Use it or lose it

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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July 8, 2014 12:12 pm

Depends what you mean by use, just because the RN has not sunk a submarine it does not mean that the capability is not being used everyday to track potentially hostile submarines.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 12:30 pm

I think the phrase is “honour the threat”. The presence of certain capabilities, deters and minimises certain threats.
What do all the following countries have in common?Algeria,Argentina,Brazil,Chile,Colombia,Ecuador,Egypt,India,Indonesia,Iran,Malaysia,N Korea,Pakistan,PRC,Peru,Russia,Venezuela and Vietnam.
They all operate or are about to operate SSKs.

July 8, 2014 12:31 pm


My point was that use is not just killing things. The most important thing Armed Forces do is provide power- actually fighting wars is a different matter. Something like AAW or Air Defence may be in use all day every day, its just they never actually sink anything or shoot anything down, but they will play a key part in how the Forces are used.

July 8, 2014 12:38 pm

In the end it would be our long term (longer than a Parliament, it would need cross party consensus ) Foreign Policy that decides ‘what we need’ .
Do we take part in ‘other peoples wars’ ? (Syria)
Do we step in when innocents are at risk (Rwanda/Bosnia) ? Do we step in on behalf of Commonwealth Nations (Belize) – I think we have a legal obligation regarding Commonwealth Nations ? We have signed many Treaties over the years with many Nations/Organisations to promising various levels of support. This policy would shape what we need to achieve.
We could dismiss various weapons as being no longer valid as we have blown anyone up with them for simply ages but it does not mean they do not provide aspects of our force projection that a potential adversary has to counter/plan against.
Some would argue that we have new weapons that have superseded old ones ,like the Battleship being outmoded by the Fleet Carrier , but sustaining a variety of options and the skills to use them gives the enemy something to think about and your commanders flexibility in tactics.
In these days of limited budgets I think we need to maintain a broad spectrum skill set and the equipment to use them but we need to be strong some where , the Navy looks like it will be them.

July 8, 2014 12:58 pm

The problem with sacred cows us that most of the time it looks* like you don’t need them, but when you need them you REALLY need them. This is the nature of an insurance policy which, in this context is ASW frigates/SSN’s and air superiority fighters that only have marginal bomber capability as a tranche 3 afterthought.

*but they are not idle, even when not smashing Soviet-era military might. The value to the UK of defence diplomacy should not be underestimated. Nations across the globe send personnel to attend Perisher, or on exchange to a squadron where they’ll practice the dogfighting skills which the USAF abandoned, to its cost, prior to Vietnam. And in turn we learn about them… which is invaluable.

And then there is the UK’s contribution to international military exercises as well as the political leverage gained during war time.

One obvious suggestion might be to cull the sacred cows down to the minimum, but then other problems arise, such as personnell. In a fleet of, say, 3 or 4 SSNs we would start to see problemswith recruiting and retaining… and renewing… the skills and people. The cadres Iif cutting edge capability would become career dead ends, and consequently would lose their edge. It’s happened before.

You either do it right, or you don’t bother.

July 8, 2014 1:25 pm

It is also worth considering the question of whether it is a capability that is used, i.e. not necessarily by us. For example, shooting down hostile aircraft:
– There were quite a few aircraft shot down by allies in the Gulf, Balkans etc…
– In the Falklands, the RN did their fair share.

Basically, just because it’s not the RAF who wind up taking the shots, doesn’t mean it’s no longer needed. We’d be a pretty useless coalition partner if we can’t cope with any enemy air power without someone else doing it for us! Their help is appreciated, but is not always going to be there in future.

For the ASW role, I would argue that it should probably pass to the Fleet Air Arm, who have plenty of reason to care about getting the job done.
There is no point, for example, trying to have a nuclear deterrent if we can’t protect them on the way out. If the Russians can just sit offshore in an Akula and sink the Vanguard on its way out to patrol, then it’s a pretty half-arsed deterrent!

On the subject of maritime patrol, I’d love to see the SC-130J bought, along with some of the new family of modular Hercs! I recently found this: (fingers crossed this link works)

It’s a French concept for using their modest fleet of C-130s as ad hoc bombers, much like their use of ATL-2s over Mali. It basically replaces the inner fuel tank (by the looks of it) with a special pylon, carrying a laser designator pod and five GBU-12s. Since many newer C-130Js are already being fitted with a FLIR turret, it isn’t outwith the realms of possibility to switch to a turret with a designator built in. As such, you’d not need the LDP on the pylon, potentially adding a sixth GBU! That’s per side potentially, fuel permitting…

Given the availability of new podded and palletised specialist modules, it actually makes maintaining highly specialist aircraft more viable. For example, in the past, there was no chance that we’d be able to get an AC-130, or an EC-130 SIGINT or jammer. Now, with these podded bolt-on systems, we can field a much more affordable yet flexible force. We can have more kits than airframes forward based, meaning that we could temporarily have half a dozen gunships one day, and then surveillance and transports the next!

The other benefit is that you can separate out the flight crew from the mission crew. This means you can train the mission crew largely on the ground; simultaneously, the flight crews can train on a £70m Herc, not a £250m surveillance plane! Less risk of crashing your hugely expensive equipment is always a positive…

July 8, 2014 1:37 pm

The problem with this debate is that it ignores the reciprocal nature between your strategy and that of the enemy. For example in the war of 1812 the Americans did not build 1st rate men of war because they knew that the British had a large number of 1st to 3rd rate ships. So instead they build heavy frigates. So the British turned up with 3rd rate ships and medium frigates. The Americans then adopted commerce raiding as a tactic and where highly successful as the British frigates, when they caught up with the Americans, where outgunned by the heavier American ships. This prompted a shocked British public to demand the construction of their own heavy frigates in order to take down the Americans.
To say that the British should have realized the Americans would adopt this strategy and built heavy frigates in the first place is to misunderstand the reciprocal nature of the strategy. The only reason the Americans built the frigates to the size that they did was that the British did not have them. Had the British built heavy frigates in the beginning the Americans would have used a different strategy.
Before World War 2 the Germany navy concentrated on building commerce raiders and submarines with a few battle ships thrown in for national pride. Why did they do this? Because the British strategy of a large battle fleet meant they could not hope to defeat them in a open battle at sea. Did this mean that the British where wrong to build a fleet in the first place, and instead should of just build a large fleet of ASW destroyers? No because had they done this the Germans would have built a surface fleet that could challenge the British.
At the moment we have debate between whether we need cold war style heavy armour or COIN orientated infantry. What we ignore is that the threats we face in the future will be based on the decisions we make now. If we build our forces heavy then the enemy will use insurgent type tactics against us, if we make them light they will build up their conventional forces and we will never be able to deploy in the first place.
What we have to remember is that we are not making a sensible decision about what we need to meet the current threat, but that we are in a reciprocal relationship with our enemies. Going to a COIN orientated army now is not necessarily a bad thing, but a strategic thinking needs to take into account that our enemies will react to our decision to go to a COIN orientated Army. Our long term strategy has to take this into account.
What this means at the moment is that it is the norm for our strongest assets to be of no use precisely because the enemy will do whatever it can to avoid them. So after every war we will look at our most prized and expensive kit and tell ourselves it was useless. But the reality is that its use was to deny a tactic to the enemy.
So when it comes to, for example keeping the MBT, we should not ask ourselves is this bit of kit ever likely to destroy hordes of enemy battle tanks, but instead ask does getting rid of this kit have some effect on how the enemy are going to face us, is it going to encourage them to build their own tanks (or buy them from china) and take us on, and if they do so are we going to be able to react in some way to counter that threat?
Or maybe we should do something radically different from what the rest of Europe and America are doing because our enemies our going to have to plan for them too and cannot do both?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
July 8, 2014 1:49 pm

One needs to compare HM armed forces to other states forces. Why is it always us talking about belittling ourselves?

One may well ask why does Switzerland have tanks, for example. Who knows what threats we face in the years to come? If state on state warfare is one of them we need to be prepared.

And yes we can afford it before the left start bleating!

As a major military nation the UK should have these capabilities. End of.
Speak softly, and carry a big stick.

July 8, 2014 1:53 pm

DM – agreed.

July 8, 2014 2:13 pm

Isn’t part of the problem that (publically at least) we don’t have any “enemies” we could end up fighting against in a realistic (10 to 15 year) window and post Iraq/Afghanistan there is no public (and majority political) interest in failed state intervention right now (and probably not for the next 5 to 10 years)..

It therefore makes political “sense” to cut defence spending to maintain spending which might get you re-elected in the 5 year election cycle that modern politicians care about. The problem is that this isn’t a virtuous circle and defence spending growth can only be reinstated once there is a public justification to do so (“threats” – Does any one seriously believe ISIS and a couple of hundred of UK jihadi’s is anything more than a police matter).

Everything seems to imply 2 % GDP limit being the base level for the foreseeable future.

Rocket Banana
July 8, 2014 2:22 pm

On a simplistic level…

The chance of your home being burgled in this country is about 1 in 35 (call it 3%). The average loss comes to about £600 (yup, that’s all). So you could say that you expected yearly loss due to burglary is 3% of £600 = £18.

Obviously you have to add the effect of violent entry to the equation and a whole host of other things.

However, you can reasonably suggest that spending £18 a year on anti-theft measures is a reasonable investment. If you then buy a door that is advertised as having a 50 year life you could spend £900 on it and its locks, etc (or £450 on front and back doors). Or just £900 on an alarm system. Or pay £900 on a 50-year contents insurance policy and don’t bother with a door at all!

If you do this on the UK with a £1t “turnover” per year and a chance of a nuclear attack at 0.1% it is perfectly reasonable to spend £1b each year on Trident (£30b over the course of a 30 year life).

It makes no difference if it gets used or not. It is an insurance policy because the cost of the unforseen happening is just too big to bare. You can also go for the old statistics silliness that if it hasn’t happened for a while it’s even more likely to happen soon.

July 8, 2014 2:47 pm

Regarding your timescales of 5 to 10 years I couldn’t agree more , the publics appetite towards intervention that could lead to a long term boots on ground COIN is very limited. In the time scale mentioned we will have reshaped our armed forces equipment , the CVF’s , T45’s , T26’s ,F35B’s , Tranche III Typhoon, A400M’s , LEP Challenger 2 and maybe we will have the New big green boxes by then :-)
The US is going to get evermore Pacific Rim orientated with Europe ‘getting their backs’ and looking after themselves. A return to a 1930’s type focus is developing with Europe exiting a depression having to look after itself (a much lesser extent I grant you) and a cash strapped USA feeling compelled to once again look across to the Pacific to what it sees as a growing threat , this time in defence of Japan/Korea not against them. This a very simplistic view I know but it takes a long time to re-equip not only due to technical challenges but to spread the cost over several years to keep the public happy.

Rocket Banana
July 8, 2014 2:59 pm


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

I think we should also ask which capabilities need we actually need to use rather than use them so that we had an excuse to keep them.

July 8, 2014 3:09 pm

Nick – perhaps worth remembering Turkey is a member of NATO with all the mutual support guarantees that brings. Its southern border is at risk of becoming the ISIS front line. Its eastern border is with Iran and its northern shore faces the Ukraine, Crimea and Russia. Not the most comfortable place to sit. Estonia Latvia and Lithuania are each NATO members, as are Poland Slovakia Hungary and Romania, all bordering Russia. For the moment Russia shows no hostility to the West but if tempers flared NATO would be on the front line from day one. Looking further afield if Australia and New Zealand were under threat from Asian militaristic states then even though there is no formal military alliance agreement, I don’t doubt HM Forces assistance would be offered. And we have just signed up to a defence cooperation agreement with Japan; limited to cooperation on development of defence equipment as it stands, but a foot in the doorway suggesting security of each is important to the other. So lots of links to states around the world any of which might become an emergency needing military assistance.

July 8, 2014 3:14 pm

@monkey RE”USA feeling compelled to once again look across to the Pacific to what it sees as a growing threat , this time in defence of Japan/Korea not against them. This a very simplistic view I know but it takes a long time to re-equip ”
– never looked at the analysis how Roosevelt, Marshall and King(?) arrived at the”Europe First” decision When I say analysis, I don’t mean the record given by the great salesman promoting it
– could it have been so simple that you can kit out a mln-man army and churn out planes by the hundred thousand faster than raise a meaningful number of carriers, not just the hulls but everything that goes with it (while the”trainers” were kept busy and were. Not readily available)

July 8, 2014 3:25 pm

Well, you could apply the argument used by the deterrent – in an odd curve ball sorta way.

Since we really haven’t used it, means its done its job?
Part of the point of weapons, be it a Fighter aircraft, sub hunter or even a soldier, is to hope you’ll never need them…

You can’t really have the ability and system on a part time basis, or generate them quickly when the need arises… you could have the ‘skeleton’ of the system in place, ready to be shored up by rapid reinforcement… but that didn’t turn out too well for the US Army in Korea and Vietnam for troops, doubt it would happen well for the arguably more complex ships/aircraft.

But it is wonderfully ironic that the RAF has done the recent ship sinking, whilst the RN done most of the recent airborne aircraft destroying :D

July 8, 2014 3:51 pm

Surely the reason many of those capabilities are not used is our overwhelming superiority in using them. if western forces had no ASW then all sadam needed to deafeat us in 1991 or 2003 would be a couple of SSK’s.

An enemy will always attack you where you are weakest not much point in having armed forces if they can be defeated.

The job of our amred force should always be to conduct peer or peer warfare. Its fine to use then for other areas such as anti piracy and COIN but they should not built around such a mission.

July 8, 2014 4:10 pm

There is the counter argument, that of deterrent. That an effective defence mechanism SHOULD mean we don’t need to actually pull the trigger – in its absence, the threat may well go ‘live’. The Falklands war is the prime example of withdrawing a capability (or intent) and then having the threat it was meant to deter become realised. Of course we have never used the nuclear deterrent, but that is probably not an augment for scrapping it.

I suppose the old fashioned point I’m making is that we need to assess the current and future threat to determine what we require, not analyse historical usage.

The Other Chris
July 8, 2014 4:20 pm

Deterrent meaning more than just CASD.

Can you consider all items on the Defence list a deterrent and therefore in continual use, with varying effectiveness?


What do we have in the wonderfully new climate controlled mothball facilities?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 8, 2014 4:29 pm

Lets try flipping this a bit.

If you wanted to concentrate on the defence of the UK, you could argue that the absolute minimum requirement is :

Air defence (fast jets and AEW)
MCM (clear ports)
OPV (enforce sovereignty over territorial waters)
infantry, indirect fire and potentially SH for tactical mobility against some putative SF threat

But then you get to when there is an active threat to the country, which basically means :

Protection of shipping (ASW, ASuW and maritime AAW)
Prosecution of any invasion threat to UK (Subs, Fast jets, SSBN?)
Ability to repel an invading force (more infantry, more indirect fire)

So thus far we’ve got to have some fast jets for air defence of the UK
AEW ditto
Tupperware tubs and OPVs
17th Foot & Mouth, some arty of some description and some Wokkas, probably Apache as well
Frigates & probably Merlin & MPA (ASW)
Submarines (ASuW) – jets if we ever decide to integrate an anti-ship weapon
SSBN if we’re serious
Depending on what the threat is – organic maritime air for convoy defence outside 200nm, which means carriers of some description and probably T45

What we don’t need are :
Sea Based Logistics (17P&M)
Any form of military AT
Depending on FJ numbers, no AAR either.

Arguably, the reason for “failure” in Iraq and potentially on Herrick is less to do with kit prioritsation and more to do with :

Trying to impose liberal western democracy in places that aren’t receptive to it
Failure to maintain and commit enough manpower resources to cover the AoR
Absence of political intestinal fortitude

All bar the last of which are irrelevant to the defence of the UK.

July 8, 2014 4:30 pm

What else do we need? Fictively, I added numbers to the rows of the list:
Aircraft Carriers
Air to air

1 & 2
We go and show our displeasure by breaking the windows of thoxe we do not like (with our guineas, as we are speaking of carriers and stealth jets). Should they happen to be pirates, we land a RM raiding party and burn their village. If they are more than pirates, we take AAW along (packing more missiles than for Libya), so that covers n:o 5.

Shutting the Straits will hurt China more than us, so we delegate that to them. The US 5th and 7th Fleets are coming under a single command structure, so there will be enough of units to swing to the Gulc if it needs setting on fire again… So the subs and other forms of ASW can be kept closer to home, to secure other important trade routes and choke points.

A2A? The tiffies will last as long as the Russians can keep the Bears in the air; both will be retired at the same time.

Ahh, we do need the TA as the gvmnt has cut spending on flood defences. Shhimples? cheers, Tom (The Cat)

July 8, 2014 4:35 pm


Stop asking nasty questions.

The problem with this debate is that it ignores the reciprocal nature between your strategy and that of the enemy.

This x1000.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 4:39 pm

This is a classic case of it is impossible to prove a negative so IMHO you have to honour the threat posed by the capabilities of those you may one day have a “disagreement with”.

July 8, 2014 4:41 pm

You could go to the extreme. Look at threats now and in the next five years.

Delete all capabilities that could be re-generated from scratch in five years. Downscale all other peer capabilities to cadre status (including the mothballing of most of the fleet) and then keep a QRA for the RAF, an Irish type Army and some sloops for presence work / drug busting.

July 8, 2014 5:13 pm

The US is going to get evermore Pacific Rim orientated

I would be entirely behind a UK defence strategy that centred around giant robots punching things in the face.

Serious note: CBRN? The most recent British soldier to be attacked with chemical weapons probably died, some years ago, of old age in his late nineties.

July 8, 2014 5:25 pm

The last few posts point to the question when sorting through capabilities we want and dont, its what is our role as a country,- not only what we want to do, but what we can afford to do. At one end of the spectrum, there is a switzerland home defence role which is attached a certain list of capabilities and kit… the US at the other extreme end. UK looks at the moment to be stuck…wanting to do lots of things with money that doesnt match, hence the carriers with no planes, the fitted for but without, army increasingly made up of part time reserves etc etc. As a country, we need to be clear about what we will spend and what role and associated capabilities fits this, not the other way around. As far as I can see this isnt happening.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 8, 2014 5:54 pm


Do we really need over 150 fighter aircraft? If you want to maintain the capability to police your own airspace and that of your dependent territories whilst contributing to International ops like Libya then Yes you do,

do we really need an amphibious capability? Possibly the most interesting one, as it is a niche capability, my question would be at what level.

do we really need T26/Merlin? Unless you want to be unable to do nothing about pissant little country with 2 SSKs then yes you do.

do we need an armoured division? If you want to be able to participate in a conventional conflict like GW2 then you do.

As you can see by my answers your question cannot be answered in isolation as cutting back on the things you talk about fundamentally changes not just our military capabilities but also our entire place in the world and would have to be combined with a huge change in foreign policy as well. Not to mention the inevitable reaction by those that do not like us very much.
It is far more complex than just looking at kit and how often we “use” it.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 8, 2014 5:56 pm

“Or could we cut back on the high end but rarely used and boost the lower end but more often used, that is the crux of the question because as history shows, having the high end kit for state on state conflict does not in any way guarantee you success in the more frequent but less intensity operations”

Or we stop doing the “more often used” stuff altogether, which basically means not putting our boots on other peoples ground for sustained periods…….

July 8, 2014 5:59 pm

The US is going to get evermore Pacific Rim orientated

Wishful thinking. The World Island drags them back every time.

The Pacific “pivot” is a masturbatory wet dream by AirSea Battle proponents who want to see the Island Hopping Campaign relived. Civilian and military. The Russians get it. Worries me that the US doesn’t want to get it.

July 8, 2014 6:59 pm

The only place where I can see slack at the high end is fast jets, and even then not in the long term. So,
– hangar the upgradeable Tiffies and run the eaRlier ones to ground to keep flight hours up and the couple of jets at the ready, in three locations, say six to have two just missing the pilots from cockpit.
– so eighteen, plus those in deep maintenance… The rest must be mainlky two seaters anyway?

Come 2018, Tornados go, the shiny Tiffies reappear, by now with Meteor and proper A2G. Fast forward to 2020 and some of the F35s start to be used off a carrier.

That is/ would be all fine. I was quite worried to hear someone mention a rumour that the ISTAR fleet might be under threat again? With such a small ground army (deployable part), proper networking in which ISTAR – not necessarily all our own – makes for the sharp (compensates for numbers). Well, in my books at least.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 8, 2014 7:00 pm

TD Are we using the low end more, because that’s all the politicians will pay to deploy? Would we have fewer body bags on our side, if we could rain down with the higher end stuff on our enemies?

The Other Chris
July 8, 2014 7:06 pm

Think that one resurfaced at the same time as the MH370 > Cheeki Rafiki > MPA Clamour > Q400 Announcement / simultaneous P-8A AAS Testing press releases.

EDIT: Omitted that Unified Vision 2014 also happened around the same period with the Global Hawk overflying Europe/UK for NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) assistance.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 8, 2014 7:54 pm

…we have a moat which would give us sufficient time to work up the Crown Militia provided it is adequately patrolled we therefore need ships and fast jets…but not a full-time Army. :-(

…both the RAF and Navy have operated fast jets, but only the Navy has ships, so we can dispense with the RAF. :-(

…by great good fortune, the Navy also has Royal Marines so we can garrison and patrol the BOT’s as well as protecting the UK proper. :-)

…furthermore, given a few more Royal Marines we can still do unavoidable door-kicking, but avoid the temptation of COIN. :-) :-)

…and if we tripled the Navy from the savings achieved by laying up the colours and grounding the squadrons, we could still do pretty serious stand-off arse-kicking and make savings…and all without losing the high-tech industry associated with building warships and fast jets! :-) :-) :-)

What’s not to like?


July 8, 2014 7:57 pm

Arctic warfare training? Other than the russians pretty much all of the likely threats seem to be in tropical, desert or temperate climates.. It’s already quite a limited capability but why not drop all pretense of being able to do it?


Hydrographic ships? The survey work they do is important, and the capability we have is brilliant, but is it essential to use military personnel? Would contracting it out or running the same ships under the RFA work?

Fisheries Protection?

July 8, 2014 7:59 pm

GNB – what’s not to like? Not enough really cool High Mobility Armoured Green Vehicles, that’s what!

July 8, 2014 8:13 pm

‘Arctic warfare training’
Read cold weather training , have you been to eastern Europe in Winter ? Or just flow over it ? Also any mountainous region of the world get f**king cold in winter for that matter. What did Uncle Joe say in the as now the winter of 1942 approached , ” And now we have a new ally General Winter ”
We just need a UK version of the USMC but crewing their own ships , say the UKMC :-)

July 8, 2014 8:16 pm

If you don’t have control of the air be it on land or sea you lose. I don’t think there has ever been a military victory by a nation who did not control the air. I would also argue if you don’t control under the sea then everything is a target. I would say we probably don’t need so many onion layers of high end kit.

Do we need lots of high end fighter, high end long range surface to air missile, short range missiles and very expensive black magic. When all though lots of nations own missiles or fighters they have rarely more than 50. Like wise do we need high end mpa, high end asw helicopter, high end asw frigate, high end ssn when although lots of nations may have submarines nearly all have less than 5 and less still operational?

It is highly unlikely we will conduct any operation without some form off coalition, so offering niche capabilities to enable operations rather than mass allowing minimal deployed footprint in all but the most extreme situation would seem prudent. So I would keep subs, carriers and air to air.

July 8, 2014 8:38 pm

TD asks us to choose capabilities, which means choosing a role as a country, there isnt way around this…
If we dont connect capabilities = role= spend, then you get yourselves into things you cannot cope with.
The elephant is the room is our spend isnt maintaining capabilities, whilst world role remains unchanged.
It just creates the symptoms in the dilemmas that TD is pointing to.

July 8, 2014 8:51 pm


We don’t have the luxury of choosing a “role”.

We remain as globally engaged and interdependent as the days of Empire.

Our role, if we can be said to have one, is on the world stage whether we like it or not. If you don’t want to have interests spread across the world then I give you North Korea.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 8, 2014 9:07 pm

– do you actually own North Korea? You are Kim Jong-un and I claim my fifty quid! :-)


July 8, 2014 9:12 pm

I come here to ease the ronneriness

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 8, 2014 9:25 pm

@ KJU – like the rest of us then…


Red Trousers
Red Trousers
July 8, 2014 10:51 pm

I really really really want to lose the RAF Regiment, but not as much as I want to lose RAF Movers into a personal pit of acid and unending pain.

Honestly, what function do the RAF Regiment actually perform than is not done 10 times more competently by line Infantry? Apart from the queer mincing of the Colour Squadron, which is curious, forgettable, and unnecessary.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
July 8, 2014 11:29 pm

I would not lose a thing.

The priority for me is keeping capabilities. Cuts in numbers, which I’m against, must also be measured against other nations cuts and capabilities.

For all the moans, for example, just how many nations have an SSN force like ours? Even a mere 7 boats. Name them.
Name me the nations who will still be bale to deploy 30000 troops. Proper troops I mean, with proper western military training, not some tinpot Middle East state with numbers and no idea how to use it.
I could name plenty of capabilities we are still relevant in, despite the cuts.

This all boils down to shall we withdraw from the P5, withdraw from the G8, not be a major economic nation? Removing the things that TD suggests would certainly sign our death warrant on the world stage.
Is that what you all want? I despair if that is so. Other countries with forward thinking and designs on being somebody on the world stage will be only too willing to take Britain’s place.

I agree with Phil. We are globally engaged, our old empire sees to that.
English is the language of Science, the language of Air traffic, widely spoken, we have cultural, political, military and social links worldwide, are a P5 and G8 member, a nuclear power, part of the 5 eyes Sigint alliance, and I believe on the board of the IMF and other major political bodies.

Please explain again why we need to get rid of most of our gold standard kit? If the UK wants to turn inwards on itself all we need is the police, a coastguard and some soldiers. Who is going to attack us at the moment? Shades of Munich all over again. We could all save a fortune, and be nobody at all.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
July 8, 2014 11:42 pm

Things to cut? So much has been cut repeatedly.

Even the Bands have been cut several times, what else is there to cut?

Maybe their HQ at Kneller Hall?
Amport House, Andover.
Duke of Yorks School.
Queen Victoria School.
Does MoD have any more Radio Spectrum it could sell?
Hyde Park Barracks must be worth a mint.

July 9, 2014 4:08 am

I think that we cannot afford to cut anything else were down to the bear bones we have had government after government using the defence budget as a piggy bank to be raided every time they get strapped for cash like the loss of the rotary wing budget at a time when our troops were crying out for more capability what did they do not buy more well apart from 6 Danish merlins no they just increased the flying hours there by wearing the kit out quicker we had a defence review in 1998 which at face value was spot on what we didn’t bank on was a chancellor who didn’t care about defence until he became PM and bad headlines were coming his way and signed a contract that was more expensive to cancel than complete.
Fast forward to 2010 we had a government that increased the DIFD budget but cut the defence budget the LIBDEM’s are more concerned about getting rid of trident than sorting out defence we have a PM who talks the talk but won’t put the money where his mouth is, he gave this great speech to the RN in CANADA only to back track, since 1982 the RN,RAF and British Army have been stripped to the bone for a RN escort fleet to be down to 19 escorts is s national disgrace we have got to the point where we can’t afford to lose one we have no attrition ships the RAF is down to 7 Fast jet Sqn’s we have a plan for the Army to go down to only 3 Armoured regiments has the world got any safer since 2010 no its worse but the clowns we have in charge are a bunch of yes men more worried about there careers than the well being of the country and Lord West trumps up about the parlous state of the forces well when he was in Gordon Browns government he didn’t say a word about increasing the fleet size .
Almost every other part of the world is rearming except Europe were sleep walking into the future dreaming of the European Etopia of the super state which can’t even decide on the role of the EU defence policy and we are living under the US umbrella which will soon be sent to the pacific leaving us in a socialistic super state unable to defend its self due to caviats stoping them doing this or that like in Afghanistan

July 9, 2014 8:40 am

As ever we need to decide if we want to be Norway, Switzerland etc. or play a wider role in the world. Certainly if we want to keep our seat on the Security Council, taking a tortoise view of the world and pulling down the shutters will not cut the dijon. Inevitably, post Iraq and Afganistan we have swung more in that direction – and element of licking our wounds there – as the US did in the mid to late ’70s after Vietnam. Exhaustion and the after effects of a painful, expensive and futile campaign are however not an argument for giving up completely, as France found out in 1940. However, that hedgehog-like ‘maginot’ posture that seems to be the flavour with many commentators and politicians these days does have to be the baseline for defence (although, as I’m trying to point out – shutting up shop generally brings the enemy to your backyard, going on the offensive keeps ’em at arms length – even if you don’t always win – we didn’t exactly cover ourselves in glory in the 19th century in Afghanistan and South Africa, but they were necessary wars to sustain our place in the world, and we learned a lot that was very useful later on.

So if “Strategic Defence” (v. near peer and asymmetric threats) is the baseline, that requires:

1. SSBN (its a cheap way of having very little strategic defence)
2. UK Air Defence (Typhoon)
3. UK Sea Control (SSN, OPVs, MPA, MCM)
4. Special Forces Group
5. Cyber Warfare Group
6. Surveillance/Military Intelligence Group
7. Aid to the civil power/domestic CT (2-3 light infantry brigades, a couple of squadrons of medium helos)

Ok – so with that we are Switzerland – no-one will bother to take us seriously in the world, but we will be safe (ish) in our beds (unless you happen to live in Port Stanley or Gibraltar). And that already includes a capability we have lost (MPA).

Ok so imagine we still want a seat at the high table, honour our alliance commitments, and to have enough autonomy to defend our interests beyond the white cliffs of dover (or more pertinently, before they get to the WCoD). We don’t have enough to do that adequately now.

In my view we need three new commands – a Strategic Defence Command (see above, but expand land forces to 1 Div and overseas based training/CT, Falklands and Cyprus garrisons etc.), an Expeditionary Command (3 (Mech) Div, Carrier Strike, F-35 (and maybe Taranis later), Escorts, 3 Cdo. Amphibs, Apache, Merlin, Wildcat, Reaper, Naval and Land Tac Surveillance/CAS (UAV), RAF Expeditionary Ground Defence) and a Support Command (Airlift, Sealift, Sea-based Logistics, RAS, IFR, Op/Tac Surveillance (Sentry/Airseeker/Sentinel/UAV), Tactical Helo Lift, Artillery, Engineers, Expeditionary Land Logistics, Droggie).

So we need some (not much) more not less. We can probably get away with a bit less amphib using the CVs – although when we’ve needed it we’ve needed all of it and more taken up from trade. CAS seems to be much more cost effective using Reaper, but that depends upon having air supremacy – so some sort of trade off with fast jets makes sense – but then we don’t have enough fast jets to ensure air supremacy anyway, so any further cuts will negate the usefulness of UAVs. We also need much better ABM capable ground based air defence for expeditionary forces. In the Middle East or Asia it will not be the Taliban, there are much more capable backers to our likely foes, with air defence and tactical ABM capabilities.

July 9, 2014 8:44 am

@ RT

No, you don’t waste proper infantry on the RAF Regt job, it may be remembered that when all the old non-German ex-Wehrmarcht reached their used by data in the HQ protection role they were replaced by the Pioneer Corps. They did an excellent job in the role, which now resides with the RLC. Crabs & Chunkies – a match made in heaven.

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
July 9, 2014 9:44 am

Ok, just finished reading the comments and I can’t resist a badly worded, ill-thought out post of my own! :-) (meaning only my posts are badly worded and ill-thought out . . .)

It seems that there is agreement that we use COIN style forces more frequently than “High End” forces, and that HMAF train for and purchase eqt. to conduct “High End” warfare in the belief it will also be suitable for COIN warfare.

It also seems that this is a very expensive way to run a Defence Ministry. And arguably hasn’t been as successful as hoped.

The Elephant in the room is the need for a 2-tier Armed Forces (all of them, not just the Army). This way we are able to act as “global policeman” as our former imperial status requires and our Liberal Intelligensia demands (see the recent outcry over Lybia, and the more muted one over Syria – coloured by the experiences of the effort in Lybia, no doubt).

I’ve been thinking along parallel lines to TD, it seems – but with a different focus. Namely, how do we retain the “lessons learnt” from Iraq and Afghanistan, and not dispose of all the kit we purchased. You can tell I’ve been keeping up with the FRES series of posts.

The only solution I can come up with is to reduce rarely used capabilities to cadre status (I think phill suggested it), and store any associated eqt. in a ready to use state. That way regeneration of capabilities is quickest.

By “cadre”, I mean a unit who is deployable for small tasks and who train frequently for the capability they are known for. In this way they can host training/deplloyments for other units to keep a low level awarenss of the capability in the rest of their service.

Of course, this would mean that the “ready storage” would need to be huge, but perhaps no bigger than Argos or Amazon already use in this country. God knows, we probably have enough expertise in warehousing and distribution management in the private sector in this country!

The only thing is, I’m not so sure that this method would allow any money to be saved and spent on training/manning/eqt. for more frequently used capabilities. Which surely is the point?

Oh, and by the way, I thought @random’s post was spot on, and @Phill too, for pointing out that strategy is reciprocal with our potential enemies! However, it works both ways, surely we should be analysing how insurgent forces operate and developing force structures and equipment requirements to counter them? Even if we have to bring back the LRDG, I say!

July 9, 2014 11:10 am

@Dangerous Dave

You are absolutely correct on the 2 tier requirement, although there is a difference between 2 tier and high cost/low cost. A lot of so-called 2nd tier kit is just as expensive to procure and operate as 1st tier. In that instance it makes best sense to have kit that can fulfil both roles, where possible. The real lesson of the last two decades is not that you need less armoured infantry, but more. The light infantry in land rovers and pinzgauers that was considered good enough for Northern Ireland Sierra Leone and Kosovo, will not survive in the modem second tier battlespace – so both tiers are equally costly to sustain. MBTs are not all pervasive battle winners any longer, but all infantry and supporting troops need to be protected from sophisticated IIED threats, and operationally, we need to be able to fight at very long ranges – far from Europe. That means that “soft skins” will become a thing of the past – are already becoming so – and the US are already looking to replace their pretty new truck fleet with a protected variety, and the UK is showing interest in the same. Similarly, UCAVs and UAVs are also as expensive, if cheaper to operate, than fast jets, and so on.

So two tier does not meet costly and cheap. It means flexed to different but equally challenging threats (i.e. not high end versus low end). On a limited defence budget, we need to have as much interoperability between both sets of tasks. Army 2020 sees this. And again I think you are right to suggest we need to extend the concept across the armed forces.

The Other Chris
July 9, 2014 11:14 am

We have the payload, but just lacking the delivery system?

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 9, 2014 12:09 pm

Perhaps what we should give up is the idea of independent military operations.

We rarely embark on unilateral military adventures, but preparing for such operations causes us to inefficiently spread our resources across a wide range of capabilities.

This lack of specialization leads to lots of expensive programs that deliver little packages of capability that aren’t much use outside of a coalition anyway. And we’ve struggled to maintain a sustainable industrial base as we’ve continuously cut back the scale of various military force elements whilst insisting on maintaining a broad spectrum of equipment and ability.

I’ve criticized the pursuit of the big fat Queens for the Navy; however, I’m not against aircraft carriers per se. I just think that aircraft carriers are so expensive in of themselves that we shouldn’t have opted for aircraft carriers unless we were prepared to make the maritime arena the clear priority for our defence strategy.

If we wanted aircraft carriers, we should have decided that aircraft carriers was ‘our thing’, this is what we do now, and anything else takes second place.

There’s a reasonable argument for prioritizing the Navy; we’re reasonably secure territorialy, and even the belligerent Ruskies have moved a country and a half east since the end of the Cold War, and we have no plans for imperial conquest any more. We’d find it easier to support the Navy and our ship building industry, and we wouldn’t be so worried about whether we’d have enough aircraft to make the carriers worthwhile; but of course, maritime prioritized forces would not necessarily fit every future event.

Over in the Army, we’re spending a fortune on bespoke armour; but we’re cutting back the size of our armoured forces, and have little in the way of an armoured vehicle industry. Within the size of the shrunken Army, we could have decided to have a couple of armoured divisions, and that armoured forces was ‘our thing’. Leave aircraft carriers to someone else and accept that armoured brigades won’t fit every eventuality.

If we accept that our security lies within coalitions -whether NATO, the UN, or various other partnerships- then it’s not such a great trauma to cut back or ditch various force elements in favour of a particular centrepiece speciality.

The Other Chris
July 9, 2014 12:27 pm

“I just think that aircraft carriers are so expensive in of themselves…”
– Brian Black


Are they?

July 9, 2014 1:00 pm

The other Chris

Financially I think the answer is No they aren’t. Given that we would acquire F35 for the RAF anyway and the heli force is mostly already owned, then very simplistically 2 Carriers at 6.5 billion gives a straight line capital cost of 215 million pa with a 30 year life probably alongside a moderate incremental operating cost increase compared to the 2/3 Invincibles we previously had (F35 will be significantly more expensive to maintain and operate offset by smaller crew size).

In naval capital terms, that’s 2 aircraft carriers or between 10 and 15 extra Type 26 over a 30 year period.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 9, 2014 2:59 pm

TOC, yes they are, otherwise everyone would have some. Instead, navies tend to start off with small vessels first.

The cost is of the whole package of kit and of conducting actual aircraft carrier operations. It’s not as simple as just saying build a slightly bigger ship than you otherwise would have done because steel is cheap and air is free.

And here we are now fretting about putting two ships into service and having enough planes, where previously it’s been a case of “we want carriers, we must have carriers, beware the carrier gap!” and now we suddenly decide that carriers are expensive and that we’re happy with a single LHA instead.

July 9, 2014 3:20 pm

– ” We can have more kits than airframes forward based, meaning that we could temporarily have half a dozen gunships one day, and then surveillance and transports the next!”

The problems with the concept are:
1. How are you going to get the “kits” forward to base them unless you plan on only flying missions from “Sovereign Air Bases?”
2. Gunship training is much more intensive and degradable over time than transport/surveillance mission training.
3. Once “kit” is put in a vehicle to suit it to a particular task, good luck getting that equipment out of that vehicle.
– Brigadier Troopsincontact: “I need gunships! It’s looking more like Isandlawana than Rorke’s Drift down there!”
– Group Captain Swissarmyknifeaircraft: “Sorry, sir. The Hercs are all hauling groceries today. If you’d have let us know yesterday…”

July 9, 2014 3:43 pm

“That means that “soft skins” will become a thing of the past”……..So what you are saying is that infantry are effectively obsolete……hmmm…..duly noted ;-)

July 9, 2014 3:46 pm

When was the last time any actually used a nuke in combat? 1945? Right, then! Scrap ’em all! When was the last time there was a British airborne drop into combat? Operation Market Garden? And that went so well, didn’t it? Don’t need paras any more!

I was taught to plan based on enemy capabilities, not their intentions or the last time they did something. There’s still the possibility of a hijacked airliner being used not just to attack buildings but ships at sea as well. A phony ditching distress call requesting the location of the nearest vessel and the next thing you know you have an Airbus A380 attempting a deck landing on the QEC.

July 9, 2014 3:52 pm

@Brian Black

“If we accept that our security lies within coalitions -whether NATO, the UN, or various other partnerships- then it’s not such a great trauma to cut back or ditch various force elements in favour of a particular centrepiece speciality”

And when all the other potential alliance partners in NATO(-the US), UN,EU etc , use that very same excuse to cut back on the same (expensive) force elements /capabilities …then what ?

July 9, 2014 4:22 pm

If we accept that our security lies within coalitions

Accepting that is a bit like accepting the human heart pumps blood. There’s no choice in the matter beyond choosing denial.

July 9, 2014 4:25 pm

Perhaps what we should give up is the idea of independent military operations.

We have done, beyond non-complex interventions much bigger than a battlegroup.

July 9, 2014 4:32 pm

What happens if a future, perhaps more…radical, fundamentalist Turkish government decides to take all of Cyprus, including the Sovereign Base Areas? Or, what if the host nations wherever you might have Sovereign Base Areas decides to take them instead of asking nicely?

July 9, 2014 5:15 pm

: our ability to undertake full-spectrum war fighting is not some impossibility, beyond a reasonable budget. It’s perfectly doable, the Israelis do so quite happily. If you mean have a full spectrum capability where all the equipment is sourced locally, then you are probably correct.

The Swedes and Israelis demonstrate how this could be done. The Gripen’s wings were designed by BAE :-)

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 9, 2014 5:27 pm

MKP, in the context of NATO, that is what Smart Defence is all about.

Coordination between partners to ensure that all bases are covered without unnecessary and inefficient duplication. And ensuring that not everyone decides that capability X can be discontinued.

Phil, we may have reduced the scale at which we can conduct independent operations; but we still insist on retaining the gamut of capabilities, and of being able to take part in everything that comes along, and that in turn keeps squeezing the scale at which we can operate independently.

July 9, 2014 5:34 pm

“It’s perfectly doable, the Israelis do so quite happily”……..Not entirely on their on money though …….they still receive a considerable amount of US military and financial ai….ehm…contributions.

July 9, 2014 5:41 pm


“MKP, in the context of NATO, that is what Smart Defence is all about”

I am well aware,… the problem being of course that every one want’s to cut all the big heavy and expensive stuff, and “leave those capabilities to our allies”.

And since defence is very much still a national matter, NATO can do little beyond issuing recommendations .

Corin Vestey
Corin Vestey
July 9, 2014 6:57 pm

Surely what we need is determined by what our Grand Strategy is and that of our enemies, current and future? Unless of course TD believes that full-scale war or large scale regional war or a direct challenge to the UK’s EEZ or ability to supply itself or protect its people will never again arise?

If we are not that sanguine about the evolving geopolitical landscape and are alive to the multiplying threats this country faces from state and non-state actors then we surely need to view defence capabilities in the round as allowing us to further our strategy and impinge on the strategies of others? What is needed surely is the widest possible effective hedge against the threat to our interests posed by the interests of others.

We have a duty in my view not to argue amongst ourselves for our favoured service or capability but to press for clear strategy and determined funding for that strategy, which is why when I read the OP my heart sank.

July 9, 2014 8:12 pm

Re: The US “Pivot” to the Pacific. BHO has been embarrassed by Vlad Putin, Nova Tsar of all Russia, so he thinks he might not have to be embarrassed by the “Chinese Side.”

July 9, 2014 8:47 pm

the Israelis do so quite happily

The Israeli’s have some of the most incompetent armies in the world as their enemies and a blank cheque from Uncle Sam when the bullets start to fly. They can also ruthlessly focus their efforts on the domestic threat without having to send a soul outside of Israeli borders. And there’s also the fact that Israel has an armed forces that can fight for a few weeks with no possibility of being able to generate replacements on any scale. It is no Rome and it knows it. Israel cannot afford a single defeat and cannot afford to be on the defensive for more than a few days. The fuse once lit is a short one.

July 9, 2014 9:21 pm

: we are not discussing the correlation of forces in the Middle East. We are discussing the financial viability of having a full spectrum force at reasonable cost. Israel has a armoured force around 6 times ours, an air force double our size, amphibious and paratroop capabilities, extensive EW and SF capabilities, but a much smaller navy (although one largely equipped with Israeli ships and weapons). And nukes!

Obviously they cannot project major forces much outside their borders, but that’s a factor of the size of their navy. Current budget, including US assistance is around 18B USD, of which equipment is probably around 10B. I’m sure the nukes are somehow funded separately, but they are still spending about half of what we are right now, and getting an awful lot more for it.

July 9, 2014 9:38 pm

I think in terms of the high-low mix, the RAF and Royal Navy are the only ones where there is much of a cost difference. For example:

Royal Navy high: Carriers, F-35s, amphibious ships and cruise missile toting destroyers and Astutes
Royal Navy low: Aviso types, cheap frigates/corvettes (e.g. Khareefs), OPVs and other cheap ships

RAF high: Typhoon, F-35s, AWACS, ASTOR, MQ-9 Reapers etc…
RAF low: Potentially armed turboprops (a la Embraer ALX), King Air 350 Shadows, DA-42MPPs etc…

These allow a different force mix, more akin to what the French Navy did over many years, with more hulls in the water, even if they’re individually less capable. Equally for the RAF, cheaper COIN types may make some sense, even if they’re only a modest part of the overall fleet.

The Army is much more problematic, since high intensity and lower intensity operations aren’t all that different in requirements overall. In effect, the lesson from recent years does seem to be that light (cheap) infantry is all but a goner; it is basically a case of riding around in a twenty five ton Mastiff versus a thirty ton Piranha! Arguably the best we can hope for is to make vehicle choices that suit both roles, e.g. the double-v hulled Piranha, or the RG-41… As much as some (cough… Mike Sparks… cough) had reservations about it, the Stryker has actually been one of the best performers over the last decade. Perhaps the best we can aim for is a good all-round general purpose force, with add-on specialist equipment.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 9, 2014 9:41 pm

Israel is a totally unique situation in terms of its military. It is set up to defend Israel and also relies upon conscription. Look at the actual make up of its armed forces they are completely set up to play “home fixtures”. they have no strategic lift capability, AEW is localised, AAR is not sufficient for outside AOR Ops. The Navy is a brown water force with no ability to conduct power projection or amphib ops.
What they have is a force designed to provide air superiority and win an armoured battle in a country that in some parts is a mere 10 miles wide. No strategic depth and a unique set of circumstances has led to a certain solution.
Once spent 6 months there, lovely people and possibly the most gorgeous girls I have ever met.

July 9, 2014 9:41 pm

Israel has a conscript force and keeps most of its Army in their homes and the remainder doing security.

It doesn’t have full spectrum capability – what it has is a conscript based home defence force with a potent air force and an armoured ground force all of which will fight from home and with most of the armoured ground force mothballed at any one time. It’s no secret that the training of Israeli reservists and the exercising of their armoured formations has fallen to a very low level with (a) financial restrictions and (b) the need for generate light internal security forces.

It doesn’t take much training to go and park a regiment of tanks in a field. They look impressive but they’ve got little more staying power than we had with BAOR and RAFG. And as I have argued before it is the power projection capabilities which cost the money – they don’t have to spend a penny on that so they can have a few mothballed armoured divisions worth of tanks.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 9, 2014 9:54 pm

Most importantly, once in action most of the IDF are doing national service, or recalled reservists…much lower pay, no pensions, no long-term costs of any sort but for the limited number of long-term professionals…and therefore much more money to buy kit. The last year we operated on the same basis…the last full intake of National Service Personnel in 1960…we had over half a million in uniform and five carriers at sea.

As our population is now larger, we could presumably easily do the same again were it to be deemed necessary…as it would be if our neighbourhood was as dangerous as Israel’s.


July 9, 2014 10:17 pm

: there’s a reason why I separated out procurement costs: conscripts cost less than professionals. Even if the average Israeli tank unit are fat knackers sitting in a field with their tanks (I know a reservist tank company commander so I would probably disagree with the description!), the tanks still have to be bought.

A country with multiple armoured and infantry brigades, hundreds of fast jets, a reasonable sized navy, equipment for COIN operations and nukes *is* a full spectrum force. Equipped to differing priorities than ours, but all the main cost drivers are there barring SSN’s and carriers.

I suspect the primary reason they manage it (barring the motivation!) is that they are very consistent in their priorities and have little requirement to do collaborative programs for political reasons. Even the stuff the US pays to develop tends to be designed in Israel. Imagine what we could do with a ten year budgetary horizon and no politicians insisting on Euro programs.

@APATS: yes, the girls are gorgeous. And , I do know an Israeli reservist tank company commander. It’s just as well he works for a arms company, because he does nearly twice the TA reserve training commitment.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 9, 2014 10:25 pm

: there’s a reason why I separated out procurement costs: conscripts cost less than professionals”
you separated it by stating “of which equipment is probably around 10B.”. not really much of a breakdown.

“Even the stuff the US pays to develop tends to be designed in Israel.”
They do design a lot of stuff but F15/F16 M113.

“Israel operates in a totally unique environment and to compare it to other nations armed forces is not really correct.”
Avi the IDF Liaison officer in my last NATO job, who once called me on a Sunday to accuse us of disrupting Israeli TV bu operating high power MPAR radars off the coast :)

July 9, 2014 10:31 pm

Yes and if I was on my computer and not on my iphone I could dig up some articles about the dangerous level of training in the Israeli armoured forces. Spookily enough they’ve gone through the same experience where internal security / COIN demands have impacted massively on heavy warfare training and formation exercises. Your company commander may do lots of days but there’s also a good number of reservists who spend their reserve training time on internal security or just don’t get called up at all.

And fine. We could follow the Israeli model and cut all third and fourth line logistics units, delete all power projection capabilities including C17s, RFA, CVF, SSNs, A400s etc etc and go for a conscript based force. But I’m afraid that doesn’t meet what I would call a sensible definition of a full spectrum force for us because as some here so often like to point out we have to go somewhere to fight whilst the Israelis line their Merkavas up in a field round the back of the barracks.

July 9, 2014 10:55 pm

Yes , but the primary costs for development, procurement and training are not the logistics units, they are in the teeth units. And as for our logistic capabilities, over what distance from a port do you think we could sustain the Reaction Force, for example? I doubt it’s more than 200k, which sounds like much the same requirements that the Israelis have to me.

@APATS: from the public information, it looks like annual procurement budget including the US contribution is about 5.5B GBP. I’m sure the nukes are funded elsewhere, but I doubt it’s more than another 1B GBP a year. Our annual figure is 16B GBP. And yes, they buy in many major systems, but that’s just sensible: you pick where your development money makes the biggest impact.

BTW, most Israelis get the “coffee and danish talk” where they are released from their reserve obligation in their mid-30’s. As a general rule, until then it’s a month a year.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 9, 2014 11:03 pm

“Yes , but the primary costs for development, procurement and training are not the logistics units, they are in the teeth units. And as for our logistic capabilities, over what distance from a port do you think we could sustain the Reaction Force, for example? I doubt it’s more than 200k, which sounds like much the same requirements that the Israelis have to me”

We have sustained a brigade plus and at one point far more in 2 theatres at thousands of miles man.

” Our annual figure is 16B GBP.”

Yes The ability to deploy a brigade plus and an one stage almost 2 in different theatres, along with the capability to get them there, 65k tonne tankers and a world class Navy and support equipment, as well as Strategic lift, foreign basing etc doe not come cheap.

Total Apples and pears BS as even the IDF will admit.

July 9, 2014 11:17 pm

@APATS: our “thousands of miles supply line” was actually nothing of the sort. In Iraq, we were mainly based near Iraq’s only port. In Afghanistan, the RLC moved stuff from Bastion to the other bases. Contractors moved most of the overland supplies from Karachi to Afghan, as well as some air freight. Even some helicopter resupply was contracted out. All fine and dandy while we can find contractors to do this, but what if we need to sustain a significant force using military forces only?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 9, 2014 11:30 pm

” our “thousands of miles supply line” was actually nothing of the sort”

are you for real? Either you jest or you really do not have much of a clue.

How do you get kit to the Port or the airbase in the first place and then resupply? Did the stuff the RLC move teleport to Afghanistan?

The RLC did move stuff after it arrived, note the words after we projected it 5,000 miles.

Really still want to go here.

The IDF is a unique and extremely capable force, totally designed to defend their country within the constraints of their Geography and against the threat they face. To compare it to a country or countries with hugely different threats, obligations and priorities does not really demonstrate capability to analyse beyond basic force levels.

July 9, 2014 11:53 pm

Like the small matter of someone else moving stuff being referred to as “projection”. Next time I use Fedex I’ll declare it’s teleportation :-)

As I have been saying for the last few posts, I’m not discussing the operational employment or even training of a “full spectrum” force. I’m discussing the practicality of a second tier country such as ourselves managing to sustain the equipping of such a force without breaking the bank. It’s clearly possible IMHO.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 10, 2014 12:02 am

Try fedexing a brigade plus to Afghanistan and keeping it there. More difficult than your naibe comment and |I quote “our “thousands of miles supply line” was actually nothing of the sort.”

“As I have been saying for the last few posts, I’m not discussing the operational employment or even training of a “full spectrum” force.

I will again quote
“A country with multiple armoured and infantry brigades, hundreds of fast jets, a reasonable sized navy, equipment for COIN operations and nukes *is* a full spectrum force”

Your last paragraph refers to “such a force without breaking the bank” what such a force, how does it affect FP?

July 10, 2014 5:54 am

So what you’re arguing is that we could have a force like Israel. Except we don’t face the same context as Israel. So I am not sure how you are squaring that circle.

A full spectrum force that can’t fight beyond our borders is no force at all. It’s a waste of money. And I’m sure we had kit driven further than 200k before it even got to an airhead in the UK let alone to Helmand!

As for reservist training type it into google and some of the first links are to do with cancelled and reduced reservist training. They’re not immune from the reality of limited manpower versus competing capabilities. They’re taking the risk that they’re not going to get jumped in the immediate future. We’re not.

July 10, 2014 7:24 am

@APATS: no impact on our force projection at all. We have different priorities to Israel, so our funding hopefully follows such priorities. However, it’s quite clear that when it’s declared that we must start removing whole capabilities in the supposed service of affordability, we’re being sold a pup. It’s not necessary.

: no, we don’t need a force like Israel. But we can maintain a balanced force capable of independent action.

Driving equipment down a road vs sustaining a force in contact are two different things as I’m sure you are aware.

July 10, 2014 8:18 am

Independent action is a bit subjective. I agree we should be able to intervene rapidly in small scale focused and non complex operations and shades of grey either way. But beyond that it’s simply not realistic that we’d be operating alone. Even in 1982 allies covered our commitments elsewhere and provided us with munitions and intelligence and we leant on NATO allies in other ways. I also agree we could have the capabilities to engage in peer to peer warfare if we spent more and had a defined and geographically focused existential threat. But we don’t have that thankfully at the moment. We’ve used war as an instrument of policy against state actors 4x times since 1991 and also committed to various shades of other types of operations so it’s difficult obviously as you know to focus.

mike Wheatley
mike Wheatley
July 10, 2014 8:33 am

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

* 2014 – 40 = since 1974.
* CV: we have not had strike carriers during a lot of that time, so in order to evaluate what was a useful capability, I think we need to look at how often a peer nation used them, within that time period. France is probably the only peer nation, at least in the general case.
* Nuclear deterrence is ‘used’ by influencing the plans of other nations to not nuke us, e.g. the war plans of the USSR.

Answer: we have not used:
[a] Top end air-to-air, from land-based aircraft. Lower-end no-fly-zones have been done extensively, so we have needed to overmatch ‘lower tier’ nations.
[b] Opposed amphibious assaults (unopposed amphibious logistics have been used a lot).
[c] ASuW against large ships (we have sunk lots of small ships, often using helicopter-mounted weapons). Belgrano was the only one, but was very important. Ship-launched ASuW has not been used.
[d] Main battle tanks have been a bit of a niche capability. But that level of armour has been used.
[e] Stealth bombing missions.

[a] AAW:
(i) Drag out Meteor integration.
(ii) Don’t build an AAW-only aircraft. Small diameter weapons get used a lot, so we should be pushing the Typhoon to fill the Jaguar capability asap.
[b] Amphibious assault: don’t build an amphibious tank.
[c] Don’t spend much money putting Harpoon or NSM on our ships, but do worry about having a decent ASuW on ship-bourne helicopters.
[d] No rush to develop a new MBT.
[e] Stealthy cruise missiles (Storm Shadow) are good enough at a lot cheaper. Is there money to be saved from truncating the F-35 buy from 138 to 80, and buying 58 more tranche-3 Typhoons from the partner nations? (Depends on the actual cost of the F-35 of course, which is classified, but its something I’d keep an eye on.)

July 10, 2014 9:58 am

: when you say “allies”, you really just mean the US. Yes, I know NZ lent us a frigate, but really all the assistance of note came from the US. The days when you could assume Cap Weinberger had our back are sadly gone, which is a pain since around 1970 UK defence policy has been structured around the assumption that gaps were fine since the Yanks would cover it.

Even if the Republicans get back in, that assumption is broken, and we are going to have to up our game. That doesn’t mean going back to a deployable corps (not that BAOR could move far!), but it does mean the ability to deploy a division plus, if necessary kicking the door in for it via amphibious and airborne assault, while gaining and maintaining air superiority over the contested area, and ensuring security of the home base.

If you want a shopping list, I’d ask for 10 Points, 10-12 more C17’s, 10 more Voyagers, another 50 T3 Typhoons, with HARM, 60 F35B and the replacement of the E3 with 15 E2D, plus 6 more T45 with Mk41 and Towahawk. No more battalions, but more 100% manning and fewer light role regimental place fillers.

July 10, 2014 10:44 am

You’re putting the cart before the horse. You want an abstract capability. That might work on paper but in a real world where capability generation is an iterative process with political and risk factors it doesn’t work I feel.

You assess the threats and their risk, and you then decide how to manage those risks in a political and resource constrained context. Having an abstract kick in the door with a division capability all on our own might be the right one in a given context but I question that this context exists.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 10, 2014 10:51 am

Apologies it was late and I was hitting the sack so when I typed FP I meant Foreign Policy, my bad :(

July 10, 2014 11:36 am

@APATS: no probs.

, I suspect your capability generation model is what’s used these days, but it’s mainly used to justify cuts, not actually find realistic deployment scenarios. Over the last 30+ years we have had reason to deploy division sized units three times (FI, GW1, GW2) for kick in the door operations, as well as brigade sized units for enduring operations four times (Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan). I see a pattern here, but if the MOD wants to spend a decade speciously talking bollocks about either how much climate change will change the national security strategy or how in our supposed state of enforced international law (by whom, one wonders?) force has limited utility before making any decisions, then we will be quite unprepared for anything coming up. Given that our NATO commitments would seem to require a division to be sent somewhere east plus additional stuff for home defence and a nod towards FI reinforcement, I fail to see why it should be difficult to connect the dots.

July 10, 2014 2:03 pm

But I don’t think your independent divisional deployment is realistic. You don’t just deploy a ‘division’. The division needs theatre level stuff at least. We can plug a division into a wider allied force but just having a division doesn’t make it independently deplorable. We kept the framework for such a deployment with the old ARRC structure but that was when we envisaged two divisions being used in Europe. That framework has gone.

Independent divisional operations requires more than a division and I don’t think is realistic in terms of either scenario or resources. Plugging a division into a wider allied framework is much more realistic and is in fact what we’ve done several times in Iraq and Kosovo.

July 10, 2014 2:40 pm

Indeed, which is why I specified division plus, eg with attachments, most of which already exist in organizations like the MI brigade, Engineering brigade and the like. I can see the need for another logistic brigade too. None of this stuff is big ticket, and blithely declaring it not realistic smacks of trying to avoid awkward subjects. I suspect such attitudes are going to encourage plenty of painful encounters with reality soon, with Russia and China acting as the teachers wielding suspiciously heavy belts. I prefer to arrive in the classroom wearing two pains of heavy jeans, thanks, and preferably carrying a cricket bat….

July 10, 2014 3:00 pm

@ Kent:
Re: xC-130J variants.
The idea is not to keep the C-130Js in the cargo role, the idea is that you effectively have the equivalent of a pooled fleet of, say, twelve MC-130s, whose role would be largely providing spec ops support. They would essentially operate like the USMC ones, mostly toting Hellfires, and suppressing fire from the 30mm. They aren’t gunships in the true sense, and the pilots don’t need the rigorous training of an AC-130 crew.

As for the getting the modules there, the idea with many of them is they are based around 463L pallets, hence you could send four Hercs out, accompanied by one C-17 or A-400M, and thus take about six to eight full sets of equipment.

With the SABIR type pods, you can actually just have a standard-ish cabin setup, with multi-role workstations fitted. You then just plug in the pods, and change the role of the aircraft based on mission requirements.

In effect, the idea would be to operate separate ‘pools’ of aircraft, based on general roles. For example:
– c.20-24 aircraft in a sort of MPA/ISTAR role, with pods & pallets to fit the roles. Since MPA aircraft have generally operated in ELINT and increasingly overland ISTAR, this seems pretty reasonable.
– c.10-12 aircraft in the special ops support roles, with a Harvest Hawk type kit added.

Overall, I’d be in favour of having a high-low mix in both the RAF and Royal Navy. For the Royal Navy, I’d argue in favour of getting a cheap-ish but capable base hull, along the lines of a more rational version of, dare I even say it, the original LCS concept! The idea is not to do an LCS, but rather to do something like the Danish StanFlex concept.

I really like the modular solutions, whether it is aircraft or ships! One of ships I admire most is the Danish Absalon class. They have a good basic armament (127mm gun, two 35mm CIWS, plenty of Harpoons, ESSM etc..), double hangar for Merlins and a huge flex deck, to carry boarding teams, MCM gear, special ops or whatever you want. For the forward deployed role, they actually tick a lot of boxes: switch ESSMs for CAMM, and 35mm for Phalanx (or whatever you choose), and they’d fit in pretty well!

The general idea is to make the best possible use of the assets we do have, and the modular approach lets us make great use of the smallest number of actual aircraft types. It very much fits the notion of commonality, while actually letting us even add new roles, without the big ticket price…

July 10, 2014 3:11 pm

None of this stuff is big ticket, and blithely declaring it not realistic smacks of trying to avoid awkward subjects.

No, I never said it is not realistically achievable, it could be done in a few years if we had the mindset and the impetus to do so.

What I am saying is that planning to conduct independent divisional operations is not appropriate.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 11, 2014 11:10 am

I think the Israel example that was brought up is of relevance to the UK. Not that we should copy the Israeli force structure, but we should dramatically prioritize our forces.

Israel can prioritize certain force elements because it knows who its likely military opponents are. Things are much more uncertain for the UK, but we can still focus our efforts within the context of NATO.

The UK is obsessed with being able to lead an operation for any and every future eventuality. But in trying to identify and meet every conceivable threat on our own, and refusing to specialize, we will only end up with an impressive array of units, equipments, and weapons which nonetheless would all be in such small quantities that we could do nothing more than tag along with the Americans.

And even if all we wanted to do was tag along with the Americans, then it would still make more sense to ruthlessly specialize our forces for the efficiencies that it would bring with it. If all we are is the British division of the US Army, then we might as well decide that the ‘British Army’ should be made up of Stryker BCTs (or whatever) from one end to the other.

Someone pointed to the Israeli armoured divisions and to its navy. Israel has three 90m corvettes, a gaggle of patrol vessels, and a handful of free submarines. If the UK had prioritized land forces long ago, then we probably wouldn’t have bought billion pound destroyers – we’d have a little fleet of euro frigates and OPVs; and we wouldn’t have bought aircraft carriers – we’d maybe have one or two more little ships; and not having aircraft carriers, we wouldn’t be looking at introducing a second multi-role jet despite having just been through a process of cutting aircraft and squadron numbers and turning down options on the expensively developed jet already in service. We would have billions of pounds burning holes in our pockets to spend on more army.

In the context of the UK within NATO and with finite resources, the NATO land border has moved a country and a half away from us, but we remain on the northern maritime flank. It would seem sensible to strongly prioritize our navy and naval air (including the RAF bits) over our army.

We don’t need to do away with an army altogether; but we could cut the Army further and still provide a persistent contribution to multinational operations, and even have enough to invade the Falklands, or lead an African Union advance, or do whatever it is you want an army for as long as you don’t take forever to do it (leave the occupations to someone else).

This is the right time to make changes too. We’ve just cracked a bottle on an aircraft carrier, another one along soon. Looming decisions on frigates and F35 orders. Focus strategy before spending further billions re-equipping the Army.

A big-navy strategy obviously wouldn’t perfectly fit every future eventuality; but some naval combat and surveillance assets can be used well away from the ocean. And when someone did need an aircraft carrier we’d be Billy big-boots barging our way through the crowd – instead of turning up with our ‘flexible airwing’ (a couple of frigate loads of marines and helicopters embarked on four billion quids worth of shipping).

The Other Chris
July 11, 2014 11:23 am


These are, broadly speaking, my general leanings also, though from bitter experience better make sure your foxhole has been dug deeply and prepare to receive return fire! ;)

EDIT: Just to clarify I don’t think the Army should be cut further however. I think they’ve reached minimum levels and they need the new vehicles being discussed. It’s more a case of what should be focussed upon going forward.

July 11, 2014 11:39 am

Why not cut back into the MoD. How many civil servents to support the minister. What is the running costs of the Manaderins, has the procurement dept ever been a success?
And been mentioned before but ahh do we have the RAF regiment?

July 11, 2014 11:57 am

Leadslug – as of early April 2013 according to Gov’t figures the MOD only has 57,350 civil servants, which I think you will agree compares favourably with 82,000 regular personnel in the Army, 37,200 regular personnel in the RAF and 33,410 regular personnel in the RN.

July 11, 2014 1:05 pm

If you want to reorganise into a leaner force, one option would be to follow the US Marines example. They have a relatively lean command structure, and a good expeditionary focus, with the ability to generate a very flexible force.

Like the USMC, we need to make even greater use of force multipliers. They are aiming to give their infantry units a strong JTAC component, and train squad leaders to call in fire support, without needing to train everyone to JTAC type standards. Imagine if we could directly assign an RAF Typhoon Squadron to an Army Brigade, like the USMC do with their fast jets!

If you are getting Trident replacements, then there’s a way to make the boats a lot more relevant. In order to have a basic CASD, you need three boats, but only four can guarantee it, thus you need four.
If we buy one more submarine, to bring it to five, we could field three as SSBNs, and the other two as SSGNs. Most of the time, you only really need three boats, so the fourth hull is almost superfluous, it just sits there costing money. If we had two as SSGNs, we could if necessary retrofit one as a replacement SSBN if one of the three Trident boats were damaged or in refit.

The relative cost of adding a fifth boat, and putting in the SSGN modules (already developed) is not likely to be unreasonable. It makes the overall deterrent ( conventional and nuclear) much more relevant, and much more useful day-to-day!

Rocket Banana
July 11, 2014 1:25 pm


Going back to your original question I think it (unfortunately) comes back to first identifying the threats to this nation.

My own (dubious) analysis lead to (in order of importance).

1. Sea patrols [Frigates] for protection of SLOCs.
2. CASD [SSBN, Trident]
3. Home Defence Force [T/A, Fighter Command, Coast Guard]
4. Intervention and Protection Force (battalion-brigade depending on duration) [Navy, Marines, Carrier, Amphibs]
5. Humanitarian Task Force small/battalion enduring logistics force [T/A, RFA]
6. Medium/brigade Enduring Fighting Force [Army, Air Force, RFA]
7. Large/division Enduring Fighting Force [Army, Air Force, RFA]

I struggled to determine if 4 and 5 shoud be swapped round.

So, by rights, we can trim the two EFFs and decide to sustain occupation in only a single key location when required.

As for jet numbers we need four jet squadrons to cover the British Isle and a further two to cover the overseas territories (these would normally be split with Ascension supplmenting The Falklands for example).

So about 120 air-defence capable fast jets.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 11, 2014 1:30 pm

@Leadslug – we have the RAF Regiment to guard airfields in harms way, and they were established in WW2 for that purpose because the RAF convinced Churchill that the Army was unwilling to prioritise that task and expensive machines and even more expensive pilots were at risk, as was the air superiority that they provided and was deemed to be essential at the time. So the key questions are:
> Do we anticipate putting airfields in harms way?
> Do we consider aircraft and pilots to be expensive, and air superiority to be necessary?
> Would we insist that the Army gave a high priority to looking after them?
> Could we make that insistence stick on operations, which almost by definition will be commanded by the chaps in MTP (if the airfield is in harms way, it must be a land campaign…otherwise there will be no RAF Regiment deployment, and the Pilots will be staying in a 5* Hotel)

So the argument to disband could be made, but it might be as well not to ask an Army Officer who considers the entire RAF to be useless, halfwitted and probably cowardly Kevins who wear polyester to make it…as their approach is likely to lead the MoD to believe that the RAF Regiment remains essential to protect the RAF Pilots, Planes (and especially Load-masters) from their own Army…just a thought :-)

As an alternative, if we do need airfields guarding and since we do have very good infantry who are very well trained a sensible discussion about any (real) problems with the performance of the said Regiment and how they might be remedied could be a better place to start…also giving them MPA and Cyprus to look after as a standing task, as well as detachments to other places like Gibraltar, Ascension and so on might be indicated.


July 11, 2014 1:42 pm


Ref RAF Regt,

Just send them to Catterick to do the combat infantry course with all the the other infantry. They can learn the nuances of airfield defence after, that way some of the interservice rivalry might be allayed.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 11, 2014 1:51 pm

@DN – Sounds perfectly sensible to me…

July 11, 2014 1:55 pm


Your bitching about movers is getting boring pal!!!!!!!!

Hopefully your bags get buried in the desert never to be seen again!!!!!!!

July 11, 2014 2:15 pm



Maybe that was what got him cross in the first place!

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 11, 2014 2:44 pm

Hi TOC. I wouldn’t suggest cutting the Army further either, unless it came as part of a refocus of our whole defence strategy.

The only two choices as I see it are to focus on one type of thing alone – accepting that we can only take the lead or act independently under certain conditions, and that we’ll be a minor player in other operations; or we have no focus due to a fear of looking irrelevant, and consequently never have the mass to lead or act independently on most every occasion – and in the process waste vast amounts of money chasing and developing equipment and capability that we never quite make the most of.

With no focus, we currently have attention-deficit defence planning. Spend billions on Typhoon, then kind of give up on that; spend billions on destroyers, then lose interest after ordering six; spend billions on carriers, then begin losing interest when it comes to the aircraft. I’m sure we can burn another billion on not buying FRES UV before we start getting bored of that, and we can surely design the best damn frigate possible before deciding to make do with only half a dozen. We’ll never get our money’s worth with current attitudes.

The Other Chris
July 11, 2014 3:07 pm


An eminently reasonable suggestion. They could bring some from Catterick to learn the nuances as well, in case they be called into action too :)

July 11, 2014 3:44 pm

BB – DE&S staffed by ADHD individuals? Would have made me laugh if it wasn’t so depressing. But I have to agree; I wrote a few months back that the MOD is not the major buyer it once was (and thinks it still is) and as a consequence their approach to procurement is now inappropriate for the scale of projects. And even when MOD was the major buyer, the companies it bought from relied on export sales to make reasonable profit.

I have designs; they are in a niche not overburdened by competition; they would have export potential. They are a UK design and if built I’d do whatever I could to make them British through & through. Of course the project taking all the Army’s cash is also British to its bootstraps *cough cough cough cough* and is touted to have great export potential. But 1) it will be an expensive prospect if it has the UK type spec, 2) it will enter a moderately busy marketplace (CV90, Bionix, Otokar Tulpar, the Polish Anders & PL-01, SPz Puma, etc), and 3) it will be built in a Spanish factory owned by an American corporation – not much reason for any exports to benefit UK then. RT’s favourite CVR(T), the related Stormer and the earlier FV600 and Ferret all made good export numbers. So did Centurion. Not so good for Warrior or FV430, or Chieftain or Challenger.

When it comes to warships the UK’s export potential as evidenced over past decades has evaporated – was it one T42 built for Argentina plus some they made under licence? Were T22 exported, I’m pretty sure T23 were not, nor even the more commercial design T21. Leanders had some international success I think being built under licence again. What about aircraft? Harrier was a sound export. So was Hunter. Canberra & Hawk and more Harriers built under licence in the US. Tornado? Typhoon? Lightning?

If UK wants to get good value from the defence industry (both in a competitive price to MOD and good exports to please HM Treasury) it ought to look at UK based products with genuine export potential. Buying in from other nations’ catalogues and promising export potential seems misleading at best, blatantly untrue at worst. Creating a genuine UK product but to a Frankenstein spec that no other country would consider rational doesn’t make exports either. Without spinning up true exports the bill for UK specific designs will be alarmingly high; if the export potential is real and substantial but the company is not a UK business then the taxman will see little consequential benefit.

July 11, 2014 6:25 pm


Haha. Maybe you’re right. If I ever find out who he is he can rest assured his bags will never reach him ever again.

Anyway on a brighter note, I really enjoy Think Defence, the blogs and threads. So I won’t let one small minded, selfish, petty and bitter person ruin it for me.

Thanks TD.

July 11, 2014 6:30 pm

Strangely enough, he’s normally all right. Think it just happened to be one of his hot button issues. Or he woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

July 11, 2014 6:46 pm

RAF threw my kit off the back of Merlin at a random FOB fuck knows where. I protested as well as you can on a loud helicopter and was told in my ear that if I wanted it that bad, I could leave with it!

It did arrive back on the flight line at BSN in a day or two to be fair, much to my disbelief.

Ed Zeppelin
Ed Zeppelin
July 11, 2014 7:26 pm


“Like the USMC, we need to make even greater use of force multipliers. They are aiming to give their infantry units a strong JTAC component, and train squad leaders to call in fire support, without needing to train everyone to JTAC type standards. Imagine if we could directly assign an RAF Typhoon Squadron to an Army Brigade, like the USMC do with their fast jets!”

Any teeth arms officer or SNCO is capable of achieving this already. The emergency CAS request even contains the voice procedure, “I am not JTAC trained”, at which point the pilot shits himself a bit and basically takes over. Similarly there is basic Arty Targeting VP too.

The obsession with the USMC on this forum grinds my gears. Having worked with them in Afghanistan they are not the last word in expeditionary warfare!

July 11, 2014 7:46 pm

@ Chris

I think you’re correct, we can build all sorts of things but if we want to export them we have to look at various export markets from the beginning.
Your aircraft list provides a good example, the Lightning got killed off in the export market for all sorts of reasons. The Mirage 3 was a good comparable a/c that sold by the boat load, wiped the floor with EE’s effort in sales numbers. The Tonka didn’t really sell to many markets but, BAE managed to get all sorts of support and upgrade contracts with the Saudis that made it some pretty serious money. Typhoon is a moderate sales success.

July 11, 2014 8:12 pm


Yep however look at the threads we’ve had over the last year here, from carriers to frigates to martime patrol aircraft to fighter aircraft to heavy tanks, the willingness of the inservice military people to comprise platform spec or requirement ect to aid wider market appeal simply does not exist within the services yet. It will come as budgets will force them that way, were still trying to be America only on a much smaller scale.

Had it been us that was building and fielding the new gripen that Sweden is building it would have cleaned up.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 11, 2014 8:20 pm

@ Mark, the issue with Gripen is that no “serious” military power has bought in. Also though no fault of the aircraft they are not helped by the fact they did not manage to get anything off the ground last year whilst the much older Danish F16s on NATO air policing duties made the intercept.

July 11, 2014 8:28 pm


” the issue with Gripen is that no “serious” military power has bought in”.

I agree totally also as I’m sure you know you just don’t military equipment based on which one is the best you add in the strategic calculation of will it buy me influence with the seller and unfortunately neutral Sweden doesn’t fit the bill. Mid East airforces are the best example large numbers of European and US products which all do the same thing with questionable amounts of useage for numbers bought.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 11, 2014 8:34 pm

@ mark

Totally, if i had a budget that tied me to one airframe that had to provide multi role capability and numbers Gripen E is a no brainer.

July 11, 2014 8:44 pm

The obsession with the USMC on this forum grinds my gears.

Same here. But the USMC has a wonderful PR machine which makes a virtue of tasks that plenty of other services can perform across the world.

Every Marine a Rifleman? Bollocks. 4 weeks of training after basic does not an infanteer make. They get virtually no more training than most recruits across the world and if you look at the Boot syllabus you realise that a lot of what is taught in that 4 weeks is included in basic training for a lot of other forces.

Integration of fires? We have MFCs, FSTs, FACs and God knows what else. My company on HERRICK had 2-4 MFCs, an FST and a JTAC type and we all had the little cards that could be used in extremis to call in AH, fast air or artillery support.

Integration? I was part of a Joint Force Med Group, which was part of Joint Force Support (Afghanistan). We operated with RAF types and Navy types, all wearing the same kit and armed with the same weapons and all familiar with how each other worked.

We’ve even got cool callsigns now. FST were Witchcraft if I remember correctly. And we had Brimstone, Ugly and some other cool name I cannot remember for some sneaky beaky chaps. Was it Widdowmaker or something. That will bother me all night now.

Ed Zeppelin
Ed Zeppelin
July 11, 2014 9:36 pm

Totally agree. The Yanks have quantity, and quality kit. But if the end user is a sub par gonkbag it ain’t worth a dime when the brown and smelly stuff hits the proverbial. And the same applies to any Army.

Trying to help with you prefix: Kryptonite? Blackjack? Mustang?

July 11, 2014 9:46 pm

No keep going! They were used to place sneaky things to help us ambush. Got to paint their Mark 7s and not use a cover which was a big no no at the time. Might have been STA types.

Ed Zeppelin
Ed Zeppelin
July 11, 2014 9:55 pm

Sounds far too gucci to have come into my orbit I’m afraid!

July 11, 2014 10:25 pm

Broadsword! Sure of it.

July 11, 2014 11:01 pm


Why the hell should the RAF Regiment do the Combat Infantry Course? The RAF Regt and the Infantry have completely different roles.

Maybe you should read this:

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 11, 2014 11:29 pm

@Simon 257 – in the hope that one aspect of the rather unedifying and quite possibly profoundly destructive inter-service rivalry that seems to leave those here having a service background foaming at the mouth extremely frequently might be resolved? And before anybody says it, you are not winding each other up in a way that we poor civilians cannot really appreciate…all of you speak of members of other services with genuine loathing from time to time, and as a tax-payer who would much prefer you to be on the same side and reserve your dislike for the Queen’s Enemies, you might want to try the experiment just to humour me… :-)

Not least because the most effective method to achieve outrageous and possibly dangerous cuts to the defence budget is to ensure that in any given set of circumstances X and Y are ganging up on Z, thereby confirming that some brilliant bureaucratic or political insight to the effect that “the Army doesn’t really need more than one rifle between two” or “a couple of piper cubs are perfectly adequate to train the five new pilots a year we need” will always be supported by two out of three service Chiefs.

It’s called “divide and rule” and the Treasury have done it for centuries to keep the bills down you numpties! :-(

A none too hopeful Gloomy.

July 12, 2014 8:50 am


At the fifth attempt at trying to type out a reply on a iPad only for it to disappear, I give up!

Easiest way to look at this, is the RAF simply does not trust the Army to defend its facilities, aircraft or personnel. The Army cannot guarantee that a unit, that is tasked with defending an Airfield won’t be dragged off on to other duties. It is much better to have you own Force Protection Unit which is under your direct control looking after your own force. Than relying on someone else for your defence!

You are right on the Treasury, we all blame the other services for taking to much of the pie! But really the Politicians of this country have been the greatest threat to the Armed Forces since the end of WW2. Especially the Politicians that are from the post Cold War generation!

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 12, 2014 9:45 am

@Simon 257 – Agreed, but how much easier is it for the politicians to hand-off responsibility if they can reliably find an Admiral and an Air Vice Marshal to anonymously brief that this or that Army requirement is an utter waste of money? Perm any two from three…take the Elephants…the delays cost money and might well have reduced the overall fit thereby; how much easier were they to excuse if you could always find somebody green or light blue to mutter in the background that they were…err…Elephants? How much harder if they had all stoutly maintained what a bloody good thing they were in a purple world…placing the blame squarely with the political class where it belonged?

The politicos give the services every opportunity to fight like rats in a sack…and every time they take it, the politicos win and the services lose!


July 12, 2014 10:03 am
July 12, 2014 10:04 am

@ Simon 257

That book title is some take on the RAF’s moto. At first glance if you knew nothing of the topic you would think it was a story akin to the Long March meets Stalingrad meets Dien Bien Phu meets Little Big Horn…..

July 12, 2014 10:35 am

The motto of the RAF Regiment is Per Ardua. Which roughly translated means Through Adversity. Hence the title of the book.

July 12, 2014 10:35 am

Easiest way to look at this, is the RAF simply does not trust the Army to defend its facilities, aircraft or personnel.


When a force deploys now it is a Joint Force. Every unit in Task Force Helmand was a Joint Unit. We had some BRIMSTONE IED-D teams with us, some had RAF rank slides. Did the Army just have its fingers crossed that these blokes would tip up at Brize on the day? Did the Army not “trust” the RAF Regiment to defend a base it largely built (turns out we shouldn’t have but that’s another story). Did 3 Commando wish upon a star that the Navy wouldn’t rather send its Medical Assistants on a cruise on HMS Ocean than come to Helmand to provide the JF Med Group?

Or did a Joint Commander and a Joint Staff create a Joint ORBAT that they all trusted everyone to contribute to as best they could?

There will always be tensions in any disparate groups of human beings (inter and intra-service) but everything is Purple now. We’ve fought for 11 years across two campaigns wearing Purple and the recent Operating Model has confirmed PJHQs responsibility to operate expeditionary Joint forces.

When looked at carefully the whole “trust” argument breaks right down, especially when you look at it from the perspective of other services and units. Say what you want about the aims and conduct of either campaign but TELIC and HERRICK saw three services provide joint capabilities within Joint ORBATs to a very granular level and this force generation model worked.

July 12, 2014 11:04 am

@ 257 “Easiest way to look at this, is the RAF simply does not trust the Army to defend its facilities, aircraft or personnel. The Army cannot guarantee that a unit, that is tasked with defending an Airfield won’t be dragged off on to other duties.” In one word ‘bolloks’.

If the chunkies had the job, and they’ve been the army’s protection specialists for some time (eg field HQs post MSO), HQNI etc, and for more nuc wpns than the RAF ever had, then coys would be assigned and that is what they would do. Don’t confuse force protection specialists with standard multi-role infantry.

July 12, 2014 11:54 am

@Simon 257

We are not talking of taking the role from the RAF Regt, but training all our land infantry in the same place.

July 12, 2014 1:42 pm

@ Phil

I never said I was against Jointness, I did say the ‘SIMPLEST’ way of looking at it.
As you correctly point out, we have had truly Purple minded operations only for the last 10-12 years. Now we all agree that, that is the way to go, but once we end OPS in Afghanistan. Will we carry on with that kind of thinking? Or will we return to the traditional Status Quo thinking – You do what You do, We do what We do!

@ Obsvr

Where did I confuse FP with Multi-Role Infantry. I said their was no need for the RAF Regt to do the Infantry Training course that’s all.

It is a fact that during the campaigns in the Western Desert and after the Fall of France. The Army removed assigned units tasked with Airfield Defence to plug the gaps in the line. Now if we found ourselves in a similar situation as we did in 1940/41 don’t you think that a desperate Commander would make use of every available Infantry unit? Although I would stress that I’m thinking of a Peer to Peer conflict. Not what we do and have done in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On the question of Nuclear Weapons, you obviously never heard of the joint RAF Regt/RAF Police SD814 Squadrons which were in charge of the RAF’s Nuclear Weapon storage facilities at certain stations. Until Labour decided to scrap the UK’s Free Fall Nukes!

July 12, 2014 1:56 pm

@ DN
Sorry didn’t see your comment.

That’s not going to happen as the RM and the RAF Regt will justifiably say they have specific roles. And they don’t do what the Army do! If that makes sense!

July 12, 2014 2:53 pm

‘Sorry didn’t see your comment.’ No probs

‘RAF Regt will justifiably say they have specific roles. And they don’t do what the Army do!’

They do pretty much exactly what the Army do in terms of training. Their specialism is force protection, if we can give all the Infantry a common syllabus and then role them in Armoured, Mechanised and Light formations then I see no reason why the RAF Regt cannot do their training with the Army.

Considering that most trade training is now going to be done in a purple environment (which makes complete sense) why should the RAF Regt and Infantry be different. That way we may avoid – ‘You do what You do, We do what We do!’ mentallity.

The RM would be hard pressed to argue against it in the future if the other two are jointly trained, plus the RAF Regt would be the easier of the two to move.

July 12, 2014 3:32 pm

You would probably have a problem recruiting people if that was the case. Most people I knew joined the RAF Regt because it wasn’t the Army! X has a point when he says people who joined the RAF didn’t join to go to sea with the RN!

I would point out that their would be to much childish rivalry and bullshit thrown about which would adversely effect recruiting. Why fix something that isn’t broken.

July 12, 2014 4:26 pm

Thank you @GNB & regarding my comments about RAF regiment & MoD civil service
Has got me thinking

July 13, 2014 9:41 am

‘Most people I knew joined the RAF Regt because it wasn’t the Army’

They would not be joining the Army, they would be training at the same place. They can have their own buildings and training flight but be able to plug into the facilities around Catterick, they will be seen by the rest of the Infantry to be doing similar training and therefore over time reduce some of the rivalry. Catterick offers better facilities in all respects when it comes to training Infantry over Thetford (the weather for one).