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SDSR 2015 – Getting Tooled Up


Imagine if you will for a second that since the lasts SDSR the United Kingdom’s major potential adversary had increased its defence budget by 43% in three years. Now imagine that the same potential adversary had gone from a nominal democracy to an outright dictatorship and at the same time that potential adversary had invaded not one but two of its neighbours.

Indeed it’s not hard to imagine because since the last defence review this is exactly what has happened. Now imagine a new government coming in in 2015 actually cared enough to spend some more money on defence and attempt to rapidly regain some of the major war fighting capabilities we have lost.

Would it be possible for a new government to regain the UK’s military strength or is it lost to us forever?

Fast Jets

Following the assumption of the previous SDSR that “we won’t have a war before 2015” and that “we will never fight a peer adversary” the RAF and FAA fast jet numbers have been cut to the bone. The UK will have just seven fast jet squadrons comprising 5 Typhoon Squadrons and 2 F35B squadrons. While these are more than sufficient for chasing the odd airliner or stray Russian Bomber or even bombing the occasional failed state into submission they would be woefully inadequate if tasked with fighting a major war.

However for a new government with a bit of cash to spend in 2015 things would not be all that bad. Firstly the UK is continuing to buy Typhoons. Whilst it may be a cold war relic there is probably nothing better for chasing down large numbers of Mig’s than the Typhoon. The UK is due to scrap its tranche 1 Typhoons in 2016 with the loss of 54 aircraft.

So if sufficient funds could be found we could probably hold onto another two squadrons and bring our number of Typhoon squadrons up to 7 by around 2018.

In addition to the Typhoons we will also be losing the Tornado GR4’s in 2018. Another cold war relic but still an immensely effective aircraft. Other nations will be retaining Tornado until at least 2022 and possibly much longer. Given our large amount of spares and redundant aircraft there is probably no reason why we could not keep the current three squadrons in the air for some time to come.

In addition to these aircraft we will likely be joined by two squadrons of F35B by the early 2020’s. Once the purchase of the 48 F35B’s had been made the government could potentially purchase additional F35B’s or even F35A’s to replace the Tornado’s still in service.

None of this would come cheap. The annual running cost of an FJ squadron is around £250 million a year. So moving up to 12 FJ squadrons from 7 would cost at the very least an extra £1.25 billion a year plus additional equipment spending to maintain, upgrade and purchase additional aircraft but is that such a vast cost for a government that spends £700 billion a year.

A dozen FJ squadrons is nowhere near the 30 or so we had at the end of the cold war but then the threat posed by Russia or anyone else is also nowhere near that level. In addition to greater numbers we could also devote increased funds to arm these aircraft. Putting Brimstone on Typhoon stands out as a clear example of better equipping our air forces to deal with a major adversary.

As many such as Sir Humphrey have pointed out it is not just as simple as adding more jets to the RAF to get extra squadrons. Pilots and engineers have to be found as well as extra airbases. However given the funds these challenges are not insurmountable. Additional pilot training can be done and if we lack the facilities we can always opt to train air crew in the USA. We can opt for a lower level of readiness in FJ squadrons at least initially. We could follow the French lead and use staff officer’s or follow the US lead and use reservists.

Engineers and maintenance staff are also an issue but it could well be possible to rely on civilian contractors for more of this work. Especially if the jets are not to be deployed to far flung distant conflicts but be used much closer to home.

Maritime Patrol Aircraft

SDSR 2015 may well address this gap in the UK’s current defences. If we are looking to plug this gap rapidly then the P8 will be available and getting Boeing to tap a few more on to USN orders before 2020 should not be too difficult. It also comes with the added benefit that many of our former Nimrod crews are already training on the P8 as part of the seed corn initiative.

Naval Strike

With the retirement of Sea Eagle from Harriers and Typhoons and Harpoon when Nimrod left service the UK lacks any real ability to strike enemy ships at sea from fixed wing aircraft. The situation could be easily remedied with the purchase of the Joint Strike Missile which will already be integrated on the F35 and could also be adapted to fire from Typhoon.


Fortunately the Royal Navy has maintained a qualitative edge with its ASW frigates. However with just 13 Type 23 Frigates at its disposal it can hardly be seen as a credible force if had to engage a peer enemy.

The Type 26 frigate design appears to be rapidly maturing and is due to begin production around 2016. Currently plans are for the T26 to replace the T23 however it should probably be possible to extend the life of at least some of the T23’s.

With the closure of Portsmouth the UK has only two dedicated frigate building yards however in 2015 it would probably still be possible to reopen Portsmouth. If cleared of other work the three yards could probably churn out Type 26 frigates much quicker than currently planned.

There are several other yards in the UK with experience of building ship blocks for the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers including Appledore in Devonport, Cammell Laird in Liverpool and A&P on Tyneside. Type 45 destroyers were built in blocks in different yards and I can’t see why yards able to work on parts for aircraft carriers could not also use the same principal for frigates. With 6 yards churning out blocks the T26 program could be scaled up to almost any level the government was willing to pay for. It would certainly seem possible to get back above 20 frigates by the early 2020’s.

ASW Helicopters

We currently have Merlin HM1 helicopters that are surplus to requirements that could conceivably be upgraded to the HM2 standard and we could always order more. If we are lacking for Merlin’s then an increased build of Wildcats may also be worth exploring. Especially if we incorporated dipping sonar which I believe is possible as part of the current design.


Increasing the navy’s number of SSN’s would be incredibly difficult but not impossible. Fortunately as with our frigates well we are lacking in quantity we have retained and even improved on quality. We currently have a very capable design in the Astute Class Submarine which is under construction. Current build rates are around one boat every two years. At that rate it would be impossible to increase the Royal Navy’s fleet as new boats won’t even come off the production line fast enough to replace existing vessels.

However the US navy has recently increased production of its Virginia Class SSN’s from one per yard every two years to one per yard every year. So it’s at least conceivable that the same could be done at Barrow if given time and money.

Another issue would be the need to start to build the Successor SSBN’s in 2028. However I remain unconvinced that the life of the Vanguard Class SSBN’s cannot be significantly increased with a major life extension as opposed to the currently planned five year life extension. Ohio Class SSBN’s have operated much longer than the Vanguards and have in many respects endured a harder life. Moving the successor Submarine program back would allow us to continue building Astute’s after 2026.

The other option to increase the SSN force would be to extend the lives of the Trafalgar Class boats however my understanding of this is that the Trafalgar’s probably won’t last much longer even with a refit.

It would take a significant amount of time to increase the size of the RN’s SSN force but if we got into a position where the USA is chugging out two boats a year and the UK one boat a year then, we could likely comfortably out build the rest of the world combined and maintain a strong qualitative edge.


The Army is soon to drop to a force of around 82,000 men. Much of the Army’s heavier units are in the process of being removed or reduced. Equipment like Apache, Challenger 2 and AS90 are likely to be scaled back in numbers or removed completely. However much of that heavy equipment still exists and is perfectly good for the task. While I don’t for see a need for us to go back to the days of the BAOR with 155,000 soldiers taking the Army back above the 100,000 mark is certainly doable. Adding in a force of 30,000 reservists on top gives us a fairly credible force that could if required generate almost a Corps level force in Western Europe if required in an emergency.


If a government in 2015 recognised the increased threat level that has evolved since 2010 then it would be possible to substantially increase the UK’s military forces. The UK still retains the design and technical expertise to create world beating military platforms. We may lack some of the manufacturing capability but with creative use of the civilian sector much of this could be overcome.

Fortunately our forces have retained a high degree of training and professionalism and it’s probably easier to increase the size of a small highly capable force than it is to bring a larger badly trained and equipped forced up to a higher standard.

Training and personnel numbers will be an issue but again it’s always possible to train new people and in many instances we may be able to fill some gaps with civilians or reservists.

This would not come cheap. For increases of this scale we would be looking at adding at least £10 billion a year to the defence budget. However even an increase of this magnitude would still only represent an increase of 1.5% on government spending.

With the growing list of threats faced by the UK and our allies it is perhaps time we start looking at our armed forces as something more than a capability to intervene in other people’s problems.  Our armed forces can and should be designed to protect our nation and our way of life.

When even the pacifist BBC is asking the question ‘have we gone too far with military cuts?’ perhaps it’s time the government woke up and realised that just because they assume we won’t be having any more wars  does not mean our enemies will be making the same assumption.

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62 Responses

  1. This may be running slightly counter to the intended discussion of shopping lists, but I have doubts over two aspects of the scenario proposed.

    Firstly, it seems to be envisaged that the UK is going to face Russia alone. I find it hard to foresee a scenario where the UK and Russia are slogging it out without NATO getting involved – in which case the question under discussion should be the overall balance of forces across NATO – and indeed it would seem probable that other countries would be experiencing the sharp end before us. More fundamentally, though, it’s quite a leap to vault from Russia sending troops into the Crimea where the majority of the population are its own nationals, and it has existing major military interests to safeguard, to it picking a fight with western European powers. Yes, Russia has become more assertive in those parts of its former territories with a significant Russian population, but that does not automatically suggest it will start carrying out operations against further flung countries such as us. Indeed, stepping back one might say that the UK has participated in two invasions of foreign nations since the turn of the century, so on that logic the Russians should be worried about us.

    Secondly, the UK government’s finances will not have improved significantly by 2015 – that is quite clear from the stats – and austerity will continue whoever is in power until 2020 at least. Where the politicians can find room for manoeuvre at the margins, Labour would be likely to use it for social spending and the Tories for tax-cuts. Opinion polls show that defence is not a vote winner, so whilst manifestos will make warlike noises, the next government is not going to prioritise frigates and fast jets to please the few of us on here at the expense of hospitals and schools which get far more people much more exercised.

  2. @ The Other Monty

    If Europe keep unilaterally disarming we might well be on our own :-)

    But seriously I can’t see the UK going it alone against Russia however as the number two NATO power what does it say about NATO that we can only muster 7 FJ squadrons.

    Defence assumptions are based on a near zero threat of a peer on peer war. Clearly those assumptions are now wrong. It will take us at least 5 years to rearm, is it not prudent to begin that process before it is needed.

    In terms of UK finance, yes we will still be running a deficit in 2015 and for several more years after but we have run a deficit for almost every year that records began.

    Should a small deficit and even lack of popular support be sufficient reason for the government to leave the country vulnerable. Surely defence of the realm should be the number one priority of the government.

  3. A lot of thought has gone into this article but on what basis?

    The original article and the author’s supplementary comment are based on the ‘fact’ that there is an existential peer/near peer threat from Russia. He says, ‘Clearly those assumptions are now wrong.’ I don’t find this clear at all. For what reason would Russia engage in full warfighting with West Europe and NATO? That’s an enormously different situation from Ukraine, where they are (illegally) defending very specific national interests. How would Russia possibly think it could win against NATO?

    There are several other strikingly peculiar views:

    – The article is premised on the government having more money to spend on defence. Does anyone think there is the remotest chance of UK defence spending increasing, when we still have a sizeable deficit and no substantial threat – certainly none that is easily treatable with military force.

    – Apparently, fast air has been cut to the bone! Look at a 20-30 year projection of EP costs and see where the money goes. The deterrent and fast air (particularly due to yearly inflation of high-tech programmes) take the lion’s share. For what possible purpose do we need more than 7 squadrons of fast air? Why do we even need 7 squadrons?

    How does any of this remotely resemble the assumptions of NSS, SDSR 10, much less the tighter noose that will present itself next year?

  4. @englebert humperdink
    1.premise of uk having an increase in defence spending : increasing growth of gdp by aprox 2.5% on current projectons through to 2020, by the end of this year we should be back at 2008 levels with increasing tax revenues then there should be a commensurate increase in defence spending in proportion to gdp ?
    2. we currently have 9 fj squadrons 4 typhoon 5 tornado with this to reduce to 5 and 3 then 5 typhoon 2 tornado 1 f35b by 2016 …. is it beyond the realms of possibilities given growth in gdp to maintain 9 fj squadrons and possibly increase to give 6/7 typhoon and 3/4 f35b i dont think so if growth in gdp maintains current track
    Again would look to increase ssn fleet by one t26 by two and add new opv’s to fleet replacing a few sandowns for greater balance in gulf and bring pow and albion into reg service on a rotational basis giving 365 day coverage
    Also would fund public duties red arrows et al through crown estates freeing up more manpower for army strengthening 3cdo and 16aab with 4 infantry batt each and increasing suppot arms
    Eminently doable given sustained growth in gdp over next 10 years

  5. I am happy to accept the posited rearmament scenario for discussion. I do think the NSS and DPA from 2010 do deserve to be revisited. The extent of change is arguable but the need to reveisit is not.

    Also don’t forget our last major rearmament began in 1934 when the country was similarly short of cash. The Treasury professionals were horrified by the cost. But were told by the government of the day to shut up and get on with it. So it can happen.

    And don’t forget that we could easily be outside the EU by 2017. As well as peer threats we should consider the contingency for securing our EEZ from commercial intrusions by our ertswhile partners if this should come to pass.

    For the actual analysis I would be interested to split the cost in two:

    (a) How to reverse ‘hollowing’ by adding ISTAR, Logistics, Personnel, Missile integration, Training Budgets etc. This should be the first decision made to bring our existing scale of forces up to a full state of potency and readiness. All without increase to the scale of the teeth arms. That should be the first action.

    (b) Increases in scale: deployable brigades, jet squadrons and combat boats and ships. These may be justified but will need different justifications. The scale planned by SDR 1998 is a very useful reference point.

  6. What we’re missing (again) is a high-low mix to keep the numbers up.

    25% dedicated top-of-the-range air-defence
    50% cheaper multi-role used to supplement numbers of above and below
    25% dedicated top-of-the-range strike

    I know the above are just silly numbers but some sort of split makes perfect sense.

  7. As to the premise of the thread, I don’t see a link happening between increased defence spending and what is happening now in the Ukraine. We don’t have many historical interests in that region, it’s a complex one with which we have little understanding.
    There will be no race to spend more money because of this, looking and listening to people that aren’t ‘military aware’ many are quite happy with a smaller MoD. To them it decreases the chances of us being involved in conflicts overseas, which to them is a good thing.
    I understand and get that many would like to see a link there. Of course £10bn could be spent in the MoD, but then every dept of the Gov. would say the same. Spending it is the easy bit, getting it in the current climate, and any foreseeable one, near impossible.

  8. Nice article and i’d vote for it!
    Couple of questions – why do we seem to get so little bang for our defence buck (or pound)? Look at the likes of S.Korea, they spend quite a bit less than us, are a modern nation with equally high living costs, yeah they don’t have as good a power projection capability as we do, but overall i think they get more for their money. There are other nations too that IMO seem to get more for their money. Surely this needs to be urgently looked at and addressed?

    To be fair i’m only talking here from my very limited exposure to Russian thinking (on a military basis military forums etc), so hardly at all indicative of their govt’s thinking. But from what i’ve seen they’re far from worried about Europe and only the US in NATO are regarded with any worry by them. They’re also re-arming and increasing defence spending rapidly so their relative capability will only increase against ours/Europe’s. Would they really be that worried about taking on Europe. Yeah they might not want to get into an existential conflict that would draw in the US, but would they really in a few years time think twice about pushing us around? Sorry but if we don’t do something i can see Putin et al casting his greedy eye towards Europe by the mid 2020s.

  9. @Topman “We don’t have many historical interests in that region” Ummm Crimean war?!?

    There are gaps in UK defence which the article pointed out. However by and large we have great kit we just don’t have enough of it or enough people to make it count…

  10. @Topman, I know I was just feeling cheeky.

    Funny how the thread picture is an apache. I have spent all day without seeing this post about 3 mistral class with Wildact, Merlin and wait for it… Apache on board. There’s no such thing as a coincidence!

  11. Now im just an amateur here, so its only a personal opinion, you all still go on abt money,
    And yes we all know it takes money, but whilst your talking cash, others are re-arming,
    Now we don’t say that we must fight Russia alone, or if even a war will erupt,
    But your past is your future, and you learn your mistakes at your peril,

    What if a war did creep our way, when does the talk stop of money, and re-arm begin, taking into account that it would take weeks possibly months before it spread,
    When will you start to re-arm, when they are walking up Whitehall?
    Laugh as one may, but in reality you cannot ask Russia [as an example] to wait 5-10 years until we re-arm,
    It takes just seconds, yes seconds for the prime minister to say, scrap it,
    And in weeks they have gone to the great military in the sky,
    But it takes years, to replace,
    Perhaps we should get into the habit of replacing, before we scrap,
    The Americans are thousands of miles away from Europe, except for those bases in Europe,
    Can Britain and its European allies unite and hold its own until help arrives, remembering that even the reserves have been cut, so where will your back up come from,
    Thousands of opinions, but little action,
    A great leader once said, to have peace, you must prepare for war, at the very least expect the unexpected,
    Sadly we have failed to do this, and we will reap what we sow, for its our sons and daughters, that will fight and die, for our governments inadequate ability to do what we need, rather than keep the delaying tactics, this soft power with 10 billion aid, may well come back and haunt us all,
    Just my opinion, now all you experts can tear it apart.

  12. irrespective of people’s shopping lists, the really important thing is whether the current shenanigans change the Planning Assumptions of the last decade and more. These have primarily assumed that the UK would have “warning” of a building threat and also that “someone else” would provide a lot of essential capability.

    I doubt that anyone would think of that nice Mr Putin as an existential threat (yet), but the behaviour of Russia today is demonstrably more aggressive and confident than that of the remnants of the USSR twenty years ago. While that does not mean we’re in threat of invasion or a mild nuking, it does mean that looking after our wider interests may mean that we need to consider being prepared (and more importantly being thought of as credibly willing) to use force in pursuit of those interests.

    This is where the pernicious effect of Telic & Herrick comes to the fpre. While we have indeed stuck the course longer than most and in the face of heavy casualties, it has also been a continuing narrative that we would get out just as soon as face could be saved. Goes with the nature of the mission and the territory, but it breeds a particular mindset in both the UK populace, government and wider audience. Essentially the idea that the UK is no longer interested in commitment as soon as it gets a bit difficult.

    Aside from our willingness to engage, the consequences of the “someone else will do it” approach to capability is going to require addressing soon.

  13. @criss: NATO *excluding* the US spends $285bn on defence vs Russia’s $90bn.

    For that $90bn, Russia is having to replace an inventory of out of date equipment, guard the world’s longest land border, keep troublesome regions in check and act as a Pacific as well as an Atlantic power – with other Pacific powers investing heavily.

    Why exactly would Mr Putin want to march down Whitehall? Is Russia short of space? Do we have natural resources they lack? Is their population expanding?

    And war with NATO would mean taking on three nuclear armed states.

    Cold-war style client-clashes I can imagine, but an invasion feels a bit far-fetched – and if that’s the best argument for increasing defence spending, I can’t see the Treasury mandarins being moved to loosen the purse-strings.

  14. @Martin – and apologies for being slow to respond to your comment.

    Public sector net debt has roughly doubled in the past five years and is forecast to continue rising for the next five.

    Government net debt is 83% of GDP in the UK, compared with 72% in Spain, 57% in Germany (or, to be fair, 84% in France, 103% in Italy). It’s not forecast to start falling relative to GDP until 2016/17, and then (a) only *very* slightly, and (b) based on current spending assumptions.

    Whoever wins the next election, I’d reckon they won’t have that much flexibility on total spending – the financial markets would react too badly if it looks like going beyond existing trends.

    One could probably make a case for government finances representing a greater existential threat to the UK – and other western European nations – than a resurgent Russia.

  15. @the other monty

    You are right but why are they on the verge of invading Ukraine and why is there nothing in their way?

  16. They’re on the verge of invading because there are huge numbers of Russian citizens in the country and major military bases. Because they’ve never really seen Ukraine as a separate nation – which it has hardly ever been – and because Russia is paranoid over loss of influence in its traditional region and threat of encirclement.

    To be clear: I’m not defending Putin’s actions. But there is a logic as to why he would act on his own borders.

  17. @ EH

    “How would Russia possibly think it could win against NATO?”

    Because NATO and Europe are divided. You can say that Ukraine is a Russian matter but many EU and NATO members also have a boarder with Russia and some unruly Russian speaking populations. What is to stop them doing the same? Would Germany go to war to protect Latvia’s boarder areas?

    NATO has never really been tested in its true form before. How many countries really take article 5 that seriously when it is not them being threatened. I don’t think we can afford to put all our eggs in the NATO basket.

  18. @ Colky7
    “Couple of questions – why do we seem to get so little bang for our defence buck (or pound)? Look at the likes of S.Korea,”
    Much of it is to do with readiness and equiptment. An example is the USA that spends about 5 times more than the EU average and double ours per man.
    Also platforms like SSN and SSBN are hideiously expensive compared to conventional forces.
    @ The Other Monty
    “Why exactly would Mr Putin want to march down Whitehall? Is Russia short of space? Do we have natural resources they lack? Is their population expanding?
    And war with NATO would mean taking on three nuclear armed states.”
    I never said he would be walking into Whitehall but Kiev is a distinct possibility. What about Talin or Riga? Also our nuclear weapons have no credibility with Putin as he knows that even if he was walking into Whitehall neither we or the Americans would use them.
    So what happens when he calls our bluff and we don’t have the conventional power to respond.

    “Whoever wins the next election, I’d reckon they won’t have that much flexibility on total spending – the financial markets would react too badly if it looks like going beyond existing trends.”
    The spending I am advocating would be around 0.7% of GDP per annum. If the government wants to it can easily be found. Markets will not react to + or – 0.7% of GDP on government spending.
    Also in the face of a threat should fiscal considerations take precedent over military ones. Were we wrong to go into debt in the 1930’s to rearm?

    “To be clear: I’m not defending Putin’s actions. But there is a logic as to why he would act on his own borders.”
    So does the same not apply to other NATO members with the same situation. This is the second time Putin has invaded a neighbour over such an issue.
    Would he be justified in his own mind to take action against the Baltic states for the same reason? Of so then are we not obliged by treaty to have the capability to stop him.

  19. @Martin:

    The reference to marching down Whitehall came from criss (well, from “Battle of Britain” originally I guess), it was to that that I was responding.

    On nuclear weapons, obviously if you’re right we should do away with them – and some of the cash saved could go to additional conventional weapons, such as four more Astutes instead of four Successors (as the drumbeat of sub building would need to continue unless we wish to forego that capability). It would be quite a gamble, though, to invade a nuclear armed state, you’d need to be very confident.

    Clearly nuclear weapons are irrelevant in a situation such as that in Ukraine…. just as Putin didn’t bomb us for invading Iraq in 2003, although he opposed that vehemently, using much the same language as the US and UK are now using against him.

    The UK’s financial standing is currently predicated on a belief that we are serious about getting government spending under control. An increase in Departmental Expenditure Limits equivalent to 0.7% of GDP would suggest that we’re not, and would quite possibly lead to an increase in our cost of borrowing, which of course then directly makes the problem worse – interest payments go up, the rate of increase of debt grows.

    I’d suggest that a better argument would be to seek a rebalancing of government spending towards defence – although if you’re doing away with the nuclear deterrent, you’d be arguing in part to use that cash. I’d think the Tories at least will probably forego a guarantee to protect DfID after the next election (although it seems more likely that Labour will be the largest party after the next election and they might not). However, I’d still suggest that Defence will have to fight hard against Health, Education and other departments where the voters show more interest.

    Perhaps it’s worth considering what the proposed increase in defence spending would be for. Is it because we believe the UK is under threat of direct attack? If I’ve understood you correctly, I don’t think that’s what you’re suggesting – and it’s very hard to see (a) why Putin would want to attack us, nor (b) how he would manage that.

    I wonder if the underlying argument is more that we want to be able to prevent Russia from doing things that we don’t want it to do – the notion that if anyone’s going to invade a foreign country, it had better be us. Do we really want that policeman (or PCSO, as someone said the other day) role though?

    Having said all of this, the greatest, even though still slight, conventional war threat to the UK (leaving aside ones we, with allies, choose to start ourselves) would clearly be some future Russian strongman in the mold of the 20th centuries mad war-starting dictators. I do agree that that risk is the best argument the Defence Secretary will have to avoiding further cuts in SDSR 2015, and is an important argument to keep NATO as an effective body. However, neither on probability nor on practicality is the Russian threat enough to make an effective case for rearmament now.

  20. As of this moment the RAF has 9 frontline squadrons not 7. Four are currently Typhoon and five are Tornado. We only drop to 7 at the end of this month when 12 and 617 Squadrons disband. So the first thing to do if you’re worried about what Russia’s up to is to save these two squadrons until the SDSR in 2015 has a chance to reappraise the situation.

  21. @ The other Monty

    Nuclear weapon’s serve do deter a nuclear attack from an enemy so they are worth keeping for that reason but they will do little to deter a conventional attack. Even if enemy forces were rolling over Dover would we really use a nuclear weapon. Would it not be better to be taken over than to be an irradiated nuclear waste land.

    I don’t disagree that defence won’t get extra spending and is likely to be cut further but that was not the point of this article. It was to highlight what could be done if given the will.

    In terms of extra spending I work with bond markets and I don’t know anyone who would dump GILTS on a basis of extra borrowing of 0.7% of GDP per annum. The additional spending on defence spending is likely to boost GDP anyway so that actual rise in borrowing would be smaller.

    Again in the face of a threat should defence spending be subject to the vagaries of the market.

    Russia does not yet pose a major threat but if we don’t act prudently now and opt for some increase in defence then it could be too late when and if Russia does pose a threat.

  22. @ Andy –

    “As of this moment the RAF has 9 frontline squadrons not 7. Four are currently Typhoon and five are Tornado. We only drop to 7 at the end of this month when 12 and 617 Squadrons disband. So the first thing to do if you’re worried about what Russia’s up to is to save these two squadrons until the SDSR in 2015 has a chance to reappraise the situation.”

    That’s a good point but I can’t see the current shambles of a government intervening to change anything from SDSR 2010 and it would be too late by 2015.

    617 is also reforming anyway with F35.

  23. BAOR 155,000 soldiers, shumfing wong here. Try 55,000, the treaty agreement. Fully mobilised 1 (BR) Corps was approx 103,000 in about 64 battlegroups, of course only about 27 of these were armoured regular army and that’s counting RT’s recce chums, and the scale of artillery was a national disgrace compared to Germany, US and USSR.

  24. The issue here is that Putin has no intention of marching down Whitehall, it is debatable if he wants to March into Kiev. The point is Ukraine is NOT a NATO member and it was always mad to suggest that it should be.

    Are we willing to risk nuclear weapons falling on Manchester or london to fight to the death over which flag flys over Crimea or Kiev. That is what NATO membership means.

    We have made that commitment for better or worse to the Baltics and we should be prepared to back it up. But this has to end the nonsense of any further expansion, neutral buffer zones are good things.

  25. Yes 617 is reforming as an F-35 unit but even on the Government’s optimistic timetable that’s not until 2016 plus in correspondence I’ve had from them the F-35 won’t get its combat software (block 3F) until 2018. So that’s four years away.

    There will just about be enough Typhoons that a sixth frontline squadron could be stood up in late 2015.

    If the decision was taken to keep 12 Squadron going until late 2015 and 617 going until the F-35 was ready the Treasury would need to find £500 million a year out of contingencies. Is that so unreasonable if Russia continues to throw its weight around?

  26. Said it before, but at the risk of being a dull bugger will say it again…no UK Government that dispensed with CASD would do so to increase conventional capacity…they would do so because they were even more determined to close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears and go “Lalalalala” in the face of an increasingly threatening world than the current set of self-serving poltroons are…within which category I include the entire political class of all parties…

    Truly we are blessed in the current heirs of Pitt, Palmerston, Lloyd George, and Churchill… :-)

  27. Before agreeing with GNB above I must say, wow! martin , the list of articles by you alone seems tp be proof of TD going netcentric with authoring to have been the right choice.

    80 % debt level is widely seen as the start of the slippery slope… If you don’t take action then, it won’t be worth the bother later. So within that framework I would underwrite Peter Elliot’s two-step programme from just after lunch time, yesterday. Start incrementally, don’t let efficiency as defined by accountants get in the way of the Forces being/ becoming effective for an extra/ faster spend , in the margins.

    Then improve deployability, both the what and how. As someone said earlier, loadsa good kit, but not enough people: another one cited POW and Albion, which will do as eXamples.

  28. @ Andy

    In light on the current situation I would say using the treasury contingency to keep an extra two squadrons for the time being is entirely sensible. Its so sensible it will never happen :-)

    @ ACC

    Thanks, I can’t write anything as detailed as the boss but hopefully my articles are a bit of fun for everyone to read.

    I agree about the 80% debt level but its its important to remember a third of that debt is in the hands of the BOE.

    @ Obsrv

    Sorry I did not mean to say the BAOR had 155,000. That was the figure of the entire british army in the late 80’s. I don’t think going back up to those levels is practical or necessary but possibly going back up to 100 K is.

  29. @ Dan

    I’m certainly not prepared to go to war over Crimea. But I think its time to rebuild some of our capabilities to act as a deterrent against future Russian action in the Baltic or even North Sea.

    as in the 30’s our defence assumptions assume a certain amount of time to prepare for the emergence of a major threat but if we ignore the warning signs as we did in the 30’s this time is lost.

    The government has to get out of the mindset of analysing the threat level every 5 years because A we are really s**t at predicting the future and B five years is a long time. Its only been 3 years since SDSR 2010 and almost all of its assumptions have changed.

  30. If you want to defend against Russia the option is simple.

    CSAD is removed completely from the negotiating table – it remains.

    You improve ASW defences around Faslane etc

    You purchase more Astute to protect the SSBNs and if there are any left to go after the Sov err Russian SSBNs.

    If you bang on about conventional forces the Russians will just look at you as if you’re not all there.

    Start prioritising nuclear warfighting and they listen, they listen because it’s what they’d do and it makes sense to them.

    I wonder if the CVF scrap metal could cover an Astute?

  31. @ Phil

    Nuclear war fighting is what the Russians do but its due to a position of weakness rather than strength. NATO forces require lengthy legal proceedings to put a hellfire missile in a village in Afghanistan. The thought if us glossing Moscow is laughable.

    Do you feel their is anything technically incredible about our current nuclear forces than we must spend more on them? Personally I see the only weak link in the chain as the political one.

  32. Nuclear war fighting is what the Russians do but its due to a position of weakness rather than strength.

    What does that matter? And why did the US field as large an arsenal? The Russians see peer to peer war as a battle to the death. Literally. It therefore makes perfect sense for them to fight with nuclear weapons – if the war isn’t worth firing nukes over it isn’t worth fighting NATO. By strengthening nuclear forces you are showing strength and resolve in Russian eyes. By toying with conventional forces you just get looked at curiously.

    Do you feel their is anything technically incredible about our current nuclear forces than we must spend more on them? Personally I see the only weak link in the chain as the political one.

    This represents the danger of mirror imaging. To Russians nuclear weapons were very expensive rounds of ammunition – having a few for show or deterrence was a stupid idea. You keep nuclear weapons to destroy the enemy. You therefore ensure you have enough rounds of ammunition to inflict such damage.

  33. Late to the discussion put a nice post Martin! i broadly agree with your points.

    Hopefully we will see some kind of MPA solution (although i’m not exactly holding my breath) in the nearish future. I don’t we are quite in need of them yet, but i agree things such as postponing Tornado’s retirement, standing up a 6th Typhoon squadron, procuring the Naval Strike Missile, more Lynx Wildcat’s and more T26 are all technically feasible possibilities if they were considered to be appropriate and affordable ways of increasing capability in the next 5-10 years.

    One thing i haven’t seen discussed is how feasible it would be to tinker with the service dates and production of SSN’s and SSBN’s.

    I’m with you in remaining unconvinced that the Vanguards couldn’t have a further life extension to take them significant;y beyond the current out of service dates. Maybe i’m wrong, but as you say the Ohio’s seem to be having longer life’s than we are projecting for our boats. Does anyone know how much it would cost to keep the Vanguards around until the 2030’s?

    If it were possible then we could fit another 1 or 2 Astute’s into the production schedule which i would strongly support.

    Also, putting aside the inevitable manpower problems for a second just how shagged out are the younger Trafalgar’s? HMS Tireless should have retired last year but is still soldiering on and more importantly their are suggestions that the recent refit of HMS Torbay has allowed her to remain in service for another 2-3 years past 2017. How much would it cost to do the same with the 4 remaining boats? Is it already intended?

  34. @ Observer

    I know that the lest three T boats are getting a bigger refit including the new sonar being fitted to astute . The last boat will leave service in 2022 and will be around 30 years old. This is when we will drop down to around 5 boats as the last astute will not come into service until around 2026.

    Certainly the US has managed to push the life of the LA’s out closer to 40 years so conceivably we could look to keep the T ‘s for a bit longer.

    in terms of the vanguards no one in the navy ever seems to have estimated their life based on the actual state of the vessels? Their vastly reduced life span seems to be theoretical and it has been. Vanguard begins her life extension in 2015 at a cost of £350 million. This is suppose to be a five year refit. I’m guessing if we want more we may need a refilling although Vanguards reactor is newer than her because it was replaced after the first five years. Moving the successor program forward by just four years would allow us to go back upto 9 astute and I can’t imagine that’s too difficult.

  35. @Martin

    Observer? I take it you mean me!

    I believe Astute 7 should commission in 2024 so hopefully the overall SSN force won’t drop below 6 boats. The long published OSD for the last Trafalgar has been 2022, but with several of the boats having even longer service life’s than refits were supposed to allow for we could maybe retire the last around 2024 or even slightly later instead, if only to keep the numbers up whilst the later Astute’s enter service. HMS Sceptre after all reached 32 (almost 33) years of service without any (at least known) major problems.

    It can become prohibitively expensive to sink hundreds of millions in keeping ageing systems going, but that’s only really the case if you have something else lined up as a replacement. It’s not a problem if someone thinks 7 Astute’s is a satisfactory number, but i believe 8 or 9 is where we should be aiming so id at least look into the viability and cost of further refitting the Vanguards to push their OSD back by roughly 5 more years (asking the USN for advice or help if needs be) thus allowing for 1-2 more Astute’s to be produced and 2-3 of the youngest Trafalgar’s kept around long enough to keep the force at a stable size.

  36. Interesting to look at those estimated gaps ( in years).

    Currently the show is kept on the road by longer tours ( x will advise the navy term, no doubt), and the nuclear safety side is undermanned by 30%.

    When we get to 2022 or so, there will be no strectch left that you can reasonably ask for.

  37. Government net debt is 83% of GDP in the UK, compared with 72% in Spain, 57% in Germany (or, to be fair, 84% in France, 103% in Italy). It’s not forecast to start falling relative to GDP until 2016/17, and then (a) only *very* slightly, and (b) based on current spending assumptions.
    Whoever wins the next election, I’d reckon they won’t have that much flexibility on total spending – the financial markets would react too badly if it looks like going beyond existing trends.

    83% of GDP is lower than it was for most of the last century. Look at this chart and stop worrying.

  38. @ a: Thank you. The chart neatly demonstrates the catastrophic effects of total war on a nation’s finances, although I’m not sure that’s quite what we were discussing.

    Leaving aside the cost of funding World Wars 1 and 2, I’ll still feel free, not exactly to worry, but to observe that a rapid increase in net debt during peacetime is a situation to be addressed.

  39. I am starting to worry that all my posts come through like three (?) hours later, so I am not really part of the conversation (Putin’s stooge, rather)
    – hard enough for me to find them upstream,?? Not to mention for anyone else to see, or read, them?

  40. Monty: what it actually demonstrates is that it’s possible for the UK to have strong growth, readily available debt financing from the bond markets and a generally healthy economy even with debt-to-GDP ratios twice what they are at the moment. What caused the high debt ratios in the first place is immaterial to this question. 90% debt-to-GDP isn’t, in itself, a reason to worry. Slow growth is a reason to worry – and slow growth is what you get if you bring in austerity policies in the middle of a depression because you think that the most important thing in the world is the deficit.

  41. @ a: That’s a debate between Keynesianism and monetarism that probably belongs on another forum.

    Perhaps it would help towards heading back loosely on topic just to point out that both main parties state their intention to reduce net debt over the lifetime of the next parliament. Events may well blow them off course, but I would still suggest that the likely appetite for a significant uplift in defence spending is very small in these circumstances.

  42. a. I would be a darned sight happier if UK debt was 57% of GDP like Germany, rather than the 83% now. If a major war came out of nowhere, we would hit the 150-200% World War debt far too quickly for my peace of mind. Watching Newsnight a few years ago, with the longterm predictions for UK pensions, left the BBC luvvies looking very worried. They realised that even if Ed Balls became president for life, it would be hard to pay that bill. Too many public sector workers retiring at 55-60. Well paid public sector workers on £100,000 pa + still depending on taxpayers paying their pensions. Frankly the higher paid public sector needs to fund its own pension pot, just as many in the private sector are having to do.
    0.7% GDP for foreign aid is looking more unwise. No other similar nation pays more than 0.5%. If we cut back to that, we would still be far more generous than most. A 0.1% boost for defence & another 0.1% for energy/transport infrastructure/grants to industry. Now that would help Britain.

  43. @John Hartley – Not all public sector pensions are tax-payer funded – Local Government certainly isn’t – mine cost me a lot of money over a thirty-year career!


  44. Just an idea. Why don’t we store old aircraft/vehicles permanently so if a major war does arise we can bring them back into service quickly. A while back I saw an article about how they used 3D printing to print parts for the Tornado to keep them running. They could use this 3D printing technology to keep old aircraft/vehicles well maintained and ready to go if they are needed in the future at a low cost. I understand that you can’t print an entire engine but you know what I mean… Just the odd part to keep the thing running.

  45. GNB. Are you sure? A heck of a lot of council tax goes into pensions. A public sector dinner lady, who works half the hours I do, will get a public sector pension more than twice my private sector pension, oh & she will get it five years earlier than I will. Look at the public sector pension projections for 20-30 years from now. Truly scary.

  46. @ JH

    So what? Public sector tend to get paid less in cash terms than private sector – one of the ways this discrepancy is reduced is the fact that our employers pay a hefty chunk of money into our pension pots. If you put as much of your money into a pension pot as public employer and employees contributions I’m sure you’d get a pretty decent pension.

    The dinner lady will be on minimum wage, with pension contributions from her employer of about 20% of that she’s really earning £7.20 an hour.

    It’s simply a matter of paying your workforce. I could move into the private sector and get a tasty cash pay increase but really I’m just swapping pension for cash up front.

    @ GNB

    JH is right, most of the money in pension funds (public) come from employer contributions but CTAX is a very small amount of any LAs income and also non-LA will pay into many of these funds (for example, Post-92 Universities and some public bodies not funded from CTAX).

  47. Compare the dinner lady to the guy stacking shelves in tesco and well see who’s better off, public sector needs a wake up call.

  48. It would be great if the above ideas were brought into the realms of reality but it is not going to happen. Until a Government realises that the Armde Forces are not a PR tool and the Defence Budget is not a “Piggy Bank” to be raided by the Treasury when extra cash needs to be found, our Armed Forces are going to keep shrinking with every SDSR.

    I agree we do have some excellent kit, but as I have repeatedly said, since the 1990s the MoD has concentrated on capabilities and not capacity at all levels. It allows the PR machine to tell the public that we can do this and we can do that, which is great for headlines, but they never reveal that we cannot to two at the same time or that it is very time limited.

    SDSR 2010 at least removed the chaff from the procurement budget and gave a clearer picture of where our Armed Forces stand, but gave little if any firm information on the future besides giving a rough description of FF2020, but even that has had its composition changed and changed again. Given the lack of new material for the Army’s restructuring I am beginning to get a strong feeling these new brigades will nto be fit for purpose and it would be better to not form brigades on a perment basis but have a pool of battalions and Battlegroup Headquarters at varing states of readiness from which unit could be picked for a particular operation.

    To fund new platforms the Army is going to have to retire exisiting ones. The Foxhound would be an excelent platform to motorise a number of light role infantry battalions in addition to the Mechanised battalions already planned that had used the old Saxon. I don’t think we should invest in re-equipping the Armoured Recce Regiments but rather combine them with exisiting motorised formations to creat a form of cavalry Regiment. We do not need regimental screening forces like those in the BAOR. We need squadron sized units integral in larger formations. Nowadays they are used more frequently as light armour.

    So a Cavalry Regiment would consist of a Headquarters, a Recce Squadron, 2 Infantry Companies, and a Light Armour Squadron. In additon it would have a integral SP Mortar Battery, a ISTAR Platoon and a Guided Weapons Platoon. The Recce Squadron would be equipped with a light, stealthy platform like the Dutch/German Fenec and would work closely with the ISTAR PLatoon. The Light Armour Squadron would have a platform with a medium calibre cannon such as that planned for the Warrior and FRES(SV) It would be backed up by the Guided Weapons Paltoon which would use the same platfrom but be armed with a Long Range weapon System such as Spike LR or a ground based Brimstone variant. The Infantry would be in a high mobility protected platform, possibly a variant of the Foxhound but armed with nothing heavier than a 12.7mm HMG. The Mortar Battery would use a version of the platform used by the infantry and other variant would be used by the Headquarters and ISTAR formations. The above formations would be the core of the Army in FF2020 in my plans. They would be supported by Lightweight indirect fire fomations using the M777, and Lightweight GMLRS and additional ISTAR and GBAD assets.

    The Army would retain 4 Armoured Infantry and 4 Armoured Regiment together with an enlarged Armoured Artillery Regiment with 3 Batteries of AS-90 and a third battery of GMLRS. Its forth battery would be GBAD. Logistics and Engineering formations will need to be highly flexible and able to support any formation put in the field.

    Finally Rotary aviation assets are going to be essential in the future more so than now, as smaller formations will need to control greater areas than they do now. The Army will need to upgrade its entire Apache AH1 fleet to full AH2 standard as a matter of the highest priority. In addition the Wildcat will need to adopt the armed scout/light attack role similar to how the US Army uses it OH-58Ds, but being a larger platform will also retain its utility fuction if need be. Troop lift will be provided as planned by the RAFs Chinook and Navy’s Merlin. The Puma HC2s should be handed over to a private contractor to provide training for units in the UK.

    The Roual Air Force in on the right path but must ensure it integrated all the required weapon systems with its new platforms. Additional Reapers should be purchased to insure sufficient numbers are available for deployment when needed and an additional 2 to 3 C-17 Glodemaster IIIs should be ordered whilst the procustion line is still open and these have proved invaluable in exisiting and past operations. Consideration should be gived to adding and IFR capability wourking with boeing as was done onthe E-3D Sentry and an in house lash job like that on the Nimrod should be avoided at all costs. Adding IFR to the C-17 would be a benefit to Boeing as many users do not curretnly have Tankers with a refueling boom.

    The NAvy is going to have the greatest problem meeting its commitments with its dwindling resources. Government PR is countring the lack of hulls by quoting the increased tonnage of the fleet being based in Portsmouth, mainly due to the new Carriers. Both of these must be brought into service with oune on reserve overhaul but available to be surged, much like what curretnly happens with the second Albion. As we will only ever have 6 T-45 DDG, equipping upto half of the planned T-26 FFG with ASTER tubes rather than basic CAAM Launchers as addition magazines for the T-45 to call on would seem a sensible idea and maybe cheaper than adding additional silos to the T-45. This would also entail integrating a co-operative engagement capability to the T-45 and T-26 but this sould be a priority for the Navy anyhow. Not having to fit additional Aster silos to the T-45 could also allow TLAM to be fitted which given the small number of SSNs we will have and the limited number of TLAMS each can carry would be a sound investment.

    Turning to the number of SSNs we will operate in the future, I would like to see the RN operate a fleet if Convnetionsl submarines. Curretn and planned designs od SS with AIP are extreemly capably and can deploy over long didtances with the RAN snding its Collins class boats to Hawaii on a regular basis. They are also significantly cheaper to purchase and operate and there are many designs to choose from. In fact the RAN are looking to replace its Collins class in the near future to would provide an oportunity for colaboration maybe linked to the T-26 for the RAN to replace their Perry class FFGs.

    Also of high importance in the need to ensure the RFA have the right assets to suppport the Carriers and ARG when deployed for extended periods. New tankers are in the pipeline but given the consumption of stores of all types by a Carrier conducting operations in a peacetime let alone at war we will need a new class of replenishment vessel.

    Finally Trident. I agree with the author that it should be possible to extend the lives of the Vanfguard SSBN. The Trident D-5s are not a problem as these are maintained by the USN and as they plan to retain the D-5 in their planned Ohio replacement as will we, our investment is purely in a class od new SSBNs. What I would suggest and it will depend greatly on how strong our relationship with the US is in the future, but a variant of their successor SSBN with british communications gear etc could be an option. Adding 3 or 4 addtional platforms to the USNs 12 would surely add cost savings. It would also open the way for joint developement of the successor to the Astute/Virginia class with the UK being a major subcontractor but as with the SSBNs final assembly would be in the US. For the small number of boats we order having full prduction in the UK is not cost effective. Being a partner/subcontractor would retain the experttise but the last submarines we exported were the 4 used Upholders to Canada. Building the Conventioanl boat could be an option and a way to retain additional skills.

    I could go on and on, but I feel passionately for our Armed Forces. If 2 major wars and the increasing threats developing have not stopped the reduction in the defence budget I do not know what will. Maybe it should be taken out of the hands of the Government and put in the hands of a permenent body. The Government would retain control of when and where the Armed Forces are committed but the independant body would match capabilities and CAPACITY to the Governments aspirations. If the bill is too high then the Government will have to curtail its aspirations. This will mean SDSRs will not be conducted by the Government but they would have imput along with the NSC, but again it wouild be regarding their aspirations as to when, where and how they see this countries Armed Forces being used, then paying for it. There would be a hard link betwwen the two and will prevent the current situation of increased commitments and diminishing resources, leading to an eventual balance.

    We live in hope, end of essay

  49. @Phil – true enough, but my real point was that the notion that “taxes pay government pensions” is only true for most public employees because taxes pay wages, from which quite hefty contributions are made to compulsory superannuation schemes…as you obviously know, because I’d guess you are currently paying in to one! On the public/private wages issue, you are bang on the money…but long experience suggests that nobody on the other side of the argument can ever be convinced, so I no longer bother to argue.

    I just arrange to get the pavement, road, lighting and sewers in front of their house removed and stop the bin collections…remove their children from school…chuck granny out of the old folks home…and add them to the “do not respond list” for 999 calls… :-)


  50. @ Lord Jim
    “Turning to the number of SSNs we will operate in the future, I would like to see the RN operate a fleet if convnetionsl submarines. Curretn and planned designs od SS with AIP are extreemly capably and can deploy over long didtances with the RAN snding its Collins class boats to Hawaii on a regular basis.”
    The issue is as with the Collins class replacement that if you build a SSK to have SSN like performance then the cost’s become very similar.
    “What I would suggest and it will depend greatly on how strong our relationship with the US is in the future, but a variant of their successor SSBN with british communications gear etc could be an option. Adding 3 or 4 addtional platforms to the USNs 12 would surely add cost savings.”
    The USN SSBX program is going to cost at least as much as the successor submarine program so I am not sure where we could save any money on this one.
    We already collaborate on reactor design and the missile compartments but beyond that not sure how much else we could do.

  51. My thinking is very much on the same lines as LJ’, so jusy a vouple of minor comments:
    – no need to contrast bde’s and BGs. Bringing the joint arms too low down in the structure will introduce rigidity, for the avoidance of which BGs as and when needed are a mechanism
    – Reapers are only any good in permissive environments, so 10 to allow for 3 continuous orbits to be tasked are plenty. I woiukd rather create a surveillance and tergeting (not armed) capability that could sustain at least 50% losses and keep delivering
    – we’ve had the SSK pros and cons many times, but Australia should go to their normal sjpplier as Navantia has a good AIP ocean-going design, and the pressure hulls would come from the UK anyway, regardless who orders them… Obviously not Spain for a little while, bcz of the fiscal situation.
    – there is a nice 3-way prgrm that might actually deliver (not just the boats, but measurable savings… Once more hull building and fitting out separation raising its ugly head?

    All of the things listed would probably fit into a restructuring cost envelope, exc. The reserve/surge CVF. Here is the gvmnt’s great chance to do some signalling to the rest of the world… That the UK will be part of world affairs also in the future.

  52. Man Power dependent I know but we should do the following immediately,

    Two extra Tranche 3 Typhoon Squadrons.

    4 More Daring Class, with enough of these permanently tasked with defense of the homeland.

    Enough of the Aegis Ashore System for at least some BMD capability.

    That should be easily enough to defend UK airspace.

    2 More Astutes rammed with cruise.

    Increase the spend on Cyber security and Satellite band Width.

    A major push on the Taranis project.

  53. SDSR 2015
    Trickle buy Tiffies while the Lines are still open and get an extra two squadrons of MK3,that way, flog off the MK1’s to someone (Malaysia, UAE?) who’s umming and ahhing on the price, GIVE EM A BARGAIN, and when we come to sell off moe life ex’s they can then have them!
    Get both carriers floating!
    Push back Sucsessor by a couple or five years build one more astute and Six Vidar SSK’s.
    Army has enough vehicles from UOR’s get them organised into fast moving Air deployable/Rapid reaction sea going forces, like our strategic raiding doctrine requires and buy more to make up the required no’s for each fleet dump the rest on someone else, (RAF Regiment, Scottish Army?) upgrade as many Warriors as possible, it may mean going wheeled in some places we really want tracks but beggars can’t be choosers, Walk!
    We’ve spent a fortune on Vehicles and there is a hellva lot about!
    Bugger MPA, I’m sick of hearing about it, put the six modern SSK’s to work on the Rustin, sorry Russian sub fleet and have done with it…

  54. Returning to my comments on where we should go regarding submarines. I agree that building a SS that is equal to an SSN would probably cost the same but that is not what I was intending. The latest German and Swedish designs provide highly effective and versatile platforms that can do many of the jobs an SSN does but at far less cost. They can deploy strategically hence my mention of the Collins deployment and are just as effective, in fact more so in coastal regions. We will probably only have at most 7 SSNs in the future yet need greater numbers so 6 to 8 SSs would allow the SSNs to be a first responder due to their higher transit speed over greater distances but many operations like in the Med would be more suited to conventional boats.

    The Collins class is actually a good example of how we could proceed. Fitting US electronics in a Swedish design did cause prblems but they are now very good boats. A future programme would probably be based on either a German, Spanish or Swedish design and here we can use the experience on the Austrailians who refitted not just the Collins calss but also the Oberons we provided earlier with US electronics and weapons systems.

    Moving to SSBNs building 16 as apposed to will create savings of scale whatever way you look at it. Yes they will be certain bespoke items but then again the US has never exported or co-operated on any SSN or SSBN programme before so it might be possible to actually use their system designs. That is why I mentioned whether our relationship with the US was strong enough. Also remender without US expertise the Astute programme would still be floundering. Also where as we have very limited production facilities, this is not a problem for the US. WE could however contribute by building sub-assemblies if we do not choose to build a class of SSs.

    As to number of Typhoon squadrons, I think five shold be enough depending on their size. Often overlooked at present is that in addional to a reduction in the number of fast jet squadrons inthe RAF there has also been a reduction in the number of aircraft per squadron with numbers as low as twelve. The remainder of the fleets are in storage and are often used as a source for spares. For deployment the RAF cheery picks the best airframes from the operational fleet which hides this fact somewhat. This will probably be the same for the F-35C when it comes on line, two frontline squadrons of twelve airframes each, eight to twelve in the US as part of the training and development programme and the rest in storage. This means that our deployabe assets in 2020 will be around 12 F-35Cs and 20 Typhoons. The ration for the F-35C will be greater as they will be more in the public spotlight and hence have greater funding.

    Regarding national BMD. This has long been placed in the “Nice to have” capabliity pile. People who are paid alot of money have done a risk assessment and have come to the conclusion that no nation state is going to lob a couple of missile at the UK. Conventional warheads would do little and have a major conventional response what Nuclear or Chemical would be replied in kind by Trident. As of now AQ does not possess IRBMs or ICBMs. Saying that have a BMD capability on our existing T-45s is a good idea in order that they can provide theatre BMD where the threat level would be significantly higher.

    Finally the Reserve CVF. Yes I strongly agree the decision on the future of the second CVF will be they major headline of the SDSR in 2015. Failure to bring it on line will show that all the Governments words over the last five years have been empty. Yes will not have sufficient platfroms to equip both ith full airwings but with Ocean leaving service the value of a second flat top in obvious. If additional F-35s are purchased to replace the remaining Tornadoes( unlikely) and so increasing the number of FJ squadrons, purchasing the C variant would allow two airwings to be formed in a time of need.

    Hopefully the curretn crisis in Ukraine with show the need for defence spending to be at least protected at curretn level but I have my doubt. What we must not do is believe that we need to reconfigure our Armed Forces back to the 1980s, focusing on land war in europe and so bringing back those capabilities at the expense of the global reach ones wewill have spent decades developing. We need to become SWAT as opposed to the local Bobby on the beat.

  55. @JL Wow that was some essay but at least most of it was written in plain English.

    I shall just answer your rotary points because “I know nothing” about the rest! Firstly Apache. Yes upgrade and keep numbers constant if the RAF can get away with 60 odd of their primary helicopter it would be frankly disgusting to ask them to drop any of these. Also increae marinisation and deployability (I.e. AAR).

    Wildcat If they can do as you suggested great. But if not invest in just a recce aircarft and sell the Wildcats back to the Navy. I’m talking OH-58s mast mounted optics ect with maybe 2 Hellfire. But with suitable modification you can get practically any cheap helicopter and stick this on. If you sell Wildcat though use excess money to get these recce helis and some light lift heavy such as A109 luh or even Bell 412. The navy WIldcats can then get on the back of frigs and destroyers where they belong in decent numbers (don’t most of our hangars fit two Wildcat?)

    Keep puma, what would be the point in yet another contract. Besides part of the training is learning how the RAF operate which you can only get from the RAF.

    Green Merlin we either need more or we need NH90, we need to replace Puma pretty soon in the aviation way of thinking. Having said that if the RAF would get off their high horse and start working seriously on plans to put some of there 60 (sixty!) chinooks into I dont know a theatre maybe by ship then that would be excellent. Having only 30 odd grey Merlin is p*ss poor when they are our only anti sub aviation. Convert the HM1s for crowsnest and maybe buy 5 more.

    People are looking at this thinking “wow there goes commonality.” Well to an extent yes but some of the engines are common and I would suggest this is what we need not common cabs. Wildcats a Naval helicopter so why the truck are the Army going to use it. Someone at MoD just needs to grow a pair! This should be in the commonality thread but anyway. SOmetimes commonality is a joke and it IS leading to major operational deficits. I would also suggest it does not always = value for money.

    A little while ago I asked when the shrinking of the number of airframes, tanks etc will stop. We could be too hasty here but I think it might actually be now!

  56. @ Lord Jim,

    I must have missed soemthing, when are we buying the F35c?

    also where should we build the 6-8 SSK’s. we only have one yard capable of building submarines and it is chock o block building SSN’s. The US proved a few years ago when trying to build SSK’s for Taiwan that once manufacturing capacity to build SSk’s is gone its very Difficult to get back.

  57. Martin, the point you make at the end is reinforced by the fact that Sweden has balked at the prospect of the new German owners of their SSK yard relegating it to the third league, building coastal subs of 1000 tonnage, as opposed to what the Swedes themselves need and where the world market is as well – at least twice bigger boats

    Watch for some acquisition/ divestment news to surface…

  58. Yep sorry about the F-35 B/C error. I think it was my sub-conscience taking over.

    Regarding building SSKs, well in my ideal world our Vanguard replacements along with the SSKs would be built or more accurately finally assembled by overseas yards with the UK building sun-assemblies. They would do this not just for the boats ordered by the UK but for all vessels of the relevent types being constructed. I know this is going to push the “Big Red Button” marked Sovereign Capability but we already have a very limited capacity to build submarines and because of the extended timeframes this adds to programme cost. However to burst this bubble we already do not have the capability to manufacture a large number of so called essential military items such as 95% of our ammunition and propellant charges.

    If Jobs are a political driver then retaining jobs and skill sets through either sub-assembly work for an overseas company or licenced producting of a overseas designs is fine by me. With the exception of military jets, how many large scale contracts have been won over the past decade. We are way behind the US, Russia, France and even China to name a few. The number of new complex platforms required by our Armed Forces are small. It will become increasingly expensive nad eventually unaffordable to manufacture bespoke hardware of them in house. Multinational projects ay allow some programmes to move forwards as they key cost driver is quantity. Of course the MoD will have to stop going for the bespoke Rolls Royce option, and severely limit the UK only content of many of its planned platforms to also keep a handle on costs.

    A programme that is highlighted by most of the above is going to be the T-26. Transferring systems form the retiring T-23s is a good start and also using systems from the T-45 such as the same engines, communtications gear, down to fictures and fitting in the messes and living quarters should also be seriously condidered. There should be little or no risk in the programme with minimal research and developement. So in sumary;

    -So we get the Radars, CAAM launchers, ASW Torpedo launchers and Sonar from the T-23.
    -As much hardware and software the same as the T-45 including Sylver launchers for those platforms not getting the Sonar to increase the available rounds when working with a T-45. Of course these can be filled with CAAM when operating solo.
    -127mm gun from Italy
    -Secondry guns from the US or Germany
    -CIWS from the US

    Also or import the platfrom must be plug and play to make the introduction of replacement hardware and software a simple task which can be accomplished during routine maintenance periods, both to keep costs down and availability numbers up.

    This is also why I am not a fan of the FRES(SV) programme as it currently stands. To be worthwhile the FRES(SV) family needs to also replace the Warrior and FV432 in all variants giving us one fleet of tracked medium AFVs. My personal preference would be to cancel the programme and purchase Fennecs or a Foxhound variant for the recce role and either Strikers or Boxers to equip our Armoured Infantry battalions and other formations such are the Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery. Both these platforms are now performing very well after initial problems and their operating costs are sunstantially less than their tracked relatives.

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