SDSR 2015 in 200 Words

As we discussed in the Open Thread a week or so ago, the public consultation web form for the SDSR only allows submissions that are 1,500 characters long, about 200-300 words.

Many have seen this as an insult…

Personally, I think it is good, it focusses the mind on the important issues and makes sure submissions can be easily absorbed by the SDSR team (assuming they actually look at them of course)

I wonder if the submissions will be published, or carefully placed in the round filing cabinet but as an exercise, how about in comments, TD readers create a 1,500 character submission?

sdsr2015My starter;

  • Sack anyone that inserts the word warfighter or transformational into any SDSR publication.
  • Make sure it reflects the approach of talking at the same volume as walking, i.e. match the rhetoric and ambition with the resources provided. Our current approach of talking loudly and carrying a small stick destroys our credibility.
  • Capabilities are not just made up from planes, tanks and ships, it is the people that actually make the difference, make sure those people and their families are supported.
  • Honesty is always the best policy, fudging the numbers to get to 2% GDP on defence is embarrassing and demeans the UK. If defence spending is to be 1.8% then just have the honesty to say so.
  • Commonality considerations in programmes must enable long-term decisions to be made, spending now to save later is a good thing.
  • The full weight of HM Armed Forces to be brought to bear on the problem of the double decker bus infographic issue
  • There is no military problem that cannot be solved by the application of an ISO container, just saying!

See how easy, 1,052 characters, 179 words!


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August 18, 2015 10:59 am

I grew up in a school that taught us the summarise. Of course that’s one school and I didnt always summarise all my points. But as you pointed out TD, summarising key arguments isnt that terrible.

August 18, 2015 11:29 am

Of course the problem with summarising is that it can become the captive of the soundbite, and gloss over the inconvenient truths which can only be faced in detail.

But at least we’ll be spared the reams of irrelevant evidence submitted to every other Parliamentary Committee and review

August 18, 2015 11:51 am

SDSR 2015 must emphasise strategic depth in key areas while retaking a very broad spectrum of capabilities. It must seek to adapt the MOD to new challenges such as cyber warfare while regenerating the militaries capability to fight a conventional enemy. It’s should not focus much attention on fighting unconventional enemies such as Daesh. Key capabilities such as MPA must be regenerated and other capabilities such as armoured and mechanised forces must be reinvigorated. The strategic goals of the military must be set inside of the budget that is likely to be available and the forces must begin to choose weapon systems and vehicles more in line with the slender resources available (no more £9 million ASCODS and lets have a look at some of those polish 8 x 8’s. ) The MOD should give up on trying to asses the threat environment as it’s not very good at it and instead accept that a threat could come from anywhere and as such a broad spectrum capability is the best defence. The MOD must also accept that the budget the country is prepared to spend should be the main driver for its decision making and not the perceived threat environment.

stephen duckworth
August 18, 2015 12:16 pm

A good idea to be open to suggestions , out of the mouths of fools and babes… and all that . Having external , interested parties give their views can sometimes give the decision makers a fresh perspective and let them reassess the road they are traveling down sometimes blinkered by their own experience and goals.

Necessary Evil
Necessary Evil
August 18, 2015 4:17 pm

Why not just do it all on Twitter?

I think the focus should be on expeditionary warfare capability on both the northern and southern boundaries of NATO. I think the UK should lead (with France, anyway) in improving its capability in this regard, with particular emphasis on training exercises involving these forces. None of the other threats to our security are as serious as an aggressive Russia or further destabilisation in the Middle East. Obviously that´s a pretty big area to be getting along with, but the same forces can be set aside for both theatres, from which we should be able to pick and choose as crises develop.

The key capabilities for me are: both carriers being brought into service, with the potential to operate both simultaneously; sufficient f-35s to be able to deploy an air wing on both in a crisis; MPA to protect these assets; sufficient air transport and sealift capacity; a second division that is deployable in a conflict, at least at a brigade level.

These capabilities would also act as a deterrent to another Argentinian invasion of the Falklands.

Necessary Evil
Necessary Evil
August 18, 2015 4:32 pm

Oh, and replace Trident, obviously.

August 18, 2015 9:45 pm

My tuppence – 200 words is hard!

“SDSR 2015 must reflect increased global and domestic threats to the UK and BOTs. Britain’s security vision must match it’s aspirations to engage globally to promote prosperity through free trade, law & order and stability.

UK military capabilities need to remain focused on high intensity warfare, supporting a broad spectrum of (first class) capabilities, each held at a proportionate level of readiness. Alongside CASD, the UK must maintain highly available and global Carrier Strike, ISR and SF assets, backed by capabilities to deploy an ARG, army division and RAF units within 3 months’ notice.

The SDSR must acknowledge that high intensity (peer on peer) and lower level (terrorist) threats require different responses; the UK military should focus on warfighting not peacekeeping. In addition to training and intelligence sharing initiatives, a small proportion of current defence & DFID expenditure needs to fund a globally deployable UK “Gendarmerie” that can support domestic, UN, EU and Commonwealth anti-terror and post conflict stability operations.

The SDSR 2015 must keep the financial prudence delivered in SDSR 2010. Political aspirations must be matched by operational capabilities (matched by funding). A balance between maximising value and longer term defence design and development sovereign capabilities must be ensured.”

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 19, 2015 3:48 pm

The political/mandarin elite have no interest in defending Britain (see the woeful lack of a response to beefing up security & laws at the English Channel ports), so we might as well run up the white flag now. We’re DOOMED!
Oh & the RAF is evil for wanting to nick the RN FAA F-35B & can an iso container be filled with TNT then rolled out the back of a C-17 onto a Daesh stronghold?
This 200 word lark is a doddle.

August 19, 2015 4:22 pm

, broadly with you on that. In your first para I might argue the direct domestic threat is more of a policing issue and that our defence requirements are largely lead by our defence alliance commitments and the aspiration to engage globally. If we dispensed with the latter (which would be a political decision, and one with which I would not agree) then our forces could no doubt be downsized significantly. I then view the threat analysis aspect of SDSR as not a key driver of force size and capability but more a driver of how we channel those capabilities.

Putting aside CASD which I will assume, together with its related support aspects, is ring fenced then I agree we should focus on high end quality rather than quantity and bring specialist capabilities to the alliance table, carrier strike, SSN, SF and ISTAR related assets. We should retain an ability to globally deploy and sustain a brigade level capability (tailored accordingly) with RN / RAF support and the surge of a division capability. We should retain sufficient enabling assets (airlift etc) to do this. I’m not sure on the “Gendarmerie” idea but I do believe the DFID budget should be raided to provide extra enabling assets (ships and aircraft) to be able to deploy an existing light infantry battalion globally for HADR and security type issues. All part of a positive aspect to our global reach but with clear limited on mission creep.

Save for the MPA issue (which should go away with the simplest option of an order for 12 P8s) I think the kit / force size plan is broadly there, provided we get everyone expected (eg. 13 T26s). I would be focussing on ensuring the ‘stretch’ is relieved, by small manning increases in the RN / RAF, retention of the T1 Typhoons for QRA, retention of all the Rivers, a few extra Merlins, Wildcats, C17 and A440s, replace Argus with one or two vessels to cover peacetime HADR and auxiliary wartime aviation support, beef up 2 or 3 of the adaptable brigades with FRES UVs etc. No real fantasy stuff, oh and one extra Astute if there is any risk whatsoever of delays in Successor.

August 19, 2015 8:12 pm

I think whatever else, its time to call time on our MPA holiday. And generally look more toward our ASW capabilities specifically in relation to protecting our deterrent.

Otherwise, I think we need commitment to the model we have at the moment which is maintaining forces useful for day-to-day operations and keeping heavier capabilities at minimally useful scales.

August 19, 2015 10:14 pm


Agree with you that SDSR 2015 will hopefully, with the exception of an MPA solution which is badly required, be a steady as she goes exercise.

Any increase in capability in real terms will be generated by retaining current assets that have already been mostly or completely paid for and only require small amounts of extra manpower and relatively low running costs to sustain them, so as you say things like the new River’s, the T1 Typhoon’s, a Tornado OSD extension, those spare HM1 Merlin’s if they are still available etc.

That’s why i’d say first and foremost the thing the services, and in particular the RAF and RN need to strive for is some degree of uplift in personnel to fill existing gaps caused by the last review and then potentially allowing for modest capability retention beyond satisfying the base requirement.

Beyond these foundations i’d strive for the twin pillars of ‘enablers’ and ‘expeditionary capability’.

The former should focus on bringing things that NATO/Europe are thin on the ground with like ISTAR, heavy-lift, aerial refueling, amphibious warfare and sea based logistics to the table, providing the essential framework on which coalition ops can be built, providing the UK with the opportunity to shape and direct things at the higher levels without having to spread itself too thin by trying to excel at everything.

The latter should be centered on CVF and the RFTG, special forces and 16 Air Assault, 3 Commando and a 3rd rapid brigade built around light armour and medium infantry, deliverable by A400m and C17 (the Adaptable Force needs to be gutted, along with some cap-badges to help pay for this).

Of course the two focuses have a lot of overlapping magisteria and depth needs to be maintained in certain other areas. A heavy division, a large enough fast-jet fleet, ASW and Mine-hunting all need to be kept at sensible minimum levels to provide credible capabilities.

A greater focus on upstream training and partnerships in friendly nations across Africa and the Middle East would also be something i’d like to see. Spend a penny now to save a pound later, at least in theory.

I reckon all the pieces are there or soon to be, it’s just a case of how they are organized and trying to maximize there potential once they are put in place.

A Caribbean Persective
A Caribbean Persective
August 19, 2015 11:59 pm

A lot of good suggestions above. Personally I would also like to see something along the lines of “targetted use of aid money to strengthen democratic institutions, good governance and internal security in countries on the borders of Europe (and EU applicant countries) that are being destabilised by external forces (governmental or otherwise).” I’m thinking primarily of Africa and the Near/Middle East, but it might also apply to parts of Eastern Europe

Necessary Evil
Necessary Evil
August 20, 2015 9:04 am

As I still have 500 characters left, I will enlarge on what I would like to see done.

I´ve just realised that the carrier goals (being able to deploy two concurrently, with enough f-35 to be able to deploy an air wing on both, in extremis), are only realisable after 2020 (when the Prince of Wales will enter service), and therefore that this is more likely to be dealt with in the next Strategic Defence Review. Given this, I would like to see the number of front line fighter squadrons increased to 9 by keeping the Eurofighter Tranche 1s until they can be replaced with a follow-on purchase of f-35s.

Re: the sealift and airlift capacity, I would like to see us buy up the A400Ms that Spain and Germany have opted out of, to replace the Hercules when it retires in 2022. I would also like to see us reinstate the two Ro-Ro vessels we let go.

Re: the second division, I think we should get someone who wasn´t involved in the creation of the Army 2020 design (possibly even an American general) to examine whether it is likely to achieve its desired aims. If not, I would like the Adaptable Forces to be reorganised, so that the Army reserve revert to being the TA, in role if not in name, and the regular battalions are placed in 2 deployable brigades, each with 1 cavalry regiment, 2 light mechanised battalions, and 3 light role battalions.

Chris Toms
August 20, 2015 9:07 am

1) Mine Channel
2) Connect Channel Tunnel to sewage system and point it down hill towards France
3) Erect ‘Someone else’s problem field’ around Arabia*
4) Turn Army into Gendarmes with anti terror /special forces Arm
5) Adopt SIMMs/ forward engagement foreign policy
7) Get some anti sub Aircraft
8) Scrap trident
9) Relax

August 20, 2015 9:32 am
Rocket Banana
August 20, 2015 10:51 am

Oh to control the gateway to the East.

Does this mean The West should invest a little in Northern Somalia?

Rocket Banana
August 20, 2015 10:54 am

I think the DFiD budget could build a town of about 250,000 homes for the Somalians. Or, sustain a military base and build less.

We can then return some of the chaps that have traveled all the way over here to Europe to some nice 3-bed semis.

Rocket Banana
August 21, 2015 10:41 am

Maintain a secure and effective nuclear deterrent
– Like-for-like Trident replacement
– Commitment to maintain nuclear submarine industry (SSBN + SSN)
– Procurement of MPA
Provide military defense for the UK and overseas territories
– Maritime strike capabilities to be added to Typhoon
– Voyager to be brought into the RAF rather than a PFI
– Procurement of MPA
Strengthen efforts against terrorism and cyber attack and participate in regional and international security cooperation
– Greater funding for GCHQ paid for out of DFID budget
– Maintenance of Special Forces
– RFTG with integrated Marines and Paras
– Greater investment in unmanned ISTAR paid for by cancelling FRES-UV
Conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response
– Creation of a Humanitarian Task Force from existing RFA assets and TA

832 characters

John Hartley
John Hartley
August 21, 2015 11:58 am

Just been on the MoD site & left my contribution, dense pack style, as there was no room for bullet points, numbering or headings. Its a bit anonymous as I was not asked for name, address, etc. Perhaps TD is right & they are going straight in the bin.

Brian Black
Brian Black
August 21, 2015 12:17 pm

Prioritise air-sea capabilities over land forces. Including, no new Army units; ditching the integrated army plan and relegating the Army Reserve back to its traditional supporting role; scrapping the Brunei garrison.

Buy an additional nine F35B to equip the Red (Grey) Arrows.

Swap the Army’s outdated horses for mountain bikes. Replace Army parade and working uniforms with a cheap and simple public service uniform, consisting of polo shirt and baseball cap (cycle helmets for the Household Cavalry of course).

Contract a PMC to defend the Falkland Islands.

Replace the River patrol boats with three further T26.

Train a simian reconnaissance unit to operate in high-risk / low-reward theatres like Syria.

That’s just a few ideas. Probably a lot more words remaining.

Peter Elliott
August 21, 2015 1:24 pm

Rather than saying “no new army units” I come back to asking what is to become of our existing unsupported motor rifle regiments in the Adaptable Force?

These units seem like orphans. Under strength and unsupported by: mobility or protection, CS, CSS, Army Reserve or deployable headquarters. I understand what deployable light role infantry are for. But what are these units being kept for except to rack up pensions liability.?

The choice seems to be: invest, re-role or get rid. I can’t see the investment case flying in the current climate.

stephen duckworth
August 21, 2015 3:03 pm

The 1000 strong Brunei Gurkha Battalion (ours not the Sultans own Gurkha regiments) are paid for by the Sultanate. We may want to withdraw our troops for another reasons though. We protest somewhat about the barbaric behaviour of the Taliban or ISIS , stoning adulters , looping of limbs of thieves etc but this is enshrined and practiced within the Sultanate daily.

August 22, 2015 3:46 am

@ PE

Eh, there is CS in the AF, the predominantly regular bde has a regular field regt RA, the two TA bdes also have regts (I00 & 101 Fd Regts). Perhaps you’re in the confused corner because there are still units in Germany.

My SDSR proposal would be to put the ‘For Sale’ signs on two unused aircraft carriers. Thy are a total waste of taxpayer money. The key points to remember are that airpower has never won a war and never will, and the role of the RN is to transport the Army, a role that goes back many centuries. Wars are won by ‘boots on the ground’ (plus tracks and wheels these days) that can manouvre and have sufficient firepower (including a properly equipped RFC with offensive and transport capability), it was ever thus. nothing has changed.

Peter Elliott
August 22, 2015 7:41 am

Obvsvr – but is there enough to go round? Are those TA regiments you mention deployable outside a “national emergency”?

If we ever did a roulment under FF2020 how many deployable regular brigades could we actually form from the AF? What elements would then be ‘left over’ and what are those bits for?

August 22, 2015 8:44 am

‘moment which is maintaining forces useful for day-to-day operations’

What are day-to-day operations? We are at the moment on a daily basis conducting ISTAR and strike sorties over Iraq and have recently drawn down from fighting 2 COIN campaigns which lasted over a decade which immediately followed from an invasion of a country, which was also preceeded by a 30 year anti terrorist/COIN campaign in N Ireland over a decade long peace keeping/peace enforcement operation in the Balkans coupled with no fly zone operations in both the Balkans and Iraq etc, etc.

August 22, 2015 9:28 am

While airpower on its own has never won a war, few sides without airpower have won a war and no-one without airpower (when available) has ever won a conventional conflict

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
August 22, 2015 11:14 am


I am glad you paid attention when you were taught about supporting and supported component commanders.
The job of the RN is to protect the UK. A role it has never failed at since its inception and the reason the last land battle fought in the UK was on a Moor outside Inverness in 1746.

Jeremy M H
August 22, 2015 12:14 pm
Reply to  mr.fred

I would also point to the Pacific War in WWII in which the role of ground forces was pretty much to seize airbases and fleet bases. It is a war that was pretty much won with land forces playing a massively subordinate role. That Japan hadn’t quit by the time of the nukes and Russian attack in China is more a function of their insanity than anything. They could have simply been left to stave to death over the course of several years at that point.

August 22, 2015 1:11 pm

I wouldn’t draw any general parallels from the Pacific War. There was plenty of fighting going on in-land in China.

stephen duckworth
August 22, 2015 6:45 pm

The forces deployed by Japan against the Chinese since 1931 which eventual extended to full scale war in 1937 till 1945 were huge. Over 20,000,000 Chinese died in the conflict and tied down millions of Japanese troops and thousands of aircraft and the bulk of japans limited armour production. The Pacific island campaign was a side show driven by the IJN with the promise of securing oil supplies from Dutch East India and Burma with the island chains being ‘unsinkable , immovable’ aircraft carriers to keep the US at bay but ultimately failed by that very lack of movement. You cant defend everywhere all the time so the US was able to focus on its forces on a small limited number of targets at a time overwhelming the local japanese defenders island groyp by island group. The Japanese being split over three fronts , against the US at sea , against the British Empire in Burma and the bulk of their forces in China pushed themselves to far with their limited manpower and resources. In the end they were recruiting both Koreans and Chinese to fill uniforms who the regarded as undermensch. Until 1993 Korean decendents in Japan were fingerprinted at birth which gives you an idea of the err.. division.

Peter Elliott
August 22, 2015 9:33 pm

The Pacific war was won by effective economic blockade. The USN successfully executed the strategy of “unrestricted U-boat warfare” that had come so close to defeating Britain in 1941. Nimitz acknowledged this in begging Doenitz off some of the charges related to it at Nurenburg.

August 23, 2015 2:55 am
Reply to  Peter Elliott

‘Pacific War’ is a US misnomer. Apart from the bitter fighting between Chinese and Japanese, two forces decisively defeated the Japanese in mainland Asia, the 10 Japanese divisions in Burma were defeated by a similar number of British, Indian and African divisions. Then three Soviet Fronts (one is reserve and uncommitted) launched some 11 Armies (about 35 divisions) against the Japanese in China, the Japanese forces were thoroughly sliced and diced. (The logistics alone of the Soviet move from west to east in 3 months are awesome – Stalin delivered as promised at Yalta)

August 24, 2015 6:31 pm

Well can we stand up another fighter sqn, now we no longer need the Red Arrows, just sayin…

August 28, 2015 1:11 pm

Here is something of an Alternative.
If we choose to become a more inward looking country, cue defense cuts.
There would be no point in maintaining an Army of its current size if we were going to simply look after ourselves. Thus the garrisons in Cyprus, the South Atlantic, Brunei etc. would be shut down. The overseas territories would look after themselves. There would be manpower reductions across all three services, probably to the extent where our Armed forces resembled those of Canada. This would probably getting rid of our MBTs and most of our APCs, as these would probably be unnecessary for a defence force (let’s call it the BDF!). We would simply scrap the Tornado and rely on the Typhoon. The F-35 and Carriers would be sold off, probably to the Chinese.
At the moment we have 13 frigates, more than the USA, the BDF and its horribly defensive posture would need 4 at the most, maybe 2 type 45 destroyers. The BDF might invest in more costal Patrol craft and MPAs as it would be able buy both due cuts mentioned above. As for our Nuclear Deterrent, we would only operate 3 Subs, the bare minimum. All in all, the BDF would be able to defend this Sceptic Isle, but it would be a non deployable force, probably operating along the lines of the Swiss or Scandinavian Armed forces. Enough to keep the Bad guys away while we quietly prune the roses.