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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.