rocket Banana
December 23, 2013 9:24 pm


You slightly forget that there’s no such thing as a Typhoon precision guided anti-ship weapon, nor an in service F35B

Too true ;-)

December 23, 2013 9:29 pm

Simon – ref sonobuoy questions – I’m sure I used to know their max operating time but its strangely slipped my mind. As for range, that’s affected greatly by the environment (underwater that is) – thermoclines, layers, background noise, water depth, bottom type, bottom slope – pick any parameter that might define a lump of ocean and it almost certainly affects sonobuoy performance. So the answer is: It depends…

December 23, 2013 9:29 pm

I think mpa should come back but I haven’t yet though what I’d offer to chop to ensure it does come back. I would actually have considered scrapping grey merlin with out the update they’ve just gone thru bought a high end mpa with some of the 750m saved and transferred all the wildcat to the navy to do the ship based asw/asuw. However navy bods would have exploded with such a suggestion. The fact foreign mpa are constant visitors tells us all we need to know about the effectiveness of such assets to uk defence of these islands.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 23, 2013 9:33 pm


The whole point of an MPA is that because of its speed and range it doesnt have to be there 24/7. A ship would. As the shup is not going to cover the entire gap anyway so you still rely on SOSUS or SURTASS cueing but the response has to be on station ad it is slow and has a slow short range helo with limited buoy capacity. An FF Merlin combo is excellent for keeping submarines awatpy from HVUs or maintaining contact when it has a submarine.
It is not good at rapidly responding and localising a contacr detected by other means.

Sonbuoy operational times depend on settings and also whether they are active or passive but hours rather than days. Detection range is dependent on conditions but look at the size of a buoy vs a helo dipping sonar.

If you cannot now see the value of an MPA despite the numerous examples I have given you where they can do things we cannot otherwise do, or do things faster and better well that is you opinion.

You are however in a very small minority.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 9:36 pm

Chris, which is why something like the Chenowth Desert Strike Vehicle with either a Javelin or 40mm AGL (or even better, two such pairs in a troop) is about bloody died and gone to Heaven goodness for a proper recce troop. Couldn’t give a hoot about the levels of armour protection. Don’t get seen, simple. If you are, then you’ve crapped out.

And at the price for such wagons in comparison to anything else, let’s have lots.

Rocket Banana
December 23, 2013 9:46 pm


I’d keep the AWACS at altitude for “detection only” duties. I’d then dispatch an interceptor (either jet, copter or ship) to do the id and kill.


What you suggest is the “catch” I end up with. Either Merlin from a carrier can protect a fleet or the fleet needs to work within reach of the MPA. If the latter is true it may as well work within range of Sentry and tankered Typhoon.


Thanks for your patience. I think you’ve managed to get through ;-)

…An FF Merlin combo is excellent for keeping submarines away from HVUs or maintaining contact when it has a submarine. It is not good at rapidly responding and localising a contact detected by other means.

That appears to be the MPA’s USP (Unique Selling Point – since I’m supposed to qualify TLAs).

The value I attach to that USP is obviously very different to others – I’m happy to be in the minority – must be the alcohol :-)

December 23, 2013 9:50 pm

@ mr fred

Ewww. Really? Interesting. But. Ewww. If you want something exotic from the east what about…….

I am going to order 5000 No 4s chambered in 7.62 for public duties with some of the long sword bayonets.

Note that’s the right bayonet, but the wrong pattern Enfield.

Found this pic’ too………

You can tell they are just itching to get back on board to make a YouTube video and check their FaceBook status.

EDIT: Removed the word order after public. Whoops!

December 23, 2013 9:55 pm

– 2/3 the weight of Challenger, less armour and a pop gun. So where’s all the weight then – fixtures and fittings? They’ll have to sacrifice the minibar.

Doesn’t the recce vehicle need to be air portable – and I’m thinking more A400 than C-17. We’re not talking about sniffing out the Soviet hordes anymore.

Edit – Here’s a thought – how about forgetting armoured recce and using swarms of cheap as chips (and expendable) mini-UAVs?

Further edit – Even though they fly, I’d let the army operate them :-)

Peter Elliott
December 23, 2013 9:57 pm


I would also add that MPA adds Theatre level situational awareness of the sub-surface threat. How many hostile or unidentified subs are in the ocean where you are operating? Which direction are they coming from?

Knowing those answers will allow you to deploy the RTFG FF Screen and our single expeditionary SSN much more effectively in the direction of the threat, and if necessary enegage it at greater range from the HVU than if you were having to peer cautiosuly in all directions at once.

Equally if you can sanitisie a whole chunk of ocean and be fairly sure that there is no SSx threat then you can bring tankers and supply ships forward without having to convoy them with scarce combat ships.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 23, 2013 9:57 pm

@ Simon

An interceptor is neither equipped nor the pilot trained to conduct maritime ID at range. An MPA is equipped and the crew trained.

Read my point about Merlin. When you are protecting the Fleet you are simply trying to keep the Submarines away. You know where they have to be to do you harm so you simply have to sanitise the water out to 15-25 miles ( threat dependent) this is what Escorts and Merlin do very well.

That is one USP? The others are that it is hugely flexible. Has an ASuW role, has a SAR role, can do EEZ patrols. Can provide a nuisance by dropping buoys in choke points enemy subs must transit hundreds of miles away from a TG.

The reason we could keep the duty TAPs in Port was tha a Russian SSN detected by SURTASS or SOSUS could be localised and tracked by NATO MPA until the Frigate arrived and took over.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 10:01 pm


Re bayonets, the opposite end of the spectrum is (was) the Sterling SMG with the same type of shortish SLR bayonet fitted: an unusual combo, but recce at least in Gulf 1 were so issued.

You needed to get really up close and personal to make that work. I had an ultimately successful, but intermediately effing terrifying experience with the combo. I wanted to take prisoner an Iraqi post-ceasefire who we’d cornered in a bunker, but he wasn’t so keen. I thought shoving my bayonet up against his throat might seal the deal, but didn’t bargain on tripping over some piece of crap on the bunker floor, falling over, and jabbing him 4 inches deep in his thigh. In my defence, it was bloody pitch dark in the bunker. But the boys didn’t let me easily forget this frankly Mr Bean behaviour.

December 23, 2013 10:35 pm

RT – identity determined by said comedy stumble! I declare you to be Norman Pitkin (seen here with another clever recce wagon):

Wiseape – ref UAVs – I think flying cameras have their place (although I suspect slots in the RF band for UAV datalinks will be a limiting factor), but their utility when the unexpected happens is limited. I greatly dislike suicide UAVs – those fitted with warheads – and would not like to see them employed – indeed I have on an earlier thread advocated their banning under international treaty. Recce (and any other role) personnel on the ground with own transport and weapons can react to situations in a myriad of ways, from standing a fight to evacuating civilians to protecting choke points and and and. UAVs just don’t have this flexibility.

December 23, 2013 10:48 pm

Simon, MPA has a few ways of detecting subs, but one of the key ones is the hot splotch of water that is heated up by the hull of the sub and floats to the surface. An AWACs at 25,000 feet is not going to be likely to even see the heat differential from that far up. No one randomly drops sonar buoys and hope for the best, no plane has enough buoys to do that for a large area, so they look for hints that there might be something there, THEN drop the sonobuoy to localise. Which is why there is a need for MPA. 2 totally different jobs with different operating protocol and goals.

Not to mention I’m not sure if AWACs radar is able to sort out sea clutter properly. It might, just that I’m not sure. An air environment does not have the problems that a messed up reflective surface like the sea can give to radars.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 23, 2013 10:55 pm


Not a deliberate position that I put the boys in. But (reaching back into the Hollow Force thread) something that preceding habit lulled me into, and for which just as much as I now think that Cornwall’s CO should have faced Court Martial, so should I have faced the music.

It was quite a simple bunker: two entrances about 15 yards apart. There was clearly an Iraqi in there as we could hear him talking. I put 2 of the boys onto and into the back entrance, and went myself with 2 more into the main entrance and shouted for surrender. He let off at us with an AK. At that point, I should probably have got some grenades in, but it did seem a bit useless to kill yet another man after the ceasefire, and I didn’t want to open fire when there were 2 of my boys somewhere in front. So advancing to capture him alive seemed a bit of a middle course.

God I got reamed out by the Squadron Leader and the Colonel later on, and worse by the old man when we got home (he’d been a professional infantryman in his time). And the boys thought me a bit brave or weird fucking foolish afterwards.

December 23, 2013 11:08 pm


It may lack a bit of elegance, and baby-poo-yellow is not the best colour in the world, but it’s still only at prototype stage so I think a few rough edges can be forgiven. I like the idea of having both a conventional layout and a bullpup with essentially the same operating mechanism, quality of manufacture etc. if for nothing else beyond a good comparison between the two layouts.

I’ve had the opportunity to handle a few rifles (though sadly not fire them) and the ARX160 looks nice enough – ISTR that it is adaptable to different calibres. I just feel that the Poles and the Czechs have a good track record of decent firearms design and it might be worth having a look at their rifles, especially if it permits a bull pup, because I like those (EM-2 is by far and away the most pointable rifle I’ve handled, but that counts for little without actually trying to hit something)

Regarding the No4 bayonet, wasn’t there a knife bayonet developed for the No5, which might be compatible? There was a knife-blade bayonet for the No4 as well, in place of the ‘pig-sticker’ and, google tells me, the No7 bayonet which would do admirably.

Sir Humphrey
December 23, 2013 11:26 pm

Great list, now show me the money!

The issue as I see it is the lack of funding, the reduction in staffing numbers in 2010 and the reduction intraining places across the piece. To reactivate some of the capabilities listed would take a lot of work to put pipelines back in place to make it happen.

At best I’d see this as an overly optimistic assessment of what would be ‘nice to have’. In reality I see SDSR taking the current baseline expenditure and either putting a 1% real terms reduction into play, or seeing if we can keep the underspend going a little longer. there will be some modest enhancements, but in reality expect more cuts, particularly to the Army which has yet to find a persuasive raison d’etre post end of Cold War.

December 24, 2013 1:30 am

@red Trousers

“At that point, I should probably have got some grenades in…”


” I got reamed out by the Squadron Leader and the Colonel later on, and worse by the old man when we got home”

And quite rightly so. I expect your sergeant has a few things to say as well. You had been a very silly soldier and were lucky to get away with it. What I want to know is did you learn from this experience and in your subsequent career did you teach your young officers that when clearing bunkers grenades go first not soldiers and certainly not officers?

Not that the cavalry should ever have been in a position where they had to dismount to fight. Its like seeing a dog walking on its hind legs, its against nature and you are surprised that it is done at all but it won’t be done well.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 24, 2013 6:11 am


Guilty as charged, and only retold because I’ve got a sense that (from the Hollow Force article, in which someone cast aspersions on the enlisted sailors of HMS Cornwall’s boarding party) you don’t ever blame the boys for cockups. You blame the officer concerned.

@ Sir H

“…but in reality expect more cuts, particularly to the Army which has yet to find a persuasive raison d’etre post end of Cold War…”

That’s enormous crap, and you know it.

1990/1 Gulf 1. Enforcing the will of the international community.

1992-2005 Bosnia. UN then NATO peacekeeping.

1999-2001. Kosovo. Conflict ending.

2000. Sierra Leone. Conflict prevention.

2001-2014. Carrying out the national will, expressed through Parliament, in seeking to rid Afghanistan of Al Qaeda and leave the country in a better state.

2003-2010. Ditto for Iraq.

Well over 1,000 soldiers have died for our country in those operations. I don’t care about the politics, those soldiers went to do their duty, and if there has been failure at a strategic level, it is not the fault of the Army, but rather of politicians.

I think your’s is possibly the most snivelling and cock-eye’d comment to be posted on TD. It really is disgraceful.

John Hartley
John Hartley
December 24, 2013 9:08 am

There are hardly any sound people on defence that matter in the Conservative, Labour or LibDem parties. Those in power do not “get it” until we have an underfunded military disaster.
Only UKIP are sound on defence, but they are half good people, half nutters.
One item for the wish list. Convert the RAF 10 short body C-130J to US coastguard standard for ocean patrol/SAR. Part exchange the 14 long body RAF C-130J-30 for 10 new build (5+5) KC-130J & MC-130J.
Then hang for treason, everyone connected to the Voyager PFI.
Then buy the computers with the Interpol/FBI/GCHQ links so every passport is checked entering/leaving Britain.

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
December 24, 2013 9:34 am

Note to spam filter: this is a post, not a mince pie. Do not eat.

@ Martin, re: Mk-41 launchers on type-45 destroyers.

What do you think should be put into the mk-41 launchers?
– Not SAMs, obviously.
– Not ABMs. (You also suggest Aster-30 blk II missiles, which will go in the Sylver launcher. Also future US ABMs look like they will be sized for the larger mk-57 launcher.)
– ASW? That seems too niche a missile, especially for the Type-45 destroyer.
– ASuW? Why not a VL Exocet missile in the Sylver launchers? Also, the ships are getting dedicated Harpoon missile launchers.
– So it seems like the sole objective is for cruise missiles.

(1) Can we first have a fly-off competition between the US TacTom and the MBDA Scalp-N missiles?
(2) If we then choose the US TacTom, last I heard, they could be squeezed into the Sylver A70 launcher.
(3) Sylver has 2/3rds the deck area of the strike-length Mk-41 launcher, so that means using the Sylver launcher gives us 50% more missiles, for any case in which Sylver can hold the missile.

What am I missing, that is worth a 1/3 reduction in the number of missiles?

Sir Humphrey
December 24, 2013 10:41 am

I think threats by CDS et al to resign will go nowhere – the line from HMT is clear- you have your generous funding settlement to spend as you wish. If you choose to maintain horses, large officers messes, multiple training establishments etc, then thats your call, but dont come crying to us for more money when you are nowhere near getting maximum value for money from what you already have.

As for RT and the Army. Bless, did someone suggest that your precious little organisation isn’t relevant? Yup, I did – and bluntly I’ve got sufficient OSMs on my chest to know full well what sacrifice means, so don’t try your overly emotional soldiers dying line to guilt trip me as it wont work.

Any rationale look at the Army reveals a hidebound organisation with far too many admin structures and far too much in the way of overheads – look at all the ridiculous numbers of uniforms for instance. The Cold War force was an abberation in history, representing probably the only time we needed a substantial force in being on the ground to handle an existential threat.

Since 1991 every single one of our entanglements on land has been entirely discretionary – we didnt need to go if we didnt want to. Not going would not have lost us a UNSC seat or changed the price of fish. We went because there was a strong sense of ‘if something must be done then lets try and get a jolly good war out of it’ . The problem the Army has got is that all of its efforts, with the possible exception of Sierra Leone have ultimately been for very little, and once they’ve gone, little has changed. Land power entanglements result in body bags, long term drain on resources and damaging international relations – look at the fall out over TELIC or HERRICK. What do we have to show for either campaign – practically nothing.

Yet, despite all this, the Army is now positively salivating at a return to contingent operations and defence engagement as yet another chance to go and stick its nose in somewhere where it will ultimately get stuck for little good reason.

I see no problem with the basic idea of a small Army, I utterly fail to see the purpose, value or point of an 82000 man Army.

December 24, 2013 10:54 am

It is rather juvenile to question the existence of one of the services, but I hardly think SirH has cast the first stone in that debate, has he. Perhaps he meant justifying the army’s current and projected strength? But I don’t like putting words into peoples’ mouths.

“There are hardly any sound people on defence that matter in the Conservative, Labour or LibDem parties.” – Sadly I believe this to be true. Hammond I think is a competent administrator, no more. Murphy was a joke, the new Labour bloke is yet to show his colours. The LibDems seem to regard the armed forces in much the same way I regard sardines: fine for other folk, just not anywhere near me!

December 24, 2013 11:35 am

@Mike Wheatly: why buy Betamax when VHS is plenty good enough? The French have failed to make Sylver a standard, so why indulge them? And I really fail to understand why we should be buying a VLS good for only one type of missile: surely the point is to be able to put any sort into the same launcher, in whatever mix we require, far into the future.

Rocket Banana
December 24, 2013 12:51 pm

…I utterly fail to see the purpose, value or point of an 82000 man Army.

3Cdo backup?

December 24, 2013 12:53 pm


“MARS SSS Confirmed – disagree, scrap the project, spend the money on the above LHDs.”

This one seems to have slipped through. Without solid stores support a deployed naval force is totally hamstrung. What are the sailors in your fleet going to eat after the first month at sea? What bombs are they going to drop after day 3? How are they going to keep their ships moving and aircraft flying when they suffer breakdowns or take damage? The capability represented by MARS SSS is vital to the future operational effectiveness of the RN.

Rocket Banana
December 24, 2013 12:55 pm

How many battalions can our 82,000 man army actually field?

How many battalions can our 82,000 man army actually sustain in the field?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 24, 2013 1:11 pm

Sir H,

The Army is 82,000 because that is the size needed to generate a deployable Division, which is what the politicians of all sides largely want us to be able to do. I won’t say there’s no waste anywhere, because that would be ridiculous.

I think you to be both callous and wrong in some cases with your statements about nothing much changing. In Gulf 1, a country was restored to its’ people. In Bosnia a brutal civil war was ended, in Sierra Leone one was averted, as again in Kosovo. In Gulf 2 a regime was changed, and in Afghanistan a regime fell as they were too inept to eject the world’s most murderous network. I count all of those as positive results.

What you might identify as failure is caused very largely by a failure of planning at the political level. Of course CGS has an input, and it is only when CJO and CDS are Army that you can even begin to blame an entire service for that failure. As for failings of operational planning, the blame spreads pretty evenly around in joint Headquarters and often to Allies.

Taking a broader view, virtually every campaign since WW2 has required the Army to actually complete the military task, supported ably by the other 2 services. Looking to the future, I don’t see much that would fundamentally change that.

Peter Elliott
December 24, 2013 1:19 pm


Not sure that’s strictly true.

Isn’t the 3 Brigade RF plus the two Elite Light Brigades (Cdo and Air Assault) what is needed to generate the ‘Deplorable’ Division.

Aren’t the rest of the AF there to provide the sustained roulment of an enduring Brigade?

If we gave up the enduring brigade capability then presumably we could generate a ‘best effort’ division from fewer than 82,000 regulars?

December 24, 2013 1:22 pm

Good starter.
Would definitely like to see Sentinel retained, as well as a P-8 buy,

Would rather see two more C-17’s procured than the Voyager PFI bought out,
We need the Navy to be brought back to a decent number of surface escorts – so a proper build of T26’s please and VLS for the T45s. Would like the see the T45s properly equiped with SSM and TLAM.

Apache and Merlin – yep.

Whilst more F-35s are nice, I dont think we can afford them – just yet. Would rather see the Typhoon fully developed and a couple of Squadrons of T3 with conformal tanks and Storm Shadow to allow a deep strike capability.

December 24, 2013 1:25 pm

Good list of stuff there Martin, if perhaps a touch ambitious!

I broadly agree that the focus should be on protecting and investing in enablers, with retaining Sentinel, getting Crowsnest as soon as possible, regenerating MPA, securing MARS SSS and dare I add getting a couple more C17 before Boeing sells them all to India and others being the top priorities.

Seeing how relatively cheap it would be to achieve I also agree that every effort should be made to get the 2nd CVF into proper service and retain the new OPVs alongside the Rivers, though it seems that the quite severe lack of manpower to crew extra ships in the RN may be a major stumbling block.

Rocket Banana
December 24, 2013 1:34 pm

If 7000 Royal Marines can field three battalions (and, I presume, sustain one) then surely an 82,000 man British Army should be able to field/sustain 11 times as many?

So that’s 10-12 battalions sustained in the field.

I make that a sustained division ;-)

Peter Elliott
December 24, 2013 1:38 pm

The Elite formations appear to work on a 3:1 readiness ratio.

The rest of the Army aims for 5:1.

Being worked hard with little downtime of part of the bargain of joining an elite unit. I suspect some of the family men in the rest of the Army would srrtuggle to stay with the pace of 3:1 readiness cycle.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
December 24, 2013 1:48 pm

@ Peter Elliot,

Any 3 of those 5 brigades you mention could combine into a deployable Division. Or even all 5. It depends on the nature of the task.

We still retain leadership of the ARRC, although whether that organisation has a real future or not I don’t know. So in theory, we could command a deployed Corps including several Allied Divisions.

Rocket Banana
December 24, 2013 1:59 pm


What are the sailors in your fleet going to eat after the first month at sea?

I’m sure food can be transported using any of the other ships, including the tankers. Perhaps the currently planned Tide class should be modified. I can’t understand why we’d need more than 148,000 tonnes of extra supply shipping (over and above Wave and Bay) as we currently only have about that with all the Forts, Leafs and Rovers.

What bombs are they going to drop after day 3?

The stockpile in the carrier’s magazine will not be out in 3 days. At the rate we drop bombs it is unlikely to be out after two-weeks! After that I’d hope the second carrier will relieve the first. If you’re suggesting replenishing 1000 x 1000lb-ers at sea, I hope you’ve signed an agreement with the enemy to allow you to “have a break” whilst you jam up the deck and weapon loading systems.

One of the design goals of CVF was to have deep magazines to avoid all that.

How are they going to keep their ships moving and aircraft flying when they suffer breakdowns or take damage?

Seriously? I thought the carrier hangar was for servicing aircraft. I thought it was kitted out with machine shops and all the spares one would hope for O-level maintenance. In addition, it would be cannibalising other airframes if necessary.

I was under the impression Dilligence was our forward repair ship? Maybe this needs replacing? Maybe this is what MARS SSS should also deliver?

The capability represented by MARS SSS is vital to the future operational effectiveness of the RN.

I agree. But only if we are intent on undertaking “sustained” operations. My feeling is that we do not have that capability (or intent) beyond a couple of months.

December 24, 2013 2:12 pm

I would very much like the raf to be expanded to support a army division! However the threats likely facing the uk in Africa, med and Atlantic (north and south) do not suggest we need huge increases in defence spending or the continuation of some of the high end capabilities we continue to keep. How much the Mid East changes or not remains the great unknown. At some point we can’t keep saying we need to keep this just incase when we last needed it 30 years ago and have been fighting totally different conflicts in that time relying on huge uor contracts to keep relevant and with little likely hood of that changing in the foreseeable future. To operate a cvf for a decade and have 1 refit in that timeframe will most likely cost 1b pounds plus so I wouldn’t say its a cheap option.

I would think that before we write a wish list of new things we’d like are favourite service to have we think first on what we would cut from that service to afford something’s new because that is most likely were we will be.

So as not to end for Xmas on a gloomy note if we look back at were and what are armed forces have done this past year I think well realise there far more active and capable than many would have us believe and what a great job they have done.

December 24, 2013 2:36 pm

Can we look into some ways for the armed forces to generate revenue apart from that grudgingly “given” to them by politicians? If you are looking for politicians to increase funding so you can fill your wish list, it’s going to take a very long time. The armed forces needs a way to get funding without hitting that particular roadblock or you will always fall short.

Donations from those concerned about the state of the military? Land rentals? Investment accounts for money held for long term projects?

December 24, 2013 2:48 pm

As a lay person, I feel I have to say to Sir H, that although I have admired your articles in the past, I think you spend too much time defending the political decisions ( I won’t say kowtowing), rather than pushing back. If we cut any further then we may as well go the whole hog and have small self defence forces.

December 24, 2013 2:54 pm

Sentinel – agree.
MPA – yes but on balance I’d go for C295; allows larger fleet and other spin off options, light transport etc
Crowsnest – number one priority for me
Buying out FSTA contract – possibly; need flexibility of being able to use other aircraft as tankers
Install strike length VLS on T45 – would put lower down my list – ensure we get 16 on every T26 first. Would look at midlife T45 upgrade to provide additional cells – AAW should still be priority
Both QE carriers – yes
Retention of River Class OPV – yes, with Clyde form the core UK water patrol option, possibly bringing customs cuter and Archers into more effective combined UK patrol fleet. Look at small force of more aggressive FAC to cover key ports
New OPVs – 6-9 please, 2 for FI, one for Med, and 6 to cover two standing tasks
Replacement for HMS Ocean and RFA Argus – no LHDs until Albion / Bulwark replaced – a variant of Mars SSS to replace auxiliary helo carrier / PCRS capability of Argus. No direct Ocean replacement
Keep reaper, not sure about Scavenger
F35B – no more than enough to operate 2 FAA and 1 RAF squadrons – 60-70 max
Typhoon – I’d just close out 12 extra Tranche 3s to leave us with 120 airframes going forward
T26 – commit to 12 – all fully kitted out for
Apache – not sure. Would not spend money on marinising them
FRES SV – really don’t feel we need it – need a much smaller recce vehicle that can also deploy with RM / Paras to give them a bit of clout
Conversion of HC3 Merlin for commando – agree.
FRES UV – off the shelf please
Reinstatement of 16AAB third battalion – not sure of need
Reverse cuts to 3 Commando Brigade – possibly
MARS SSS – a must have, and leverage off the design for Argus replacement in due course
MHPC – push out a bit – if Hunts and Sandowns have ben upgraded and we have 6-9 enhanced Rivers as new build we can defer
AAR kits for A400Ms – agreed
2 extra C17
My left field one is a small force of conventional subs, off the shelf for UK EEZ patrol and to provide a better training and progression path to the SSNs, and 1-2 more Astute ‘batch 2’ pushing Successor out a little even if it means we drop to 3 SSBNs for a short time

Rocket Banana
December 24, 2013 2:56 pm


Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2013 3:11 pm

@Simon – Merry Xmas, made harder by Old Speckled Hen not being on sale. Blatant profiteering.

dave haine
dave haine
December 24, 2013 4:03 pm

@ WiseApe

Sorry….had to make sure I had plenty in for Xmas….

December 24, 2013 4:46 pm


Your ideas smell of ‘crank’.

“I’m sure food can be transported using any of the other ships, including the tankers.”

In the quantities necessary to sustain a task force and delivered with the speed necessary to minimise time spent on replenishment? What solid stores delivery rigs are these tankers fitted with? How big are their refrigerated holds?

The ordered Tide class cannot be modified for this role without recasting the entire design. Too late for that.

Explain 148,000 tonnes of supply shipping? Is this deadweight cargo capacity of the ships you mention and how much of it is suitable for dry and refrigerated victualling stores?

“I hope you’ve signed an agreement with the enemy to allow you to “have a break” whilst you jam up the deck and weapon loading systems.”

What proportion of the task group’s air delivered weapons do you think is carried by the warships of the task group vs those held in the dedicated magazines of the accompanying ammunition ship? What do you think has the larger magazine capacity, an aircraft carrier or a stores ship? Don’t you think there are a whole host of reasons why the second carrier might not be available within the timescale you indicate? And yes, there is a break in operations for replenishment. There has to be, operations cannot continue without resupply.

“I thought it was kitted out with machine shops and all the spares one would hope for O-level maintenance… I was under the impression Dilligence was our forward repair ship?”

The level of stores held on a warship – and the space available for those stores – reflects the expectation that replenishment will be available. This is everything from spare aircraft engines to toilet roll.

To put this into a land warfare context, do you advocate slashing the stores and resupply element of the RLC such that Army units operate only with the food and stores available at combat unit level?

Sir Humphrey
December 24, 2013 4:50 pm

“As a lay person, I feel I have to say to Sir H, that although I have admired your articles in the past, I think you spend too much time defending the political decisions ( I won’t say kowtowing), rather than pushing back”

– I don’t spend my time defending decisions because I don’t believe in them, I try to put the context across as to why they may or may not have been taken. The point of PSL is to provide a second opinion which puts across the arguments why something happened. Its not always popular, and you’d be surprised how much abuse one can get for suggesting that things aren’t always clear cut, but thats the real world for you.

Do I personally think every decision made makes sense? Not necessarily. Do I think on balance that presented with the budget, the situation, the wider issues and stuff that never makes it to the media that decisions are taken because they are either the right ones (or the least worst) for the time – yes I do. Never forget that no decision is taken without military and civilian advice and recommendation as to what do to do. The problem is that MOD and the Military is very good at forgetting that they are the ones who recommend these decisions in the first place.

December 24, 2013 4:58 pm

Upgrade of E3 to USA block 40/45 E3G standard.
Airseeker is expexted to be in service until 2045 but look in to putting the equipment from these airframes in to new Airbus A330 aiframes. Same for the equipment from the E3 so they are all on a common airframe.
Replace the last 5 BAE 124 cc3 with Bombardier Global Express.

dave haine
dave haine
December 24, 2013 5:44 pm

Right….my idea’s

Sentinel yes
Instead buy:
Which then enables:
And in the future:
Common platform, see….
Buy 2 off C17 and maybe 3 more Atlas
Retire tonka, retain tr.1 tiffie and trickle buy more tr.3 tiffies as tr.1’s hours expire.

Store challenger.
Scrap Warrior, FRES, Bulldog, Scimitar, Spartan, Sultan, Samaritan, Mastiff, Wolfhound, replace with lots of:
Replace Landrover WMIK & Snatch, Mastiff and Panther with:
Replace AS90 with:
All can fit in a Atlas…..

Replace Albion, Bulwark, Ocean and RFA Argus with 3x LPH/LPD 23,000t
Confirm MARS SSS
Increase T26 to 16 hulls
Replace All OPVs with new class of 9 90-100m
F35B fleet of 60

December 24, 2013 6:00 pm

@ Sir H,

“The Cold War force was an abberation in history, representing probably the only time we needed a substantial force in being on the ground to handle an existential threat.”

— Do we forget so easily? The loss of the BEF back in 1940 brought the Germans to our doorstep. The loss of France resulted in the Germans gaining access to Atlantic ports. It also resulted in them gaining access to airfields just across the channel, which were subsequently used to bomb the country very heavily. If the BEF had been given better kit and more of a priority for resources at an earlier stage, it might have had a hand in preventing that state of affairs (which of course is up for debate).

I also find it somewhat hilarious how quickly people discount the use of the British army overseas anytime the subject of the Empire comes up. Who do people think were manning the various garrisons around the world and fighting off the local forces/the French/the Spanish? Which force has spent the last 300-400 years winning favour and demonstrating committment to allies by getting stuck in alongside them on the continent, helping to shape the course of Europes future on many occasions? That would be the army.

It has been as much responsible for the security of the nation, its allies and its trade as the Navy has. It boggles my mind how quickly people are prepared to dismiss the role of the army.

Still, it seems this is the new version of “disband the RAF”. Having failed to make that argument, it would appear the army is now going to take the brunt of the ‘if we disband that service, we could give the money to the Navy’ group.

December 24, 2013 6:08 pm

Can anyone explain to me the perceived benefits of co-locating the naval Role 3 medical facility with an amphibious assault ship, as compared to the present situation where they are separated giving the flexibility to locate the medical facility somewhere safer (as implied by Role 3)? I’d be tempted to go in the entirely opposite direction and have a real hospital ship, at least for those occasions when dealing with an enemy inclined to abide by the Hague convention.

Apologies to Simon for my unnecessary ‘crank’ remark.

December 24, 2013 8:27 pm

@david haine – I said it’s not ON sale, not that it’s not FOR sale. All the foreign muck (i.e. lager) can be got at knock down prices, but not Speckled Hen. Will investigate Old Crafty Hen. I may be gone for some time….

Merry Xmas to all, even if you’re not in the frigate mafia.

dave haine
dave haine
December 24, 2013 10:16 pm

A very palatable alternative.

@ All
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…even to the dark blue….

Mike W
December 24, 2013 10:45 pm

@Red Trousers

Regarding his reply to Sir Humphrey:

“I think you to be both callous and wrong in some cases with your statements about nothing much changing. In Gulf 1, a country was restored to its people. In Bosnia a brutal civil war was ended, in Sierra Leone one was averted, as again in Kosovo. In Gulf 2 a regime was changed, and in Afghanistan a regime fell as they were too inept to eject the world’s most murderous network. I count all of those as positive results.”

“Taking a broader view, virtually every campaign since WW2 has required the Army to actually complete the military task, supported ably by the other 2 services. Looking to the future, I don’t see much that would fundamentally change that.”

It’s about time somebody said it. Agree with every word. Do those advocating cuts to the Army remind any of you of lines from Shakepeare’s great tragedy “King Lear where the two “pelican” daughters between them reduce Lear’s followers from one hundred knights to fifty, then to twenty-five and finally Goneril says:

“Hear me, my lord:
What need you five and twenty, ten, or five?”

Followed by Regan’s:

“What need one?”

Is no one on this site capable of seeing the need? Ye gods, it was only a few years ago the General Dannett was talking about a request he had put in to the Government to increase the size of the Army by three thousand(from 100,000) and the Government was looking at it seriously. Moreover, it was only the fact that the economy was banjaxed beyond belief by the previous lot that prevented it happening. As soon as that economy is stabilised and starts growing in a sustainable way, the cuts to manpower should be restored. All the campaigns mentioned by RT were for the good of world stability and it was the Army that did the fighting, as he says “supported ably” by the Navy and RAF.

December 25, 2013 12:36 am

Sir Humphrey, as usual, has nailed it. This fantasy fleet list is useless without some understanding of how it could be funded and the fact it has been posted suggests many still don’t realise just have sharp the contraction in UK military strength has actually been.

December 25, 2013 7:21 am


“Because we don’t have a budget for even one much less two. Argus is not a medical ship anyway and in any op she is likely to be very close to the LHD anyway.”

Argus’ primary role is as a medical ship under the term “Primary Casualty Receiving Ship”. The aviation training role is secondary, and everything else tertiary or lost completely as confirmed by the alterations made at recent refits. When fully manned for the PCRS role there isn’t likely to be any accommodation left for an embarked flight or any other warlike enhancements.

A replacement in the floating hospital role could be a cheap civilian standard vessel, probably based on a ferry design (as an example, Ben-My-Chree reportedly cost £24,000,000 in 1997) with a minimal peacetime civilian crew (RFA or commercial as per Strategic ROROs) and depending on what state of readiness she is kept at, absolutely minimal annual running costs.

Aviation training can be managed in ways other than having a semi-dedicated platform as we have had for the last 50 years, but it will impact on operational availability of the vessels used as substitutes, or the training pipelines as those vessels are prioritised to other tasks.

Co-locating our sole maritime Role 3 facility and an amphibious assault ship – would you site an artillery battery in the middle of a field hospital?

December 25, 2013 9:20 am


“Co-locating our sole maritime Role 3 facility and an amphibious assault ship – would you site an artillery battery in the middle of a field hospital?”

Not quite, IIRC RFA Argus isn’t technically a ‘hospital ship’ because she’s armed (vaguely recall her paintjob being relevant too, something about her being grey when a proper hospital ship should be white, or having no external red crosses or somesuch).

Meaning that RFA Argus could be argued to be a legitimate target in wartime, perhaps not on the scale that an LHD might be, but still a target nonetheless.

dave haine
dave haine
December 25, 2013 9:29 am

@ Martin
My concern for the size of the army, same as the other two services too- is the fact that below a certain level, it stops being self-sustaining from the point of view of retaining talented and able officers with a broad spectrum of experience and skills. If you factor in the increasing ‘civil servicisation’ of posts within the MOD. (Not that I’m saying that the Civil Service don’t have their place-they most certainly do, and it’s important too) We get a situation in which we have an increasingly limited pool from which to uplift talent, and increasingly limited opportunities to give the ‘talent’ real and relevent experience and skills to equip them to be excellent staff officers and potential CDSs.

As for Sir H’s comments about the CDS and threats to resign- It may not have an effect on HMG- but can you imagine the public response, which would drive the media, especially if the aforesaid senior officers then carried out ‘briefings’- not a vote winner I suspect.

December 25, 2013 9:49 am


See my post at 241808. Argus is indeed not a hospital ship per the Hague conventions, and I have carefully not said or implied that she is. She does however have a 100 bed hospital facility, carefully labelled “Primary Casualty Receiving Facility” to avoid the legal issues around “hospital” in this context. That hospital is her primary function.

We have chosen to make our afloat Role 3 medical facility a legal military target for purposes of military/naval flexibility, and perhaps in view of the likelihood of fighting an opponent inclined to observe the Hague conventions. We need not stick with this route, or as advocated in the OP go further down it. JCTS as proposed mid-noughties would have been a legal ‘hospital ship’.

Note that in the Falklands conflict we operated a convention-compliant hospital ship and three “ambulance ships”.

December 25, 2013 9:51 am

Unusauly I find myself agreeing with sir H.

Lots of armies sustain themselves on led that 82,000 men.

December 25, 2013 11:37 am

An SDSR wish list should probably be a list of what you want to keep, not what expensive new toys you want to buy and keeping stuff probably means sacrificing something you want to buy. The Anglo/French IAV has gone very quiet…

Sir Humphrey
December 25, 2013 12:06 pm

One wonders about how much of a need there will really be for an Aviation Training Ship in the post ARGUS environment for a forward fleet of not many aircraft (say 15 Lynx, 10-15 Merlin). The numbers are so small that it may be cheaper to just use an LPH/CVF/LPD flight deck when required.

As for Martin, firstly I think that any threat to resign would gain headlines for a day or two and change nothing. Look at Gen Dannat, the only CGS to speak his mind for many years and see what happened to him? At best they’d get a round of applause, then clear their desks and go on. It wouldnt’ achieve anything beyond embarassing their services reputation, and ending a career for no good reason. At that level its about steady as she goes leadership, not grand gestures of flamboyance. The place to resign with best effect is at OF5/1*, when you can go throwing a hole in succession plans and make a point, without causing major problems for the service .

As for civilianisation, I’d argue that the MOD CS can see the same issues with lack of talent, career path and development as the Army does but for its own posts. My own experience suggests that the Army is very good at putting people into HQs but has little idea of what it wants them to do beyond fight for capbadge, service and country (in that order!).