What if the UK spent less money on defence instead of more?

In the loosely themed SDSR 2015 series of posts I started with a look at the depressing inevitably of leaks, service-centric opinion pieces and general jockeying for position that has characterised every single defence review because the other inevitable result is a reduction in funding.

So begins the ritual of talking about the lack of fat and cutting into the bone, unsustainable cuts, the collapse of capability and the end of the world as we know it.

The reason for all this pain is simple, politicians and service chiefs are simply unable to reconcile their politically expedient resources with their vanity fueled desire to strut their stuff on ‘the world stage’.

This inability to make any big decisions means the time honoured method of a little haircut will be the outcome. Politicians can ride out the short term backbench displeasure about a percent of GDP here or there, throw the service chiefs a few shiny baubles like carriers or stealth jets and pretend all is well. Meanwhile, those Service Chiefs will continue to hollow out their services and kid themselves all is well as they progress towards their retirement Directorships.

The world turns and somewhere a British soldier, airman or sailor will die because of it.

I enjoy talking about defence priorities as much as the next man but a couple of nights ago I thought maybe we should stop arguing about slivers of a percentage point get back to some first principles and think out aloud whether the UK would actually benefit from less defence spending than more or even the same.

Now this might seem completely insane in light of the current belligerence from Russian and Islamic civil war across large parts of the Middle East and Africa but what threats do they actually pose, I mean really. What would be lost because of a perceived lack of prestige and influence derived from our world famous fifth largest defence budget in the world?

If we look back at what advantages accrued from our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq it is hard to put a great deal of value in the benefits column, the costs are pretty clear and service personnel and their families will be paying the price for decades to come. It might be easy to be wise after the event but looking back is supposed to support the learning of lessons. Keeping ones noses out of other peoples business might seem like some to be moral cowardice but others might see the same as prudent, wise and considered behaviour.

The 1998 SDR more or less moved the armed forces to an expeditionary stance, defence at a distance or nipping problems in the bud before they become region-wide conflagrations that threatened world stability, like, err, exactly what is happening now. It was on this basis that the F35, QE carriers, A400M, FRES and various other projects were established. The theory is sound, but it all falls apart when one looks at UK scale and the political realities of intervening without the comfort blanket of a UN resolution. Afghanistan and Iraq have dealt a massive blow to British credibility and our hard-won reputation for foreign policy adroitness and military prowess.

This is not a pacifists charter but a suggestion that a more isolationist defence policy for a period could serve this country better than the expeditionary strategy we continue to kid ourselves about.

The political consequences would no doubt be serious but so what, is this fear of a loss of prestige, status and influence more than the geopolitical and economic reality?

What would minimal self-defence look like?

First on the shopping list would be Trident, that is non-negotiable, it provides the ultimate in defence capability. Everything else would be open for debate but one could envisage a reformed defence capability consisting of a much reduced Army built around an air/sea deployable medium weight rapid response Brigade, MCM/Patrol and enough frigates to secure the SSBN’s, Typhoon and E3. Building from this baseline could be selective capabilities to provide contributions to collective defence agreements and enough to maintain the security of overseas territories.

The money left over from this significant reduction could ensure a number of things;

First; effect the change, reducing at such a radical scale would entail all manner of charges, costs, contract renegotiations, personnel and re-organisation costs.

Second; ensure that the resultant force was sustainable, well equipped and supported enough to ensure it has credibility, even at a much smaller scale.

Finally; spend it on something else, paying down the national debt, building tidal power lagoons, funding a proper apprentice scheme, investing in research & development or keeping within the security domain, improve policing, cyber security and intelligence capabilities

Not sure what percent of GDP or actual spending this would equate to, am not in the business of creating a set of figures from out of my behind, but it would be significantly less that currently, at least after the change costs have been absorbed.

Would the UK achieve greater real security from spending less on the armed forces and more on intelligence and long-term economic investments like education, alternative energy and research and development?

I honestly don’t know.

But it is worth thinking about.

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CJH
CJH
April 3, 2015 4:02 pm

Once again a highly thought provoking article. Thank you. Noticeable by its absence from the televised “Leaders Debate” was anything more than a passing mention of Defence other than some chest out “aren’t we proud of our service men and women” and the usual “No” to replacing Trident. Clearly Ms Sturgeon hasn’t been listening to Putin of late.
The SDR will be yet more posturing and claims for unrealistic capabilities. I remember watching Churchill’s funeral as a boy in the 60’s and even then wondering why our service men were carrying bolt action Lee Enfield Mk4’s and not SLR’s. Seems our politicians never listen or learn and rely upon the dedication, professionalism.and courage when calling on the services to do their bidding.

Martin
Editor
April 3, 2015 4:07 pm

@ TD – I suppose the big issue would be where would the money go. More international aid, more benefits more NHS.

would any of it really get to science or infrastructure.

If we don’t have an expeditionary capability then our armed forces are likely to tromp round the North Atlantic with little to do but waste money.

also what do we lose as a nation and our self respect.

martin mcnamara
martin mcnamara
April 3, 2015 4:21 pm

While it would be a nice position to start again we need to consider a number of points….

1) fire sale of unwanted assets has seen little recompense….ie Harriers ” Sold fora song” comes to mind.

2) How do you reposition staff? Ditch “n” start again..well in its Ltd form that’s blatantly not working now.

3) Establish what capabilities needed? ..see 4) NATO & USA

4) NATO &USA ….We benefit quite a bit from joint projects,Trident is one you know the others.We have a good if at times strained relationship…cutting/altering our position or having a “hippy finding ourselves moment” may not go down so well ….

It may prove further proof to Putin to continue on.

I keep thinking of a bundle of sticks approach…indiv you break ,combined very difficult to.

But what do I know it does worry me though this thought thread it’s a further example of us becoming splendid isolation…doesn’t work go ask the Celts ..Saxon s and all other incumbents

John Quays
John Quays
April 3, 2015 4:42 pm

This is a fascinating debate. I am involved in the general election campaign working in my spare time for one of the main political parties. A feature of political campaigning for Parliamentary candidates is being swamped with formula emails people who have an interest in a policy area can send with a couple of clicks from a campaign website, policy briefs from lobby groups, 38 Degrees petitions on this and that.

It is ridiculous and most candidates will not reply to some or all; I know a candidate who has got a volunteer (me) producing replies to every one of them in accordance with the candidates view of the policy. Some others are similarly rigorous, but not many. The incoming volume is in the order of a few hundred per week at the moment for the average candidate. They have no impact on the course of the campaign or any candidate unless they happen to reinforce an existing political view. The flow is only slightly less when Parliament is sitting for MPs.

The relevance of this explanation is that almost none of the emails I’ve seen or heard about during the campaign relate to defence, even in a constituency which has a close link to one of the services. Animal cruelty, the NHS (over and over again), child care, disability care, every kind of thing you can think of relating to public sector provision and welfare, but virtually nothing on defence. It just doesn’t seem to capture the attention of the public in the same way that cat rescue centres do. It is bizarre, because everyone seems to care about care of veterans (there have been a couple of emails on this, less than I would expect for a topic the press regularly flag up), but the actual fighting services themselves hardly merit a mention.

The other striking thing is that just about the only lengthy, properly-written and thought out emails (as opposed to someone clicking to send an email pre-scripted by a campaign site) have been about defence. I think all bar a couple of these have come from ex-service personnel. There have been a handful and they have had very close consideration before a reply has gone out.

If you want defence to matter, you have to rattle the political cage a bit more. The Army and RAF have great lobby groups in Parliament, the Navy much less so outside the few actually naval constituencies. The relative weakness of the Navy today is inevitably seen in my eyes to be a function of that imbalance which stretches back decades. Sorry to ramble on, but I think it’s important to make it clear just how much defence gets out-shouted by the general screaming and yelling about welfare and the NHS!

Mark
Mark
April 3, 2015 5:29 pm

It’s a Interesting position what we require to secure the British Isles the falklands prioritised maybe also cyprus then the ability to contribute to allied forces operating elsewhere depending on how much we have left in whatever budget we have from completing the first tasks. You could say it’s they way we have fought for century’s. Invest in the intelligence assets to monitor areas of interest. At then end of the day regional disputes can only be solved by the regional actors in dispute.

John really I’d be surprised if that wasn’t the case. Nearly everyone in the country will on a regular basis come into contact with the nhs in some form or have a relative who requires care or assistance from the state and those are powerful motives to write about there experiences.

With afghanistan now a distant memory to the media and thankfully the images of returning flag draped coffins not a regular occurrence on the TV the connection of the armed forces to the masses is slowly receding in days gone by the SAR force or the larger garrison footprint would have keep the public more in touch with the military.

No longer is it the case, like the foreign office and the intelligence services the future of the military will now be tied almost solely to the politions having the courage in standing back and adequately funding a force the general public will have little knowledge off and rarely will it be a vote winning policy. Those seeds are already sown what the whirl wind will look like is probably in the hands of the individuals we vote in.

WiseApe
April 3, 2015 5:29 pm
ChrisW
ChrisW
April 3, 2015 6:28 pm

I think that lot will cost 2% or near enough, won’t it, the way we do purchasing?

Some of us have thought for a long time that keeping out of other people’s countries is a good idea. We don’t do large standing armies and the gains appear to be minor when we play at Empire but with a skeleton crew. I want to be able to inflict unacceptable damage on a potential opponent or naughty despot, not foster a cricket team (see recent Army ad.). I want to do this by graduated, nuclear OR, preferably, conventional means.
I’d like a commitment to ongoing programmes, like an Astute batch 2, rather than reinventing capabilities every 30 years (till it stops, someone will remind me, because of 1 election/financial crisis etc.). I’d like critical mass rather than vanity, token purchases for certain politicians to wave aloft despite the lamentable lack of capabilities these platforms often exhibit – as well as being bought in hugely expensive tiny amounts.

I was depressed enough by this sham election. Then came Gabriele’s post yesterday – and now this!

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 3, 2015 6:35 pm

If you want to spend less on defence, isolate ourselves and bring an end to us being an expeditionary power, then hello Denmark! But please don’t cut the defence budget marginally, leaving us with costly capabilities we no longer need. That would be truly wasteful.

Navy:
-Carriers scrapped, never commissioned. No need to order F-35B now.
-Albions scrapped..
-Scrap 4 of the Type 45s. No carriers to escort.
-Cut Type 23 to 8 and order 8 Type 26. All equipped with 2087, as Russian subs are still a threat.
-Cut the MCM fleet to 6 vessels. No gulf MCM commitments.
-OPV fleet increased to 6 new rivers.
-Retain Trident, therefore we keep Astute.
-Royal Marines disbanded, but likely cut to 30% of current strength – because maintaining cap badges is priority.
-RFA scrapped in its entirety, except for the two Wave-class which will be transferred to the Navy. Some replenishment capability is needed.

Army:
-Australia is larger than us with an Army of 30,000. So British Army reduced from 82,000 to 30,000 – but all cap badges saved, even some historic regiments reformed for good measure.
-With such deep personnel cuts the obsolescent vehicle fleet will fix itself naturally.
-Scrap Apache.

RAF:
-Sentinel and Shadow scrapped.
-AEW&C scrapped.
-Tornado scrapped in 2018 as planned.
-Tell Air Tanker to feck off as we don’t need aerial refueling now.
-Scrap C-17
-Mothball half the Typhoon fleet. When the time comes replace it with F-35A.
-Buy 12 P-8 for maritime patrol.
-Keep the order for 22 A400M, as reinforcing the Falklands will still be necessary (stopping off at RAF Ascension to refuel).

Danlor
Danlor
April 3, 2015 6:40 pm

Interesting concept. I would suggest that the budget should remain the same as now but we pull back and refocus on defence of the UK, its supply routes (a decently equipped navy that can provide effective escorts to shipping) and a serious UK waters patrol and interdiction fleet to protect and prevent illegal migration (which will eventually come to the UK as it has to Italy and Greece) across the Channel. There is also a serious amount of seaborne criminal activity going on that is not stopped by the pitiful RN OPV fleet and small (unarmed) group of Border Agency patrol boats. I think there are a total of 8 OPVs and BF boats. We probably need at least 20 (armed and dangerous) patrol boats to do a proper job.
RAF should be focussed on national defence of UK airspace and provision of maritime patrol aircraft and anti sub and anti surface warfare within, say, 1,000 NM of the UK. Air defence capability to engage bad guys at range (250 miles at least), and a ground attack capability to ensure we could interdict at up to 500NM from home.
Tankers would of course be a part of the mix.
Army to be built around a home defence capability that could be deployed across into Europe if required. Armour and artillery vital. Let’s work with the Israeli’s and buy some Merkeva’s and some of their best kit.
RN would need to have some capabiltiy to get to and defend Falklands. Cyprus SBA should be abandoned if we are not going to keep meddling in places we don’t have the capability to do effectively.
Cancel the second big carrier and spend the money on useful capability.

Rocket Banana
April 3, 2015 7:05 pm

TD,

Well, I will admit that I’ve been thinking about this for some time now for two distinct reasons:

1. To ring-fence our homeland defence from silly cuts (like MPA).
2. To allow us to focus our expeditionary capability.

I’ve got it down to ~1% GDP:

4 x SSBN, 4 x SSN and 4 x P8 MPA.
Two RAF bases each consisting of two sustained Typhoon squadrons and 4 x C295 MPA.
A dozen Wildcat capable, 30knot+ frigates.
A highly mobile army using all the Chinook, all the Challengers and all the Warriors.
National service.

Our overseas territories would then get a subset of the above. For example, 6 x Typhoon, 2 x C295 MPA a single frigate and a highly mobile army battlegroup.

The overland mobility of the army is key to countering an invasion.

Everything else is then supplementary.

IXION
April 3, 2015 7:10 pm

TD

We both dont like carriers.

Now your talking about getting out of the world police business.

Next you will be agreeing with me about dumping the RAF…

On a more serious note …

Yep it would be a good idea.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 3, 2015 7:42 pm

“What would minimal self-defence look like?”

Army:
> 5 Brigades
>> 2 Armoured
>> 2 Mechanised
>> 1 Light
>> 1 non-deployable divisional HQ
>> 3 operational AAC regiments

Navy:
> 12 Frigates
>> 2 LPD’s
>> 2 Tankers
>> 2 Mars
>> 9 SSK + 3 SSBN
>> 1 commando + Comacchio Company

Airforce:
> 5 Fighter squadrons
>> 15 Transports (5 Yankees and 10 A400)
>> 5 MPA
>> 5 Awacs
>> 5 Voyager
>> 50 medium and heavy choppers

Everything else enables power projection, and is justified by power projection.

Rocket Banana
April 3, 2015 7:46 pm

Jedi,

Why do you need an LPD for self-defence?

I agree the SSNs could be SSKs.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 3, 2015 7:59 pm

because we have overseas territories, and a couple of lpd’s (minus the scale to drop a brigade and the cover to ensure it isn’t sunk), remains quite compatible with peace keeping duties and disaster relief.

the netherlands and demark spring to mind.

self defence does not have to mean retreating permanently into our shell, a-la ireland, a nation of our size will always have obligations of some sort, just look at continental europe. beyond warfighting, quite happy to show the flag.

Mark
Mark
April 3, 2015 8:25 pm

Jedi

I would say you keep the 2 carriers not the LPDs whatever you can put on there decks is your intervention capability for overseas territories, humanitarian/ peacekeeping role. Eg ocean/argus.

In the airforce you keep/acquire more drones simply because they offer recon capability and reduce training costs as you don’t have to fly them as much or aquire as many as you do with manned aircraft.

In the army a special service brigade seems a gd idea.

Rods
Rods
April 3, 2015 8:25 pm

As a Kremlin watcher, don’t think it ends at annexing territory in Georgia and Ukraine, this is just the start for the rebuilding of the Russian empire in Eastern Europe. Putin is the most dangerous dictator since Hitler to the international order in Europe. He had a political bargain with the people where they traded political freedom and democracy in return for ever improving living standards. Putin can no longer keep his part of the bargain where the economy has tanked through a combination of low oil prices (which are here to stay for some time ) and sanctions over Crimea and East Ukraine. So he has turned to page 1 of the “Dictators Survival Guide” and is using all of the top recommendations of domestic repression, nationalism, propaganda, a military buildup, creating artificial enemies and wars, all of which are well proven methods to stay in power for at least the short and medium term.

Putin’s recurring nightmare is ending up like Saddam Hussain or Gaddafi with the 2011-12 Moscow demonstrations over election fraud being a wake up call for a possible Ukrainian Euromaiden scenario. To stay in power and survive he needs to be constantly assertive on the world stage and can never afford to lose any adventure without the real risk of being deposed. This means that there will be more wars, state sponsored terrorism (like the Kharkiv Euromaiden 1st anniversary march), the kidnapping of an Estonian security specialist, probing of Western defences, subversion of Western democracies, through left and right wing political parties and unconventional ‘plausibly deniable’ actions and warfare , with ‘little suited men’ and ‘little green men’ with backup from his range of intelligence and military resources as required.

I would suggest you read Red Army General Gerasimov’s doctrine for war in the 21st Century with what has happened in Ukraine a blueprint for much of this.

https://inmoscowsshadows.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/the-gerasimov-doctrine-and-russian-non-linear-war/

His aim is discredit NATO (the virtually indefendible Baltics are ideal for this) and undermine and split the EU and US and European strategic friendship.

Putin and Russia are spending vast amounts on modernising and expanding their armed forces, although their current economic difficulties will curtail and slow the pace of this. Their elite forces have performed reasonably well in Ukraine, their normal forces pretty badly, so there is still plenty of room for improvement. In Ukraine, they are using mainly old Soviet equipment along with small numbers of their latest equipment where they are using it as a proving ground.

Any territory they take, they will use nuclear blackmail to hang on to it (as we have seen recently in Putin’s first anniversary on annexing Crimea propaganda film), where Putin is playing for keeps. So once it is lost, don’t expect to get it back and the painted broomsticks used in recent German military exercises aren’t a credible deterrence!

WWII started off as three wars that joined up to create a world war. We had Japan invading China, Mussolini invading North Africa and Hitler invading parts of Europe. They were all empowered by Western indifference and appeasement (much like our current stance towards Ukraine), where domestic politics are more important for politicians with few votes in defence spending or foreign policy.

IMO we are 2/3 of the way towards WWIII with a currently a limited war in Ukraine, that may well turn into a major war with Putin’s spring offensive in the next few weeks to try to take Kharkiv, Mariupol, establish a land bridge to Crimea and maybe push as far as Odessa to link up with Russian forces invading from Transnistria (then it will be Moldova). There are an estimated 9,000 Russian troops in the Donbass region, 30,000 troops in Crimea and 30-60,000 on the Ukraine-Russian border. In the Middle East we have Russian and Iranian backed Assad, ISIS, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Libya and other terrorist organisations which are actively involved in terrorism in North Africa. All we need now is an Asian war, which could be Afghanistan with Pakistan and Iran fighting for control, Pakistan v India over Kashmir, North v South Korea (again) or China going a step too far over disputed Islands in the South China Sea leading to a clash with Japan. Like in WWII there will be strategic alliances formed through these different wars, most likely between Russia, Iran and China with maybe Pakistan or India against NATO and Japan.

Modern wars a these days largely fought with what you’ve got and most European governments, particularly the UK are still cutting budgets and capabilities in a time of massive global instability. IMO this is madness, you might like to think we can sit this out, but we can’t and we won’t where we all have to share and interact on one planet and have defence commitments to our NATO partners. IMO UK and Western European spending cuts and complacency for our defences by our politicians is bordering on a criminal dereliction of duty!

Perhaps you would like to reflect on this and write a follow up blog on how we and the Western world are going to stop sleepwalking into this with our political weakness and appeasement to try and head off WWIII, so it doesn’t happen in the first place (but I personally think we are very close to the point of no return) and if the worst comes to the worst, what capabilities we are going to need, which we are currently lacking and how we are going to win it without a full nuclear exchange?

mike
mike
April 3, 2015 8:27 pm

A certain American blogger thinks your blaming the US… ;)

Well then, seems we really will turn into the Dutch!
(harking back to the mood after the release of SDSR’10)

Rocket Banana
April 3, 2015 8:30 pm

Jedi,

Surely we’d be better off with the Bays for peace keeping and disaster relief duties?

The notion of attempting to land a commando on our overseas territories without the “cover to ensure it isn’t sunk” tends to imply to me that it will get sunk.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 3, 2015 8:42 pm

Trident non negotiable, BS. If we are going to be politically unpopular anyway this is the first thing that goes. Saves a load of money an in our new isolationist policy we can shelter under the NATO umbrelka whilst spending some if the trident money on kit we may actually use.

paul g
April 3, 2015 8:45 pm

@mike, I was just going to post the same, funny how he has a pop at us whining,
“hello kettle, this is pot send colourstate over” !!!!

Kent
Kent
April 3, 2015 9:35 pm

A: Belgium.

The “peace dividend” would be spent without anyone being safer, healthier, wealthier, wiser, or more secure in any way.

In 20 years English jurisprudence will come from the Koran, and Stonehenge and the White Horse will be bulldozed.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 3, 2015 9:52 pm

Sorry, i said LPD’s when i meant LHD’s.

Some comments:

This obviously isn’t going to happen over night. it would take ten years beyond 2015 for it occur politically and militarily, so….

No Bays. They’re gone.
Hmmm carriers, i’d love too, but in this eventuality i’d see them being sold off and the whole shooting match replaced with some juan carlos derivatives.
I’m only hitting the big picture, what we fight wars with (or not). No problem at all with drones and special forces.
Likewise, we’d retain a use for ‘naval infantry’, i’m not saying we’d use a brace of frigates an LHD to storm the falklands with our single commando and some knife fighters.

Big picture, folks.

S O
S O
April 3, 2015 10:48 pm

I don’t see why SLBM and SSBN are holy cows.

Naval nuclear deterrence, maritime surveillance, a miniature army and a small air force seem out of balance considering the only actual collective defence needs.

Isn’t it strange how China, India and Pakistan are universally respected as having a nuclear deterrent even though none of them have a respected SSBN force?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 3, 2015 10:53 pm

i tend to agree, Sven.

the joy of the deterrent is that it allows britain to configure its forces for power projection and then send them half way round the world without having a shred of worry about how this might go wrong.

if we opt not to interfere in others peoples business any longer, and have a force configured for defence and incapable of going anywhere, then the deterrent becomes less crucial.

especially so when we no longer have SSN’s in which to amortise the cost of SSBN’s.

sol
sol
April 3, 2015 11:42 pm

take this a step further though gents.

you lose your seat on the UN Security Council. you would also lose standing in the G7 (economic power is tied to military power…at least i think so). additionally you would find yourselves in a position of being weaker than France so you would also lose clout within the EU.

quite honestly it would be in line with European thinking but you would become…ordinary.

does the UK want to be seen as just another minor European country? if so then be prepared to suffer the consequences of such a decision. this is more than a loss of military power. prestige, seats at the world table etc…will also be lost. think carefully gents.

shark bait
shark bait
April 3, 2015 11:44 pm

“Would the UK achieve greater real security from spending less on the armed forces and more on intelligence and long-term economic investments like education, alternative energy and research and development?”

1st question;
No way, we could not spend less and be more secure. Spend the same and use it better perhaps…… The real threat’s that are emerging seem to be from terrorist organisation’s and in the cyber domain, and a large army will struggle to counter these. However intelligence and special forces can, so let’s maybe refocus there. I could also advocate a smaller army if it got us more equipment, like frigates, trident, typhoons and MPA that we can use to defend our self (more of a deterrence). We’re out of any major land campaign and as you correctly stated, the last ones didn’t do anything good for our international credibility or public opinion. I just don’t see why we need 100,000 men any more.
Any conflict that may require big man power will almost certainly involve the Americans who have boat loads of it available. I would also say it’s easier to regenerate troops than it is fast jets ect.

2nd question;
More interesting…… All government spending stimulates the economy. Defence has been shown to have large multiplier’s on the GDP whilst also creating high tech jobs (assuming it’s spend indigenously). But so have the others you mentioned. Will there be greater economic returns allocaing funds elsewhere? its impossible to call.
I’d say one thing is for sure, defence spending will see a greater return than foreign aid or welfare spending.

Sazuroi
Sazuroi
April 4, 2015 12:34 am

@ Rods: I don’t quite see a third World War happening yet (I keep telling people) but there is going to be an upsurge in proxy wars and a “lukewarm war” in the North: Draw one line through Gibraltar and another through finland. West of that versus east of that. Note that the US is only half in it and China isn’t, as China has played a waiting game for long enough now that they seem comfortable sticking to it.
Europe can go either way. I’m no political analyst, but I have some theoretical background in Social and Political Sciences, and if the Ukraine has shown one thing, it’s that Europe is not the a place the world looks on. As I have been told, even the Kosovo War did not create too much public interest here, and that was closer. The Ukraine war had the mandated amount of statements, but besides the NATO and Russia, nobody let off much more than that. The USA are still pivoted to Asia except for appearances (more aggressive rhetoric in the Ukraine, but little action beyond letting the EU try diplomacy and perhaps behind-the-scenes stuff). China made a non-statement and secured a better deal on russian fossil products than they would otherwise have. India doesn’t seem interested from what I can tell (they aren’t as notable a player, and currently shuffling to avoid containment by China). Israel wasn’t too concerned, Turkey also made a deal with Russia (not good) and I can not recall any major statements or commitments by even second or third-rank powers that aren’t in the NATO and mainly in eastern Europe.
That means the stakes in Europe are lower, at least if Putin remains crafty, and he should be able to make more gains. He might slip up due to impatience, perhaps, he doesn’t get younger after all. I don’t see that happen just yet, but it should in a few years. Should that result in a war in Europe the NATO can not wiggle out of, it’ll strengthen the South, who likely won’t participate. Russia may position itself as the foreman of the BRICS nations and claim to champion souvereignty, but it doesn’t have any relieable allies. They might get Belarus (main claim to fame: surprisingly decent computer games industry and the highest alcohol consumption per person worldwide) and perhaps bully a few of the smaller central asian nations into supporting them, but China has always had decidedly different interests, and North Korea is kind of pinned. I would not put it past South Korea to actually attack them if they get weak enough, even if neither country could hold the other. Plus North Korea has no real expeditionary capability, and Russia can only support so many ancient tanks. Manpower might be useful if the numbers are any good, but they probably aren’t. So Russia would basically fight the NATO alone, and I doubt they will try doing that openly if they can at all avoid it. In the first confusion, they could have gotten away with Crimeaing the Donbass, but they only took Crimea and later made a small invasion to set up a siege on Mariupol, despite the attrition and collateral damage the long fighting caused. Materiel was clearly not a concern, and actual gains probably neither. They needed to keep the stakes low, but the background threat a bit higher, so they can act without giving justification for meaningful countermeasures. That has been analyzed to death, so no more on that.
Assuming they either manage to keep the threat level high enough to draw our manifest attention (actually shifting stuff and money to counteract them, whether on the field or with nifty information warfare), or alternatively slip up and cause a not-not-war (that is, a war) with the NATO, then: China can make some larger gestures. Again, I doubt they will just up and Crimea something or even Donbass it, after the Civil War (that resulted in a security council seat changing flags) they mainly acted by proxy, or opportunistically. Their neighbors and possible enemies are not all as destitute as the Ukraine, and the ones who are tend towards their side. China has no strong allies besides Pakistan and their puppet North Korea (which would be starved by now without free Chinese food) but that is two more than Russia (even if North Korea is probably a hot air balloon, they will keep South Korea and Japan hesitant). The USA can hardly fight two “real” wars at once (without their economy collapsing and their people revolting, at least), but I doubt they would let an invasion of Taiwan happen (which China is already subverting a bit, so they might not even be interested). Other than that, the “important” nations, South Korea, Japan, Australia (well maybe). The rest, I doubt it. Stern words, maybe some token support, but not more if Russia looks like an immediate problem (notice they are treated as a strategic problem now) and China doesn’t. The Phillipines got some reassurance and Vietnam got some weapons deals offered, but China has little reason to take more than the islands it already has anyway and whatever flimsy sandcastels the other claimants built on it. That isn’t going to bring larger powers into that war, and without that, the smaller Spratley claimants might as well surrender before a shot is fired. Otherwise it’s Donbass without the notion somebody might try sending any credible support maybe. And no cities to make heart-wrenching collateral damage stories out of (there is one city on those islands, and its a chinese sham city).
Sankaku Islands I think not, too much risk and there are already treaties in place, the value of using them for mindgames is greater than the additional oil that could be gotten from taking the rest of the field, and once production is set up the risk of fighting over it is also greater.
India is an option, but Pakistan would need to initiate that, and they are in no position. Not least because the Middle East affects them, too. Pakistan against Iran isn’t too credible because they have historically good relations (surprisingly enough) since Pakistan isn’t on the Shia hate train the Saudis are running. I would rather look at Saudi Arabia vs. Iran since they had proxy wars since the Iran stopped being named Persia (if not earlier than that). That would just add to the Middle East trouble, perhaps make it spread a bit. But the conflicts there are, for better or worse, of the slow sort. Unlike South America there are no jungles to hide under, but I see this ultimately taking the same direction, reducing security (maybe with a few more terror attacks that ultimately don’t do more than make the world a bit worse one corpse at a time). So unless the IS suddenly grows a conventional army, they probably won’t “win” and become a direct threat that could be part of a world war.
So Asia and Middle East aren’t that volatile where large and middle power interests are concerned (the oil isn’t that important with the current price, especially if Iran joins the world market again). Europe I would actually put on a higher threat level (carefully pruned by some bald guy in a suit) but it’s deliberately kept below immediate, and an overt invasion of the Baltics or something would not reinforce Putin’s hold on power meaningfully. He seems to be leverageing the domestic front more at the moment, probably so the next big media scandal over, what, terrorist attack in Kharkiv can be spun into some other story to keep him relevant. In fact, he needs to draw it out as long as possible, for the same reasons politicians in Europe make budget haircuts and sideline defense issues (I’m fairly sure I said how irrelevant those are in Germany, except when a defense minister needs to be intrigued against). In fact, Putin’s dance number includes pretending there were any candidates that are not him when it’s election time (or that the election is “fair” in a not-Crimea sense). So he’s clearly a modern autocrat (if nothing more).
Another reason that speaks against the WW3 narrative is that both World Wars were based on treaties and empires that effectively spanned the whole world, which is not the case now. The USA has a lot of allies, but only a few of them are at any real risk of getting openly warred (mostly Europe and Korea, maybe Isreal if the Middle East breaks down a bit more), but they’re the only ones. Europe is allied with them, and with Israel (I’m not sure if officially, but I doubt we could justify staying out of that conflict unless Israel is the aggressor). Russia is allied with Russia (technically they’re a federation?) and China is the center of the world (which magnianimously entertains tributaries). Saudi Arabia has a bit of chaff and maybe Egypt, Africa is mostly not, Iran has Russia (I don’t think that alliance would carry, but nice deterrent). South America is currently quire war-less in comparison, even to North America (I’m pretty sure the Mexican drug war is bigger than the Columbian one, and the latter is winding down). No committment anywhere else, either. So while Russia and the Nato might get a nostalgia war, I don’t yet see any triggers that could draw other conflicts onto the world stage like this. They’d just flare up more because nobody is watching. That’s a real problem, because it’s not a credible threat of a world war, so there is no incentive to move accordingly either.

@ actual topic of the thread: While I don’t like nukes (the idea makes me queasy), I think they are a better deterrent than most of anything else, and if a deterrent is not desired, retaining any military at all is difficult to justify. Sure, the situations where they would be used are… well, the only operational usage of nukes so far was halfway between a trial by fire and a doctrine that had been ineffective until then (massive bombardement of population centers to erode the will to fight), and which is not feasible until a real lot of gall has built up. Like from fighting a world war for a few years.
I know they’re too costly for what they realistically achive (deterrence and war crimes) and I would like to bash them with that argument, but if there are nukes, the only credible deterrent is nukes. That problems is as old as nukes. Bah.
Beyond a credible amount of nukes and nuke-vehicles, I agree with the tone of the discussion so far that a coast defense amount of frigates and otherwise Green-Water would be enough – most european powers see it as enough, and while for many purposes it isn’t, for border defense (even if the border is stretched) it should be. The only ones who could beat the European NATO fleet relieably are China (which is clearly not in Europe… well yet. Greece is selling a port to them), the USA (they may complain, but I don’t think they’re quite so far to attack us) and Russia with a question mark. I reconsidered submarines after following this blog for a while, and Russia has many submarines. Europe does too, but probably not enough (seas are pretty big). But Russia doesn’t have enough fleet to destroy ours and then maintain naval supremacy in a meaningful way, not by my reckoning.

Any thoughts, incongruent complaints I was a russian plant, insults of my nationality (which I am not actually proud of, beyond the minimum requirement)?

jon livesey
jon livesey
April 4, 2015 2:19 am

I am afraid we have the usual “lump of money” fallacy. The Government isn’t sitting on a fixed sum of money to be spent on A or B. Tax revenue comes from economic activity. Basically, if the economy revs up, the same “amount” of money circulates faster, and people pay taxes on it more often, and the tax take rises. Vice versa if the economy slows down.

The proposal here is basically for the Government to spend less on defence, which means less defence production, a dwindling defence industry, less defence-related exports, possibly seeing one or more major defence contractors leaving for North America, and at the end of it the Government could possibly have *less* in its annual budget, not more, due to less economic activity and rising unemployment causing rising social spending.

The Government spending its money is not like you and me deciding between a coffee and an ice-cream. When Government spends, it stimulates this industry, and not that one. Cutting defence spending cuts manufacturing, and probably not in a linear way. That is, you can’t cut defence spending and expect the defence industries to contract smoothly and gradually. At some point, the UK ceases to be a viable home market, and they shut up shop, leave, and from then on we have to import everything they used to make in the UK. In effect, we pay to create employment in some foreign country’s defence industry, having run down our own.

And, even supposing the running down defence doesn’t increase unemployment and increase social costs, thus cancelling out the “savings”, you won’t find that just throwing the money at education will help educational quality. There is no direct mechanism that translates a bigger teacher pay packet into better teaching. Tony Blair tried that, and it was a flop.

Observer
Observer
April 4, 2015 6:34 am

@Sazuroi

“complaints I was a Russian plant,”

Ok… if you want it, you’re a Russian cactus. Or Venus Flytrap? Do they have venus flytraps in Russia?

All in all, a very nice summary.

@sol

The UN seat is historical, not based on power, it’s simply the group of countries that “won” WWII, there was never a time where power was charted and seating assigned based on ranking, so the UK will almost never lose their seat simply because tradition is people too lazy to change things.

@Rods

I see the Russian response to the mess in Ukraine as reactive not active and why is it that everytime someone in the West does not like someone, he calls that bugger Hitler? It does seem shallow to say one equals the other and is a facet of lazy thinking. Look at it from Russia’s point of view, an ally was disposed in a revolt and he fled to Russia asking for help. Isn’t Russia obliged to support him as an ally? If they didn’t, then what use is an ally for? Unfortunately by now, the new rebel regime has international recognition and is poised to cut off Russia’s access to the world (Crimea), hence the need to reclaim the port, and most people have forgotten this, neutralise the navy, hence all the chasing around of Ukranian Navy ships during the takeover.

In this, I see Russia as reacting instead of acting, they didn’t really have much choice, a hostile power in Crimea is unacceptable to them similar to someone taking over the Suez canal. If you recall, that resulted in a 3 power invasion of Egypt. Now that they have Crimea in hand, I doubt they’ll expand further, their primary goal has been met.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 4, 2015 7:39 am

This is what I can see being kept due to being too politically sensitive for any party to mess with, coupled with the desire of the politicians and the white male baby boom generation to keep the UK ‘relevant’.

1. Trident
2. Both carriers will be kept (one in readiness) due to the money being spent on them and bad press due to cost they have received.
3. F35B will be kept, so as to keep the carriers viable and of course jobs etc
4. MPA will be revived also due to bed press and obvious need.
5. Para’s, guards and RM will go untouched in any meaningful way.
6. Type 26 will go forward but probably reduced numbers.

Everything else will be on the table to be cut.

Rocket Banana
April 4, 2015 8:45 am

…Russian response to the mess in Ukraine as reactive not active…

Is it fair to say you mean opportunistic?

Like a thief taking advantage of you leaving your front door unlocked?

Draw away our attention. Leave the door open. Slip in and take Moldova, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, and lastly Lithuania. Obviously if that goes to plan the rest can follow.

It’s what I would do.

Oh, I wouldn’t necessarily use force… installing a “friendly” power base would be the way to go. Create the divide and then “defend” the Russian quarters.

Chris
Chris
April 4, 2015 8:49 am

My gut feel tends to fall more in line with Rods’s view of emerging difficulties although my fervent hope is that its slower in development than Rods believes.

I do however accept that there is a degree of goading as Obs notes, in that the EU particularly was more than happy – perhaps a bit mischievous – to encourage the pro-EU rebels (which is what they originally were) in Ukraine to rise and usurp power. There was a pro-Russia government; it fell to a popular uprising that had been convinced the path to prosperity was through EU membership, a view encouraged by various Eurocrats. When the inevitable hostilities erupted the EU hand of friendship was whipped back at breakneck speed with the same Eurocrats muttering that the difficulties in Ukraine were an internal matter; how horrid Russia was being; what a terrible fate Ukraine brought upon themselves (oh and its nothing to do with us in the EU obviously). It begs the question if Vlad the Bad’s attention moves to the Baltic states, now formally within the EU, would Euro-Central be just as quick to hide behind the sofa? If not, we are back to rods’s scenarios.

As for Russia re-equipping of its armed forces, I have only really noted a ramping up of the Army equipment programmes. The aircraft development seems to be moving no faster or slower than through the post-Cold War period (which saw MIG-29 and SU-27/34 brought in), and apart from the slow build programmes of Yasen and Severodvinsk submarine classes the Russian Navy seems to be making do with current stuff. Although there are a very large number of elderly nuclear boats bobbing around Polyarny that may or may not be capable of setting to sea.

It is clear Putin is a bullish character and will naturally rush towards confrontation to support and protect his political position at home. In the face of such a character its hard to see what strategy best works for the rest of the world; I suspect quiet but resolute and stubborn rejection of his wild claims would in the long term force him to wilder and yet more unbelievable rhetoric until the Russian people tell him to go. But that might take a long time and on that journey any one of his anti-West actions might trip beyond the limits and trigger bad bad hostilities. Not comfortable times.

The islamic issues are not showing signs of quieting either; and are even more difficult to counter. I noted before the only defeat those on a mission from God would accept is one they believed was God showing his extreme displeasure at their actions. This on the grounds that they accept no other authority, hence no other authority can subdue them. In their belief. That makes conventional territory and political regime based warfare far less effective. Difficult to know how to counter this unless the butchers are convinced of their falsehood by those of their own faith. Until then, appalling butchery is likely to erupt all over the place against which local military suppression would be needed (to control the symptom if not the disease). Also not comfortable times.

Personally I never saw cause for any post-Cold war peace dividend. The most optimistic times were when Gorbachev tried to soften the Soviet position towards the rest of the world – had the USSR managed to move in a controlled manner towards trading openness with those it ideologically despised then maybe at least that current problem would have been avoided. The fracturing of the Soviet State (much like the break-up of Yugoslavia) exposed rifts between factions and ethnic groups and gave them borders to defend and enemies to fight. At no point since the Wall came down have I thought to myself that the World is safe and war is over. Not once, not ever.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
April 4, 2015 9:28 am

I have been in (at least) two minds about defence priorities for a long time.

I have learned to wince at that politicians’ favourite phrase concerning foreign affairs and defence: “punch above our weight”. To me, that translates as “delusions of grandeur, usually expensive”. Our use of military force in the Arab world over the last dozen years or so has, as far as I can see, been almost entirely counter-productive. So why do we bother maintaining the capability to intervene in this way? It only tempts the politicians to practice their macho struts “on the world stage”.

On the other hand, I can see a case for maintaining the ability to intervene internationally in more limited ways, in policing-type duties where our interests are threatened, for instance over piracy. However, we don’t need fast-jet carriers for that – just general-purpose helicopter-carrying vessels with amphibious capabilities which can be very useful in disaster relief, evacuations etc as well (and that’s the kind of capability our foreign aid budget should be spent on).

In 2010, when the UK was seriously broke and it was clear that major cuts had to come, I was baffled by some of the decisions. Over the carriers, there were two obvious alternatives: keep the plans for the new carriers and the F-35s and in the meantime keep the existing Harriers and their carriers; or cancel the new carriers and the F-35s and scrap the Harriers, then acquire more LPHs like Ocean and marinise the Apaches to provide close support where needed (my preference, given the state of the finances). Instead, we got a dog’s breakfast that made no sense.

As for MPAs – well, I don’t actually criticise the scrapping of the Nimrods because the constant upgrading of these ancient hand-built hulks had gone way beyond a joke, but at that time various nations were disposing of perfectly good P-3 Orions to save costs, so we could have picked up a number of decent MPAs at very low cost until the P-8 (or maybe the Japanese P-1?) was available.

The nuclear deterrent is another headache: the fact that it is now lumped in with the defence budget just emphasises that it is taking a relatively larger share of that budget as most other spending shrinks. In terms of practical, usable benefit it would be better to spend money on kit we would actually use, but I regard it as a painfully expensive insurance policy that it’s probably better to hang on to in present and foreseeable circumstances.

So, what do we really need? To be able to defend our country and the skies and seas around it, and in other places which depend on us (e.g. the Falklands); to be able in conjunction with allies to defend the key maritime trade routes on which we depend (to some degree that needs thinking about rationally – we can’t cover everything); to be able to come to the aid of allies in certain carefully-determined ways (not including massed armour and boots on the ground).

I would keep the SSNs as they are a deterrent in a different way, and besides we really need both SSNs and SSBNs to provide the numbers needed to keep our capability to design and build nuclear subs viable.

Concerning escorts, I think that T26 is likely to be more appropriate than T45 (especially since Sea Ceptor has a much longer range than Sea Wolf, so can provide cover for a small task force rather than just self-defence). Actually, I rather like the Danish Absalon class support ships, which seem exactly the kind of warship likely to be useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absalon-class_support_ship

IXION
April 4, 2015 9:50 am

TW.

There are amongst contributors to this site a big bunch of Absalon fanboys.

Observer.

We have had this row already. But…..

People on this site love there historical parallels.

Talk about becoming less interventionist, and someone will shout Pearl Harbour, as an example of the dangers of isolationism. Some one last week used the Saxons as an example ffs.

However the historical parallels between the actions of Putin and that of the early Nazi regime are there, they are real and they are numerous. We ignore the little chest shaving shit at our peril.

clinched
clinched
April 4, 2015 9:53 am

@ Tony Williams. I think the only reason the carriers were not scrapped in the 2010 review was that the contract ensured that it would have cost more to scrap them than keep them.

A number of posters have mentioned the possibility of drastically cutting the army and specialising in special forces. I would be interested to know whether that is feasible. Do you not need a sizeable professional army from which to draw your special forces?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 4, 2015 10:29 am

@ tony williams – “Over the carriers, there were two obvious alternatives: keep the plans for the new carriers and the F-35s and in the meantime keep the existing Harriers and their carriers; or cancel the new carriers and the F-35s and scrap the Harriers, then acquire more LPHs like Ocean and marinise the Apaches to provide close support where needed (my preference, given the state of the finances). Instead, we got a dog’s breakfast that made no sense.”

It did make sense, for the same reason that a temporary withdrawal from MPA made sense:
1. The British public had no stomach for further interventions in the during years of Herrick with Iraq fresh in their minds.
2. The armed forces were exhausted, and need five years beyond Herrick to recover, re-resource, and return to a rounded training regime.
3. Invincible/Harrier’s were expensive legacy platform that would not be needed until #1 and #2 above had sorted themselves out.

A couple of LPH’s with marinised Apaches is the right response for a Britain that has withdrawn from the interventionist responsibilities expected of small/advanced UNSC nations like ourselves and France.

This was not what was wanted, however.

Rocket Banana
April 4, 2015 10:30 am

I do rather think that our SSNs underpin much of our naval power projection capability and therefore the other side of the deterrent coin.

Once you have them in place the SSBNs and RFTG become much more viable.

If we ditched Trident then how many SSNs would we have to build to maintain intellectual currency? Could we build 6 SSN and 6 SSK?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 4, 2015 10:53 am

I have no objection to ditching ssbn’s, as long as what remains is sufficient in scale and frequency to maintain a viable nuclear boat industry.

If we do ditch them I’d like a 4 pack cmc module in future SSN’s tho.

Mark
Mark
April 4, 2015 11:05 am

Some perspective If we go with just numbers we in the west may have cut a lot but we still have a sizeable fleet of aircraft anyway..

“According to IHS Jane’s World Air Forces , the EU member states have approximately 1,370 fighters between them (as the EU Air Force is being billed as defensive, only aircraft with a predominantly air defence role have been counted), compared with 1,391 air defence fighters for the United States, and 1,276 combat aircraft for Russia (as the perceived threat, attack aircraft have been included in Russia’s figures also).”

pacman27
pacman27
April 4, 2015 11:58 am

Assuming a £20b annual budget for military it would equate to a force of 100k personnel costing £10b with £7b equipment budget and £3b for operations. Spread as so:

Navy £3.5b
RAF £8b
Army £6b
Medical £1b
Cyber £1.5b

The above means that we will become a home defence force only, we will have to remove all personnel from non uk bases that arent paid for by the local population (inc Falklands) and we will be a member of Nato in name only. The RM would become our only high readiness brigade and the Para’s will probably be disbanded or moved into a joint unit with the RM’s (which is madness).

The RAF is the big winner as we will need more air assets than we currently have to defend our country and be able to reinforce through a modern helicopter fleet.

No military help fo aid missions – this will need to be fully funded elsewher – the Foreign aid budget can use its own ships and pay for them as well.

Scrap trident and go for nuclear cruise on the Astute class and accept the loss of the ballistic capability.
Put all non nuclear cruise into T45’s (£400k cheaper per missile against a submarine fired cruise).

Chuck
Chuck
April 4, 2015 12:18 pm

@Mark: Comparing using 3 completely different measures? Doesn’t add much perspective.

For example with the US you’ve only counted the USAF and only some of it’s A2A capable types, ignoring completely the ANG’s F15/16’s and most damningly the USN(inc USMC), the worlds 2nd largest air force. While seemingly counting every single EU fighter capable of A2A.

Whoever came up with those numbers was more interested in the appearance of parity than reality.

pacman27
pacman27
April 4, 2015 12:37 pm

The cut to a much lower military budget would also kill off one of the last major manufacturing skill sets left in the uk and for places like Barrow in Furness – create no go areas of mass unemployment.

I think an even bigger question is why does France have a larger footprint with great equipment given the budgets are similar. Why can GErmany be a major exporter of equipment given its tiny budget.

Why is it that the UK is not getting value from its current budget – which should actually be good enough, but isnt because of gross mismanagement.

In business terms the Miltary needs to commit to purchasing a volume of units per annum to keep a capability and get the best price instead of the famine and feast model preferred in the past.

I suggest a 30 year building plan for the Navy and Army and a 18 year plan for the Airforce this is based on asset lifecycel when they should be replaced by New equipment as we seem to spend more on upgrades than actually buying new.

Build 1 T26 per year for the next 30 years @ £400m each
Build 2 Corvettes per year for the next 30 years @£150m each
Build 1 other vessel per year over the next 30 years @ £400m each (1 sub every 3 years)

Corvettes are needed to get force numbers with lower personnel running them.
Scrap T45’s as they become obsolete and settle on a frigate/corvette navy.

RAF

12 F35 (or similar) per year
12 Typhoon (or similar per year)
16 All Others ( 8 Trainers – 8 Logistics/specialist)
£3.2b per annum

16 Merlin per year
16 Apache (or similar)
4 Chinook (or Osprey)
4 Wildcat

£1.2b pa

Army

8 Combat Brigades of 7.2k personnel (4 combat Regiments of 1200 personnel + support)
Core Logistics of 14.4k personnel
Medical Brigade of 14.4k personnel
Cyber Brigade of 14.4k personnel
SFG + Cnc of 7.2k personnel

Size of Land Forces = 108k personnel but does provide for a true heavy and expeditionary force or mix thereof whilst having separately funded and largemedical and cyber units.

Note: The above incs RM excludes all air assets which transfer to the Airforce.

Each Brigade will have

Assigned air assets (2apaches & Merlins for the 4 expeditionary Brigades and 48 Apache & Merlins for the 4 Mechanised Brigades)

Fres assets for the heavy Brigades
No New Tanks
64 MLRS for each of the 4 Mech Brigades
Utilise all assets from Afghanistan to the full.

We are withdrawing all our heavy forces from mainland Europe and these forces are not required in the UK, as if it came to that point I am sure that a tactical nuclear strike would be deployed or that our air superiority will have been reduced to the point of no return anyway.

The above can be done on current budget – but needs a far better approach to procurement and buying equipment at best price where the UK are just not competitive ( we can buy apaches at £20m each – so why arent we).

Both France and Germany have impressive industrial capability (as does denmark and Sweden) with far more limited defence budgets – so just what is the UK getting for the £2b R&D budget.

I dont think people want us to spend less on defence – but it should be more visible how defence spending adds to the UK economy and military top brass have been very poor at managing budget and proving the benefits to the wider economy of this spend.

pacman27
pacman27
April 4, 2015 12:44 pm

correction – should be 24 apaches and Merlins for the epeditionary force.

The military should also take over mildenhall as it is a fantastically equipped base that has been heavily invested in for 50 years and would make a good joint base for the army and airforce, given the training areas nearby (thetford etc).

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
April 4, 2015 1:24 pm

@clinched: “I think the only reason the carriers were not scrapped in the 2010 review was that the contract ensured that it would have cost more to scrap them than keep them.”

What was the penalty charge for breaking the contract? Somewhere around £1 billion IIRC. A small fraction of the cost of the carriers, and then you need to add the cost of the F-35s without which the carriers are giant white elephants – and the planes will very likely cost more than the ships.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
April 4, 2015 1:33 pm

“A couple of LPH’s with marinised Apaches is the right response for a Britain that has withdrawn from the interventionist responsibilities expected of small/advanced UNSC nations like ourselves and France.”

The only time you need carriers with F-35s rather than Apaches would be for strikes against a well-equipped enemy with modern armed forces. For which we have SSN with Tomahawk missiles, with the possibility of installing the same (or similar) on T45 and T26 if we want to. Much lower risk, and also very much lower cost given that we’ll have the ships and subs anyway.

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 4, 2015 1:50 pm

The UK needs to remain a military power and as Blair said, remain in the first rank of nations.

An Army of 100,000, 82,000 or 62,000 is irrelevant. While we will always be globally respected for a highly trained professional army, we will never be considered a military power because we can sustain a brigade anywhere in the world indefinitely.

The RAF and Royal Navy are our best methods of remaining a military power.

We probably have the best medium sized air force in the world, and besides the French and Americans, can deliver a pretty hefty and impressive capability anywhere on the planet (when the political will is there). Standoff weapons such as Storm Shadow also give us a strategic capability, but without the collateral.

The RAF needs increasing from 7 front line squadrons to 8, easing overstretch. I would also like a modest increase in funding directed towards aircraft availability. To do this I would keep the current 5 Typhoon squadrons and fund 3 F-35B squadrons (which would also allow us to surge the QE-class air-wing to maximum).

10 P-8 for maritime patrol should be ordered and look toward modifying 5 to fulfill the ISTAR role of Sentinel. This would promote commonality, reduce training and maintenance costs and allow for 5 P8 to focus on the maritime and the remaining 5 to swing from both ISTAR and maritime patrol.

The rest of the air force would stay as planned.

The Navy is our most hard done by service, yet is the most critical to our defence, protecting our overseas interests and is our primary tool of power projection.

1. Both carriers need to come into service as planned, with one at a reduced state of readiness.
2. A commitment to 13 Type 26 frigates should be set in stone.
3. Plans to replace the Albions with two LHDs. Two Mistrals can be crewed with almost the same number as people on one Albion – so automation is key.
4. An extra River class OPV should be ordered.
5. Continue developing the UUVs for MHC with the French, but the “mother ship” should be a 3,000 tonne modified River with a Merlin capable flight deck, a mission bay and 3 x 30 mm guns. Approximately 12 should be ordered to replace the current MCM vessels and the two Echo class. A small pool of Phalanx CIWS should be ordered so any vessel heading to the gulf has adequate protection.
6. An 8th Astute should be squeezed in before the new SSBNs. I don’t care how much it will cost, with a bit of courage we can afford it.
7. CEC on Type 45 and the QE-class, later on Type 26.
8. Some bloody momentum on MARS SSS, with a 4th modified to replace Argus.
9. Increase personnel.

I think the above is easily affordable with the Army cut to 62,000 and a flat budget until 2019. The RAF and Royal Navy would get a massive morale boost, especially the Navy who gets an investment in both personnel and equipment. We all know they need it more than the other two services. More importantly, we remain a military power with considerably more capacity to project power than we have now.

The way we use the British Army needs rethinking, and to do that we need to think outside the box. Army capabilities need cutting in their entirety.

Do we need GMLRS? Too much collateral, plus the Type 26s and SSNs with Tomahawk and F-35s and Typhoons with Storm Shadow can do its job.

Do we need Apache? Or just increase Wildcat?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 4, 2015 2:01 pm

‘we will never be considered a military power because we can sustain a brigade anywhere in the world indefinitely.’

That is precisely why we are considered a military power. The ability to sustain sizable Air/Land/Sea forces that can influence events for an indefinite period away from home is what makes a military power and is the sort of capability that will need to be cut if we want a purely defensive force.

‘The Navy is our most hard done by service’

Why?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 4, 2015 2:07 pm

@ tony w – “The only time you need carriers with F-35s rather than Apaches would be for strikes against a well-equipped enemy with modern armed forces. For which we have SSN with Tomahawk missiles, with the possibility of installing the same (or similar) on T45 and T26 if we want to”

I hadn’t appreciated that the defence planners had no idea what they were doing when crafted a specification for carriers with an amphibious task group!

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 4, 2015 2:13 pm

@DavidNiven

Germany had around 5,000 troops in Afghan for many years. Not far off our SDSR target of a 6,500 sized brigade. Germany is not considered a military power.

Sustaining 6,500 troops anywhere in the world indefinitely hardly makes us a military power. Just a “meh” from the Americans and “sure, I guess it couldn’t hurt if you tagged along”.

Besides, without the public or political will to even engage in those types of operations anymore. What good is it? Plus, we could probably achieve than number with an army 62,000 anyway and the savings could be redirected to where it matters. Armies are comparatively easy to build up in a national emergency, navies and air forces aren’t.

If we could sustain a division (say 20,000 troops) anywhere in the world indefinitely, then sure. But we can’t.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 4, 2015 2:23 pm

@WhitestElephant
‘Sustaining 6,500 troops anywhere in the world indefinitely hardly makes us a military power’

I agree it doesn’t, what makes a military power is the ability to sustain 6500 troops plus the ability to sustain both Naval and air forces to support the 6500 troops, which is what we are capable of.

How many nations supplied sizable air,sea and land forces at the same time to any of the operations from Op Granby through the Balkans to Herrick apart from ourselves the Americans and France?

Observer
Observer
April 4, 2015 2:29 pm

@Simon and IXION

Maybe you can’t see the amount of trouble Russia would have been in if it lost all port access. That is a near critical blow to their economy, even more so than any “sanction”. If you want a better comparison, that would be the US blockading Japan (funny how that part of the story seems to be left out whenever someone talks about WWII).

People keep drumming about how sea access is important, but seem to forget applying it to the decision making process of other countries. Even if the sanctions on Russia were much worse, Putin would still have gone in, sanctions are just a fleabite compared with what losing sea access would have cost Russia.

Sometimes you just have to turn the table around to see the other person’s point of view to predict what he will do. In this case, Putin had 2 choices, one bad, (sanctions), the other one disasterous (loss of access).

So I won’t call him “Hitler” or “opportunistic”, just cornered and bullheaded.

As for historical comparisons, personally I found that you can compare anything with anything else, though you might need to massage the scenarios a bit, which makes it lose all credibility.

Anyway, long story short, I doubt the UK is going to see Russian advances anywhere else for the near future, which brings us back to the real topic, UK defence.

The biggest area you can cut safely that I can see would be your infantry. The rest can’t be regenerated fast. Stockpile armour, maintain the RAF and RN. This is probably the safest bet.

And a decision has to be made on what sovereign manufacturing capabilities are to be kept and what can be bought off the shelf cheaper.

Tony Williams
Tony Williams
April 4, 2015 2:46 pm

: “I hadn’t appreciated that the defence planners had no idea what they were doing when crafted a specification for carriers with an amphibious task group!”

I presume that would have been in the context of a major amphibious landing against a near-peer enemy in which case, yes, you do need the full panoply of support capabilities (including far more F-35 than the RN seems to be envisaging will be carried). Frankly I doubt that we are capable of landing a major force in that way any more – probably only the USMC can do so.

The context in which I was discussing was one in which we do not attempt any such operation, but have amphibious forces for “police actions” against pirates, insurgent forces etc.

Should we need, for political reasons, to join in with a US action against a near-peer enemy, then we can do so (as we have before) with sub-launched Tomahawks.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 4, 2015 3:34 pm

Re sanctions, how easy would it be to effectively close Russia down on trade routes? Clearly, not a total loss of access, as that would involve China, which won’t happen.

But say the Baltic, Black Sea, and Arctic ports. Plus all of the pipelines….

Sazuroi
Sazuroi
April 4, 2015 3:37 pm

The question of why Germany’s defense industry is doing so well despite our smaller budget came up: It’s because exports to NATO countries don’t need a direct parliamentary license for every deal (as far as I know), unlike exports to other countries. However, even the licenses for deals with other countries were forthcoming, since the policy is mostly about decreasing trade barriers instead of stimulus. It didn’t hurt the companies themselves have some acclaim. So they basically carry themselves, and while the Bundeswehr is a big customer, it’s not the only one. In effect, the arms industry is getting the kind of benefits other industries enjoy, plus a somewhat relieable large-scale customer, plus the export opportunities that just seem to be happening.
I doubt there is any qualitative difference between how this is handled here and elsewhere, but it works and it’s left alone to work further. If anything, the risk is the companies themselves running off (because employees cost too much) or public opinion demanding restrictions (I just googled some numbers, but didn’t find any, only a mountain of outrage about German arms trade stretching back years. Domestic outrage, that is).

Observer
Observer
April 4, 2015 3:46 pm

RT, it would be fairly easy, just stop travel to the country and shut off the pipes, but 1) cutting a trade route affects both ends and 2) it’s a card that can only be played once, because once that happens, the person embargoed will look for other sources of supply and avoid you. This is why Indonesia avoids US made equipment, they were hit once and refuse to be at risk again.

And point 3) they’ll end up best buddies with China. Lord knows what mischief those 2 can get up to if allied.

IXION
April 4, 2015 3:52 pm

Observer.

I am in favour of a complete withdraw from our role as world community support officer, (we have lost the ability to be world police). We can build a realistic defence capability the day we stop talking ourselves into the paranoia that every terrorist breeding shithole is ours to sort out.

The middle east is a mess. In the absence of a full on western crusade to invade and crush ISIS, we should stay out of the nasty little race wars, and big upcoming 100. Years War style Sunni Shia massacre and counter massacre. Our ‘Allies’ the Saudis get all equivocal, and ” our forces are not able to confront (Sunni) ISIS,” about ISIS and AQ, but are prepared to put out military force in an Anti Shia war in Yeman… With friends like these who needs enemas………

So lets stop kidding ourselves we ‘NEED’ carriers deployable brigades etc: -we don’t. Our mindset of the last 200 Years needs a reset.

BTW Nobody was going to take Russia’s port access away from it What he did was an annexation by force of the sovereign territory of a council of Europe member…..

Pacman27
Pacman27
April 4, 2015 4:46 pm

Ok, so if we are going to reset our mindset, then we should have a home defence force with 16 squadrons of fast jets, a modern navy and become the world leader in humanitarian aid.

For the latter we should create a large scale force that a) is linked to universities to train nurses and doctors on a far greater scale than currently b) has a set of hospital and support ships, helicopters and transport aircraft that can get aid to where it is needed and 3) be able to interchange and support the NHS and our military in times of need. This force should be circa 30k personnel.

If we are going to drop fro our role of military partner to the US, perhaps we should become the key driver of delivering aid for the world.

The above is probably not what you all want to hear – but at least it will maintain a set of assets that can be used in times of need (does anyone remember all of the merchant ships requisitioned for the falklands).

I am against foreign aid that is just giving money away, I am for it if our armed forces are delivering it.

Defence of the UK is primarily a role for the Navy and RAF and to do this properly will cost a minimum of £18b, after that it is what you want to spend on everything else.

I think this is ultimately an organisational thing as Israel and even the USMC get better VFM than Britain and it is that what needs to be addressed

Philip Hammond has done a great job, pity he was moved to the Foreign Office before completing the job.

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 4, 2015 4:47 pm

“So lets stop kidding ourselves we ‘NEED’ carriers deployable brigades etc: -we don’t. Our mindset of the last 200 Years needs a reset.”

We have the worlds 5th largest economy, 90% of our imports come by sea, we have global interests to protect and global stability is key to this nations stability and prosperity.

Very very few nations find itself as capable (or as well placed) as Britain to maintain that good order, albeit as global lieutenant to America – but is that a bad thing?

We are by no means a small nation as many would like us to become. I do not think we should prematurely resign ourselves to home defence and rely on the Americans or NATO to do everything for us, while only contributing in a junior/minor way.

That day will inevitably come, when our capabilities are no longer relevant, because China(?) the EU and who knows what else emerges better placed to tackle global stability with the Americans. But we are not at that point now.

We have a long way to go yet, before we are Little England.

Pacman27
Pacman27
April 4, 2015 4:58 pm

The lessons of the past are that we do not resource our military properly and that this costs lives.

whether it is dodgy ship radar in the falklands or a total lack of body armour and vehicles in afghanistan – this lack of attention to our troops welfare must stop.

The above must not be repeated and we should think very carefully about committing troops that do not have the right equipment, even making it illegal to send troops into theatre without a pre-agreed list of equipment for each engagement type.

Where a coroner finds that troops have been sent to theatre without the appropriate force structure or equipment, the Government of the day should be prosecuted as should the heads of the military who sanctioned the order to deploy.

Unfortunately, the only people who pay the price for our skinflint politicians are those people in th forces protecting our freedom. It is a national disgrace that our forces are sent into theatre without the right equipment and this must stop with SDR15 where clear parameters of force type and engagement type are clearly articulated and placed into the military covenant.

Chris
Chris
April 4, 2015 5:18 pm

Pacman27 – I fear such cast-iron rules would backfire. Agreed all efforts should go to making the deployment as safe for the personnel as operationally possible, but if there is a very real threat of manslaughter actions if any forces personnel are lost, then the direct reactions are 1) the politicians will never commit forces no matter what ills may result, 2) the only deployments would be so over-stuffed with protective measures as to be operationally impotent, 3) if real military advantage could be gained by committing specialist personnel to high risk low survival tasks then Command will not pursue the advantage, 4) the politicians would soon realise the military had become pointless and would shut them down to buy more votes in health & welfare.

Its an unappealing truth that the military are at their most effective when risks are taken; sometimes things don’t go well, sometimes they really work out. Castrating the strategic decision-makers would result in a toothless paper tiger.

So by all means equip the personnel with the right kit for the task; give the senior military a veto on deployment if preparation is inadequate if you must, but once deployed the military commanders have to be free to take unpalatable decisions in order to achieve their military objectives. In my opinion.

Repulse
April 4, 2015 5:28 pm

@TD: Interesting question, but we shouldn’t fall into the trap that defence starts at the 12nm limit. I’m not saying we should intervene in far off lands as much as we have, especially on self gratifying humanitarian wars, but remember that attack is sometimes the best form of defence.

Putting aside any invasion by our European neighbours, invasion is either going to have to over land throughthem (and over the channel) or via the sea.

monkey
monkey
April 4, 2015 5:43 pm


“So by all means equip the personnel with the right kit for the task; give the senior military a veto on deployment if preparation is inadequate if you must, but once deployed the military commanders have to be free to take unpalatable decisions in order to achieve their military objectives. In my opinion.”
And Sun Tzu ‘s

as
as
April 4, 2015 5:57 pm

With that spending we must remember the 12 dependent territories, 3 crown dependencies and there EEC claims. So our responsibilities have to include all there 200 mile trade areas. Then we have all our international treaty agreements with other countries that we have to fulfil. It makes deciding on funding very difficult.

monkey
monkey
April 4, 2015 6:27 pm

as brings up a valid point on our home waters and overseas commitments. We need to maintain a global intervention reach of some sort as our overseas commitments are global. We cannot rely on so called allies to help as politics is a very fickle thing with relationships changing at the tick of a voters card. What one government could relied on could be out of power the next day an a much more belligerent one in its place with greatly differing views. Myself I feel our interventions in GW 2 and Afghan were not our party ( always have thought so to , their were very much more subtle ways of executing regime change in those places ) and similar ones are to be avoided in terms of large numbers of boots on the ground unless essential . What’s essential is the difficulty though as it the time to strike early is usually long gone because of political and therefore legal wrangling. Far to much is wasted in the defence of Europe as a whole due IMHO the insular nature of the defenders policies I have iterated before that there is no nation on earth that can mount a amphibious/airborne invasion of Europe except on a tiny tiny scale except the US and that I doubt. Are only land threat then is via our Eastern border which I where our LAND defences should be not on a base outside Lisbon or London or La Rochelle etc but in East where the enemy are likely to come from. However losing the domestic basing of land forces and the economic aspect is not acceptable so most are not were they are going to be used so we have to have plenty of extras to compensate. By all means have domestic training facilities and rapid reaction forces located next to airfields / ports for rapid deployment but all else is a waste . Naval assets are where they should be and so is most Air .

IXION
April 4, 2015 6:51 pm

Whitestelephant

It is not about little England.

It is about recognising that all that trade by sea and trading nation stuff is well….not to put to fine a point on it… Bollocks.

It is true but so what ? So what if our trade comes by sea. So does everyone elses. We can no more police it by force ( particulary by force v local state objectors) than we can police the arse end of the moon Get over it.

If the day of our decline (militarily) is due then why waste time and money trying?

The money could be better used. In ways that could help the economy.

For example if we stopped trying to build ‘the best (insert here) in the world, Hahahahahahah……..’!!!!

We might be able to afford it and to Build it here.

It is nota choice between little Englander and world power. We are not the power we were and we will not decline into little England.

Repulse
April 4, 2015 6:53 pm

Further to my previous comments, I’d say that the significant changes that could be made with a pure defence (but not expeditionary) stance is:
– Removal of all light infantry elements of the British Army, to be replaced by a purely reserve force or Gendarmerie.
– Scrapping of all LPDs and LSDs and a halving of the RMs to be a purely small scale raiding force based from T26s and CVFs.
– Significant reduction in logistical force and RFA – no need to support world wide ops.

I would however:
– Keep the CVFs to create CBGs, increase the number of SSNs and MPAs – no nation can invade with control of the seas.
– Up the land defences of the BOTs, with airdefence plus add locally based small attack craft to harry any invasion fleets.

Mark
Mark
April 4, 2015 6:56 pm

Chuck

Not my numbers a direct lift from a janes article. The point is even after the scaling back of western forces they comfortable out number all of the Jets available to Russia. We may bemoan reductions if defence spending but the forces available to the west are still in a considerably better position than the potiential opposition.

IXION
April 4, 2015 7:01 pm

I challange anyone to explain what ‘Globally engaged means?

How we are supposed to need to be extra protected over say the Germans who ship so many manufactured cars overseas or the Japanese that do like wise…

Mark
Mark
April 4, 2015 7:02 pm

“90% of our imports come by sea, we have global interests to protect and global stability is key to this nations stability and prosperity”

That should read 90% by volume. Close to 35% of world trade by value goes by air.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 4, 2015 7:06 pm

‘the Germans who ship so many manufactured cars overseas or the Japanese that do like wise’

Not to mention the Chinese who must have a very large interest in keeping the international shipping lanes open, I wonder if they would be mug enough to do the heavy lifting for the Arab states as the West have been?

as
as
April 4, 2015 7:46 pm

@DavidNiven
Is that why they are requesting basing options in various African countries?
Could the Chinese navy could then take over anti piracy from the west?

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 4, 2015 8:14 pm

I don’t agree that we should spend less on defence, nor that ending global force projection is an opportunity to make a big cut in defence spending.

I do think though, that we need to properly prioritise our areas of interest. Defence reviews which identify everything, everywhere as being a threat of equal significance will only lead to our finite resources being spread ever thinner. And the idea that each service must always be served up its fair slice of the pie feeds into our inability to prioritise threats and target our resources effectively.

Concentrate on our corner of the NATO area, and we still need new frigates, and to fill the MPA hole, and to retain submarines. We still want fast jets and AWACS for defending our own airspace, as well as for contributing to the Baltic air-defence mission. As it is, the RAF can only sustain about a dozen jets on offensive operations before the burden makes their eyes water; and we’d still reasonably want to have more assets available than just for peacetime QRA.

As a NATO member the armoured division would still be relevant for helping to protect the bloc’s border in the Baltic and Poland. Even after money is spent on the Warrior upgrades and CVRT(ENORMOUS), the tank regiments have plenty of room for investment – anything up to a new generation of tank.

With the armoured division, the attack helicopters need substantial upgrades. The heavy artillery has long had scope for upgrades. There’d still be a need for further infantry units and support units, and SigInt aircraft, and ground scanning radar.

And there remains the same argument for the nuclear deterrent.

The point is, that just in our corner of NATO, there is a reasonable argument for keeping fairly sizeable forces. And much of the expeditionary capability that we do have has been bought and paid for by deferring equipment replacements and upgrades for years.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 4, 2015 8:34 pm

@as

I presume they are requesting basing rights to protect their investments and to ensure the precious metals and minerals they buy from the Africans to fuel their economic growth flow without any hindrance.

I can see a time when the Chinese will police their own areas of interest and not tolerate too much ‘help’ from the West.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 4, 2015 8:49 pm

Brian, nor too do I believe we should stop be’in a global playa, and I agree that we need to be more focussed in how we choose to do this in future.

A narrow spectrum great power was the term I used some years ago now.

Observer
Observer
April 4, 2015 9:23 pm

The arguments for the need to be a global coastguard is very overstated, most countries don’t do that, they rely on individual countries to patrol their own coastline, not create a navy that can cover the entire stretch. They only fill in the gaps when local law enforcement is unable to carry out their duties.

IXION, re port access, I don’t think Putin had a margin for error, and at that point in time, the Ukrainians seriously did not like Russia. It’s way too easy to use one justification or another for a caucus belli and block off the port for massive fees. Seen countries try that with other resources, not just port access. When Indonesian politicians complain that Singapore is a banking center for all their “corrupt politician’s gains”, what they really mean was “so you should give us money.” Or Malaysia and their threats in the past to cut off water. Situations like that are precarious for a country. Pay them off and they’ll keep raising the price.

Mickp
Mickp
April 4, 2015 9:28 pm

@Brian Black, a strong argument. Also merit in Repulses comments

Same money but radical shift in focus to make what we do focus on a highly effective contribution

Jennings
Jennings
April 4, 2015 9:42 pm

Since the 50s, our percentage of the world’s population has halved, presumably the effects of improved medicine in the 3rd world and contraception in the west. God knows what it is of the world’s population of military age – far lower I would imagine.

The idea we can continue as though this has not happened is mad. As is the idea of getting rid of the deterrent. The deterrent is the last thing we should be rid of.

Jennings
Jennings
April 4, 2015 10:01 pm

Apologies if the last comment left the beef out – as our percentage of world population declines, we have also reduced the numbers of both people and effect that our conventional forces can deliver. Our air land and naval forces whilst not the strongest are not at issue as more populous nations do not presently contest them. But history shows we will be threatened.

It makes me wonder whether we need to reintroduce multipliers like tactical WMD.

Mickp
Mickp
April 5, 2015 8:21 am

Anything less than full on CASD with appropriate support would be beyond madness in these uncertain times. Any suggestion that any monetary saving from scrubbing it would find its way to other military kit is equally ridiculous. At the point we justifiably feel safe to abandon CASD is the point we decide we need a military no bigger than Belgium

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 5, 2015 9:08 am

“Anything less than full on CASD with appropriate support would be beyond madness in these uncertain times.”

The problem with this argument is that a britain that exits the global-playa game cannot justify the need for (or the cost of), SSN’s. SSK’s would make far more sense for a nation that is worried about the north atlantic.

Which is all fine, but how does britain then support an industry that has [both] the capability to build nuclear boats [and] the capability to design them, when you are looking at a single class of three SSBN’s with a 25 year service life?

I freely admit I have dodged that question above in suggesting 9 SSK’s and three SSBN’s. Perhaps we can have a conventionally powered submarine capable of housing a CMC compartment, but if not we need to revisit the question of whether we need an expensive submarine based deterrent if the bulk of britains armed forces won’t be stuck in dusty hell-hole on the other side of the world for year after year**.

** Thus necessitating a deterrent because there’s nothing left in the golf bag at home.

Repulse
April 5, 2015 9:09 am

The problem with WMD and CASD is that it is based on the assumption that they will be used. I’m not saying that they are useless but the limitation should be recognised. Would they be used if Argentina (backed by China) invaded the Falklands? Would they be used if Cyprus (backed by Russia) took back the sovereign bases?

Money spent on CASD in my view should be balanced with broader defence needs. One nuclear button does not make the UK safe.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 5, 2015 9:19 am

‘but how does britain then support an industry that has [both] the capability to build nuclear boats [and] the capability to design them’

We can’t indefinitely, if we want to continue to build SSN’s and SSBN’s then we have to subsidise the ability by building SSK’s and surface ships which we can then sell to other navies.

Having our bespoke expensive ship and submarine industries are unsustainable with such a small requirement from our armed forces.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
April 5, 2015 9:44 am

@ DN – “We can’t indefinitely, if we want to continue to build SSN’s and SSBN’s then we have to subsidise the ability by building SSK’s and surface ships which we can then sell to other navies.”

It would be interesting to test that.

Does France with its 6x SNN / 4x SSBN / SSK(?) fleet have a more sustainable and cost effective nuclear boat business (design and build) than Britain with its 7x SNN / 4x SSBN and no SSK?

Would our resident naval types like to comment…

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 5, 2015 10:09 am

@JBT

I don’t think we are a like for like comparison with France. For one they have had constant investment in their nuclear power industry and provide their services world which creates a steady flow of power plant engineers for the nuclear sub industry to tap into.

Just a quick look at the DCNS website shows how nuclear power and nuclear submarines go hand in hand.

http://en.dcnsgroup.com/activities/products/#

Plus their Scorpène class are doing pretty well around the world.

*Cost: $450 million
Building: 2
Planned: 19
Completed: 4
Cancelled: 4
Active: 4

*From wiki, I know :-)

Coupled with some decent’ish number of sales for their Gowind class vessels which must also be helping out, and we must not forget to mention the Russian Mistrals.

The Other Chris
April 5, 2015 10:09 am

Thought the main acceptance for dropping the third section from a platoon was the demonstrable increase in firepower meaning that four fire teams supply much greater effect than six compared to only three decades ago, requiring a smaller and more easily maintained (secure) logistics train?

Pacman27
Pacman27
April 5, 2015 11:47 am

– I am not saying we stop the decision making process, but I am saying that we do not send people into theatre without basic equipment. several coroners picked up on this and in my opinion this is inexcusable.

I really dont know where the defence budget is going, but it seems to me that we need to modernise the organisational structure of all forces and rationalise logistics by asking large uk logistics companies to help (amazon and tesco’s must be pretty efficient).

If we look at the spectrum of requirements it should be something like this

Nuclear deterrent
Maritime protection
Air Defence
Cyber
Homeland protection
Medical
Special Forces
Expeditionary/ Force protection

I guess the question is how much does each need per year and what is the probability of usage (given we have been in at least one conflict for the past 25 years).

We are widely lauded for the expertise of our special forces, but without a critical mass of highly trained and motivated infantry, where will we get our world beating special forces.

My point is that we can’t just pick and choose everything, the apex needs a critical mass beneath it and this needs to be factored in.

Lastly, I believe our role in NATO should be to re-inforce Europe with mass air assets rather than Tanks which as we have seen in the last few months – require months to get ready. A Typhoon could be in theatre in a matter of hours as could an apache.

This would lead me to the belief that we do not need new heavy armour as it is unlikely to leave our shores and should concentrate on medium armour that is deployable.

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 5, 2015 11:48 am

It is not bollocks that we are a global trading nation with 90% of our imports “by volume” (thanks Mark) coming by sea, nor is it bollocks that we have considerable interests around the globe – whose continued maintenance greatly benefits us as a nation.

By taking a leading and proactive role in maintaining global stability as Americas lieutenant, we find ourselves well placed to influence Washington and other Allies in order to protect those interests.

This is why the government prioritises an expeditionary military over a self-defence/isolationist force.

You argue that just because the day will inevitably come where we are no longer a military power we should simply stop being one, cut the defence budget and direct the money toward helping the economy. I completely disagree and find it difficult to understand your reasoning.

As humans we are destined to eventually die. Does that mean we should simply stop living now? Furthermore, any cuts to the defence budget would either drive down the deficit or go into the NHS. You really think it would be spent on the economy? Don’t be naive. Besides, defence spending well known to be beneficial for the economy anyway.

Your beliefs would sprint us towards Little England and we would no longer be the middle ranking great power we are today – which itself is a far cry from what we were at our apex or even 50 years ago.

Following the Spanish, Dutch or Italians to global irrelevance is beneath us. Where was Italy during talks with Iran for example? Is that the type of nation we wish to become?

As I said before, very few nations find itself as well placed or as capable as Britain to take a leading role in the international community. We are the 5th largest economy. A UNSC member. A nuclear power. One of 5 military powers. MI5, SIS and GCHQ. Almost unparalleled levels of soft power. London is a global economic command center. A highly developed nation. A rich nation. A prestigious nation. A respected nation. A nation with leading scientists and innovators. The list goes on.

Many nations would love to have such an international portfolio, and wouldn’t be so quick to throw it away.

mr.fred
mr.fred
April 5, 2015 12:13 pm

pacman27,
I would suggest that we need to make our light armour capable of reaching the lower levels of medium and our heavy armour adaptable enough to cover the higher levels of medium, but I don’t think that scrapping both for some kind of universally compromised medium that is neither deployable nor survivable is a good idea.

Mark
Mark
April 5, 2015 12:19 pm

Whiteelephant

Provided we keep those sea lanes to Europe, norway and america open we should be fine

http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/About-the-Royal-Navy/~/media/Files/Navy-PDFs/About-the-Royal-Navy/RN%20and%20Global%20Trade%20Security.pdf

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 5, 2015 12:59 pm

@Mark

Indeed, keeping those SLOC open are vital, especially the Persian Gulf. Wasn’t it only a few years ago that Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz? Didn’t the US, UK and France respond by deploying more assets to the region?

Aren’t the Americans eager to see French and future British carriers plug ever increasing gaps in Americas overstretched navy?

As that link you posted says:

“The Royal Navy leads partners across
the globe to protect the maritime
environment and acts to suppress all
overt and malign influences which would
destabilise the maritime environment.”

We are only able to achieve this by maintaining our high-end capabilities with enough scale to remain credible (i.e Type 45, Type 26 + 2087, Astute, future QE-class + F-35 and a world class RFA). Such assets put us at the top of the decision making process where we can work alongside the Americans with smaller NATO members (if necessary) contributing in a junior way.

as
as
April 5, 2015 1:07 pm

Why do we not as the Americans for aid money that we could use to support them. Carriers need extra type 45 for example. Get the Americans to fund them. We also need to get more out of NATO. Do we charge for allowing other air forces use our low fly roots. There are thing we are good at that we could charge for. Every little helps and all that.

whitelancer
whitelancer
April 5, 2015 1:17 pm

@The Other Chris
Whenever the argument is used that todays weapon systems are so much better than what went before, we can afford to reduce numbers you just know its an excuse for saving money. Doesn’t matter what it is tank, ship, aircraft or infantry section. They conveniently forget to mention that the potential opponents have also improved. Not to mention that they also assume that what went before was adequate in the first place.

Mark
Mark
April 5, 2015 1:34 pm

Whitestelephant

The gulf has minimal relevance to UK trade it’s much more important to South korea, Japan and China than us. We’re in the process of making peace with Iran following the talks in Switzerland and that should further change our strategic positioning in the region.

If america is struggling with carriers then to de honest that is Americas problem not ours. Outside of the UK and South Atlantic the UK should not really be maintaining enduring presence in any other region. Yearly visits or the occasional exercise when and if assets are available.

The Other Chris
April 5, 2015 1:54 pm

Too simple to aim section reductions at cost saving, it’s not a cost measure. Too many, security, logistics, order of command and efficiencies in avoiding diminishing returns in firepower.

What is a cost saving is then not combining those third sections from two platoons into a third platoon.

The Other Chris
April 5, 2015 1:56 pm

On the topic of sphere’s of influence, not outrageous an aim to want to control our regions and the lanes in between on top of “sovereign defence”.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 2:03 pm

@Mark

The Gulf remains important to both ourselves and the US US. Hence the expansion of the US support facility and the building of our own site.
It is a logical base to exert influence in the whole region not just the Gulf.

Mark
Mark
April 5, 2015 2:18 pm

Apas

If we continue to get a smaller defence budget do we continue to maintain a permanent presence in the region at the expense of say the south altantic patrol ship or a ship in UK waters or an additional requirement in the Atlantic . There are extremely wealthly states in the gulf who spend an awful lot of money on equipment who perhaps should be doing more of the policing as perhaps should the likes of Japan, we have to accept a reduced global footprint at the expense of high end equipment and the navy and airforce have a lot of assets committeed to the region so a reduced presence could reduce the overstretch.

IXION
April 5, 2015 2:21 pm

Whitest elephant

I called bollocks and I meant it.

Please explain why the Germans dont have a big navy they shift a lot more stuff out than we do. (Also they own a lot of the worlds ships). Poor cripled humiliated Germany. On your reasoning they should have fleets of fleets.

So the Iti’s got no say in talks with IRAN. Who gives a fuck, do the Italians? I wasn’t even aware we were part of the talks…. Anyone else? Just how has the average Italian or the Italian defence capacity suffered by this humiliation of not being involved…..? I bet the Dutch the Swedish and the Japanese all got together in a corner and sniggered about the Italians not being there.. Oh wait a minute they were’nt there either..

We do not ‘keep sea lanes open’ these are international routes protected by treaty and by the naked self interrest of the users.

‘Middle ranking world power’…. Please explain it to me with diagrams what in the name of Noel Edmunds and all his little bearded Deamons is a ‘Middle ranking World power’?

I hate to break it to you but the days of ‘Rule Britannia’ were over when the Prince of Wales went down and we lost Singapore. The British Empire is way deader than disco.

I know the suites full of bugger all will waste any money saved. But they might just waste it somwhere it will do some good. Not spending it on aircraft carriers that run out at 10000 tons per aircraft carried might be a start….

IXION
April 5, 2015 2:28 pm

Oh by the way

Cuts in defence budget going to drive down the deficit or into NHS…. Sounds like the right place for any spare cash right now…

APATS

It is some one elses turn to keep the Gulf open. I know HOW ABOUT THE GULF STATES? The ones with all the cash and tanks and guns we sold them…..

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 5, 2015 2:33 pm

“The gulf has minimal relevance to UK trade”

The Gulf is extremely important to the UK. More than 25% of UK port traffic (in terms of tonnage) is in the form of Liquid Gas and Crude Oil. That is not “minimal relevance”.

Oil and gas is the life blood of our economy, there is continual traffic of LNG carriers and Crude Oil tankers between the various exporting nations directly to the UK. Any disruption to that would have dire consequences for our economy.

As UK oil and gas production declines and our demand grows, the Gulf will become more and more relevant to us.

It amazes me how out of touch you are.

Besides the above, Royal Dutch Shell (Holland + UK) and BP (UK) are the 4th and 6th largest companies in the world (in terms of revenue). Needless to say they are colossal players in the Oil and Gas industry. Both are heavily invested in the Gulf, as well as other giants in the UK .

For the British Government and the City of London, I imagine keeping the balance of power in the Middle East is of huge concern. We have a lot at stake, more than you are obviously aware of.

I completely disagree South Korea, Japan and China have more interests in the Middle East than we do. Besides, as is clearly evident, we the Americans and the French are by far the best placed and most capable to maintain a permanent presence in the Gulf.

“If america is struggling with carriers then to de honest that is Americas problem not ours.”

If that is your attitude, then perhaps the Americans shouldn’t have given us the help they did in 1982. Or we shouldn’t have supported the french with C-17s and Sentinel during Mali. Our allies also should have refused to send maritime patrol aircraft last year to Scotland when we needed them.

With that attitude, NATO is irrelevant.

“Outside of the UK and South Atlantic the UK should not really be maintaining enduring presence in any other region. Yearly visits or the occasional exercise when and if assets are available.”

Bonkers. Keeping the Royal Navy to UK waters and the South Atlantic would leave the bulk of the doing very little. Our overseas interests would be dependent on America to maintain good order, and we would loose our influence and position at the top of the decision making process – which is key.

as
as
April 5, 2015 2:50 pm

“Please explain why the Germans…..”
What about the Dutch, Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the 6th largest world wide.
The rest of NATO need to start pulling there weight on international operations.

Sorry the NHS is a broken and a red herring or red rag to a bull depending on who you speak. You can put as much money in as you like for little effect. Broken giant sponge.

IXION
April 5, 2015 2:57 pm

WE

Please stop.

BP dropped the British from its name years ago, both it and Shell are Multinationals (clue there in the title).

Just how does the British govt ‘ keep the balance of power in the middle east’?

You are making wild assertions about Britain’s power in the world without backing up in any factual way how we achieve all this. It may indeed ‘be in our interests’ but we lack any practical means of achieving it.

Mark
Mark
April 5, 2015 3:04 pm

Whiteestelephant

The link below gives UK imports/exports for UK oil and gas 12% of gas comes from Qatar and 4% of our oil from Saudi. The single biggest contribution to UK oil and gas is norway closely followed in the oil world by Africa. Shale gas from America will I guess further change the dynamic.

http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=uk

The middle East is a important global supply route for oil and gas but a signifcant portion of that heads East not west.

Here’s the equivalent for Japan http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=ja 81% of oil imports from the Mid East

Here’s one for South korea http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=KS 86% of oil imports from the gulf

You contribute what assets you have when they are available to support a coalition you do not pocure equipment simply to fill gaps in other countries orbat. Nato is an alliance in the North Atlantic area of operation and that is very different from operating in the gulf or elsewhere.

No it’s not bonkers and it’s not about keeping the RN anywhere. A repeat of HMS daring in its round the world cruise of last year or the cougar series is perfectly acceptable way of contributing to UK global capability.

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 5, 2015 3:04 pm

For obvious historical reasons, the Germans are not too enthusiastic about taking an assertive military role. They have (as the world has in general) been quite happy for the Americans to play world policeman, with lieutenant Britain and a somewhat unpredictable France

It suits the Germans to play a junior role, contributing when it can to counter-piracy missions etc.

If you think its bollocks we continue to play our part in this world, then fine. But it is a very poor attitude. If more countries were willing to stand up to their share of the burden it would be a better place.

BP and Royal Dutch are still headquartered/have headquarters in the UK, still heavily invested in by the City, British government and others.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 3:18 pm

@Mark/Ixion

The presence of Uk/US forces in theGulf is multi faceted, welcomed and indeed supported by the Gulf states. Bahrain is paying lock stock and barrel for our new accommodation and support facilities in Manama. They help support the US 5th Fleet.
Ops in the Gulf are split between TF numbered ops (US 5th fleet with UK and sometimes French contributions) and CTF ops which are multi national coalition operations. We have only just managed to get the Saudis to stepup and lead one of theCTF ops and even then we had to back fill the staff with UK/US Officers.
To suggest that the Midle Eastern states could take over or even the lead on these sort of ops simply because they have bought some shiny toys is unfortunately pie in the sky. Tney do not train or exercise anywhere near enough at unit level never mind be able to run an unsupported TG level op.
Our ME presence offers the MCMVs the opportunity to exercise in some of the most difficult water conditions in the world, as well as conduct peacetime route survey which would be vital if it went hot. They are also handily forward positioned to be bale to operate throughout the area. That is withjout the huge benfit we get from working alongside TF52 (US MCMV command) and contributing to tacdev including greater us of UUV and airborne MCM. It is perhaps telling that it is the permanently deployed UK cdrthat assumes comand of the adapatle UK/US MCM force when required.
The T45 and T23 on K1 and K2 duties conduct multiple mision taskings but area available to as as an MCMV protection unit and are also gaining invaluable experience operating as integrated components of Carrier Battle Groups.
So inshort the Gulf presence is multi faceted. Subsidised, as important politicallyas militarily, offers fantastic training opportunities and ensures we have forwarded deployed assets in an area of huge importance (E of Suez).

Mark
Mark
April 5, 2015 3:32 pm

Apas

I have no doubt at all that Mid East countries have little ability to use equipment they buy. I know in the air domain they have bought stuff and simply parked it in the desert with little or no interest in using it they were just buying influence. That’s why I phrased it the way I did. They should be made to start delivering a capability, we cannot hold there hands forever.

I don’t doubt the UK gets training benefits and it useful for operating in the wider region but if defence is asked for a further reduction or indeed no increase in funds and our equipment is getting more expensive something will have to give. While I would be reducing our nuclear ambitions before our conventional ones no one else seems to like that idea.

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 5, 2015 3:35 pm

@Mark

12% and 4% is a considerable amount if you consider what effect it would have on our economy if disrupted. However as I pointed out, its not just the amount of liquid gas and crude oil we import, but our financial interests in the oil and gas industries.

Above all, its about playing our part in the world. A role we are certainly able to afford and undertake. The reality is that while a few are willing to do their fair share, most are not. So I cannot agree with you or IXION that we should do less too.

Please don’t force words into my mouth. I never said the British government keeps the balance of power in the Gulf did I?

What I said was; “For the British Government and the City of London, I imagine keeping the balance of power in the Middle East is of huge concern. We have a lot at stake” – with regards to oil and gas imports as well as significant financial interests.

If you refer to my previous posts, I make it clear enough that we achieve the above by doing our part in maintaining global stability and good order alongside the Americans and French. (not alone!)

Maintaining a permanent presence in the Gulf alongside them, with the capacity to deploy high-end capabilities in response to a crisis gives us a great deal of influence in the decision making process. Regional partners such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman also welcome our presence and influence. Collective effort.

Ultimately we need to keep doing our part and carry our fair share of the security burden. Simply because Germany doesn’t or the rest of NATO are quite happy doing little or playing a junior role, it doesn’t mean we should follow them. Your attitude that we should is irresponsible and foolish.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 3:40 pm

@Mark

We may not be able to hold their hands for ever but we do need to encourage and help train and integrate them. The fact that they do subsidise our presence, there are big political elements and the training is superb is all the more reason for it to be way down the list of any cuts.

Jed
Jed
April 5, 2015 4:03 pm

Unfortunately it is “real politik” that we should look to guard the energy supplies that we need to exist, and to keep an eye on, and thwart if necessary the geopolitical games of Mr Putin.

However I am not a fan of the “trendy lefty meets Neo-Con” concept of operations which sees you “bombing a country back into the stone age” and then spending blood and treasure building them back up into a “reliable client state” – I just don’t think it works.

I am for a strong conventional deterrent force which can punish action against the UK or the UK’s interests. This may be based on CV/F35 (and I am NO FAN of the F35) or on SSN / TacTom or on FFG / DDG with TacTom. This would also include Tranche 3 Typhoon with Storm Shadow I suppose. Boots on the ground not a big deal in this scenario, but small numbers including SF might be. Other than that expeditionary capabilities might be based on large scale civilian evacuation, or provision of a small well rounded and well equipped force to NATO, or coalition operations.

However when it comes down to it, nation destroying, not nation building would be the main role for the armed forces, but that requires a class of politician that we apparently no longer posses. Ones that can play “statesman” with some authority, and no worry about sound bite retribution on the home front. Most citizens do not understand nor care about strategic geo-politics, unfortunately that does not mean that the don’t need their government to play the game on their behalf. So defence will never win votes, get over it move on and play the game on the countries behalf, and pay the SUN’s “editorials” the exact amount of attention they are worth……

Topman
Topman
April 5, 2015 4:16 pm

@ Mark

‘ I know in the air domain they have bought stuff and simply parked it in the desert with little or no interest in using it they were just buying influence. They should be made to start delivering a capability, we cannot hold there hands forever. ‘

I know the point was more state level assistance, however it’s not even just about equipment but on many levels too many of them are dependant on foriegn companies to a disproportional amount.

I think a certain defence company would be unhappy about them doing it all on their own ;)

They did try once on a certain a/c type to big fanfare. Wasn’t quite how it was presented mind…

Mark
Mark
April 5, 2015 4:48 pm

Whitestelephant

I think it pales into insignificance when you look around the world to countries who really depend on Mid East oil and gas infact we’re not even in the top 10 importers of world oil which puts us behind the likes of India and Taiwan. Of your concerned for big UK oil companies and there investments I’d be a looking more at what’s going on in Russia, Nigeria and the Gulf of Mexico as far a bp goes anyway.

Apas. We may see those decisions needing to be made in a few months I’m glad I’m not making them. On a side note I also see the navy’s chasing “icebergs” again.

Topman gd point certain said company would be crying there lamps out.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 5, 2015 4:49 pm

We are a net importer of energy, yet we are an island with bountiful resources compared to many nations in water and renewable energy resources not to mention the large amounts of coal still under our feet.

Maybe we should be investing a lot more in tidal (plentiful & predictable) amongst other renewable technologies and clean coal technology (which would be of monetary value to a number of developing countries) rather than ring fencing a dying ship building industry (where are the large commercial spin off to technologies in Astute?) as a strategic asset over success stories such as our space and pharmaceutical industries to name just two.

As an example

‘The MeyGen project, owned by AIM-listed tidal power company Atlantis Resources (“Atlantis”), has successfully led a funding syndicate to raise approximately £50 million which will be used to finance the initial stage of the wider MeyGen project’

‘When fully completed, the MeyGen project will have the potential to provide clean, sustainable, predictable power for 175,000 homes in Scotland’

http://www.meygen.com/2014/08/uk-leads-marine-energy-revolution-as-worlds-largest-tidal-stream-project-agrees-investment-to-begin-construction-in-scotland/

£50 million is what they were after to start phase 1, yet the MOD pissed away nearly £200 million to study whether we could convert the carrier to cats and traps.

We should be weaning of the ME as fast as we can and if defence took a hit to do so I would welcome it. The MOD have wasted enough money over the years for no benefit to either the armed forces or the country.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 5:10 pm

@David Niven

Well considering most of the tech on Astute is pretty classified, I would not expect many. In fact many military projects have little commercial spin offs. If they do it is nice but that is not what they are for.

People need to stop thinking of the ME as the Gulf only and look at a map. Then look at where we import items from and the best place to be in order to act if required. Not to mention the massive benefits we gain from training in the AOR both in terms of who we work with and conditions as well as the political element of aiding stability in the region. Unstable Muslim countries are pretty bad I think we can all agree.

@Mark

The RN presence in the Gulf will definitely survive SDSR 2015. Too much political capital been expended and we get too much out of it. The shiny new base the Bahrainis are buying us opens later this year.

An “iceberg” ok.

IXION
April 5, 2015 5:32 pm

WE

It is time we told the gulf states to stand up for themselves.

Saudis built AK.
Quataris built ISIS

These are our ‘allies’

Thocratic corrupt absolute monarchs.

Their forces are not up to confronting ISIS they say. But they can bomb Yeman. And back AK affiliates in Syria.

So they can keep the gulf clear for shipping if they can’t then it should be a piority for them to get to know how.

I repeat most pepple will happily sell us oil, the Iranians and ISIS will. So why support the Saudis?

Anyway, leaving aside the Imperial delusions how does any of our millitary kit help this?

Still not explained why we are more ‘globally engaged’ than Germany or Italy, or for that matter Canada or Australia. Or precisely how Fat we get on being globaly engaged. Or for that matter how our forces supoosidly help.

In the comming Sunni Shia war we really need to stay the hell out.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 5, 2015 5:39 pm

@APATS

‘Then look at where we import items from and the best place to be in order to act if required.’

we are in Bahrain to keep the straits of Hormuz open for one commodity energy. If we wanted to be in a place that would allow us to act to protect all aspects of trade shipping and influence the area then we would be in Djibouti with the French.

A lot of countries have an interest in keeping shipping lanes open not just us, which is why the Chinese are looking for basing rights on the east coast of Africa.

Dunservin
Dunservin
April 5, 2015 5:51 pm

I keep saying this but it still seems to pass some people by. Any threat to the worldwide supply and delivery of oil, minerals, chemicals, raw materials, foodstuffs, other commodities and consumer products will reduce the overall availability and increase the price of these items and their derivatives accordingly. This will affect the economy and living standards of the UK as well as everyone else, even if it enjoys alternative sources which will be subject to higher demand from elsewhere. National interest and the competition for ever reducing resources does not stop at the English Channel.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 6:06 pm

@ David Niven

Em wrong, we are in Bahrain as it is the correct side of Suez. We have huge host nation support. The training opportunities are superb, they are building us a mew complex for free. We are co located with 5th fleet and indeed the HQ for all ops in the AOR inside and outside the Gulf. It sends a Political message as well. We are even putting ships on slips for maintenance now.
Why would we want to relocate to Djibouti, you are probably not aware that the French Navy are looking to move into Abu Dhabi. Djibouti has a couple of berths and a couple of army bases. Not good enough and
Not really better located. It is a fuel stop.

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 5, 2015 6:13 pm

“It is time we told the gulf states to stand up for themselves.”

Yes, it would be nice if they did step up to the task, but as APATS said, that is unlikely.

“most pepple will happily sell us oil, the Iranians and ISIS will. So why support the Saudis?”

Besides the fact they are the worst thing since Hitler, are you really advocating we buy oil from ISIS? I would put this down to intentional trolling, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

“Anyway, leaving aside the Imperial delusions how does any of our millitary kit help this?”

Imperial delusions? Please leave aside the pointless rhetoric. What about solid realities? The majority of Gulf states want us there, the Americans want us there and guess what, we are there, pulling our weight.

We are heavily engaged in the region, providing high-end capabilities, especially with regards to MCM and the ability to deploy highly capable assets (Type 45 etc) with enough quantity to remain a credible partner to the US, France and our regional partners.

“Still not explained why we are more ‘globally engaged’ than Germany or Italy”

There is little more to explain other than they are quite happy to sit back and play a junior role. Both could and should do a lot more to protect Western interests. However I repeat, just because they decide to be less globally engaged, doesn’t mean we should too.

@Mark

Your argument can be summed up as thus; “because we don’t import as much oil from the Gulf as other countries, our national interest in the region is therefore insignificant and we shouldn’t be there”.

I find that reasoning to be infuriatingly flawed. Our national interests are our own and shouldn’t be measured against another nations. Besides importing modest amounts of liquid gas and oil from the Gulf, we also have considerable financial interests in the regions oil and gas industry. For Britain, as a nation, we have decided those interests are worth protecting by supporting our major allies and partners in the Gulf. We do that military, politically and economically.

Just because another nation may import more oil from the Gulf than us and maintains no military presence in the region doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 5, 2015 6:27 pm

@APATS

‘Em wrong, we are in Bahrain as it is the correct side of Suez.’

There’s plenty of places that are the correct side of the Suez before you get to Bahrain, Jordan, West coast of Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and Oman are all western friendly’ish. Bahrain just happens to be the right side of the Straits as well to keep our energy interests safe.

Topman
Topman
April 5, 2015 6:31 pm

@WE

‘Just because another nation may import more oil from the Gulf than us and maintains no military presence in the region doesn’t mean we shouldn’t.’

Might be interesting to think about that, knowing that there are many countries much more depend on the gulf, how do they all square that risk with little to mitegate it?

IXION
April 5, 2015 6:38 pm

WE

Well if Germany and others take a back seat why shouldn’t we?

Why do they get to freeload off of us?

Intrinsically in you response is an admission they are as globally as we are sans fleets in their case.

‘Worst thing since Hitter’. As opposed to the democracy suppresing woman murdering dissident flogging bunch of liberals who created and funded AK?

Sorry but no one on this site or elswhere has ever explained what Globally engaged means except as a peace of verbage to make a self licking lollipop ‘we are globally engaged’ because we have our navy stationed arround the world and we have our navy stationed arround the world because we are globally engaged’…

What exactly do we get out of being a ‘credible partner’ to be US gets us…

I notice you havent mention the poor humiliated Italians…

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 6:45 pm

@David Niven

Bahrain just happens to have all the advantages I listed as well but just ignore them. Also ignore the French looking tommove into Abu Dhabi and repeat your single point :)

Mark
Mark
April 5, 2015 6:52 pm

WE

As we’re not in the worlds top 15 energy importers and only 6th in total imports behind the likes of Japan, China, France and Germany (Germany being the country we import most from) I assume they’re all making a larger contributions of military assets to ensuring the free flow of world goods than we are, as there also all wealthier than we are. Maybe said countries would wish to finance our efforts as a thank you.

It’s not that we shouldn’t be involved but at a level appropriate to what we get out of it. That sort of sums up my position on world trade protection.

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 5, 2015 6:58 pm

“the poor humiliated Italians”

Hardly. They are just not as relevant on the world stage as say China, the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan or Russia – who are most often considered to be the worlds leading nations.

But don’t worry, it is inevitably our future. You will have your Little England, eventually.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 5, 2015 7:00 pm

‘Bahrain just happens to have all the advantages I listed as well but just ignore them’

The Americans are there for their own raesons and if it runs paralelel with ours then fine, same for the French. We are talking about our reasons no one else’s and the biggest single reason we are there is to protect energy resources.

Some of reason the good people of Bahrain are paying for our stay may also have something to do with the Shia majority they have and their relationship with Iran, there’s nothing like the possibility of a few western casualties to deter an enemy is there.

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 5, 2015 7:06 pm

@Mark

“It’s not that we shouldn’t be involved but at a level appropriate to what we get out of it. That sort of sums up my position on world trade protection.”

Whats to say that the level we currently engage at isn’t already the appropriate level? Tbh, considering we are the worth 5th largest economy and the world 6th largest trading nation we probably should do more to ensure global stability and good order is maintained.

Just because a larger economic power like Germany does less to maintain global stability (via military means), doesn’t mean we should too. It probably means they are not doing enough.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 7:07 pm

@David Niven

No David you list one reason only. I list multiple. I acknowledged the Political reasons for our presence but the main reason is the facilities and the co location with US 5th Fleet and CMF HQs.
You can clear a channel from either end.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 5, 2015 7:10 pm

@APATS

I know I only list one as I said ‘the biggest single reason we are there is to protect energy resources.’
Training, facilities and co location etc are a by product of that requirement.

Topman
Topman
April 5, 2015 7:12 pm

@WE

‘Just because a larger economic power like Germany does less to maintain global stability (via military means), doesn’t mean we should too. It probably means they are not doing enough.’

I wonder if the germans mind or worry? Is SO lurking to give their perspective?

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 5, 2015 7:16 pm

As the local totty in the Middle East is mostly unavailable, I’d suggest that the main reason for our presence there is energy security, although the diplo-political reasons tend to be about 10 years out of date.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 7:23 pm

@David Niven

Only they are not are they? You can clear the Straits from either side but how many places give you co location with US 5th Fleet, CMF, so all ops in the AOR with the ability to walk over and discuss face to face. Oportunity for K1 and K2 to conduct CBG integrated ops. MCMs to exercise in some of the worlds most difficult water conditions. Ability to work on warships up to T45 size out of the water if required. Send a message politicaly and get a base built for you.
We only import 5% of oil and under 20% of LPG from inside Hormuz. The cry of it is all about “oil” is slightly dated today.
Kipion is designed to aid the safe flow of trade and oil whilst promoting peace and stability.
The very last word is becoming more and more important.

@RT

Stacks of expat and US totty knocking about.

IXION
April 5, 2015 7:27 pm

WE

lets assume for the purposes of argument. That we do ‘matter’ more than the Italians.

You have not explained what we get out of ‘mattering’ in cash terms.

I am not a little Englander… I want us to have a big vibrant international economy.

I just don’t get what you WASAWPYK ers think we are up to. Do you realy think Putin or the Ayatollahs give flying fuck about what Britian thinks, they talk to the Engine driver (America) not the oily rag. Seriously do you think even th. ISIS say to themselves “we want to do X but we wont coz it will piss of the Brits”????

Observer
Observer
April 5, 2015 7:38 pm

IXION, I don’t think the ISIS cares if they piss off everybody.

Mickp
Mickp
April 5, 2015 7:42 pm

@APATs ‘whilst promoting peace and stability.’

That’s working well then

That said I am ok with a base there for the time being whilst defence spend remains at current levels but from a pure defence perspective I don’t think it ranks as high as Europe, Med / North Africa or South Atlantic if thinks had to be cut.

Topman
Topman
April 5, 2015 7:49 pm

‘You have not explained what we get out of ‘mattering’ in cash terms. ‘

Although there are many shades of grey, mattering can give us enough influence to help defence sales. Typhoon is a good example. Since we are on the topic of the ME, Saudi and Oman are two good examples. The UK drove those sales, to use your other countries example, Italy, they wouldn’t have had the influence to get in the front door.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 7:50 pm

@Mick P

We still have some peace and stability in countries we are involved in, just.

In terms of defence priorities, we do not have anything to cut in terms of the Med/N Africa, the Italians, French and Spanish carry the load there in conjunction with US 6th Fleet. Both the Greeks and Turks showed during Libya a wilingnesd to get involved, so are we required? Possibly to provide some specialist capability if required. However we can provide that from the UK, the same as Europe, we are in Europe.
South Atlantic, you honour the threat but there is not onejust now.
It is precisely because our NATO allies have assets in the Med that allows usto operate E of Suez.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
April 5, 2015 8:05 pm

APATS,

there are, but it’s hardly exciting to shag a European or a yank in the Middle East. Warfare is far more fun.

I had a thing for a Lebanese girl once, but it was in London. Sex on wheels, she was***, but got all coy when we went to meet her mother (predictable).

Her mother still sends Christmas cards to me, the daughter is on her third marriage and seems to have made divorce lawyers in London rich. Glad I avoided that.

*** The most astonishingly beautiful eyes, and muscle control down below that could squeeze the life out of you.

WhitestElephant
WhitestElephant
April 5, 2015 8:12 pm

We certainly do matter more than the Italians. At least where it counts.

What do we get out of it? Influence in Washington and in the decision making process where British Interests are also at stake. By contributing alongside the Americans, rather than in a very minor capacity like most of NATO, we play our part and commit to our own fair share of maintaining global security. In cash terms, this collective effort gives us an economy with all the resources and freedom it needs to grow, trade and become that “big vibrant international economy” you want.

Of course we could retreat to our island and let the Americans do everything for us like most Western nations. The end result would likely be the same, but is it really honorable to do that?

Personally, I think an independent sovereign nation, like Britain, with the the capability and means to contribute to global stability, should embrace it, not retreat and ride off the backs of the Americans.

You can say you’re not a Little Englander until you are blue in the face. Your attitude strongly suggests otherwise.

I don’t care if Putin doesn’t give a sh1te what Britain thinks. And ISIS are hardly planning their actions in order not to piss of America either. Anyway, I fail to see the relevance of you blabbering on about this, unless it is a further attempt to troll, like when you said we should buy oil off ISIS rather than Saudi Arabia.

APATS already established the Gulf states want us there. It is well known the Americans want us there, and are eager to see our future aircraft carriers plug gaps in their overstretched navy – such the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean.

If we were the completely irrelevant, hapless little nation you want us to be, then the above wouldn’t be true.

I have committed too much time to this thread, and all you do is retort with trolling and pointless rhetoric. So I retire, leaving you to your irrational thoughts and desires of how Britain is irrelevant.

Cheers

IXION
April 5, 2015 8:35 pm

WE

Sorry your going I was looking forward to replying…

Something along the lin. Off

So we will be irrelevent and happless as Australia Canada Japan Germany etc.

I made ref to ISIS to make a point that you say WASAWPYK. I say WBBYK. And am cool with that. And I dont see (and beyond vague references to holding Americas coat, and mattering to them), that you have made any real point to it.

As someone remarked up thread this keeping the peace in the middle east things going well.

Mickp
Mickp
April 5, 2015 8:35 pm

@APATs, just indeed

I am not convinced that we won’t find a shift in our need to move our priorities closer to home though, eg Med. Any cut in existing force levels will mean hard choices without doubt

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 8:39 pm

@Mick p

Why would we need to move our priorities into the Med? You have US 6th Fleet, the Spanish, half the French, the Italians, the Greeks, the Turks. It is a NATO lake.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 5, 2015 8:45 pm

@APATS
‘The cry of it is all about “oil” is slightly dated today.’

And yet energy is still the main reason we are there.

‘under 20% of LPG from inside Hormuz’

LNG imports accounted for 26.6 per cent of total imports, 22.5 TWh in 2014 only second to the Langeled Pipeline which pumped 64.8 TWh of gas. In the same year there was a 1.5 per cent increase in
gas used for electricity generation which was a reflection of the decrease in coal generation and lower wholesale gas prices.

And what political message are we sending and to whom?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 8:56 pm

@David Niven

Could you link to the 2014 figures then as in 2013 we imported 12% of our imported gas from Qatar. Energy is just one reason we are there and if it is as important as you believe then it is another good reason why we should and will be staying there.
We send not only a Political message to those that would seek to de stabilise the region via government or non governmental forces as well as a moderating influence on those countries we work with.

Mickp
Mickp
April 5, 2015 9:02 pm

@APATs agreed at present but things change. Greece falls apart, the U.S. pushes East, Turkey gets embroiled in Syria. ….

I said it as an eg, perhaps a better one is GUIK or North Atlantic?

The way I see it is the Gulf is fine now but could easily become a military luxury in the medium term if Russia continues to flex or China starts mooching around the Atlantic, as examples

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
April 5, 2015 9:22 pm

@APATS
‘Imports from Norway fell in 2009 and 2011 as LNG sources became much more important. LNG imports from Qatar peaked at 40% of all imports in 2011 before falling back to 27% in 2012’

http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn04046.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/415993/gas.pdf

‘is another good reason why we should and will be staying there.’

Not really, it’s more of a reason we should be investing in energy security and leaving. If we want to do something in the area we will have the CBG, after all is’nt that what they are they for, power projection. It will be better for the country as a whole to spend money on energy security than having a forward presence in Bahrain.

‘We send not only a Political message to those that would seek to de stabilise the region via government or non governmental forces as well as a moderating influence on those countries we work with.’

In layman’s terms we are there to deter the Iranians and give a bit of back up to the ruling minorities.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 9:31 pm

@David Niven

Plenty of 2013 figures available.

We imported 12% from Qatar in 2013. The forward presence in Bahrain had so many benefits that I am really pretty bored listing for you. Fortunately those that make the decisions understand.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/10629598/UKs-dependence-on-gas-imports-to-blame-for-high-prices-not-Centrica.html

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 5, 2015 9:40 pm

@David Niven

Of course you are talking about imports not percentages of used gas. So given UK production Qatari LPG in 2013 was about 17% of imports but only just under 12% of usage.