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The Lion’s Last Roar

81mm Mortar_Team_Fires_on_Afghan_Insurgents_MOD_45151891

In 2004, the Army was still engaged in the conflict in Iraq and its leaders admit they were aware that they did not have the resources to fight in more than one campaign for any length of time.

Gen Wall told a BBC Two documentary: “We had put forward a plan saying that for the limited objectives that we had set ourselves, this was a reasonable force. And I freely admit now, that calculus was wrong.”

No doubt this will be a combination of depressing watching and an exercise in ‘getting ones excuses in early.

Scroll down the bottom of the article for the time it will be aired

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182 Responses

  1. ‘Don’t blame the chiefs, blame the politicians who allocated the resources’

    How about laying responsibility at the door of both of them where it belongs?

  2. My suspicion is that the blame will lie in Whitehall and Westminster, not in theatre.

    Unlike GW2, I think our intentions in Afghanistan were entirely honourable, and still are.

    We do not seem to have the ability to plan beyond the door kicking phase. Isn’t that the sort of thing that some form of pan-government senior staff / civil service course could sort out?

  3. ‘Lord Dannatt, head of the Army between 2006 and 2009, said: “Looking back we probably should have realised, maybe I should realised, that the circumstances in Iraq were such that the assumption that we would get down to just 1,000 or 1,500 soldiers by summer 2006 was flawed – it was running at many thousands.’

    ‘Lord Richards said: “We have a phrase in the Army, hope for the best but plan for the worst. We were actually hoping for the best and planning for the best.’

    Pretty much sums it all up. Lets not lay it all on the politicians the armed forces have a liability for the decisions made and the reasons and assumptions need addressing so they do not happen again.

  4. Very convincing evidence either to fund a much bigger Army in future, or opt out of such operations…but the politicians haven’t the backbone to do either, so similar difficulties will inevitably arise in future with similar results.

    Obviously I favour the first option, and indeed it was my perception even as a thoughtful layman that we needed a Corps and then a Division in Basra and a Division and then a Brigade in Helmand…but couldn’t deliver either…that made me so damn Gloomy in the first place and brought me here.


  5. DN,

    My comment above about Whitehall includes the very senior end of the MoD, whether pin-striped or uniformed. I don’t take the view that politicians would serially ignore military advice, and it is not unknown that advice can be phrased in ways that are known in advance to be what the politician might want to hear.

    At the other end of the scale, I was involved in staffing the UORs for GW2. In every case, we produced a decision timeline which showed when various go/no go decisions would be necessary if the kit was to be delivered to theatre on time. Sadly, not enough could be delivered because the Treasury refused to release funding until way too late.

  6. RT

    ‘My comment above about Whitehall includes the very senior end of the MoD, whether pin-striped or uniformed’

    It appears we are in complete agreement, although I would add that our failings in both Iraq and Afghan are the chickens finally coming home to roost with our bullsh*t ‘punching above our weight’ mantra we have spouting for decades.

  7. I know the truth goes down like a lead balloon here but the brutal reality is that the last 13 years of combat operations for the British Army have been a farcical humiliation. The blame sits not just with politicians but in particular with senior officers.

    The facts are thus, Helmand was a disaster and the USMC had to come and substantially bolster British forces, Basra was equally so and ultimately the British Army retreated to the airport leaving the Americans and the Iraqi Army to take it back from the Shia Militias who had taken it over.

    The lesson that should be learnt from this is obvious, the Army is no longer big enough or flexible enough (compounded by the substantial cuts since 2010- remember the 30% less figure) to take on operations of this scale and should thus not be undertaking them. More widely, and this should be remembered by any politician thinking of deploying ground troops to Iraq again, public support is fickle. What may start out as a popular war only requires a few body bags to become very unpopular.

    On specifics; UORs are something to be proud of, but not all of them, many were a direct result of abject failures of procurement and industrial policy from previous decades and many now show the symptoms of being acquired urgently.

  8. HoHum I concur

    Add to that a cultural and ingrained military arrogance that we had nothing to learn from the sceptics (or the Iraqis) and a consistently over optimistic and over simplistic military approach to operations

  9. I would not make the case that everything at either the tactical or operational level in Afghanistan was done perfectly, but some context is needed.

    Firstly, it was an HQ ISAF decision to deploy UK forces in Brigade strength to Helmand. Granted senior Brits probably took part in that, but it was an ISAF decision. At the time, the ground situation was not as serious as it later became. What occurred later reflects a failure to plan for worsening events, and with the concurrent deployment in Iraq, only the Americans had the numbers to put in an additional Brigade.

    Secondly, the MoD was greatly at fault to not stand up more to Defence Planning Assumptions so comprehensively stretched for so long. On that one, it is my belief that Geoff Hoon and John Reid were more loyal to Tony Blair than they were to the Armed Forces.

  10. It’s simple – we should never have gone near Iraq. I freely admit that I supported the invasion until a few years ago but then I realised in the bigger picture our focus should have been on the Afghanistan mission. There was a clear link between a direct attack on the West and what we were trying to achieve and thus potential for a vigorous and focused mission. But because we were in Iraq we convinced ourselves as the General says, that just rocking up with what we could spare would be enough. We were totally right to go into Helmand in 2006. But we should have done it with Telic force levels from 2002.

  11. The lesson that should be learnt from this is obvious, the Army is no longer big enough or flexible enough (compounded by the substantial cuts since 2010- remember the 30% less figure) to take on operations of this scale and should thus not be undertaking them.

    A very poor argument indeed, most myopic and narrow minded.

    We operate as part of coalitions. We operated and are operating as part of a coalition. We couldn’t take on the Soviets on our own so should we have just disbanded BAOR? That we didn’t make a fundamental and important contribution to ISAF is an argument that would be ridiculous.

  12. Agree with most of the above.

    Still beats me that a 100.000 army cannot deploy a 10.000 force (the teeth of it accounting for a third of the total) without overstretch?
    – esp. When the elements called upon, disproportionately, were so few as the copters and the bomb disposal force.

  13. ACC,

    don’t forget that Iraq and Afghanistan were ongoing simultaneously. I don’t have the forces levels in each at the same time, but would not be surprised if the grand total was over 20,000 at any one time for a period from 2003-2009.

  14. Hypothetically, how do you all think events would have played out in either theatre had we only engaged in one of the conflicts, rather than the two?

  15. And the prize for completely missing the point goes to Phil.

    I never said the UK should not be part of a coalition, it should absolutely be part of a coalition- but within that coalition it should be careful to only take on responsibilities that it can handle: both Basra and Helmand proved too big for the British Army: whether that is because of split priorities between Afghanistan and Iraq is frankly a dubious debate- and increasingly irrelevant given the subsequent shrinkage.


    Agreed, the arrogance displayed by certain senior officers is mind-boggling.

  16. Phil, I think the point is only bite off what you can chew, ends, ways and means and all that

    Seems to be a fundamentally wise position to take but difficult when the politicians of this country just cannot grasp the impacts of a reducing budget. That is not to argue for or against a reducing defence budget by the way, but they can’t have their cake and eat it.

    Remember some of the themes of this site are about avoiding the position of being all fur coat and no knickers

  17. TOC,

    With the exception of the invasion phase in Iraq I doubt it got anywhere near 20,000. The UK military effort in Helmand peaked at about 10,000 (another 11,000 USMC personnel were deployed around the same time) in late 2009 early 2008. By then there were only 4,100 troops (rapidly falling to just 150 during 2009) in Iraq. In reality the occupation/peace support/nation building total simultaneous deployment peak was probably about 14,000. Only two thirds of the combined USMC/British force deployed in Helmand at the peak.

  18. TD,

    Agreed, politicians don’t seem to be able to balance foreign policy objectives with their budget decisions, I would add though that Senior Officers did not appear to be in much of a hurry to assist them in recognising limitations.

  19. RT your analysis of 2006 is a little one-eyed. COMISAF was a brit in a brit framework HQ. No brussels arm-twisting required for him to wanting to get stuck in. To claim otherwise smacks of the same wilful self-delusion as Ledwidge complains about in his excellent book Losing Small Wars:

    The form of `expeditionary warfare’ on which Britain’s armed forces staked their future… proved to be beyond their commanders’ capabilities. A failure to adapt, antediluvian structures and intelligence systems, deployment schedules that ensures a lack of continuity, a cavalier attitude to post-entry planning, a mentality geared to excessive readiness to use extreme violence, an attachment to archaic traditions and imagined histories – all of these factors played their part. Inadequate equipment and a dearth of personnel coexisted alongside a vastly swollen command structure that was proportionately eight times the size of that of the US marines.”

  20. On this type of operation the Generals need to take with a pinch of salt what and how long a particular part of a coalition operation we are being asked to provide forces for. The it will be a walk over and it will be over by Christmas I am sure is never actually used but still superiors in my experience tend to downplay a task when delivering it to subordinates . It is for our Generals to resist the calls for too much with too little from the leader of a coalition or resist overplaying our own hand if we happen to be in the driving seat. A key part of this is what the politicians are informed as to what can be provided and for how long as it is they who will in the discussions with their counterparts be making the promises which the military will have to deliver on.

  21. From memory, we had a 5.000 strong armoured battle group camping at the Basra airport (5.000 a bit rich, but let’s give it to the army that they were at quite a distance, to be sustained and supported until further notice).
    – so this sounds about right “total simultaneous deployment peak was probably about 14,000”
    – now, we had an armoured battle group, and that stage hardly any armour in A-stan
    … a co-incidence: withdraw the COIN infantry and leave behind units that could not be factored into the new total (at that stage)

    I would still call it a 10.000 capability as in “all-arms”.
    – Formalised a bit later, in the “bde, infinitely” assumption

  22. The Ledwidge book quote immediately put it onto my Xmas list. Thanks , twecky

    RE “COMISAF was a brit in a brit framework HQ” and indeed, there was also the Multinational Div run by the brit HQ. How much of a division was it (ever)? A brit bde + battle group Viking to take them out of bad spots (platoon houses, after the “no sunglass tourism” – anybody?).

  23. UK Troop levels in Iraq from the MoD via the BBC:

    Invasion Peak: 46,000 (may be all services???)
    End of May 2003: 18,000
    End of May 2004: 8,600
    End of May 2005: 8,500
    End of May 2006: 7,200
    End of May 2007: 5,500
    End of May 2008: 4,100 (in southern Iraq)
    End of May 2009: 4,100 (in southern Iraq)
    End of Jan 2010: 150
    End of Nov 2011: 44

    For Afghanistan, from a Parliamentary Brief:

    2001/early 2002: 1,300
    2003 (August): 300
    2006 (“The Major Shift”): 5,000 (varying throughout the year)
    2009-12: 9,500
    2013 (May): 7,900

    Looks to me like the UK never managed more than about 13,500 in both theatres. That is only about two-thirds of the combined USMC/British force peak in Helmand in 2009-12 and before the substantial and force cuts (with their confessed to effects) that came out of SDSR10.

  24. Thanks Hohum, good data. I was wrong to think 20,000 all up.

    However, I still believe that DPAs were significantly breached over extensive periods of time. From memory (2003 was my last year of service), those were:


    One Division war fighting, 6 months (large scale)

    Or one Brigade on an enduring deployment, plus one Brigade on a 6 month war fighting deployment in a different theatre (medium scale)

    (There were also other assumptions about battle groups on small scale deployments)

    What we had was, IMO, two concurrent large scale operations in parallel, from about 2006 until at least 2009. The definitions of large, medium and small scale were not entirely based only on manpower deployed, but also took account of the type of HQ, strategic lift assets required for support, whether the UK was providing some form of lead nation or framework, etc

  25. One thing well worth remembering is that doing Telic & Herrick concurrently and enduringly was significantly beyond the assumptions applied to force and funding levels in SDR new chapter.

    Whether the Army / Forces leadership made enough fuss about this or not, two things are clear – we operated at full bore on both ops for a period of around 4 years and the Great Financial Genius was in no way inclined to uplift the underlying funding to maintain the permanent force structure to support it, even with RN/RAF support on the ground. That is why its “broken” now.

    Doing a very rough analysis of infantry units deployed on the two ops, immediately post Iraq invasion there was about three years with an average of 5 battlegroups deployed, which when you add in training and roulement commits about 15 inf batts out of 30-odd (inc RM). Between Apr 06 and the Telic pullout, that average was 8 or so BG from the same or a slighly lower number – or about 2/3 of the infantry and probably a much higher proportion of a number of other units (JFH, JHC – particularly the CHinook force, Logs, EOD, Sigs etc), plus arty and armour used in other roles.

    When it became clear that Herrick was going to go large, that’s when the senior forces leadership should have called Blair & Brown out in public. It’s not like Reid or Swiss Toni were going to do it for them.

  26. And the prize for completely missing the point goes to Phil.

    Oh goody.

    We didn’t believe we were biting off more than we could chew. Thus it is you that is missing the point. Nobody gets into an operation like that believing that it’s a bad idea and that it can’t be done. The General says so himself. They talked themselves into believing it was all going to be alright on the night.

    The problems in Helmand stemmed from a lack of recognition of the latent potential of the insurgency which manifested itself into a deployment that was suitable for the type of operation we expected to conduct, not what was waiting for us. Iraq and the usual wishful thinking almost fatally retarded the response, coalition wide not just with the UK.

    Our force structure from 2010 onwards was adequate for the task, we made a perfectly decent effort and contribution to the ISAF mission. It was so because by then we were cutting our cloth accordingly as part of a coalition.

  27. Phil, I think the point is only bite off what you can chew, ends, ways and means and all that

    The problem is knowing how big your mouthful is. That is not just a military responsibility either.

    There needs to be a balanced risk appetite – sometimes we will be right to jump in knowing the mouthful might be a bit big but the potential results might be worth it. The danger is becoming too risk averse and never believing we can achieve anything and that our force has no utility. In the context of a coalition it plainly does have utility.

  28. Phil,

    There is considerable evidence that actually “we” did know how big the mouthful was; “we” just chose to ignore it and take a bite anyway whilst hoping it was smaller than it looked.

    The force structure was only big enough from 2010 onwards because 11,000 US Marines entered the theatre to support the 9,500 British troops. Evidently the force structure was never big enough to perform the Helmand mission at the level of responsibility originally taken.

  29. TD,

    would be fascinating to look at DPA breaches. Are there accessible public domain datasets (as opposed to someone having to trawl through screeds of Google)? Mischievously, a FOI might be interesting. Not as though the MoD would mind being able to demonstrate how stretched they were….


    Good points, but we did get Nellies out of Gordon. I think it was a strategic mistake not to require them to be deployable to places where we actually do our war fighting.

  30. There is considerable evidence that actually “we” did know how big the mouthful was; “we” just chose to ignore it and take a bite anyway whilst hoping it was smaller than it looked.

    There’s little difference – the outcome is a misjudged mouthful. We didn’t deploy an inadequate force expecting to get into trouble, we deployed an adequate force that would achieve its goals: that was the perception. Hence the problem is the pathologies that lead to those sorts of outlooks and decisions.

  31. The goal was to secure Helmand and turn it into something approaching a functioning part of an Afghan state, Britain did not and seemingly could not provide a force substantial enough to do that- the force deployed was inadequate and the maximum force that could be deployed was seemingly inadequate. How that point was reached seems to have been a heady mix of arrogance, denial, ambition and budget justification/protection.

  32. Phil, understand what you are saying about risk appetite but I think the problem came with the calculations behind that, the motives for doing so and knowing full well that against even our own metrics and learnings on force density, for example, we still went ahead.

    Hubris or accepting reasonable risk are not the same

  33. Hohum we’re pretty much saying the same thing in your last sentence although I wouldn’t put it in such stark terms and the pathologies are far from unique.

    But you’re still missing my point – the force was perceived as adequate at the time, hence why it was sent. The process by which the relevant actors came to that conclusion is where the crux of the issue of biting off more than you can chew comes from. Once reality became known, once resources were freed from Iraq, the coalition but into place a realistic force package and our contribution to that package was relatively well balanced and suitable and the strategy it pursued was simple but effective.

  34. @TD

    I’m not justifying what happened from 2006 to 2009. Far from it. I am just pointing out that the issues lie somewhere other than an inability to have made a decent contribution to the effort.

  35. Roger that Phi, I think we all know things are usually a million times more complex than they seem but I must admit to veer towards Hohums position that for whatever reason, hubris, miscalculation, lack of calculation, or simply not liking the results of that calculation, the simple fact is by under resourcing we probably made things worse and maybe impossible to recover

    I think we have to remember that things have moved on from Afghanistan in our seemingly endless game of a whack a mole with fundamentalist Islam but who is to say in another decade the focus won’t be back on Afghanistan.

  36. @TD

    Who knows? That’s the problem isn’t it. Lots going on these days with the Russians keen to wave their willies too.

    We need six services – 2 armies, 2 RAFs, 2 RNs (one for Europe, the other for the RoW).

  37. RT – you will never be convinced, but Gordon had to be dragged kicking and screaming to actually authorise the contract for the carriers. Contrary to the Army shibboleth that they were built for his constituency, the truth is that he’d have been perfectly happy never to have paid for them.

  38. TD,

    Spot on. The British military/political establishment chose both in Iraq and Afghanistan to accept responsibilities well beyond its capabilities and the end result was disastrous. Trying to paper over the affair by saying “but it was fine once the American’s turned up and more than doubled the total force package” is the same sort of denial that produced the errors in the first place. The fact was the British military was inadequate for the tasks it was given and has since been made considerably smaller.

  39. The fact was the British military was inadequate for the tasks it was given and has since been made considerably smaller.

    But again, it was not. It was perceived to be perfectly adequate. And it’s not denial to state that matters improved when force density increased in the new British AO. What we sent in 2010 was what should have been sent in 2006 but I doubt you’d ever have convinced even hawks that what was needed in Helmand in 2006 was a 5 + battlegroup brigade in a smaller AO than was proposed. That is the litmus test – who was proposing such a force in 2006? I suspect we’ll need to wait for the archives to be opened up.

  40. The British military was tasked with turning Helmand into a functioning province integrated with the central Afghan government, it was incapable of doing that and was thus inadequate. That is why 11,000 US Marines had to be deployed to Helmand.

  41. Also interesting to compare Afghanistan with what was achieved in Sierra Leone, with a microscopic fraction of the resources, or perhaps the Balkans

    Look at force density on a per head and per square mile basis, wonder what that would show, or would that be too simplistic a calculation

  42. NaB,

    I personally do not subscribe to the shibboleth that you describe, nor do I think I know anyone who does. Some might.

    It was the TOBA agreement that required it. I do think that the terms concluded were disastrous for the country. I do not see a strategic need for a British shipbuilding industry (as opposed to submarine building, which I do see as a strategic need): it falls into the “nice to have” category in my opinion.

  43. The British military was tasked with turning Helmand into a functioning province integrated with the central Afghan government, it was incapable of doing that and was thus inadequate.

    In hindsight.

  44. Phil is right, hindsight.

    But then hindsight is always 100% correct

    I made the point earlier but worth repeating, blame is a pointless exercise, learning and not repeating is the important aspect

    It is here that I veer towards Hohums argument, we need a serious reality check on political and senior military/civil service expectations. I think it is better to do a small thing right than a big thing wrong

  45. TD,

    The thing is, it wasn’t just hindsight; there is considerable evidence that reports about the reality of Helmand coming from reconnaissance activity were simply ignored because they weren’t convenient.

    To your second point. This overreach has continued to be visible, note the need to temporarily alter the fast jet squadron plans to enable the current Iraq operation.

  46. @TD

    I don’t disagree. Clearly something was wrong with the decision making process whether that be expectations or intelligence or the political interest of various actors – the corollary to that is that military brass should see it as a primary mission to manage expectations albeit with the ultimate structural flaw that their only real weapon is resignation and no guarantee the next chap will be so honourable.

    But Hohum, we didn’t dispatch TFH with a mandate to fail or as a forlorn hope.

  47. @Hohum

    I don’t think you’e hitting the point – the fact that the HERRICK 4 TFH was adequate to achieve the goals of 2006 is a perception that was proved wrong with hindsight. Not arguing that there existed a complete unity of opinion on the matter – just that the argument it was adequate won out. The problem therefore is how that argument won and whether or not the process can be improved so we don’t do it to such an extent again.

  48. Phil and Hohum,

    Consider that the task of integrating Helmand with the central Government as a functioning province should not have been a military task at all. The military can help with framework security and indeed logistics and things like engineering/EOD, but if there is not a massive effort by non-military assets (health, education, political support, infrastructure) then the end result will not be achieved.

    I know that DFID were there in some respects, I’m sure that the post-Dayton lessons were applied, but they don’t seem to have been learned.

    I think it is a reasonable opinion that some parts of Afghanistan really are ungovernable, at least not without being dictators. Perhaps we should not have tried.

    I strongly suspect that within a couple of years of leaving Helmand, the local situation will be essentially identical to that of 2001, and all of the blood and treasure will have been wasted.

    The task was perhaps nonmilitary, and unachievable using ways acceptable to the West.

  49. Phil,

    I am precisely hitting the point. The UK military was given a task and proved so inadequate for it that 11,000 US Marines had to be deployed. One can not just what one is capable of doing without understanding what one can not do and both Helmand and Basra (which seems to get forgotten) are very good examples of what the British military can not do.

  50. Phil

    Sorry… from day one our deployment in Afghanistan was a disaster even armchair fuckwits like me could and did see coming a mile off. It’s not hindsight if you were berated by ‘experts’ at the time, for pointing out the total inadequacy of the forces deployed, and about every body except Alexander The Great had had their arses handed to them when screwing around in Afghan.

    That the generals in charge now say ‘whoops sorry we cocked it up again’ is frankly shameful. Why when blood and treasure was being spent, 9did they not resign rather than carry on with the ‘we’re winning’ mantra when they now state clearly they knew at the time we were not, is a matter for their conscience.

  51. @Hohum

    That’s an argument with no depth – little more than a soundbite. TFH was not sent on a mission that it was believed incapable of achieving, it was sent on a mission that it was thought to be capable of achieving and that is the problem! Not the force, but the process which generated that force and which believed it could achieve the mission. 11,000 US Marines and a smaller British AO was a response to the reality. Nobody in 2006 I imagine would have made the same decision about force level or AO size if the true nature of the task was known and/or accepted.

    The scope changed when the threat crystallised and nobody could deny it.

  52. Hohum,

    Your logic is wrong, I think.

    10,000 troops were not enough, but when reinforced by 11,500 the situation is turned, at least in a military sense.

    There is no evidence that 10,000 US Marines would have had a different result from 10,000 British soldiers. Unless you make a convincing argument that the USMC are better fighters than 3 Cdo Bde or 16 Air Assault Brigade, your logic does not stand up.

  53. It has considerably more depth than anything you have managed to say here. The British military was given a task for which it proved to be inadequate. The end result was 11,000 US Marines being deployed to bail it out. The fact that the British military was incapable of this task (and of a similar one in Basra) is the key takeaway of the last decade.

  54. His point is all about scale and not quality. We thought we could ‘do’ Helmand with 10,000 troops but 20,000 turned out to be needed. And the UK can’t generate 20,000 troops for a sustained deployment any more.

    So our capability to ‘do’ even medium sized missions is now much less than we would like to assume. Becuase capability implies reserves and depth: depth that we in the UK just don’t have. We got away with it becuase we were within a coalition. If we hadn’t been we would have had to run away in a hurry.

    But Phil has a point about perceptions of risk. Operation Corporate was widely considered by professional commentators to be an impossible mission: and it almost ended in disaster several times. But actually we got the job done and everyone thought we were jolly clever chaps for managing it. That’s the flip side of the coin.

  55. RT agree with your 4:52 you have hit it on the head.

    Lets not argue the past but look to the future. How will the long term lessons be learned, and repetition of the well intentioned but flawed decisions avoided.

    “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
    George Santayana

  56. @ Twecky – “The form of `expeditionary warfare’ on which Britain’s armed forces staked their future… proved to be beyond their commanders’ capabilities.”

    From numbers as much as anything else?

    As I said as at the time:

    “If we take Iraq as ‘typical’ example of a US style intervention then they have an average commitment of 140,000 troops through the main sequence of campaign, a period spanning six years. For Britain to justify the command input that comes with the 2IC slot, where we influence operations to reflect our priorities, we would have to sustain 21,000 troops in theatre. In reality this means three combat brigades and an additional brigades worth of supporting HQ, logistics and specialists elements. This is of course a generous calculation because if we wish to vie for Framework Nation Status as the strategic purpose of our expeditionary capability then we have to match our resources to the sum of US commitments. As can be seen in the table below that US commitment includes another 30,000 troops in a separate theatre of war, which means Britain needs to pony up another light-brigade at the very least. And yes, we really would have to consider this additional commitment, command input results from trust earned over time, not merely from meeting some arbitrary figure on only the missions we liked in the pic-n-mix bin.”

    It seems the whole concept was defunct on both sides of the pond:

  57. Lesson one: if you are failing, adapt and overcome. Don’t whine about how it’s not your fault, or how awful the Americans are. Countries of note do whatever it takes to win, since the consequences of failure are deterrence failures of the future.

  58. So what would be the causes that made Herrick and Telic such a griz?

    Over optimism?

    Politicisation at the senior levels?

    Piss poor planning assumptions? (deploying with no reserve!)

    An arrogance of we can punch above our weight etc?

    Failure to adapt quickly and ask for help?

    Failure to say no to the politicians?

  59. Repeating your argument Hohum isn’t making it any better.

    It wasn’t given the task of fighting a conflict of the scale it ended up fighting over the size of the area it was supposed to sit in. When it was, it was suitably reinforced for all intents and purposes.

  60. @DN

    TELIC made HERRICK a grizz a lot longer than it needed to be.

    Otherwise I’d say most of the above – all the organisational pathologies that are known to help organisations spank in and succumb to risks that were out of mind or not deemed likely or respectable to manage.

  61. @Phil

    Undoubtedly, I also think Iraq poisoned the water slightly when it came to some of the stronger European NATO members contributing to the operation, France and Germany could have definitely offered more resources. The question I ask myself is why didn’t they?

  62. All very interesting – I begin to sense the complexities.

    However as a complete rabbit I ask what the hell are our intelligence and foreign office not giving a reasoned understanding of the problems, likely solutions and consequences.

    Exactly what were the resources actually available to fully understand the situation on the ground before we were committed.

    The military surely can only plan on what information they are given and should only commit to what they are pretty sure the can reasonably able to achieve.

    On the face of it to few resources were committed with inadequate equipment and no proper understanding of the real politics the ground.

    Come to think of it is this just history repeating time and time again and the troops doing a bloody good job as far as they are able.

  63. The idea of upstream engagement by the Adaptable Force cadres is supposed to address this lack of institutional understanding.

    If we have had training teams and liaison officers in a country for at least 5 years before a problem occurs then we ought at least to have a some specialist knowledge to call on.

    Of course the danger is we end up training and arming the very people we end up having to fight. Not as if that hasn’t happened before.

  64. The problem in Iraq was a total lack of planning and preparation for what would happen once the old regime was removed. I’d guess the assumption was that there could be a fairly rapid and amicable transition to non-Baath elements. However, UK was faced with a problem not faced by the US, the South was overwhelmingly Shiite as is Iran, and Iran had scores to settle with UK (and US) and was not going to allow a peaceful and rapid transition. I wouldn’t blame Defence Int for this oversight, but FO should have spotted it, but perhaps they thought that Iran would be mildly grateful for getting rid of the old regime that had started the very costly Iran/Iraq war.

    History plays a part in Afg as well, particularly Afghan-British relations although these have been pretty good since a few years after the Afghan defeat of 1919 (with full marks** to my favourite no-nonsense officer B-G Dyer of Amritsar fame). The arrival of UK forces in the South acted as a Pushtun magnet because of their folk memory. UK forces should have been more than adequate to deal with what was in Helmand, again an intelligence failure (a failure to perform a psycho-historical assessment) as to what would be the emotional impact of British troops in S. Afg after 85 years. You could also note that the Canadians in Kandahar didn’t find it plain sailing either, but they pulled up stumps after about 250 KIA.

    ** for the under-informed, he received a message from the Afghan king seeking peace and replied “I’ve sent your message to my superior, in the meantime my guns will reply”.

  65. Obsvr.

    You have in part elucidated part of my original objections to both Iraq and Iran adventures.

    It was a psycho -historically obvious what was going to happen. It was also obvious that the attempts to hold hostile territory with wholly inadequate numbers were doomed.

    Some of the comments of the army at the time we went in, were frankly delusional. The fact that those in charge are apparently not only admitting that, but saying that they knew or should have known they were hopelessly optimistic

  66. @PE

    ‘The idea of upstream engagement by the Adaptable Force cadres is supposed to address this lack of institutional understanding.’

    Will it though? we had a decent size presence in Afghan since 2001 (Op Fingal, PRT’s) but still bumbled into Helmand. I hope we are not drawing all our conclusions for these cadres from just the successful engagements such as Sierra Leone without looking at our failures as well.

  67. Its worth noting that despite is massively larger budget the US Army and USMC had all the same problems we had in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Lightly armed vehicles going against IED’s and too few troops to do the job.

    If we gave the Generals more resources then they would have bitten off more than they did and ended up with the same issues on a larger scale.

    GW2 should never have happened and that it did was not the UK’s fault. Disbanding the Iraq army made a bad situation even worse again not a UK decision, Not even one made by the DOD.

    Every one should have had more troops in Afghanistan but there was no real way to know how the local population would react until they were on the ground in force.

  68. @Martin
    “Every one should have had more troops in Afghanistan but there was no real way to know how the local population would react until they were on the ground in force.”
    Just how many Jellalabad and Kandahar Barracks do we need for us to anticipate that some Afghans would really, deeply, object to the presence of the British Army.

    There is the story of a Clerk of Works attending a meeting about regeneration in Kabul and being told that British soldiers had burnt down Kabul Market. He rushed back to the IO, who explained it had happened during first Afghan War as retaliation following the retreat to Jellaalbad.

    This does not just apply to Afghanistan but many other countries on the periphery of “The Empire on which the sun never set” (until Hong Kong was handed over to the PRC.)

  69. Martin

    ‘Every one should have had more troops in Afghanistan but there was no real way to know how the local population would react until they were on the ground in force’.

    Poor old intelligence services Only 3000 years of history, the Russian experience less than 20 years earlier, the experience of Vietnam, etc etc etc to go on. Plus some very good ideas about how many troops it would take to hold any area of such terrain against the active opposition of a proportion of it’s inhabitants….

    ‘Our brave boy’ did what ‘our brave boys’ have always done tried and died to do what they were ordered to do.

    BUT From T Blair down, and I am afraid the lower you go the more military the decision makers became, and the more blame lies with them, because like bookbinder in ‘Something Big’.. they were supposed to know. They were paid to know. That they now say in effect ‘we knew we were trying it on’, all that guff about ‘hoping for the best’ is shocking. Instead of resigning in principle and not putting their name to it. Even one those appearing on TV now saying ‘whoops silly me’ admits he feared that a force of ours might get cut off and massacred, because we had written military cheques we could not cash.

    It was not difficult, it was not complicated, it was not full of unknowns: – It was obvious how the Afghans were going to react to a foreign invasion because they have always reacted that way to a foreign invasions. The Afghans themselves were starting to dislike Bin-ladins mob because they were foreigners!

    At the time I just thought the Army was living up to its reputation for being led by donkeys, it’s is actually far worse for them after the event to come forward and say what they are saying now.

    The Lions last Roar ….not with a bang but a whimper.

  70. Ixion,

    It would have been relatively easy to have scored military victory in Helmand, even with only 10,000 troops. It is just that the methods of doing so would have horrified pansy lawyers and liberals. The Afghans themselves would not have thought those methods too different from those of the Taliban.

    What you completely fail to even contemplate was that the lack of strategic success was due to a political failure to think beyond military bounds.

  71. @ DeJa Vu and Ixion

    well the intelligence was piss poor I don’t think its easy to say that as the Afghans had fought of the British in the 19th century and the soviets in the 80’s that you could assume everyone in Afghanistan would be hostile. The Army had been in country for 5 years already by 2006 with little issue.

    If they had entered Helmand with overwhelming force and tens of thousands of soldiers then that may have stirred up just as much trouble if not more. The fact is that we were never going to win in Afghanistan by shear numbers or force.

    I think the results would have been the same if we had sent in more troops. we would just have had more casualties.

  72. As a layman and only coming at this from the extensive reading I have done over the last few years can I give a Civilians view ?I know some of these facts may be incorrect and I am sure those more knowledgeable on here will correct me.
    1. The ability of the British Army to conduct robust anti-coin operations has gone. When you read the histories of Malaya or Aden it is strikingly clear that the average soldier gave out a fair few kicking’s. In the first few months of all these campaigns the British Army established the first maxim of “don’t mess with us”, if a sniper was on top of a building then the whole buildings occupants knew about it as British Soldiers kicked in every door on every flat as they flushed him out. They then didn’t try and arrest him next either, the next time the sniper turned up the buildings occupants stopped the use of their building so they didn’t have to deal with the British as the British would support them in doing that. In my office and circle of friends, all of whom are none military, they all condemned the Soldiers in Iraq who went outside their compound and grabbed some 14 or 15yr olds who were throwing stones. Taught the 2 or 3 they caught a good lesson and sent them home, so that next time they wouldn’t do it, because as I explained in my office it wouldn’t be stones being throw it would be grenades and bullets being sent back. Dead 14 or 15yr olds and dead Soldiers serves neither party. But the point is the Generals and Politicians seriously underestimated the public’s reaction to the use of force as seen directly on TV and then commented on by the usual Human Rights Suspects. That is what the politicians in particular are there to do; they failed in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
    2. Equipment. To this end it is totally unacceptable not to use Helicopters extensively. The Public will not accept unnecessary deaths. It killed any public support for both wars. You could list a whole host of equipment shortages that to this day still exist, be it Bomb Disposal Equipment and Numbers (Talk of dropping some of the excellent kit because of cost), Airborne Logistics, Protected Mobility Vehicles the list goes on, but any General planning the next “war” has got to get the protection to the highest level and the use of Helicopters used even where a cost analysis says a Truck is so much cheaper with only a slight increased risk is no longer acceptable. The fact that to this day we do not have a large enough Helicopter Force to provide adequate numbers and more importantly the right type of Helicopter to any force we may send to an area. That to this day Senior Offices in the Navy/Army/RAF laugh at the number of Helicopters used by the Americans is in my view a negligent act. The fact that a lot of the “reaction force” or light infantry that is the baulk of the army are training to deploy in Tilt covered trucks, use Land Rovers for Comms Vehicles, don’t carry anywhere near the fire power of similarly equipped American Units, about sums up the denial the British Armed forces are in. The amount of “risk” the British Public are prepared to accept was seriously miss calculated in both wars, as is said most wars are lost at home not at the front. The generals knew this and just said no problem Mr Blair we can do it. It is the emperor’s new clothes syndrome.
    3. Size Matters. Spell it out to both Politicians and directly to the Public. 82,000 people sounds a lot of people, but when it is spread out over a 3 year rotation, along with the fact that for every 3,000 pointy guns wielding soldiers you need 6,000 support staff those numbers start to look weak. Nobody in the Public thinks we sent enough soldiers to Afghanistan or Iraq. You can argue over whether they should have gone, but once sent, the distinct feeling here is that it should have been 2 or 3 times the number of Soldiers. That we bit of too much, and we should never have done it. The Public and more importantly the Senior Politicians need to have a reality check, either you pay for it or we don’t do it. People need it explained how the numbers breakdown. The number of Logi’s, Artillery, Fighter Aircraft Jocks needed to put relatively safely in the field 3,000 troops. The Generals got this Wrong in both Wars. The galling point from a civilians point of view is they knew so, but none of them was prepared to risk his job in telling the Defence Secretary or the PM that it couldn’t be done like this. The “yes Sir” mentality needs to stop when you reach the exalted air of Senior Command, Colin Powell did it to a President and said I need X overwhelming force or we don’t do it, these Generals should have said the same.
    4. Body Bags. The biggest mistake the British Armed Forces Ever Made. From a Civilian perspective seeing Coffins come off planes at Wotton Bassett has done more harm to the ability to deploy British Armed Forces than anything else. Especially amongst the Female population. In my office it was talked about, and tiers spilled by the Female Staff on more than one occasion. Trying to point out that the overall casualty rates in both Wars were not actually too bad was impossible. That although each death was a tragedy that is what happens in Wars. When you talk to people in the Armed forces they know that, they accept the risks it’s amazing and it’s brave. But the fallout from both Wars isn’t about whether they were just or we should have got involved, it is about the fact that each Soldier coming home could have been their son or daughter, these two wars were personalised. The effect that the commanders in the Falklands War tried very hard to stop. The generals who allowed this have effectively stopped the deployment of British Forces for ever, unless it is a direct threat to people living in the UK.
    So in my view we can argue all you want about whether this force package was big enough, did we do this or that right. But the fact is the public are no mugs and know it was done half heartily without sufficient support, numbers, equipment or doctrine. They pay for this and won’t accept it again and unless the Senior Armed Forces show they are Sorry and have learned their lessons they will never get the support of the Politicians and more importantly the People to do anything. At which point you do have to wonder what is the point of such a large army to defend a country that can do so by Sea and Air Power alone.

  73. The Ginge,

    Blimey, wall of text, but I certainly appreciate your input.

    From a simple (ex) soldier’s perspective, a few brief replies to your points:

    1. Largely agree. There was a phrase we used in Belfast in what now seems like pre-history: “Big boys’ rules”. The BBC journalist Mark Urban picked up on it and wrote a book using that as a title. A fellow subaltern who’d done time in the Rhodesian conflict said it was the same there.

    2. Don’t necessarily agree re helicopters. OPFOR only needs a stock of simple SAMs or HMGs, and you are back to square one.

    3. Depends on what the Government wants. When I joined the Army, it was 155,000 strong, but most of our time was spent in BAOR. When the old man joined the Army, back in National Service days, it was over half a million strong. Now it’s to become 82,000. Those are all just numbers. What do you want us to do?

    4. Disagree on public viewing of the repatriations. Those men died for their country; it is right that their country saw them being brought home. If nothing else, look at the swell of support for Service charities in the last decade. Our country is as connected to our Services now as it was only in times of major conflict before. Indeed, I could get quite Kipling-esque: “it’s Tommy this and Tommy that…”

  74. For the next campaign, the same happened, with a different result
    ” “yes Sir” mentality needs to stop when you reach the exalted air of Senior Command, Colin Powell did it to a President and said I need X overwhelming force or we don’t do it, these Generals should have said the same.”

    Wiki says ” Shinseki publicly clashed with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over how many troops the United States would need to keep in Iraq for the postwar occupation of that country. As Army Chief of Staff, General Shinseki testified to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that “something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would probably be required for postwar Iraq. This was an estimate far higher than the figure being proposed by Secretary Rumsfeld in his invasion plan, and it was rejected in strong language by both Rumsfeld and his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, who was another chief planner of the invasion and occupation.”

    Much later, in 2006, the then CENTCOM commander testified to the Congress that Shinseki had been right.

  75. Dear Red Trousers

    If I can just go through your answers

    2. Re Helicopters. I know from an experianced operational point of view (as expressd by very knowledgable people on this site), but I was trying to say is the publics view is Helicopters are safe, Trucks are not. The Generals and the Army per se need to do a lot of work on explaining this, although my counter argument would always be from an operational point of view, with a proper Scout helicopter fleet and a proper number of escorting Attack Helicopters the use SAMs and HMGs should not be possible by the enemy. The trouble is both of these types of escort Helicopters are in short supply in British doctrine,. That needs to be changed, every time a Chinook goes up near any enemy position it should be heavily accompanied.
    3. This is my point. The Public and the Politicians want you to do everything you did with 155,000 people. They see no differance, they have not seen the huge savings in the Armed forces Budget because in pure number terms it is more expensive now than it was back then, inflation is a funny concept to most. Again the Senior Army/Navy/RAF commmands have got to get the message across we are down to a level where sending 8 planes to Cyprus means not disbanding a Squadron. What would have happened if IS had occured a year later when 2 Sqn were gone. People are being told you can still do everything when you know we can’t.So at some point the Armed Forces will be asked to deliver when they know they can’t.
    4. I do not doubt that support for membes of the armed forces is at a all time high, but the wish to risk those peoples is at an all time low. The British Army’s Tradition was you were burried where you dropped. I have relatives in graves around the world unfortunately, it does not mean you forget them, do not honour them, but it is the visual impact of these events that means you are from a Civilain perspective never going to deploy the Army unless the only risk is from Road Trafic Accidents or the UK is about to be invaded. The old Red rather than Dead argument is now more tipped in the favour of being Red rather than standing up for principles.
    Dear ArmChairCivvy
    I rather think this proves the point, Collin Powell got his way and GW1 worked, ie the President listened to the expert who very forcibly put over his point of view, lets be honest GW2 was a disaster because Rumsfeld didn’t, the point I am trying to get over is British Generals never ever say anything, well not untill they have retired and they seem to spend the next 20yrs moaning about the very politicians they would not stand up to when they were in position of power.

    All I think is that the senior people in the MOD need to get the message out what the Cuts and the lessons from Afghanistan & Iraq means for the future ability to step in when the cry goes up “we must do something”.

  76. @The Ginge
    On your point number one the Israelis follow this principle on a slightly different slant. If a projectile be it bullet,shell,mortar bomb or missile their counter-battery fire immediately regardless of what the target is. The idea being if your tucking into your tea and you spot a Hamas mortar team setting up on your neighbours roof you reach into your cupboard for your AK and slot them before they can fire and bring an end to you and nearest and dearest.
    On the Colin Powel standing up to the administration and how Shinseki was overruled by the civilian administration I read an article that he was advised by the intelligence team that in the immediate aftermath of the wars conclusion some form of armoured vehicle would be needed to be parked at every street junction in every city and town and every house searched and all personal weapons confiscated if they to hoped to keep a lid on the sectarian violence that would inevitable erupt . The intelligence officers had gleaned this from Iraqi army and political defectors who illustrated the deep religious and tribal divides that split the area of land we call Iraq.

  77. RT

    I am of course a civilian talking to a military man, so I am ‘on the back foot’ to start with.

    However I cannot think of any circumstances (no matter how murderously they behaved), 10,000 men could hold Helmund against a rebellious population. Given the Afghan’s history they would certainly have been rebellious; and after all the Russians in their 10’s of thousands were hardly ‘Mr human rights’.

    ‘What you completely fail to even contemplate was that the lack of strategic success was due to a political failure to think beyond military bounds’

    You will have to explain that one to me.

    Because I don’t see who we had to be ‘political’ with except the Taliban. And since we comprehensively failed to first deal with the military situation in the heavily contested areas, the next- political stage never really got of the ground. Khazi was called ‘the mayor of Kabul’ because that is where his writ ran. If we had provided the initial military solution we could have moved onto a political one.


    ‘If they had entered Helmand with overwhelming force and tens of thousands of soldiers then that may have stirred up just as much trouble if not more. The fact is that we were never going to win in Afghanistan by shear numbers or force’.

    In which case we were buggered if we did, and buggered if we didn’t. In which further case, why in the name of the deity of your choice did we go in the first place?

    As for your other point may I quote Churchill about Afghanistan.

    “Every man’s hand is against the other and all are against the stranger … the state of continual tumult has produced a habit of mind which holds life cheap and embarks on war with careless levity.”

    I doubt if his nibs would be surprised the natives turned out less that welcoming long term.

    This is going to be very boring down the line.

    It is rather like every washed up Vietnam vet you used to meet in bars in the 80’s banging on about “We won all the battles and lost the war”: and The USA’s version of the ‘November Criminals rant’ ” We could have won man if it wasn’t for those pussy politicians”. Only being British rather than drinking industrial quantities of Jack Daniels, they will be drinking malt scotch and have plumby accent talking about ‘Well of course dear chap if only we….. and (My favorite) “We didn’t actually loose you know we achieved great things”……. before listing the number of schools built, and the ‘large well trained, well equipped, well motivated force protecting a stable govt’ we left behind…….

    Anyway history is already being written about our last act of international intervention being an abject failure, and that hopefully
    ‘ lessons will be learned’

    We lost this one. Its a bit like a not so bloody Singapore, we tried to bluff and it was called. What angers and depresses me is that it was always going to be called.

  78. The Ginge

    Very well put sir!

    I think I only disagree with the body bag point. I think there is no winning answer to that, not to bring the bodies home in the modern age would be politically unacceptable. there would be tear stained mothers on our TV screens nightly campaigning to bring ‘Our Sean’s body home. Local MP’s would crush babies in the rush to jump on bandwagons.

    That is part of it- the British have and are loosing their appetite for this foreign adventure lark. Unless some very good cases are made for going and frankly after Iraq/Afghan those in the command perform better.

  79. IXION, not to put a fine point to it, the initial Taliban was a foreign army which did succeed in holding down Afghanistan. Reports indicated that the force that took over the country was almost 50% Pakistani. In fact, what the Taliban were is essentially a puppet government used by Pakistan to keep Afghanistan focused inwards and away from their border.

    And they succeeded in holding down the country by being murderous bastards who won’t take no for an answer. Something that the West is mentally incapable of doing.

  80. Observer

    I have no access to military reports

    However contemporaneous journalistic reports talk of many but far from all Taliban being Pakistani from the Northwest fronter region.

    BUT also that it was their essential honesty and their enforcement of Law and Order that actually endeared them to the Afghans fed up with Mujahedin banditry and corruption. Some of the reporters with them as they defeated Mujahedin commander after commander, spoke of them being welcomed as the bringers of stability.. …Now ok it was a sharia law stability, but it was some sort of rule of law. something there had not been in Afghanistan for 30 years at least.

    A few years later those same reporters, reported the locals getting fed up with ‘foreigners’ and starting to resent them, but then we invaded and were indeed welcomed for a while until it became clear our failure to finish of AQ meant we intended to stay. Then it went ‘tits up’.

    I have by the way seen the photos of the guns being unloaded at Kabul airport supplied by the west to the Mujahedin well before 9/11 for them to fight the Taliban.

    This ‘The Taliban were the Pakistani army in drag’ narrative is very convenient but far from the whole truth.

  81. @IXION
    On the rule of law one thing the Taliban targeted ruthlessly was opium production as one was against Koran but also took the funds away from the mujahedeen. An article just before 911 in the New York Times on a recent international inspection gave high praise to the Taliban admistration for cutting Afghanistans part of the heroin trade from by far the biggest supplier down to almost zero.

  82. ‘We lost this one. Its a bit like a not so bloody Singapore, we tried to bluff and it was called. What angers and depresses me is that it was always going to be called.’

    Couldn’t agree more, this has been on the cards since GW1. You cannot constantly cut your armed forces and fail to retain your experienced personnel while burying your head in the sand for over a decade and then expect to go and win an away game.

  83. The decisions taken in 2006 in relation to Iraq and afghan has all the hall marks of senior political and military figures thinking we’re somehow a mini superpower or mini U.S. military they were in essence writing checks they were unable to cash. There seems to have been an obsession to be leading politically and militarily on every operation. There had been a change of president in the US an administration that wanted out of Iraq and made afghan a priority. There was feeling that labour wanted to curry favour in Washington and get the agenda off a very unpopular war in Iraq by concentrating minds on Afghanistan instead.

    Senior military leadership went along as they could see cuts coming and what appeared to be a straight fwd peace enforcement operation in South afghan seemed an ideal way out for all concerned. The Intel was crap and instead we walked into a hornets nest a living hell for those deployed and with no money or resources forthcoming for far too long to correct the situation. No one in very senior political,or military positions of that time come out of this with any respectability they let there soldiers down.

    If one lesson should come from this sorry episode it is as a country and military we are not United States so stop acting like we are, were like france, Germany or Japan a wealthy country with sophisticated but limited capabilities that needs to work with other to achieve our aims.

  84. Observer, I agree with you. Would be most interested to read those reports, referred to @ 2:22.

    Being Pashtun and being foreigners (in the S of A-stan) might need more interpretation…

    Just saw a report today that 3 Afghan provinces are firmly under Taliban administration. The main virtue of the guy who was to be the head of the gvmnt (for too long) was that he was half Pashtun and some thought he might be qualified to build bridges, to make A-stan a unitary state.

  85. DN

    Actually it has been on the cards for decades.

    Had the Argies known what they were doing in the nameless isles we would have lost.

    Frankly since the 60’s we have been conning people we had much bigger sticks than we had. Sometimes whilst not walking all that softly…..

  86. IXION

    I agree it has but I don’t think the tipping point came until after GW1, during that operation we managed to field a substantial quality force and sustain it in the field (by the skin of our teeth) which was in part thanks to the threat from the Warsaw Pact motivating us to keep such forces. After GW1 we had options for change, which followed with two more defence reviews before 9/11 all of which cut manpower.

    We managed to provide substantial forces for the Balkans (at one point of the operation there was more UK forces used than on op Herrick) but our lack of depth became apparent. We then went onto the Kosovo campaign that I believe if a land invasion had been required would have shown the weaknesses in the UK armed forces, if this had happened all would not have been lost as we could have rushed some heavy units from Germany to address the situation.

    This is where we were at a tipping point and failed or refused to see it, if the Serbs had put up a fight it would have shown our light forces to be the non mobile bluff they were and would have strained our logistics massively. Unfortunately it took an invasion of a country which had a population that was willing to fight hard to illuminate our shortcomings.

    I will add that during all the defence reviews that were undertaken not one of them seriously grasped the problem of retention, they were too bothered with paper formations and platforms.

  87. I love a good rant about the past, but I am more worried about the future. Saudi Arabia is pumping epic amounts of oil to push the price down. This seems aimed to punish Russia for backing Assad in Syria. The Russian economy is heading for crisis. This will b*gg*r Putin’s rearmament effort, so good for the West, but it may bankrupt American fracking firms, also bringing down the banks that lent to them. So another financial crisis, when interest rates are at rock bottom & QE at its limits. Probably a London property crash when the City money dries up. Shares plunging both sides of the pond. Who then will be in a position to sort out Afghanistan/Iraq or any other Mid-East sh*th*le?

  88. Just to depress you all before I go to bed. The reason why we cannot spend enough on defence/schools/NHS/motorways is that the UK national debt will hit £ 1.6 trillion in a couple of years. We would need to find 59,000 tons of Gold to pay that off. Last I heard, we had about 400 tons.

  89. JH, the Middle East has been a sh*thole for centuries, even when the British or Americans were not around. I’m sure they can create enough hell even without you guys.As long as they don’t export it.

    I’m sure if the situation gets bad enough, we can quarantine the whole region. We sure could use less of news that tries to manipulate us with tear-jerkers.

  90. A couple of points, Vietnam, the VC were militarily defeated post Tet. However North Vietnamese Army regulars were already becoming evident and their numbers increased greatly. The S Viet army was broadly able to contain them. What they couldn’t do was defeat the full scale invasion from the North in 1975, not least because the US, etc, had not trained or equipped them for this situation.

    I don’t think there is any prospect of a Pak invasion of Afg, not least because India would get seriously upset. The question then becomes whether or not enough has been done to create an adequate Afg army. The jury is still out on this one. However, the situation in the North and West seems pretty much OK, it’s the South and East that are problematic. The question then becomes the extent to which the departure of foreign troops calms things down, the desire of the people for peace and how this impacts the Taliban.

    On a wider issue it’s useful to remember that UK relations with Afg governments has been extremely good since about 1923. The problem has been the Pushtun folk memory. Of course the Pushtun have been in pain in the arse forever, it was their early 19th C raiding of the Indus valley that caused British India to expand to the West.

    Its also useful to remember that the goal of COIN is to create temporal and political space. It is next to impossible militarily defeat insurgents without hugely onerous restrictions on the civil population (which can backfire on you) but you can impose significant costs on them, the main thing is to buy time and promote development and improvement for the locals (both military and civil).

    I reckon it will be a decade before meaningful judgement can be passed on the campaign. At present its mostly hot air and cherry picking to try and ‘prove’ some pet point. It’s useful to remember that the number of UK KIA in the peak year was almost exactly the same as NI. Basic tactics and operational art seem to have been sound, as ever the equipment was not initially totally right (name a modern war where it was) and it could probably be argued that the troop density was too low, but local commanders thought they had to spread themselves. I’ve also no doubt it would have been a lot easier if it had been possible to impose fairly tough movement restrictions on the locals (it would then have ben possible to properly apply some effective UK tactics (at which the US is hopeless!).

  91. JH, you sure something bigger is not on the move/ RE
    ” to push the price down. This seems aimed to punish Russia for backing Assad in Syria. The Russian economy is heading for crisis. This will b*gg*r Putin’s rearmament effort, so good for the West, but it may bankrupt American fracking firms, also bringing down the banks that lent to them.”
    – Syria..Ukraine?
    – crisis -> the elite will topple Putin for the lack of French cognac faster than he has time to pull back from rearmament
    – convulsions in the ME would perfectly justify a domestic energy production subsidy restricted to, say, 5 years to bail out the fracking industry (and the banks; pls see what kind of money was expemded under TARP… and it reurned a profit!). Which capitalistic country was it that bought GM when that was necessary? Noe watch the news clips for the words ” I will do whatever is necessary… whatever it takes”

    As one of our friends here once asked: Do I charge for the geopolitical advice?

    Anyway, high stakes for the Saudis. A crown prince as an F-15 jockey bombing the monster that at least to a degree emerged with Saudi support. Not just internal risks; when I was last there, they were showing Russian TV news, with a general explaining how the Russian AF would be perfectly capable of bombing Saudi oil installations by flying through Iranian airspace. Even the laymen (in military matters, that is) were debating if the F-15s were good enough to stop the Suhois!

  92. Anyone in charge of intelligence (that is much broader than the military only) would have done well to read David Loyn’s Butcher and Bolt (October 2008). The subtitle of this excellent book is “Two Hundred Years of Foreign Engagement in Afghanistan. The book focuses on the 19th century British, 20th century Russian and present US war in Afghanistan. The book “provides the definitive analysis of the lessons these conflicts have for the present day.” The same tactical mistakes are being made. This is most obvious with the British and Russian efforts to control the mountainous passes into Afghanistan; in their attitudes towards the mujahideen and Afghan people; the lack of cultural understanding; the historical tradition of the Afghan loathing of foreigners in their country.
    – RE ” The problem has been the Pushtun folk memory. Of course the Pushtun have been in pain in the arse forever, it was their early 19th C raiding of the Indus valley that caused British India to expand to the West.”

    The book’s narrative ends at about the same time when the mission was changed and the ramping up of troop numbers began. Look up the chapter on “good Taleban”.

  93. ‘It’s useful to remember that the number of UK KIA in the peak year was almost exactly the same as NI’

    Although at it’s peak Op Banner manpower was nearly 21000 and from the early eighties lowered and surged as appropriate from about 10000 to 17000.

    So proportionately did we receive larger casualties than NI? although casualties are inevitable when faced with an opponent willing to give you a run for your money so the casualties are not the problem per se.

    ‘I reckon it will be a decade before meaningful judgement can be passed on the campaign’

    Politically and in the long term the jury is still out, military planning and resources after current plan was found to need adapting I think is an open and shut case.

  94. ACC The Russian Elite got their money out before the sanctions hit. They can send their private jets to Switzerland/Cyprus to stock up on XO. Capital flight is one problem crashing the Rouble at the moment.
    As for America printing its way out of a banking crisis. Not so sure they could get away with it again. Not popular in the run up to a Presidential election to give unlimited funds to Wall Street.

  95. It would not be a bad slogan to go into presidential elections with:
    ” Look, I used America’s real power, unlike the dum-dums preceding me, who were just increasing imperial overreach and thus accelerating our fall from n:o 1 position. See, no body bags, either.”

    Assuming Putin falls quicker than the fracking industry…

  96. ACC Wandering round the interweb, it seems Putin is counting on China to bail him out. Currency swaps, telecoms & gas pipelines for now. However China is facing slowdown in home & car sales. Will China be able/want to bail out the US & Russia at the same time?

  97. Obsvr

    The stated aim of the campaign was the defeat and removal from power of the Taliban, and establishment of a democratic govt who’s writ ran throughout the country.

    MISSION FAIL. By an empirical measurement we massively over reached ourselves and failed.

    We may have done SOME good, and as ever our basic soldiering was excellent.

    Remind me, where were we fighting the Taliban?

    But the principles of the campaign and the basis on which it was launched. Opperation ‘cock eyed optimism’ was a fail.

    Look at your own argument about the south and east being ‘Problomatic’. Does your dictionary define problematic as:- Territory in control of terrorists and fundamentalists we went out there to destroy????

    As for the defeat of the VC arguement it only works if you believe the VC werent part of the same machine as the NVA.

    They were and the US Lost. For pretty much the same reason it lost in Afghanistan.

  98. Acc

    The problem was those ordering the Afghan operation did not just not read that book. They seemingly failed to read ANY sensible treaty on the history of military intervention in Afghanistan.

  99. IXION,

    In which case, for the failure that you see, do not dare to lay the blame at the door of the uniformed part of the MOD, but do so at the rest of Government. People full of liberal shits without a backbone, or a brain in many cases.

  100. Afghanistan (my simplistic view). Blair liked to strut the World stage, thinking he was equal to a US President. I suspect he & his cabinet thought they could get some glory by sending a small UK force to assist the Americans. ie. the Americans do the heavy lifting, while UK troops hand out sweets to kids, help aid work, womens rights & other PC causes. Nice headlines in the papers. When it started to go wrong, we should have either pulled out, or sent in the heavy armour & enough helicopters to win. Instead there was denial. Too little, too late. Senior officers too timid to really stand up to the clueless politicians. Senior ministers wishing the victory, but not willing to fund the means. Much dithering.

  101. @John Hartley
    “it seems Putin is counting on China to bail him out.”
    God help him as they lure him in with promises and drag it out for years if not a decade like they did with the 61 bn c m ‘Power of Siberia’ gas pipeline they have just signed a 30 year deal for.
    China have also built a new 13 bn c m gas pipeline from Myanmar to add supply stability to the 31 bn c m capacity one from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan which they are also expanding. All in all gas wise China is looking to reduce its dependence on LPG imports from the ME . Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia which account for about half its yearly consumption whilst it develops indigenous sources but is facing pressure to consume more as it tries to move away from coal.

  102. Red Trousers

    “In which case, for the failure that you see, do not dare to lay the blame at the door of the uniformed part of the MOD, but do so at the rest of Government. People full of liberal shits without a backbone, or a brain in many cases.”

    Hear, hear and hear again! You never spoke a truer word, RT. The ventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan were inadequately funded and resourced in terms of both personnel and kit. From what I’ve read, Brown even refused to fund many of the UORs that were put in for the latter campaign or delayed them.

    Trouble is, to what do we now confine ourselves in terms of intervention? Are we restricted to the piece of advice give to Peter Ustinov by his superior officer in that funny story about what happened when his unit paid off at Waterloo station at the end of WWII. They had been all through N.Africa, Sicily, Italy and parts of Europe.

    The officer wheezed, took a drag on his cigarette through nicotine-stained lips and said, “Do you know what I’ve learned during this bloody, awful, ghastly war, Ustinov?”

    “No, sir,. What’s that?

    A pause, another drag on the cigarette, and then, “Never go south of Dover!”

    Are we because of enfeeblement, followed by emasculation, followed by further enfeeblement, followed by further emasculation, able to do anything of real significance now?

  103. R T.

    I not only dare. I shout it from the rooftops loud and proud.

    That the politicos were fuckwits in clownshoes is a given.

    But what we are discussing here is a TV program in which snr army officers have come forward and stated they knew by jingo:-

    ‘we didn’t have the men, we didn’t the equipment, and we didn’t have the money too’.

    That they took way to many risks, and eventually when the military tide went out it became obvious we hadn’t got any trunks on.

    If I had buried a loved one due to this fuck up and now some 3 star fool appears on Telly and says

    “I knew we couldn’t pull it off if there was any real resistance”

    If he hadn’t conveniently retired I would want him sacked.

    They should be ashamed they did not resign their commissions rather than follow such orders.

    The subject of Gulf 1 has been mentioned.

    Both Powell and Shwartzkopf (both I understand Vietnam vets) made it clear they got what they wanted… the entire us army or Bush could look for some different Generals.

    Our generals were supposed to be pros.

  104. IXION,

    You approach this from a fundamentally different point of departure than I.

    You basically look to blame some senior officers for the military being unsuited to what is a nonmilitary task. What a shock, a liberal pansy having a rant.

    I blame the politicians (mostly) for forcing the military to do a nonmilitary task.

  105. RT

    I was expecting the usual abuse.

    You are (deliberatly)? Missing the point.

    Nobody forced the snr officers involved in this to do anything. They could have, indeed should have, said not with me in command boyo unless you give me x y z.

    If Afghan was not a military role then FTF is???!!!!!!

    And again if it was ‘unsuited’ then they should have said so, boldy, at the time, in the face of Trust me Tony. Not safely (for them) after they have retired.

  106. IXION,

    I was expecting your usual stupidity.

    Just what part of nation-building do you think is a military task?

    After the door kicking phase, don’t you think that other organs of State are a bit more useful, and have you not noticed that it takes our own country no less than 24 government departments to function, and not just the MoD?

    Now, ask yourself this. Is the MoD completely in charge of the PM, who directs the entire work of government, or is is the other way around?

  107. I do believe the civ-mil things is done as a partnership between NGO’s (various), DFiD and the MOD, all supported by a variety of consultants and ‘others’

    The ‘comprehensive approach’ I think had some success and some failure.

    In general, I think the seniors at the MoD have a lot to answer for, as do politicians.

  108. TD

    Whom do you mean by “the seniors” at the MoD? Civil Service mandarins or top military brass? Or both?

  109. Monkey already covered most of the ground, but of these

    “Currency swaps, telecoms & gas pipelines for now” only pipelines are going currency, and even in them the long run is as much of competition for exploration/ transshipment as it is, for now, about diversifying markets for Russian (proper, which of course includes Siberia) gas.

  110. @TD – Politicians rather more so, I think…having wilfully decided neither to understand defence nor fund it properly despite consistently insisting that “the Defence of the Realm is the first priority of Government” to keep the tabloid readers happy…

    The rot starting in 1989 when some half-witted political reptile coined the idea of a “peace dividend”…when anybody with any – I say again ANY knowledge of history could have explained slowly and in words of one syllable that when the plates shift because an Empire falls, decays or walks away the world gets more dangerous not less…always has, always will…

    Doesn’t add much to the debate, but I feel better having said it. :-)


  111. RT

    Of course the PM tells the MOD, who tell the soldiers. But at that rank they have the option of telling the PM to FO. And handing in their pips.

    If nation building was not a military task why did generals agree to command troops to do it?

    In any event we elected to use military force to depose the defacto and de jure (but frankly evil) govt of a sovereign state. Having done so, many of the deposed took it into their heads to object, with a violence that should have surprised no one who could read. That they did so means we had to stay and shoot back. That sounds like a job for soldiers. Of course I am not an expert…

    As a matter of interrest what is a job for soldiers?

    What should we have done post 2005?

    And as I am setting exam questions… do try and answer without the personal abuse preamble. And show your working out.

  112. Umm…
    How do we translate that
    “when the plates shift because an Empire falls, decays or walks away the world gets more dangerous not less…”
    Into monosyllables for the campaign trail , to support this message:
    “It would not be a bad slogan to go into presidential elections with:
    ” Look, I used America’s real power, unlike the dum-dums preceding me, who were just increasing imperial overreach and thus accelerating our fall from n:o 1 position.”

    If the party heads here can hire campaign chiefs from the US, surely it works both ways?
    – well, for the Tube it did not work, but that wasn’t int’l politics (exc. For Abu Hamza son )

  113. A link to what the UK Forces thought they were tasked with in Helmand.
    “The primary role of the military personnel in each PRT(Provincial Reconstruction Teams) is to provide an enabling security environment in which the authority of the Afghan Government can be extended, and development and reconstruction work carried out.
    Military personnel do this by patrolling and liaising with the local population, they are also in charge of directing assistance to the civilian elements, in particular at the levels of transport, medical assistance and engineering.
    With a secure environment in place, civilian personnel can then work closely with the Afghan government and with the military to provide a seamless package of assistance, leading on political, economic, humanitarian and social aspects.”
    They stayed and shot back when the Taliban tried to disrupt these efforts.
    Having observed how the Taliban.Pakistani and Al-Qaeda forces overthrew the forces of Massoud between 1996 and September 9th 2001 (familiar date) when he was assassinated by Taliban suicide bombers by using almost the same tactics of seemingly random attacks and bombings of various sorts and whose origins like Massoud were from their days as Mujahedeen fighting the Soviets in the 79-89 war were they used the same tactics of disruption we could of guessed what would happen next as they realised we were making a difference and recovered from their initial defeat.×231.jpg

  114. @ACC…”If the toughest kid in the playground gets expelled, it doesn’t mean free ice-cream all round…it means much more fighting until everybody else knows where they stand” Would that do it? :-)


  115. @GNB,

    Let me see… The Centcom did not exist until oil wars were deemed likely/ necessary.

    The count of US Navies has gone down by one (nothing to do with the number of ships). With fracking and self sufficiency CentCom might go the same way?

    Concentrating on the Pacific, with S China Sea and the Indian Ocean not fiġuering or only a-s”bays” of it, I can see
    1. Obama, or next, taking more risks with Russia (a nuisance, but only a regional power): corral them in
    2. Make Saudi Arabia play for its survival… Survival of the USA not any more at stake. Stop all duplicicity, posturing and stirring up trouble in other parts of the Muslim world
    3. As for your question: would that do it? Probably in the ME
    – not so much in Europe, or somebody’s near-abroad
    – what I am concerned about is that the calculation may have been like that all along, stirring up trouble to see how muçh can be chipped off the old Russian empire… When the 80 mph car hits the wall, call the EU ambulance… However,the ME trouble growing so big must have been a surprise. However, noew both Iran and Saudi Arabia need the US, to stop the balance tipping one way or the other.
    – the much quoted British incompetence (not necessarily militarily) in and around Basra gave rise to quite an imbalanced status quo in the Gulf.such an expansion in the spheres of influence may well have been the spark for building up ISIL to push the Shia influence back geographically.
    – ever wondered how come HAMAS was so well supplied (geography, as one would have supposed with a pro-West gvmnt in Iraq standing in- between)?

  116. Sorry off piste again..

    Was it the same clowns in intelligence and FO (and now Treasury) who did not forsee the 2M Euro cock up!.

    Surely someone should have examined implications of change in statisics .

  117. DN

    Actually the following are already deployed

    1) Pansy liberal politicians.*
    2) wholly undefined mission
    3) totals inadequate equipment
    4) totals inadequate numbers
    5) totals inadequate finance.
    6) Totally inadequate intelligence
    7) Actually whilst all this was going on I was on a 10 year sabbatical in a cave in Tibet. Of course if they had asked me I would have told them………….
    8) There was a war in Afghanistan???!!! .When did that happen??!! No one told me.
    9) Oh well its years since it started we should look to the future, and not waste time apportioning blame after all its difficult to say after so much time who had a say in what.
    10) Have you seen our new FRES vehicle. Its wonderful and it will be deployed by 2020 **

    All detailed in my new book ‘How I nearly stood up to Tony Blair’ By General Lee uselesscarrierminded. (Rtd).

    Avialable for chat shows, think tanks, weddings funerals Ba mitzvahs, and children’s parties…

    * The good old reliable November Criminals rant
    ** The Military equivalent of “Hey look a Squirrel”!!!?????

  118. Gereally on a more serious note.

    Whither the Britsh Army now.

    Not Enough men.

    As the program postulates are we finaly going to accept “We are bloody Belgium’ at least Army wise????

  119. IXION

    You must have been watching the Andrew Marr show ;-)

    ‘As the program postulates are we finaly going to accept “We are bloody Belgium’ at least Army wise????’

    I would not go that far, but we should now accept that we are not a military power in the way we recognise the term and maybe now and again not be a lead country in some ops? as to comparing spending with other nations it is just smoke and mirrors if we are in a league with nations in Europe who spend little on defence and a nation such as Saudi Arabia who gets involved in FA spends more.

  120. The British Army needs to accept that some of the blame is with the British Army not the terrible politicians who made them try and do something with inadequate resources.

    Go in Aghanistan in 2001 everyone supports and by 2003 we had a few hundred men in theatre and we were happy that on occasion we would send a few thousand on a 6 month deployment BUT be replaced by another nation.

    Go into Helmand in 2005-6 was another decision and everyone blames everyone else for what was agreed with who and what then happened.

    Blair was NOT in favour at that time he wanted to send more troops to support Bush in Iraq at that time but after the bad public reaction to even a marginal contribution to Falujah in 2005 he was persuaded that was not viable. The British political establishment then started to plan on the basis of a major US report that in 2006 basically recommended declare victory and get out. What we did not expect was Bush rejected the report, after the Nov 2006 mid terms he sacked Rumsfeld and ordered the Surge and then came looking for more troops in Iraq in 2007-8 when we had been planning to get out.

    Afghanistan 2005 was partly a military priority, but mainly a political one in terms of the other NATO militarises wanted to justify their existence both to their own people and their own Treasuries and to the Pentagon. John Reid was DefSec at the time the decisions of going in were made, he agreed to go in as long as he had cast iron guarantee that Canada and Netherlands were going as well, (Canada had never been in Iraq, and Netherlands had recently left Iraq). All 3 went in with 2-3,000 men for a province and all 3 had allegedly limited objectives.

    The difference is within weeks of arriving the gung ho attitude of the British Army with no political orders went roaring up the valley to occupy the block houses and try to impose control the entire province when most of the force was still unpacking initial supplies. The politicians were than faced with 5 years of being told they had not provided enough resources by the same generals who had been campaigning to go in and had been telling the politicians 3000 men would be enough.

    The final force was 10,500 UK and 12,500 USMC, several thousand Danes and Balts, and by the end significant numbers of ANA, so 25-30,000 depending on how you don’t the ANA. If you had said that to any politician in 2005 it would never have been allowed.

    The reason the dead are dead is Generals trying to justify their existence.
    “we lost in Basra but we can win this one” one unnamed General
    “We need to go in as NI is over, BAOR is over, Balkans is over without this the Treasury will cut the Army savagely” Sherrad Cowper Coles alleges Dannett view.

  121. @ Ixion – didn’t Belgium have 30 Divisions in its Army in 1940. The UK never deployed 30 divisions in the European theatre of WW2 at any point. I don’t think we even had 30 in theatre by 1945. So maybe being Belgium in Army terms is not that bad at least in quantity.

    While our military power has declined its worth noting that so has everyone else’s. Even the undisputed world heavy weight of the USA has a pretty small army by German or Russian historical standards and a fairly small navy by British or American historical standards.

    we could have a much larger army but then it would just give our politicians more reason to run round the world trying to big themselves up on the international stage. If we are not going to run round being the worlds police man then all that large army would be doing is marching round Buckingham palace polishing its boots.

    I don’t doubt that the security situation is deteriorating but I don’t see a British Army of any size being able to meaningfully do anything about it.

    special Forces and airstrikes are the only tool that we can deploy against ISIL that has a chance of working.

    while Russia poses some threat we cant seriously be arguing about launching an Army operation against a country with 6000 nuclear weapons. Its a job for Sanctions not tanks.

    China is also a worry but it’s far enough away that it’s not an immediate concern and it’s too far away for us to deploy a meaningful army. a job for the Navy and airforce at most.

    I just don’t see any real utility in having a much larger Army in the current environment. Better to have a smaller better equipped more deployable one.

  122. @ Dan – Agreed, As you say even 30,000 boots on the ground could not win Helmand through sheer force. I also agree that its rarely the politicians that are forcing the top brass to enter such situations certainly not against military advice.

    The fact is Generals like to go to war, so do soldiers. Unfortunately history rarely presents us with a nice clean moral war like 1982 or 1991 so sometimes they have to invent one.

  123. Martin

    The 1945 mindset is one of our real problems, we like to pretend as if the senior military leaders in Whitehall are the IMPERIAL General Staff acting as if we had assets and responsibilities on a global scale.

    In 1945 we still expected to command and control all the Coomonwealth and Imperial armed Forces, so we would have access to the million plus men of the Indian and Pakistani Army’s as well as a couple of extra Carrier and some more nuclear forces, we would be interested in and reporting on the Australians deployed in various Pacific failed states, the Ugandans in Somalia, the Nigerians operating in Mali and Sierra Leone, the Indians operating in the Congo etc etc.

    What we should be trying to bring to the party is logistic support, money (paying Uganda to fight Somali pirates is much cheaper than a Western intervention), high tech air or Naval force if it would truly help.

    10,000 men in a single province of Afghanistan for a decade did what exactly?

  124. ‘special Forces and airstrikes are the only tool that we can deploy against ISIL that has a chance of working.’

    Which worked well in Libya! what’s the latest news from there again? Airstrikes and SF are good at aiding an allied force or to create a safe haven (if you are willing to defend them, Srebrenica?) I do not think we have the appetite or ability to put large numbers of troops on the ground which will grant you direct influence except in extremes and as such I see no reason to have a larger Army or Navy, I would like to see an uplift for the RAF if we still want to reach out and touch people at short notice.


    estimate of a light brigade of about 3,000 men was only just adequate to secure a British presence in one town, Lashkagar.

    “Anything beyond that risked sparking a conflict that we had no way to control,” the former SAS commander said.

    Smarting from the failure to secure Basra in southern Iraq, senior British officers appeared to both SAS bosses as anxious to recover the forces reputation but blind to the potential costs and the resources kicking the Helmand hornet’s nest would need.

    large chunks of the province have already slipped away from limited government control. Musa Qala and Now Zad have gone, Afghan troops are hanging on to a small base in Sangin.

    And the drug khans are enjoying an unprecedented boom. Opium revenues are up by a third this year to $3bn.

  126. @David Niven

    How short is short notice ? Lets take Syria. How long does it take (today) to move 8 Tornado, plus tanker support, logistics support, [AWACS in different circumstances] plus all the people needed to Cyprus ?

    As opposed to moving one of our 2 carriers task groups from its normal station [which would be where – Middle East ?] to the eastern med (plus RFA T45, T23 support etc).

    Pretty similar amount of time I would have thought. I would also guess the F35B number would be at least 15 assuming a reasonable mix of helicopters. The “problem” with the QE task force would be the lack of carrier based tanker and possibly proper AWACS (Crowsnest v Hawkeye).

    Ignoring that sort of comparison which should apply from 2020 onwards, what sort of uplift do you want to see for the RAF ?

    Give or take we should have over 100 Typhoon active, of which at least 60 should be available less the QR force and training….How many are potentially deployable ?

    If you want more RAF reach, then you need 1) basing rights with the freedom to do whatever you pleased; 2) airlift capability to move and support the logistics chain; and 3) more tankers to support the deployed operation tempo on top of the day to day demand.

  127. ‘How short is short notice ?’

    Considering we bombed Libya the same night it was ordered, I’d say that short. Has Argus reached Sierra Leone yet?

    ‘How long does it take (today) to move 8 Tornado, plus tanker support, logistics support, [AWACS in different circumstances] plus all the people needed to Cyprus’

    Not that long as they were setting up on an existing airfield. Not longer than transiting from the Arabian Sea to the Med.

    ‘As opposed to moving one of our 2 carriers task groups’

    Which relies on land based AAR to have decent reach.

    ‘1) basing rights with the freedom to do whatever you pleased’

    Considering most of the people we would want to touch is in the ME, then Cyprus would do.

    ‘what sort of uplift do you want to see for the RAF ?’

    ISTAR, Tankers and transport more FJ if we can get the money but not the most important of the list.

  128. “Syria. How long does it take (today) to move 8 Tornado, plus tanker support, logistics support, [AWACS in different circumstances] plus all the people needed to Cyprus ?”

    Within 48hrs if any recent operation over the last few years is a go by.

    We don’t have resources to permanently fwd deploy a carrier there most likely station will be somewhere near Portsmouth.

    Provide the resources to fully utilise all the aircraft we current have in istar, transport fj would be a gd start.

  129. Mark, DavidN

    We had already based Tornado in Cyprus in a rec role, so I’m not sure that 48 hours is necessarily a correct comparison, especially when the base is a permanent RAF base. If the ME target was S Iraq or Afghanistan then Cyprus basing would also need Typhoon support in a pure A2A role under “normal” circumstances as you would have to be prepared to deal with the Syrian airforce.


    I don’t know if we have sufficient RFA capability to keep a Carrier task force at sea in the eastern med or Gulf, but I am certain that if we didn’t, then we will need to have that before QE is deployed anywhere for more than a few weeks sailing time. After all It will (or should be) supported by at least 1 T45 and T23 wherever it is deployed.

  130. Nick

    ‘We had already based Tornado in Cyprus in a rec role, so I’m not sure that 48 hours is necessarily a correct comparison, especially when the base is a permanent RAF base.’

    Although we bombed Libya the same night from the UK but we’ll put that to one side. The Tornado is capable of carrying out both recce and strike missions with the use of the RAPTOR, it would only be a matter of adding ordnance for the strike mission. Having a permanent base is both the point and the advantage.

    If the ME target was S Iraq or Afghanistan then Cyprus basing would also need Typhoon support in a pure A2A role under “normal” circumstances as you would have to be prepared to deal with the Syrian airforce.

    Carrier based aircraft would need at the minimum land based tanker and AWAC’s just like their land based counterparts. The new carriers are an uplift in capability over the ones they are replacing but they are not any way near a USN carrier wing. We will still rely on land based MPA, Tanker and AWAC’s for it’s effective use.

  131. @ David Niven

    A TLAM fired from an SSN or a frigate will reach out an touch someone pretty quickly. RAF jets are fine in a permissive environment but we lack the capability to go into defended airspace. An operation that has to go against defended airspace will require a large number of assets and take a long time to deploy.

    The air operations over Libya achieved its limited aims. That Libya is a mess would have been no different even if we sent a large occupation force.

    There is no easy way to fix the Middle East. all we can hope to do with our military is prevent the worst civilian atttrocities as we did in Libya and in Northern Iraq and try and keep the worst elements like ISIL and the Taliban down while trying to support the more moderate elements. Whats likley to come out of the mix in the ME won’t be great but hopefully it will be better than IS.

    while airstrikes have taken time to take effect in Iraq and Syria I think IS is learning the hard lesson now of trying to fight against overwhelming air power. They can’t keep taking casualties like this for long. Sending in ground forces will change the situation over night to their advantage.

  132. @David Niven

    I absolutely agree that as currently planned, our Carriers (@6 billion plus about as much again for the F35Bs) have been woefully under-equipped. There needs to be organic tanker component (a converted Osprey seems the only solution right now) given the design. I also agree that “Crowsnest” isn’t really the most appropriate solution either. needs must and all that.

    Lets suppose its 2020 and we need to undertake new strikes overnight from the UK to Libya. Typhoon would carry 2 Paveway plus 3 tanks or 2 storm shadow and 1 tank as of today (we may by then have conformal tanks on a limited number of Tranche 3, in which case we could carry 6 Paveway equivalents or 2 storm shadow without any tanks).

    That’s about 2,500 km each way. Each plane would need to be refueled 3 times I expect (4 if you want significant loiter time over Libya)? How many tankers do we have available to refuel the strike force deployed along the flight path ? There would also need to be the other supporting aircraft (AWACS, Sentinal etc). I don’t know, but I would have a good guess that we could deploy 5 or 6 Typhoon per sortie. Each sortie would probably take 6 to 8 hours. I guess we might manage two sorties a day.

    Alternatively, we could deploy 20 F35B on the QE in international waters (300 km offshore) and each plane could carry 4 Paveways or two storm shadow per flight with a round trip of 2 hours without refueling ?

    Which is likely to be the more effective ?

    For the RAF to be really effectively deployed in any overseas operation, you need local basing. The carrier is a moving local base, which can move at least 750 km a day. What’s not to like ? (apart from the cost).

  133. @Martin

    ‘A TLAM fired from an SSN or a frigate will reach out an touch someone pretty quickly.’

    Yeah it would, if my sub was in the vicinity at the time. How many do they carry again? we are not going to bring someone to their knees with our TLAM’s.

    ‘RAF jets are fine in a permissive environment but we lack the capability to go into defended airspace.’

    I acknowledge that, but the people we are going to want hit in such a short space of time are the type of people we have been bombing for the last decade. If we are against a peer enemy then it would be all hands to the pump.

    What is to stop me launching TLAM/stormshadow from a C17/MPA/A400? I get range and it’s based in the UK and the airframe has other uses if we are in a permissive environment? If we decided to strike Mali tomorrow why would I use TLAM or FJ? could I not get persistence from a transport filled with paveways/stormshadow etc? Would it be a better investment to spend a few million integrating some ordnance on some of our transport fleet?


    ‘For the RAF to be really effectively deployed in any overseas operation, you need local basing. The carrier is a moving local base, which can move at least 750 km a day. What’s not to like ? (apart from the cost)’

    I’m not advocating ditching the carriers in any way shape or form. The Navy provides persistence and depth to an operation but it still needs to get there. If I wanted to send a message in a short space of time then the RAF are the service to go to and if persistence is needed then the Navy follow.

    You would still need basing rights for the MPA’s and Tankers, granted they would probably be slightly easier to get due to them not being strike platforms in the sense of FJ’s. That is why I think the service that needs an uplift in it’s enablers is the RAF.

    Maybe we should be throwing some money in the pot with the US on the prompt global strike project.

  134. @ David Niven – we typically have an SSN East Of Suez near the gulf at all times. Often another one in the med as well. I would guess 9 times out of 10 an SSN with TLAM will be our quickest way to hit a time sensitive target in the region. I don’t doubt we also need RAF assets as well.

    I also think an extended range storm shadow fire from the back of a C17 or an A400m is a capability we should have. It would seem to provide a lot of bang for the buck for a nation with very few FJ’s at its disposal.

    That we don’t have such a capability is more to do with RAF top brass wanting to protect Tornado and treasury that loathes to fire off expensive missiles. Much the same reasons that T45 has no VLS.

  135. I don’t think these COIN campaigns really warrant high tempo bombing. MQ9 Reaper seems eminently sensible for loiter and “call in” strike. These along with SF to find the targets is about all we can achieve with any degree of success. Fair enough send half-a-dozen Tornado to provide the occasional heavy strike and/or airborne surveillance.

    None of this ME business really warrants a carrier other than the operating stages of GW1.

  136. Nick commented

    Lets suppose its 2020 and we need to undertake new strikes overnight from the UK to Libya. Typhoon would carry 2 Paveway plus 3 tanks or 2 storm shadow and 1 tank as of today (we may by then have conformal tanks on a limited number of Tranche 3, in which case we could carry 6 Paveway equivalents or 2 storm shadow without any tanks).

    That’s about 2,500 km each way. Each plane would need to be refueled 3 times I expect (4 if you want significant loiter time over Libya)? How many tankers do we have available to refuel the strike force deployed along the flight path ? There would also need to be the other supporting aircraft (AWACS, Sentinal etc). I don’t know, but I would have a good guess that we could deploy 5 or 6 Typhoon per sortie. Each sortie would probably take 6 to 8 hours. I guess we might manage two sorties a day.

    Alternatively, we could deploy 20 F35B on the QE in international waters (300 km offshore) and each plane could carry 4 Paveways or two storm shadow per flight with a round trip of 2 hours without refueling ?

    and the real question we should be asking is why would we be trying to operate in that way. The French provided more than 30% of the strike missions in Libya by a combination of a functioning Carrier just off the coast and land based strikes from France.

    The UK provided approx. 10% of the strikes somewhat less than Denmark but marginally more than Canada. The strikes from the UK were not a military necessity they were the RAF and the MoD trying to prove a Carrier was not required.

    Either we are planning to operate entirely independently and realistically these days that will be in a permissive environment like Sierra Leone or Hurricane relief in the Caribbean or we are operating as part of a coalition in which case base RAF at the nearest Allied base.

    Libya is a classic example, of an area we should have left to others, the threat in the Southern Mediterranean was firstly to the Northern Mediterranean, so if France or Italy or Spain wanted access to any specialist niche capabilities we should have provided, but dropping a few bombs inaccurately and expensively at long range was pointless.

    It did show that the French by not committing so much to a wasted effort in the Central Asian desert they had managed to keep more flexible Armed Forces which could be used when there was a threat to French interests.

    Syria is another example, Turkey has hundreds of F-16s but is choosing not to get involved, why is it more in our interest to get involved than it is theirs?

  137. Dan

    we have different strategic goals than Turkey:

    Turkey (it appears) wants to get rid of Assad more than ISIL (who are fighting Assad) and doesn’t want a rejuvenated PKK to be supported from an independent Syria/Iraq Kurdish homeland.

    we want to avoid another Afghanistan, remain BFF with the US, are worried sick about the proportion of the 500 to 2000 UK citizens in Syria (who are all presumed to be fighting for IS) who will return home and commence a Jihad on UK soil, support the Iraq government (which we helped created) and our Kurdish friends BUT not spend a lot of money (which we don’t have) and certainly not give the impression of a weak government let alone have any casualties this side of the election.

  138. @Dan
    On your comments on the Southern Europeans should have put their hands up and claimed ‘my ball’ and left us to focus elsewhere or act as a reserve for some other developing crisis I couldn’t agree more , same for Turkey but they have gone all clausewitzian and are hanging back from action in an effort to lever the PKK at the negotiating table using the Military option as their strongest political weapon.
    On “The strikes from the UK were not a military necessity they were the RAF and the MoD trying to prove a Carrier was not required. ” on the purple side they could just be proving that if a carrier is laid up in maintenance and the other is in the Gulf they can still play a part at that particular range without relying on local basing , that it was UK to Libya being irrelevant the 2500km being what’s relevant. p.s. a WW2 era B29 could have delivered twice the payload without refuelling, if the RAF want to remain truly relevant now the carriers are coming the need go back to a long range heavy lift bomber, LRS-B anyone in light blue?

  139. Syria. How long does it take (today) to move 8 Tornado, plus tanker support, logistics support, [AWACS in different circumstances] plus all the people needed to Cyprus

    Certainly comfortably less than 48 hours. That’s with no aircraft in there already, so it’s not just an add on.

  140. @Monkey

    In the UK/French context, LRS-B is presumably son of Taranis/Neuron ? (although I’d concede we might one a few manned equivalents in the mix for operational control)

  141. Topman

    How many aircrew, maintenance staff, spare parts, weapons, armourers, RAF Regiment,. staff, fuel, food, accommodation etc etc do you need to move to a new temporary location (in say UAE) to support air operations for 8 Typhoon/Tornado for a 2 month deployment.

    From political decision, initial planning to deployment in 48 hours ?

  142. I’ve been reading Frank Ledwidge “Investment in Blood”

    How is this for a summery of achievement:

    Britain’s effort resulted in the temporary stabilisation of 3 of the 14 districts of Helmand, one of 34 provinces of Afghanistan and by no means one of the most strategically important.

    Before Britain arrived Helmand was “stable” in the sense that there was no Taliban presence and almost no prospect of any. After 3 years it was one of the most savage combat zones in the world. Most of the initial fighting was either with Helmandis reacting to foreigners turning up, or displaced militia previously in the employ of Sher Mohammed Akhundzadas, the war lord and Drug Lord who was also governor of the basically peaceful province until the British demanded his replacement before they arrived.

    The Helmandis were more hostile to a British rather than other foreign presence because of folk memory of previous British invasions and battles such as Maiwand.

    Before the British arrived with their avowed intention of combatting narcotics Helmand produced just under 40% of Afghanistan’s opium. As they leave total production in Afghanistan has increased and 49% now comes from Helmand.

    No significant AQ presence has been reported in Helmand since 2001.

    There have been no reported terrorist plots against the UK originating from Helmand, rather than the multiple ones from either disaffected Pakistani origin youth in Northern England or from Pakistan.

    Examples he gives which could have used the £40Billion UK cost more wisely include:

    Several UK manned missions to the moon!

    run 1,000 Primary Schools for 40 years

    Fund FREE tuition for ALL students in British Higher Education for 10 years

    Recruit 5,000 extra Police or Nurses and pay them FOR THEIR ENTIRE CAREERS.

    or in Military terms

    produce a Carrier with an air wing of 50 F-35, and 4 more T-45 and an SSN and run them all for a decade.


    full cost of replacement of the UK nuclear deterrent.

  143. It’s been done before, but clearly how well set up the place is is a an issue. Another countries place is a different matter to Aki. All sorts of issues with each place many different, however my first point was to point out, speaking in general terms, the timescales are about right.

    Edit: Some of the political timescales I can’t comment on, so I’d have to leave that element as a bit of unknown. Public statements who knows when they come to a decision.

  144. red trousers

    True but I would prefer his proposed UK moonshot!

    In all seriousness reading the book was depressing, none of the political or military establishment at the most senior level actually believed in the mission as a mission rather than as something to do to prove our worth to the Pentagon and we even failed at that.

    The initial 2001-3 period was successful,
    The ambitions of 2005 were echoed again on the BBC last night with both Dannett and Peter Wall weakly admitting perhaps we were wrong in the planning, and the recce team reporting coming back and being told to play down the problems and play up the positive as if they didn’t the politicians might not let us go!

  145. Topman

    Moving the aircraft and people into a prepared base in 48 hours seems very plausible. It seems to me that the time and logistics in setting up a new base from scratch is likely to be much longer (and not that dissimilar to the time it would take to deploy a Carrier from its home port to an operational area). Longer still if you need to build infrastructure to accommodate your force. This why I think basing rights are so important for the RAF.

  146. @Nick

    ‘do you need to move to a new temporary location (in say UAE) to support air operations’

    I would have thought not much longer than moving AWAC’s and Tankers to support persistent carrier strike missions. I think your missing the point, carrier strike gives persistence in the short to medium term not the long term. How long did we keep sqn’s in Kandahar and SH in Bastion?could we have done that with 2 carriers on rotation with the numbers we needed? (if Afghan had a coastline). If I wanted to hit someone tomorrow then it would be the RAF 90% of the time unless the carrier or SSN happened to be within the vicinity. And if we spent money to allow the use of transport air craft as cruise missile carriers we could use them on most of the occasions when we want to strike without entering non permissive airspace.

    With modern communications and social media the situation I was trying to prevent by sending my carriers could have escalated by the time it reached Gibraltar, if I want to send a message quickly then land based air power is the answer and sets the tone for whatever is to follow.

    ‘It seems to me that the time and logistics in setting up a new base from scratch is likely to be much longer’

    Don’t forget we used to do this quite often with the Harrier, an Engr Sqn could have an airfield up and running within a few days.

  147. Dan’s comment about £40 billion spent made me think.

    The Afghan economy “produces” about $20 billion a year (£14 billion), but most of that is probably war-related. The 2000 economy was about $5 billion.

    The Afghan war cost the UK £40 billion, apparently. Perhaps £200 billion spread among the participants.

    WTF for? It would have been cheaper to assimilate the entire population as refugees around the West, and leave the land empty. There are only 31 million Afghans.

    It must be the most expensive real estate in Asia.

  148. @Nick
    Logically a long range heavy lift LO fully automated UAV would be the way to go (their grandfathers could fly from Norfolk,England or there abouts up to the Ural mountains terrain following all the way and strike within a 100m and that was 40 years ago and was called cruise all be it nuclear armed weapon) .The advantages of no flight crew train or to keep current, no airframe wear , no engine wear (as it doesn’t have anybody on board or have to fly for 5,000 hours between major overhauls you can cut corners on the design- i.e. just like TLAM it rarely fly’s until it has an active mission but in this case it returns after dropping its cargo of 100 SDB) .Make sense ? sorry no can do , the RAF is about pilots and whizzing about at great rate of knots, knights of old in a shinny metal suit(airframe) an all.
    The USAF pilots feel the same and the LRS-B will be optional manned ,which means unless its a fucked up airframe being sent on a one way suicide mission it all ways will be.
    The opinion of Lt. Col. Jeff Schreiner is a career B-2 pilot, formerly commander of the 13th Bomb Squadron, the Grim Reapers.
    He makes a good case or rather it was written for him by the USAF PR team.

  149. ‘It seems to me that the time and logistics in setting up a new base from scratch is likely to be much longer’

    You mean from nothing, ie move into a dirt field?

  150. @Topman
    My comparison was to a Nuclear Cruise in terms of occasionally you send one out for practice but other than they sit in an inert atmosphere air conditioned hangar waiting for a war so no wear. Some airframes would be used for ground crew practice as they planned for reuse(how many missions would a strike bomber like GR4 be expected to last against a peer enemy? 10 ,20, so 200 hours in the air) but mostly simulated on airframes that don’t fly such as the ones used at Cranwell etc. The plane doesn’t need to practice, it knows what to do , its the flight crew that need to. If 40 years after the Tomahawks where designed we cant do better ,well there’s no hope.
    I though personally am swayed by the Lt Cols. argument a computer as yet can do so much and by no means can match the adaptive skills of a human pilot. The one area I see an advantage on this type of UAV is humans can only tolerate so much g and as he mentioned on extended missions (mostly flown on autopilot,90%?) of 40 hours plus or more are about the human limit for them to think and react in any way properly.

  151. I guarentee you that aircraft need to be flown if you keep them shut up In a hanger bits will need to be replaced, there engines and systems need run regularly. What uavs may allow you to do is buy fewer airframes as crews to air vehicle ratios will be higher.

  152. @Mark
    Granted it would need a schedule of maintenance the same as TLAM does but as its is also job is to take off fly a predetermined course the same as a TLAM would need little more.In the TLAM case it would crash onto its target and detonate whereas this airframe would return and go through a maintenance cycle and then be ready for whatever it is programmed to do next.
    Strike jets fly training to train the human crews not the airframe, flight training just wears it out. The minimum number of actual flights would only need to be done to keep the brass happy it still works. Ground crew could easily simulate a returned aircraft on a training only airframe shades of “right lads and lasses ,we now have to pretend that UAV rolling towards us has just been to Moscow and back ,landed here , taxied it self to this hangar and now needs some TLC, by the book get to it”

  153. @Hohun

    With all that scapegoating of the UK, you should be on Fox News.

    It always made little sense that the UK was given the task of subduing the most difficult
    province in the Taliban’s heartland, the US should have always been in the lead role,
    however you seem to be conveniently forgetting that it was a coalition operation.
    Your overly harsh criticism would only be valid if the UK had “cut and run”, as some other coalition partners did, but the British
    military have stayed the course in Helmand, literally closing up shop on the same day as the US Marines. Even the articles I have read in the US media acknowledge this, and have a completely different tone to those written about the British effort in Basra. Just look at the Op Herrick casualty figures, British casualties are one fifth of those suffered by the US military despite having a force less than one tenth of the size deployed. The fact that the UK bit off more than it could chew in Helmand does not change that, in the same way that if a US brigade needed to be reinforced it would be, that is the whole point of a coalition, it is not a pissing contest. How on earth was a brigade of British troops supposed to get a grip on Helmand when it needed at least a division sized force? And the UK military has not been able to sustain a deployed division for decades, so when things started going tits up in Helmand, I doubt it came as a big fuckin surprise to the US military that the British would need to be reinforced.

  154. ‘Ground crew could easily simulate a returned aircraft on a training only airframe shades of “right lads and lasses ,we now have to pretend that UAV rolling towards us has just been to Moscow and back ,landed here , taxied it self to this hangar and now needs some TLC, by the book get to it”’

    If it is reuseable, doing that is of little use at all. It does help in some ways but only in a basic grounding,that sort of thing isn’t a substitute for the real experience.

  155. @Topman
    Indeed it would be a simple operating procedure for the turn around crew, plug in the computer for its ‘de-brief’ and to see what stresses and strains it put itself through, pulling 25g to avoid AAA would stress anything but assuming its reports all clear off to the ordinance teams and on to the refuelling ramp and off it goes again to be seen 20 or so hours later.The airframe would never likely actually wear out more likely to receive some form of battle damage then after its initial inspection off to the repair shop for repair if affordable or it just doesn’t come back at all. In the last scenario though there would be no need for a CO to write to next of kin.
    The repair,ordinance and the refuelling teams work I could not see changing much as an airframe it would behave the same as a manned unit but with just a bit less to check on, no cockpit/life support setup as no need for that aspect.

  156. I’m not really sure where to start with that, if you think it works like that, fair enough.

  157. @TD

    I take it you longevity rather than speed? Or just overall ?

    Overall, for me more support equipment/structure, more spares, so we can flex fleets better leading to fewer rob aircraft. Better support structure so that people in the background in eng/ops support are dotting all the eyes and crossing the tees, leaving those closer to the pointy end to have all the information at the drop of a hat. Meaning less rushing around at the last minute getting information and equipment that should already be there. I’d take a 20% reduction in some fleets to pay for it.

    Getting the best out of everything before we buy too much of anything is the key, sometimes numbers are seen as the be all and end all, the support side can sometimes the poor relation.

    Oh yeah and a few more people wouldn’t go a miss!

    Like you say it’s not shit, sometimes it could be made easier though.

  158. Well, the long and short of it is defence costs. The more you want it to do, the more it costs.

    BTW monkey, I won’t even want a UAV to do 4g much less 9+. You are working with a massive sensory deprivation and the more you do acrobatics with a UAV/CUAV, the more you are going to lag behind the awareness curve. There have been some cases where UAVs were lost when the operator thought it was on the ground already and cut power to the engines, not realizing that it was still in the air. Manned aircraft is unlikely to have the same problem. You can *feel* the wheels hitting the ground.

    The first senses that tell you something is wrong with a plane is not your eyes, it’s your ears (balance) and skin (feel). UAVs only have eyes. Not to mention depending on the encryption protocols, UAVs can sometimes have a second or 2 of lag as you encrypt/decrypt commands and info. It’s like trying to play a shooter game when you are behind everyone by 2 seconds. When you use an encrypted radio, you can actually listen to yourself a few seconds later if you transmitted to a nearby set.

  159. “can *feel* the wheels hitting the ground.” In some cases they forget to put the wheels down at all.


    There were rumours that the tornado force had fewer than 5 combat ready crews left in the UK when they increased the Iraq committements last month.

  160. @Observer: UAV’s are not usually “flown” except on landing and takeoff. No problem with regard to autopilots doing 20G turns, assuming you really want the UAV to be stressed for them!

  161. wf, you want to get into a dynamic battle situation on autopilot?

    Besides, while my info may be a bit dated, the “autonomous control” drive isn’t as prevalent as media would like you to think as of yet.

    And there is another section of the mission profile where it is “flown”. When they hand off from the transit crew to the local ground control mission station. That was the old conops though, they might have changed it.

  162. @Observer: no problem being on autonomous control. Computers are very good pilots. Leave the humans to asses the information and fire the weapons :-)

  163. @Observer
    I read a book once by a WW2 Ace Jonny Kent – One of the few , he was given command of a new squadron of pilots who had fled Europe when the Nazis took over. They had been badgering Whitehall for flying duties for months when the BoB broke . He was given command of 303 squadron and started their conversion on Spitfires. After several crash landings when the Polish pilots landed wheels up he went ballistic at them and all were very subdued. The most senior Polish officer took him aside and apologised deeply as their previous combat flying was in fixed wheel bi-plane fighters. Looking up the record of his pilots he found several had kills against Me109 fighters. After that he all ways read up his pilots previous records. A pilot does not all ways feel the wheels touch before its too late.
    On manoeuvring modern military jets are filled with multi axis g-meters that limit what the pilot can do to the aircraft and combined with the flight computers basically fly the plane with the pilot ‘expressing’ his wishes through the controls and the computers deciding whether they obey or not. Modern jet planes can pretty much fly themselves both in the take off and landing parts of the flight path as well as en route.
    On high g manoeuvring the UCAV would be built accordingly much as a AAM is built for high g manoeuvres but not quite so extreme.
    In terms of lag to a ground pilot as I alluded it would operate more like a TLAM fully automatous following a preprogramed attack profile which could be altered mid flight to an alternative preprogramed profile or aborted all together and return to home.

  164. wf, the US lost 10% of their UAVs through autopilot in Bosnia. Some air routes are just too turbulent.

    monkey, wrong context. The German UAV loss had wheels down. He just cut power too early.

    You guys are really expecting too much of UAVs.

    Edit: Most recent check on UAV crashes.

    6 days ago. It’s an ongoing problem.

  165. Those with long memories will recall I am very anti the move towards self-determination in machines, particularly those set loose to kill. I am tolerant of RPAS because there is a sentient being with the final responsibility for the remote system’s actions (although the lack of risk on the part of the remote operator removes a lot of the subconscious restraint that someone facing danger will experience – there is no instinctive drive to be cautious if the worst that can happen is for the pictures to stop. But autonomous weapons? Hideous. It seems others think the same way – I don’t think there’s been any exchange of ideas between me & him (unless he reads TD comments)…

  166. Putting high performance capability into a ucav will simple do the one thing they were supposed to avoid. It will push the cost thru the roof unnecessarily. We have an extremely capable fighter today what a ucav should be is a supporting platform that can loiter in contested airspace providing intelligence feeds with the ability to attack time sensitive targets thus exposing our manned aircraft to the least amount of risk possible. That will be expensive enough without the addition hyper manoeuvrability.

  167. My brief thoughts are as follows.
    In the civil wars following the withdrawal of the Russian forces the Taliban eventually defeated the Warlords and achieved governance over the majority of the country. It is believed that the people had desired an end to the rule of the Warlords and the Taliban, although not to everyone’s taste, were probably more acceptable that the Warlords. After so many years of turmoil there was some semblance of stability.

    In its post 9/11 war the US empowered the Warlords as part of their overthrow of the Taliban. There lies the crux of the matter.

    Michael Semple commented that, after the US led overthrow of the Taliban, at the first Loya Jirga, the front row was packed with Warlords. Therefore, from almost the very beginning, the cards were stacked.

    The great disappointment is that the UK Foreign Office either; did not appreciate the situation on the ground, or had no insight. Alternatively, they had the insight, but did not effectively communicate. Lastly, they had the insight and put pen to paper, but their insight was ignored.

    Subsequently it was; ‘the-blind-leading-the-bland,’ and as a result, a lot of brave soldiers paid a heavy price.

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