Defence for 2015 and Beyond – Part 10 Conclusion

A series of guest posts from AndyC

The UK’s armed forces have shrunk considerably since the end of the Cold War and this sometimes leads to criticism.  However, the nature and strength of the threat to the UK has also declined, by an even greater degree.

This paper argues for a sequential strategy for our defence posture.  First, we must prioritise the defence of the UK itself.  Second, is the security of our remaining sovereign territories.  Third, are our regional international obligations to NATO which also makes the UK itself more secure.  Fourth, is our desire to participate in global intervention in partnership with our allies and only finally comes global intervention by the UK acting alone.

When deciding on our defence posture and capabilities and managing a limited budget this sequential approach should determine where scarce resources are allocated in the 2015 SDSR.

Generally the current defence strategy meets the UK’s aspirations with the exception of a notable gap in anti-shipping and anti-submarine air power needed to protect our shipping lanes.  As this is a necessary part of the defence of the UK itself it should therefore warrant the highest priority.  It would also increase the security of any carrier group operating within 2,500 miles (and further with refuelling) of an RAF air base.

In conclusion, this report recommends the SDSR consider a number of changes to enhance our current defence capabilities, confirm current orders for procurement, propose areas for future development and outlines six major Options based on alternative financial scenarios.

1. Enhancing Our Current Defence Capability.

  • The Army should develop plans to maintain currently surplus Challenger 2 main battle tanks in storage for use by four Cavalry Regiments in the Adaptable Force
  • upgrade the Apache attack helicopter, potentially with the Brimstone 2 anti-armour missile
  • update the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle and
  • maintain any surplus Jackal, Mastiff, Foxhound and Husky vehicles in storage.
  • The Royal Navy should ensure that Merlin and Wildcat maritime helicopters can operate effectively in both an anti-submarine and anti-shipping role with dipping sonar, sonobuoys, torpedoes, FASGW/ANL and LMM.
  • The RAF should upgrade its Hawk T2s to operate Meteor BVRAAMs
  • store remaining Tornado GR4s at the USAF’s boneyard Air Force Base
  • merge smaller squadrons to save on management costs and
  • centralise its helicopter transport fleet.

2. Procurement Orders.

  • The Army should equip its Wildcat helicopters with LMM or Brimstone 2
  • introduce the Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to improve battlefield ISTAR and
  • the CAMM-L short-range SAM.
  • The Royal Navy will introduce two QE class aircraft carriers
  • fit the Sea Ceptor short-range SAM to frigates and destroyers
  • order three new patrol ships capable of operating helicopters and
  • receive its remaining Astute class attack submarines.
  • The RAF will receive its final tranche of Eurofighter Typhoons
  • 48 F-35B Lightning IIs
  • order a new long-range Maritime Patrol Aircraft, probably the P-8 Poseidon or Kawasaki P1
  • replace its remaining Hawk T1s with Meteor capable T2s
  • introduce the Meteor Beyond Visual Range AAM for the Typhoon, F-35B and Hawk T2
  • Brimstone 2 anti-armour missile for the Typhoon and Reaper UCAV
  • SPEAR medium-range cruise missile for the F-35B and
  • Joint Strike Missile for the F-35B, Typhoon and Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

3. Development Projects.

  • The Army will assess the effectiveness of the Fire Shadow loitering missile.
  • The Royal Navy will continue development of the Type 26 frigate and investigate the possibility of replacing its gun with Aster 30 SAMs to create a dedicated escort frigate
  • upgrade the Aster 30 long-range SAM for an ABM role and
  • start development of a replacement for the 15 Hunt and Sandown class minehunters.
  • The RAF will develop an Extended Range version of Storm Shadow
  • a more manoeuvrable version of ASRAAM to help with intercepting air-to-air missiles
  • evaluate the effectiveness of the Triton UAV and
  • continue development of a long-range stealth Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle.


Six Options

SDSR Option 1
British Army Maintain 24 Lynx AH9 or order 20 Reaper UCAV or 18 Apache AH and fully deploy the Scout SV and an infantry Utility Vehicle
Royal Navy Actively operate 2 QE class aircraft carriers
RAF Operate 15.66 combat squadrons at maximum operational effectiveness

Additional procurement includes 20 Reaper UCAVs or 18 Apache attack helicopters plus 600 Scout SVs, 1,700 UVs, 54 F-35Bs, 36 F-35As and 8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.  This Option would require either an increase in the defence budget, the Trident successor programme to be directly funded by the Treasury or for the future nuclear deterrent to be scaled down from its current level.


SDSR Option 2
British Army Fully deploy the Scout SV and an infantry UV
Royal Navy Actively operate 1 QE carrier and 1 helicopter carrier.  Mothball 2nd QE carrier
RAF Operate 15.66 combat squadrons with less spent on procurement

Additional procurement totals 600 Scout SVs, 1,700 UVs, 54 F-35Bs and 8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.  This Option provides the most capable combination of naval and air assets that are likely to be affordable within something similar to the current defence budget.


SDSR Option 3
British Army Fully deploy the Scout SV but only partially deploy the UV
Royal Navy Actively operate 1 QE carrier and 1 helicopter carrier.  Sell 2nd QE carrier.
RAF Operate 14.66 combat squadrons

Additional procurement totals 600 Scout SVs, 1,000 UVs, 35 F-35Bs and 8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.  This Option assumes that a buyer can be found for the 2nd QE class aircraft carrier.


SDSR Option 4
British Army Partially deploy both the Scout SV and UV
Royal Navy Actively operate 1 QE carrier.  Mothball 2nd QE carrier
RAF Operate 14.66 combat squadrons

Additional procurement totals 250 Scout SVs, 1,000 UVs, 54 F-35Bs and 8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.  This Option is the cheapest way of operating without selling the 2nd QE class aircraft carrier.


SDSR Option 5
British Army Retire 3 Infantry Battalions and partially deploy the Scout SV and UV
Royal Navy Actively operate 1 QE carrier.  Sell 2nd QE carrier
RAF Operate 13.66 combat squadrons

Additional procurement totals 250 Scout SVs, 850 UVs, 35 F-35Bs and 8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.  This Option assumes a small further cut in the defence budget.


SDSR Option 6
British Army Retire total of 6 Infantry Battalions and partially deploy the Scout SV and UV
Royal Navy Actively operate 1 QE carrier.  Sell 2nd QE carrier and 3 destroyers/frigates
RAF Operate 13.66 combat squadrons

Additional procurement totals 250 Scout SVs, 700 UVs and 16 Maritime Patrol Aircraft.  This Option assumes a larger cut in the defence budget.


The rest of the series

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – Defence of the United Kingdom

Part 3 – Other Sovereign Territories

Part 4 – NATO

Part 5 – A Southern or Middle Eastern Threat

Part 6 – An Eastern and Northern Threat

Part 7 – Global Intervention

Part 8 – British Army 2025

Part 9 – Royal Navy 2025

Part 10 – Royal Air Force 2025

Part 11 – Conclusion

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
July 13, 2014 8:01 am

i see you’ve done the kit part, but what about the threat? you don’t seem to have put a great deal about this large threat to the uk. i assume you think its russia?

July 13, 2014 8:16 am

Interesting work that doesn’t veer particularly far into the fantasy fleet area.

I think one thing it neglects though is the temporal dimension. Threats are dynamic, they wax and wane. How should our forces be structured to allow for flexing in the future? How do you put into place a structure that can be flexible enough to meet a threat which is at the moment undefined and might arise somewhere unexpected?

I think a nutshell (I’m going to do some military capitalisation so bare with me) we should organise and equip ourselves on the principle of FLEXIBILITY because the future is UNCERTAIN whilst always seeking INFLUENCE in coalition operations and being mindful of the boundaries imposed by TIME.

On a more philosophical level we must recognise that whilst the character of war may change, the nature of it (chaos, chance, luck, contingency, friction etc) does not. Thus the principles of waging war should be uppermost in our minds in any re-structure.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
July 14, 2014 7:07 am

One thing that should be considered inthe future is using the Overseas Aid Budget to help fund some types military operations and even equipement, if is going to continue to rise at the expense of other Goverment departments. I would rather see this than funding flashy cars and payning for schools in countries that have larger armed forces than ours but spend nothing to help their poor.

July 14, 2014 7:25 am

You need to stop seeing the overseas aid budget as a coveted pot of Gold. The theory behind its use, and the fact that it has been protected by law, makes perfectly good sense.

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
July 14, 2014 12:33 pm

@Phill, I agree – we shouldn’t cast our envious eyes over to DfID, that battle is done. “Simply” recast the force structure within the current limits, or offer an enhanced, costed option. Just as AndyC has done.

Peter Arundel
Peter Arundel
July 14, 2014 12:38 pm
July 14, 2014 1:30 pm

If you are being imaginative there are uses for the overseas aid budget that ( within its protections) could be used to ameliorate short comings in our defence budget.

You set up a specific non governmental organisation equiped ( using a portion of that 12 billion a year) with the following assets and staffing to support said assets.

1) strategic air lift, purcharse of a number of C17s, Air lift is always a requirement in international aid.
2) a number of medium lift helicopters ( Merlin’s from west lands) as Helicopters are fundamental in aid missions.
3) purchase and crew a hospital ship
4) purchase a number of sea lift vessels
5) purchase logistics vehicles ( whatever the army uses)

All the staff would be reservists

This would in a sneaky fashion:

1) support our ship building and helicopter manufacturing
2) give us lots of reservist pilots and crews trained on current kit
3) a whole bag of assets that can be taken into the armed forces if the world goes to S&£T.

We could call the NGO international rescue……


Think Defence
July 14, 2014 3:24 pm
Reply to  Jonathan

I don’t think there is anything wrong with the principle of Government provided overseas aid as a means of promoting prosperity which in turns improves security and stability for the UK but where it all goes a bit wobbly is the execution.

The harsh reality is we are borrowing money and paying interest in order to deliver against a arbitrary target that no one else meets in order to detoxify the Conservative Party.

There is a significant fraud and waste on projects of dubious value which discredits any notion of doing a good thing in order to assist our security and because, it is basically the right thing to do.

Don’t forget as well, even without DFiD, the UK is an extraordinarily generous nation when it comes to overseas aid.

Again, it is the execution that is the problem, not the general principle.

With regards to dual use capabilities, I think there is some mileage in exploring this, other nations do it and it would be a sensible approach given our supposed ‘comprehensive approach’ to security. What we would have to guard against is the MoD raiding DFiD’s cookie jar like it was some sort of end of the rainbow bonanza

But sensible load sharing, dual use capabilities and joining the upstream engagement theme with DFiD and the FCO would yield more than the sum of its parts

July 14, 2014 5:21 pm

Again, it is the execution that is the problem, not the general principle.

You can say that about any Government department though TD.

I think there’s scope for more focus in how the money is spent certainly. But salivating at it and fantasising about all its uses smacks to me of myopia. Besides, if you’re going to raid the pot there are arguably more worthy things to spend it on than on the MoD and services. Environment Agency and associated resilience structures would be my first place to spunk the cash.

Think Defence
July 14, 2014 5:32 pm
Reply to  Phil

I would cut DFiD in half and spend it on improving building energy standards and investment in nuclear fusion in a heartbeat, plus a million other things non MoD related besides, as you say, all likely to deliver greater security to the UK on a short, medium and long term basis that womens theatre groups in Somalia!

July 14, 2014 6:16 pm

Yes agree, resilient infrastructure is key, to our national security in the long run:

Energy, food and water security are fundamentals, if we don’t have those very secure,climate change is liable to be the biggest existential threat we face in the lifetime of our lovely new aircraft carriers.

With most of the national and international risk assessment floating the likelyhood of a more than 2 degree rise by the 2040s and a 4 degree rise by the end of the century we are looking at a rise in tensions around all three of the above area of security.

And we can’t forget that a 2 degree change in climate does increase the chance of the pentagons favourite ” abrupt climate change” with its all bets and any form of international cooperation are off; if you have it (food,water, energy) and can keep you live, if not your dead, outcome.

July 15, 2014 6:14 pm

I’m sorry if I looking stupid, but I don’t understand the meaning of your adaptable forces. What will be its mission and its equipment ?

July 15, 2014 6:33 pm

It is large pool of trained (in a general sense that is they are at a base level all soldiers) personnel who if pushed comes to shove can be trained (in a specific sense to use certain equipment in certain environments) and deployed where HMG needs them. In short it means HMG doesn’t have the money to give them a specific role and the equipment to perform it. All mounted in what the Army has going spare.

July 15, 2014 8:04 pm

“The RAF should upgrade its Hawk T2s to operate Meteor BVRAAMs”

The Hawk T2 doesn’t have a radar and is subsonic, it would be at best a point defence fighter and adding Meteor would be highly problematic. All this idea does is take money away from integrating weapons and systems on the F35B and Typhoon. For that matter you might not even be able to hang Meteor off the wing it is significantly heavier then an ASRAAM or Sidewinder.

“store remaining Tornado GR4s at the USAF’s boneyard Air Force Base”

What would the point of that be? All it would do is drain precious funding from other programs paying the Americans to keep some elderly strike bombers at AMARG. You also seem to be forgetting that once the type is retired the support and training streams will also be shut down. Actually they have already stopped training WSO so the crewing for the type is already in decline. This is a silly idea.

July 15, 2014 8:22 pm


I am not saying we should do it; but I was saying it can be done
ArmChairCivvy July 15, 2014 at 6:54 am
In Part 2

July 18, 2014 12:47 pm

They are spending money on it now to see it through to OSD, that doesn’t mean there is any particular desire to keep them longer then that.

Also skill fade is a quick thing so don’t expect a huge pool of people to call upon to get them going again in the future especially if the training and maintenance facilities are shut down. Actually for your plan to work we would have to keep maintenance and training facilities open at significant cost for a type sitting mothballed in the America desert, that money is far spent on F35B, Typhoon and UCAV.

July 20, 2014 8:07 am


I think the focus on the overseas aid budget forgets to address 1 question; How much of the cash is actually spend on things made/purchased and people in the UK, which are then used providing AID. The net cost is likely to be (at least) a bit smaller than it appears. Of course, the monies the MoD charges for Military support are also in the total spend already (I assume).

There is also quite a chunk of the budget (40 % in 2012) which is provided to EU/World Bank (2 largest recipients) to support multi-national projects lead by these organisations. This is probably going to be incurred regardless under our international commitments. It would be interesting to know just what this is actually spent on.

Dan Entwisle
Dan Entwisle
July 30, 2014 2:46 pm

@ThinkDefence, I like a lot of your thinking, but why spend money on upgrading Hawk with a front-line capability? It is another system/support network to pay for. It is a great training platform, but not necessarily a great fighter. (That said, in the past I think it was under developed by the UK. Hawks with Blue Fox/Vixen ASRAAM/AMRAAM Sea Eagle and Goshawk carrier capable bits may have been a great export to nations like Brazil and had it not been for that unpleasantness in 1982, Argentina.)

Totally agree about the anti-shipping role on RN helos. It has always seemed stupid that Merlin with its fantastic sensors doesn’t have the ability to take out something it can spot on the surface.
That leads to the question, why develop WildCat? If something should be binned, then it should be this. Not that it is a bad bit of kit. Merlin with an anti-surface role can more or less do all a WildCat can do, and more. Lynx made sense back in the 1970s when it was a massive upgrade from the Wasp but required to operate off small decks. Now everything helo capable in the fleet can take Merlin. I would sooner we ordered 20 or so new Merlin with air-to-sea weapons and the ability to plug in Crowsnest than a mixed force requiring a spares/support/training system that is more elaborate than it should be.
I know that leaves a question about green painted WildCats. Do we really need heavily armed tank killers in this role when we have Apache and a CAS role with Typhoon and Lightning? If it is something for the battlefield liaison role, can’t something from Eurocopter be bought/leased? I have to admit to not knowing too much about the army light helo requirement.

I also do not understand why we would want to develop a version of the T26 without a gun but with ASTOR. I like the idea of ASTOR and see it as an almost overlap with Sea Ceptor, but with the likely surface and air threat to RN ships in future being as diverse as a modern and clever anti-shipping missile that splits into two or three before impact to a couple of motivated blokes in a RHIB with a bit of weed killer, sugar, peroxide and a bag of nails, you really need a gun. Even if you just use it to shoot across someone’s bows, and that makes someone turn away, a gun really is a must have.

Mothballing the second QEC is probably no bad thing. Not desirable, but let’s face it, a lot of the time we will only have one able to task, with one going into refit, in refit, coming out of refit or working up. A situation requiring two fully-worked up carriers would be a grim scenario indeed. Operating one in the fixed-wing and LPH role will be a challenge, and will require new thinking, but we managed it with Hermes in 1982, so with a ship more than twice the size, actually designed for the job, it should be doable.

I hope one day you become Secretary of State for Defence!

The Other Chris
July 30, 2014 2:54 pm


The article is by AndyC.

Dan Entwisle
Dan Entwisle
July 30, 2014 3:14 pm

Ah sorry, my mistake.

July 30, 2014 5:46 pm

Entwisle – The Hawk 200 (single-seater) has F-16 derived radar and can handle AMRAAM (and probably Meteor with some software upgrades) on the outer wing pylons. With Sidewinders/ASRAAM on the wingtip, AMRAAM on the outer pylons and a 27mm Mauser cannon mounted internally (since the original plan for 2-25mm ADEN guns was nixed due to crappy guns) an updated Hawk 200 would make an excellent point defense aircraft. Drop tanks would allow significant time on station, or the inner pylons/centerline station could be used for more missiles. With Link 16, a non-radar equipped, armed Hawk T.2 could still launch the AMRAAM/Meteor after another system acquired the target. The capability is there. The only problem is that it was developed for export only.