Use it or lose it

USAF C-17 Globemaster III aircraft airdrops humanitarian aid into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and surrounding areas Jan. 18, 2010

I am always thinking about the detailed series after next.

FRES is taking up pretty much most of my time at the minute and after that I am thinking of looking at an air themed version of the sea based logistics series but one of the things I want to look at some time in the near future is the concept of capabilities that are used infrequently but absorb huge quantities of cash.

A common argument when discussing this is to ask when the last time the RAF shot down an enemy aircraft or the Royal Navy sunk an enemy submarine.

They are entirely valid questions to ask because maintaining anti submarine and anti air capabilities is eye wateringly pant wetting expensive.

It also draws funding from things we seem to use on a regular basis, across all three services before anyone gets the notion that this is some inter service pissing contest.

On the flip side, the consequence of not having them when you need them, however infrequent, can be significant.

Without the ability to shoot down an enemy fighter or sink a submarine the impact to operational success would be very high, however low the likelihood of the need occurring in the first place. Anyone familiar with Nasim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan theories will understand the need to prepare for low probability high impact disruption, but how much preparation is sensible.

There is no doubt that the British Armed Forces approach this from the perspective of preparing for high intensity state on state war will be sufficient for anything else but history has shown us this is not the case.

And yet much of the underpinning work on the Land Operating Concept (for example) recognises that just because you can batter the Third Shock Army does not mean you can defeat a complex insurgency.

All three services have no doubt whatsoever sought to maintain high end capabilities but is it time to look again and ask a serious question about risk, likelihood and impacts to the most likely operations?

Outcomes from Iraq and Afghanistan might suggest it is a serious question worth asking.

We should also note that the past is not always the best indicator for the future.

So, in preparation my question to you is…

What capabilities and equipments have we not actually used a great deal in the last 30-40 years

And is it time to cull those sacred cows?

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