Crystal Ball Gazing


One of the fundamental difficulties faced by any strategic defence review is trying to understand what the future holds.

As we know, the future is a very unpredictable place.


At the end of every major deployment, the clarion call of more spending on (insert service here) is heard.

The British Army will not be deploying in any form for the foreseeable future and so we should favour investment in Air forces because they are the ones being used now, or so you will hear.

Does the MoD try and maintain balance as a means of meeting defence tasks and provision of a hedge against strategic shock, or, does it make an informed decision about future threats and adjust accordingly.

If we think the next twenty years are going to be characterised by chasing Islamic terrorism across the Middle East and Africa then one could make an argument that a tank heavy  Division, loads of F-35’s and the latest frigates are costly luxuries, instead, we should cancel these and invest in persistent ISTAR, air transport and Special Forces whilst re-organising the Army for short duration raiding coupled with ‘upstream engagement’

If on the other hand we think that some high-end state on state conflict in Eastern Europe is likely then full steam ahead on Challenger 3 and artillery, lots of it.

The problem with these two opposing positions is what happens if the prediction is wrong?

In adopting a position at the extremes, we will potentially be able to deliver decisive effects at scale.

If we don’t, and try to cover all the bases, the logical end state is a compromise, a compromise that sees many expensive capabilities, more or less sitting on the sidelines with a note from mum and a general inability to do anything at scale. We make the assumption that high-end capabilities can flex down, unlike low end at bulk capabilities that can’t scale up. It is an entirely logical position to take, why for example, there are now armed Tucano’s or Black Swan corvettes in service.

Quality can compensate for a lack of quantity but there are limits, Type 45 for example, as fantastic as they are, are only six in number.

Should we maintain the current, balanced, high-end but limited in quantity set of capabilities, or, is it time to adjust to the most likely conflicts in the future?


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40 Responses

  1. The Russian thing was entirely predictable, the western policy establishment had just blinded itself with its own self-righteousness.

    You for forgot one piece of the puzzle, what we are prepared to do. What we have done recently is a good guide to what we are not prepared to do.

  2. In the final analysis, our fundamental security issues (barring overseas territories) are curated by
    NATO membership. If we fail to maintain it’s integrity including it’s eastern neighbours, our home security will collapse. The middle east will produce terrorist and refugees, but not the sort of threat that Russia could pose: not yet. Hence, our priorities are set: we need to deter Russia, and that means maintaining high end forces.

    Flights of fancy regarding light and medium forces somehow driving from the UK to the Baltics and magically sustaining themselves are nonsense. We need heavy forces in place forward who know the terrain and the locals. Thankfully, the sort of forces required for this are considerably more limited than they would have been 25 years ago.

    I think the underlying issue is that the Western policy establishment has progressively infantalized itself over the last 25 years, telling itself that Cold War type threats would never again materialize, then fighting more limited wars, then responding to the discovery that even these require serious amounts of national will by rationalizing that even minor wars are like, too hard.

  3. I am not really sure we need to think 20 years in the future, mainly because its impossible, we just need to keep a balance of capability to fight whatever will come. For example we can’t prepare for a 2nd cold war, because we really don’t have the defence budget for it.

    However, if Russian really does continue flexing its force and starts becoming a real problem and so we are forced to raise our defence spending, we would have the money to rush build what we needed.

    Ok, certain high tech expensive items can only be rushed so far, like the carriers, but I bet if we really needed them we could have had them operational a lot faster. The f35’s are a real problem, as we are in the hands of the Americans, but should the worse happen, we could just throw money at the problem and buy any fighter jets going from any major country.

    My feeling is we need a balanced approach, so that we have the designs there for the major items, should we need to throw money at the problem, but still having the capability to fight a realistic ‘minor’ battle with a small nation.

    We are operating on a small budget, so it’s not possible to specialise.

    Saying that, we know what the threats are today and so it would be stupid not to at least try and focus as much as possible on them.

  4. Outside the box thinking surely involves drones, robotics, undeclared hybrid wars, terrorism and cyber warfare. Drones and robots because they don’t have to protect valuable humans offer the potential of a much cheaper bang for your buck (pound). China estimates this at a 9 to 1 advantage! In the 1950’s with the official wisdom being pilotless aircraft being the future we got this wrong, hopefully we will get it right this time! Weapons to defend against mass (swarm) attacks will have to evolve for one (high value) and expendable many against expendable many attacks. This suggest laser, rail and Gatling guns are going to move to the fore.

    Where the RN has already demonstrated the 3D printing of drones, this also suggests that production may well change from the current ‘fight with what we have got’ to like 21st-century industry to ‘just-in-time fast flexible automated production-on-demand’.

    Thinking about the future is not just limited to weapons and weapon systems, but the whole design, manufacturing, deployment, defence ecosystem. Radical changes are on the horizon. We need the vision of a great Lord Fisher of a century ago to seize the moment so we have our ‘Dreadnaught’ production, logistic, deployment systems ready for use as and when necessary.

  5. It is over-focusing on on threat or one issue that let’s others pop up. Iraq 2003 was an example–just focusing on war and a bit on reconstruction, not on the aftermath. Same with Afghanistan. Long focus there meant eyes were off in Eastern Europe.

  6. I believe the current balance across the board misses the mark. While we have the ability to offer a (limited) response to most scenarios requiring some kind of military intervention, we lack punch and sustainability. The PM has made it clear that force multipliers such as drones and robotics will be on the table for the the current SDR. I recall that the Defence Minister alluded to such thinking a few months ago when the topic of the new QE2 carrier’s aircraft compliment was raised. I can’t remember the exact words used, but there was a suggestion that assets other than just the F35 will be considered. I reckon the forthcoming SDR will be a game changer and hopefully will move beyond current thinking and take advantage of the latest technology (including lasers, drones and robotics) so that we maintain our credibility.

  7. dealing with the terrorism threat or ISIS takes a fairly small chunk of the defence budget. A challenger 3 tank can be just as effective against a jihadi with an RPG as against a Russian tank.

    However if we concentrate our budget on very light weight forces they won’t be much use against a mechanised Russian force.

    So most of our assets should go back into forces designed to fight a high intensity war with the assumption that they will also be good enough to fight a low intensity one if needed.

  8. It also important to note that Russian is not currently a serious conventional military threat. However in 10 years it might be. If we wait 10 years before reacting then we will be too late.

    That being said Russia is never going to be much of a land threat to the UK. Perhaps the best way to counter Russia is to get behind EU proposals for a standing army. Maybe we don’t join it but we should certainly support it. That way we can concentrate our budget and forces on operating outside of Europe and let the EU provide the big fat armoured division’s to guard against Putin.

  9. I don’t think UK has ever had a ‘tank heavy division’. In WW2, at least after about 1941, a so-called armd div had two bdes, one of which had 3 tk bns. In the post war period when BAOR had 2 armd and 4 inf bdes organised into 3 divisions it was much the same, the increase from 10 to 12 armd regts didn’t make a huge difference. For comparison, IIRC, a Soviet tk div had 7 tk bns and a Bundeswehr Pz Div was much the same, although Sov tk bns were smaller than UK regts.

  10. Russia is a serious military threat. It’s force modernisation over the last decade means it can (and has demonstrated the ability) to do things European countries can’t. It’s only the continued U.S. commitment that is ensuring overmatch.

  11. I think we are seeing a global rearmament, in the Pacific, Russia and in the Middle East. Neither Europe’s (especially Europe’s) nor US and Canadian politicians have fully cottoned on to this. Australia and Singapore have. Rather than Jihadi terrorism, the major threat in the Middle East seems a growing cross-border war of transformation, in Syrai, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and threatening to engulf Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Behind the scenes stands a nuclear Iran. This is a place where the old order is challenged by both ideological and social revolutions: against the old monarchs and military despots, and against the West – both causes using Jihad as vindication for violence.

    Western global power, and our economic system, is predacated on the ability to militariliy ‘go anywhere’, if we have to – maintaining free passage across oceans and alrways. Some nations and movements are now able ot challenge that hegemony. US Generals have come up with the clunky term A2/AD. Anti-Access/Area Denial. A set of capabilites that, for example, can keep NATO airforces out of parts of Polish airspace, or US carriers away from Chinese coastal waters, or NATO ground forces out of Iran. What they are saying – starkly – is that the oceans are no longer a Western lake, and the conitinents are no longer automatically places where we could sucessfully intervene militarily if we had to. We might get beat. This should be a major wake up call.

    The last five years were characterised by burying our heads in the sand. An internal focus on licking our post 2008 economic wounds and post Afghanistan and Iraq war foreign policy wounds. We have worried about Scotland and Europe and migration and other largely domestic issues. The labour party has retreated into a utopian pacifist dreamworld. The big bad world will come back onto the agenda: if we don’t prepare it will bite us on the ass.

  12. I think for Britain to be able to keeps it’s voice heard in the world, we need to make the most of a ever decreasing defence budget. If we are planning for 20 years in the future, the biggest threat we will face over that time is lack of money.

    The reality is we aren’t, and never were, capable of standing up against Russia and the only way that Europe can is with support from America, so no point focusing on that front as we are wasting our money. Not to mention that the cold war never really got warm, the heavy fire power was mainly just there for show. Finally to be a real threat to Russia we would need to significantly up our defence budget and that isn’t going to happen.

    We need a certain degree of top end gear (type 45, F35, etc) to sound like a top tier player and deal with initial threats such as taking out air defence, but we shouldn’t focus too much on them, as we won’t ever use them to their full potential.

    The majority of conflicts post world war 2 have involved fighting opponents that were significantly less tech advanced than us, as such we should spend as much of the budget as possible on lower tech gear cheaper gear, so that we have enough of it to use when we need to and so we can excel at taking on these targets and remain a strong voice in the world.

    It would never happen, but imagine if we built a large number of single seat bombers, say based on tornado era tech or earlier, designed specifically for low cost and low maintance, low threat missions. We then design and build a cheap bomb for them, dedicated to taking out non-armored targets like pickup tucks. The news could then run with Britain has sent 20/30 bombers to combat ISIS instead of 6, making us sound like a major player in the operation, rather having less planes than much smaller countries. Not only would we sound it but we would also be achieving it. We would still have the Eurofighter/f35 in reserve for more dangerous missions / flying the flag. Same for ships, the idea of the River class2 is a great one, we should build more.

    In conclusion, plan for fights we can win and not ones we can’t. Plan around the perception of power.

  13. @Steve, we have to plan to defend our interests: the days when we can pick and choose a fight are fading fast, and we cannot bury our heads and say: “too difficult, lets ask the Americans” – they just might not turn up. We live in a globalised economy and our prosperity is reliant on an international economic system. Our major companies invest and sell into global markets and depend upon a trading system that binds us into global concerns. BAe, for example, is more reliant upon the US defence budget than our own, builds ships in Australia, armoured vehicles in Sweden, sells components to the European, US, Brazilian and Chinese aerospace industries, has major stakes in Gripen and F-35. Rolls Royce also makes engines in Norway, the US, Germany and Singapore, has partnerships in Japan, and sells into just about every aviation market. Thales, a French company, has a major stake in UK manufacturing, as do Airbus, TATA, BMW, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, MAN, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. MBDA has British, French, German, Italian and US manufacturing plants. Westland is owned by an Itlaian company. SupaCat helps India design armoured vehicles, BMT ship designs are built in South Korea for Norwegian and (hopefully) Australian customers. Our major steel plants are owned by an Indian company. 70% of our basic commodities – food, fuel, raw materials – are imported by sea or driven overland from Europe. We can’t escape these realities. If we do not help defend the international system, we will suffer.

  14. Perhaps we should be more concious of how or even if we actually benefit from ops? I am not saying that we should not participate but we must be much clearer on both desired end states and how they benefit us in a manner that doing nothing does not. Also where and when we work with Allies, sometimes we may have to support an Ally even when the benefits to ourselves are less clear.
    In terms of force mix, we are obviously striving to maintain balance and as far as possible a full spectrum capability. This would appear to make some sense in a complex world and I would hope that we are stronger in areas where our European Allies are weaker.
    Things like the QEC and Astute class are indicators we are. The flip side is that we rely on our Allies in other areas, large scale heavy formations for example.
    Threat is difficult. Current ME turmoil is a threat. As a globally connected nation, turmoil almost anywhere in the world will be bad for the interests of UK PLC.
    Russia splits opinions, some people love to trumpet the modernisation but when you look closely and take a few factors into account they are at present at least not a threat.
    Their Naval modernisation programme is seriously behind and has suffered further blows with the Ukrainians not selling them the required maritime GTs. They are now going to have to go to Saturn who have zero experience with maritime GTs. Even then they are producing circa 4000 tonne Frigates in reasonably small numbers. Combine this with the fact that they also have to maintain their Pacific Fleet and the choke points that their Black Sea and Baltic Fleets are behind and you get a clearer picture of their issues. Naval wise they are hugely inferior to the European NATO nations even without 6th Fleet.
    Land forces are interesting, again we must remember that they are maintaining forces across 4 military districts. So that good old principle of war “concentration of force” not only becomes a problem for them but also a huge combat indicator of intent.
    Opinions vary on not only the actual value of the new kit we are seeing but the massively optimistic timelines they are claiming for production. Russian military production post 1991 has never met far more modest aims never mind these ones. In terms of what they have in service, they claim huge numbers but much of that is in storage. They actually have roughly the same number of MBTs active as the European nations do but once again the Russians are operating across a large area, some reports suggest that just supporting the limited Op in Ukraine maxed out their logistics infrastructure. No point in having kit you cannot supply.
    Their air modernisation is again beset by delays and issues, they are quickly discovering that building a 5th generation fighter from scratch is anything but simple. Here however they seem to have bitten the bullet and are concentrating on things like the Mig 35 and derivatives of the Flanker family as well as reintroducing cold war bombers.
    Russia will definitely be closely watched but at the moment they are discovering what we have known for some time that ambitious plans are harder to carry out than they are to write.

  15. @ Steve

    I don’t see why we can’t stand up to Russia without the USA. Russia is 120 million people with little in the way of manufacturing and knocking out 30 year old systems as new aircraft and ships. The EU is 500 million plus with the world largest economy and some of the most advanced tech on the planet.

    What it lacks is will and coordination. Russia invading part of it will give it the will and an EU army would give it the coordination.

    Then we only have to worry about the naval threat from Russia which is still pretty minimal and will likely be so for some time to come.

  16. @ Martin

    Whilst I agree, I suspect it would already be too late by the time we started working together, there are just too many self interests to get over. The issue is what would make politicians react, I thought it would be Russia invading another country, but Ukraine was a good example of it will depend on who. How many countries could Russia invade before we actually realised they were a serious threat and actually did something I wonder. I do not however want to find out.

    I am not saying that we should rely on the Americans, I am saying we have no choice but to. Unless we triple our defence spending or more (not going to happen) we have to rely on them.

    One risk and I think its still a long way off, is China will eventually have the strength to ignore the US and so flex its mussels and take back Taiwan, America will then have to choice but to refocus away from Europe/Russia and focus on the china. At which point Russia becomes a huge problem for us. However china is equally likely to implode, as the middle class get more powerful and communism starts to fall apart.

  17. @Steve

    Russia did not invade Ukraine it has fought a very clever proxy war but there is a huge difference between that and a conventional invasion of a nato European country.
    The level of force they would have to concentrate would be a massive combat indicator if they were even capable of doing so. Never mind supporting it.

  18. @ Steve

    What capabilities does Russia have that make you feel it’s a threat to the EU. Sure it can conduct medium sized operations on its boarders but it’s not in a position to be rolling tanks into Berlin. Reports are the Russians may have as many as 300,000 troops in a suitable state to fight. It took us and the USA 250,000 just to invade Iraq and arguably that was not enough. So what material threat could the present Russian force really pose to the EU beyond the Baltic. Russia’s population is collapsing as is its economy so it’s likely to get even weaker over the long term.

  19. About Islamic terrorism in Africa and Middle East.
    I do not want to reopen the debate, but a small number of middle sized wheeled vehicles of 15 tonnes, both relatively protected against IEDs, and fast, agile, and with a great autonomy, would not cost much and would sometimes be useful.

  20. @Frenchie, I agree. I think the BA focus should be heavy armoured brigades of which Ajax and MIV will be part of those formations, protected mobility brigades around MRAPs and some Ajax and MIV possibly but still essentially heavy by reference to lack of air portability other than for a token show of force. There should be one ‘light mech brigade’ to provide a truly air portable punch to support a para or RM lead intervention or holding force.

  21. During the Crimea land grab and after Russia mobilised and then held at readiness, for months, a force some 40,000 strong on Ukraine’s Eastern border, it was a force heavy in armour, artillery and mobile air defence. Since 2013 Russia as undertaken at least six exercises that have mobilised between 65,000 and 160,000 personnel: again, armour and artillery heavy. The Russians have an ability to mobilise, deploy and then sustain at readiness large and balanced forces on a scale and at a speed that Europe, without the US, just can’t do. A Russian invasion of bordering states would look very different from a Western invasion of Iraq and could be accomplished with considerably less troops, but its not outright invasion one should be worried about, Russia uses its military power as an instrument to deny Western freedom of movement, thats what id did in Ukraine and it’s what it is now doing in Syria.

    And its not just that ability to generate heavy force quickly, Russia has some very impressive strategic capabilities that Europe, again without the US, just can’t match. The Su-34 and modernised Tu-22M fleets combined with the Iskander force and long range cruise missiles from Tu-95s and Tu-160s as well as submarines give Russia a deep strategic strike capability that Europe does not have. It also has very impressive strategic and tactical air defence capability and it’s working on generating considerable modern tac-air mass.

    Long term, Russia’s population is actually now growing again and its current economic problems are more likely to strengthen it by allowing the economy to diversify.

  22. @Frenchie

    We have Foxhound, Jackal and Husky that are capable of being used in the manner you suggest.


    You do not need to create a ‘light mech brigade’ just add a light cav and foxhound unit/s to 3Cdo and 16AAB.

  23. I am not for one minute saying that Russia is currently a serious threat, I am just saying that if they wanted to annex another eastern European country, there is nothing we could do to stop them. We could barely put 10k troops on the ground in Iraq or Afgan against Russia that was casually stationing 4x that in the border of Ukraine. They send 10 fighters to test NATO air defence and we send up 2 Eurofighters to counter it, the list goes on.

    Russia isn’t stupid, it is not going to try take the whole of Europe, it just can’t be done and frankly why would Russia want to do it. The USSR already fell apart, I don’t think they are in a hurry to over extend themselves again. This is why I don’t think building heavy tanks and high tech fighter planes is really needed. Russia is likely to keep trying to unstablise Eastern Europe, not to take countries but to try and break apart NATO in eastern Europe. Ukraine was a special case, as it was a majority Russian part of the country. It was also to send a message to the eastern European countries that NATO won’t/can’t defend them.

    Although sitting here, as a fun thought for a sunday afternoon, I wonder how much easier it would be to take Europe now than it was in 1939. At the time the European armys were significantly larger and there were large scale defensive fortifications in place all over the borders of the nations. Looking at the position in 2015, we have open borders and very handy large scale motorway networks, with little in the way of fortifications and army bases consolidated and isolated rather than all over the countries. I wonder what would be needed to try another blitzkrieg tactic.

  24. @DN, that would be fine by me, I’m not hung up on how it’s structured. I think we are missing a small contingent of something air portable with a decent cannon in the light cavalry units. The French Sphynx is the best I have seen

  25. “Should we maintain the current, balanced, high-end but limited in quantity set of capabilities, or, is it time to adjust to the most likely conflicts in the future?”
    We have no idea what the most likely future conflicts will be. Just look back at the last 30 years and almost every conflict was not really anticipated. Furthermore I have a nasty feeling that if we decide such and such a kind of warfare is not likely therefore lets not prepare for it, someone will see we are not prepared for this threat and make a point of exploiting that weakness.
    In the case of heavy armour and other assets for confronting Russia, they do not actually have to be ‘used’ in a military sense to be useful and effective in a political sense. And I think it is reasonable for Sweden and Poland to want some back-up from the UK.
    Drug-smuggling, piracy, people-smuggling and terrorism are not going away and to use high-end assets for such operations is a mistake. High-end assets can indeed drop down to do such lowly jobs but you don’t buy a Rolls Royce for delivering pizzas. Low-intensity jobs need their own dedicated units and equipment. The Army recognises this, the Navy and RAF need to take note.

  26. Because in low level operations it ensures that a position can be taken with some impunity while in high level operations, it means you can continue to fight in an environment where light armour cannot survive. It also acts as a totemic symbol of your economic and industrial power.

    Basically, tanks are great against enemies who don’t have them, necessary against enemies who do have them and show that you can make them in the first place.

  27. At every review and every purchase plan Britain has ended up with less real resources and fewer pieces of equipment because its political leadership is not willing to maintain Britain’s military power. It starts and to some extent ends with Cameron because he seems to have no idea how competent, professional, and brave the armed forces are in your country and he doesn’t value them. Whatever he learned studying PP&E at Oxford, military history and affairs weren’t included. Further, his efforts to become prime minister including apologizing away the picture of the Conservatives as the “mean party” seem to have stayed with him. That explains, I think, why he persists in spending money on foreign aid (because it was a trendy thing to do when he was an undergraduate) even where it’s wasted or clearly not needed as in the case of India. He could at least adopt a rule that any country with a serious space program ought not to be given foreign aid from Britain. I expect nothing out of the next defense review except to inch Britain closer to possessing only a coast guard, constabulary, and civil air patrol. If I’m correct, Cameron will continue to fail in his most important duty which is to protect the country. The real shame is it wouldn’t take that much to add substantially to Britain’s forces–an extra destroyer a year, an extra attack submarine every three years, 10 extra F-35s a year, 10 P-8s, 20 Apaches, 10 C-17s, (all in toto) and appropriate manning plus two extra brigades for the Army. It’s bound to be less than what Britain spends on potato chips (crisps) every year.

  28. A little bit of joined up thinking between the forces would be good. For example, is it wise for the RAF to buy a transport that can lift 37 tons, only for the army to buy an armoured vehicle (FRES Scout) that weighs 38 tons? Sure, send it by rail/sea, if you have the time, but if you only have a week to get a deterrent force in place before the bad guys invade, then the air option is handy in emergencies.

  29. John Hartley,
    38 tonnes has been given as the combat weight for the Ajax – I would imagine it would be possible to shed a tonne for air transport.

  30. @Navyjag – Britain as a whole has a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards it’s military. I have met many people who on one hand admire the people in the forces, but who are, at the same time, strongly anti-military, in that they see them as unnecessary and a tool of self-aggrandising politicians. Much of it comes, I think, from the fact that the average Briton has been brought up in relatively safe surroundings and the vast majority can go through their lives without ever seeing a weapon of any sort, except on TV. Many do not realise that they only get that sort of life because, as George Orwell put it

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

    Politicians of all colours would prefer to spend all of our tax money on bribing us to vote for them (in more developed countries they call it “social justice” and “social security” – here it’s a bit more primitive – someone turns up on your doorstep at Christmas to deliver a fresh turkey or a new refrigerator, or the Public Works Department re-surfaces your driveway for free – just so long as you deliver yours and your family’s votes on polling day.

    As for Cameron, much as I think the man has no real idea what he wants to acheive, he really doesn’t have much wiggle room on spending – just keeping things as they are has resulted in the highest debt levels that the UK has ever had – if you think that Greece’s debt problems were bad, the UK’s will make your eyes water

  31. The Greece situation was part a debt situation and part a crap government situation. The debt wouldn’t be a problem if they were able to collect tax revenue. People trust the UK, US and Germany to be able to tax efficiently to meet their demands. They don’t trust Greece.

  32. Regarding Putin and the threat from Russia, well I think he is actually going to de our Armed Forces a favour. He has caused NATO Government to partially shift their focus from out of area operations and begin to look nearer to home. I think we are going to see a stabilisation of defence budgets and even an increase in certain countries. Of immediate interest could be that in the 2015 SDSR, the Army may actually benefit as will the RAF. The Navy may have to wait a little longer for the T26s or see them delivered at a slower rate. The Army may get its MIV sooner rather than later and the RAF may gain additional squadron over the current six planned.

    However there will still be finite funding and some hard choices may have to be made. Of the top of my head, what would the RAF choose of offered 2 more squadrons of new fast jets (30 aircraft lets say) or receiving twelve P-8s between 2015 and 2020? I know the finances do not line up but it is just a basic idea of what might be on the cards.

  33. @LJ, nicely put:
    “However there will still be finite funding and some hard choices may have to be made. Of the top of my head, what would the RAF choose of offered 2 more squadrons of new fast jets (30 aircraft lets say) or receiving twelve P-8s between 2015 and 2020? I know the finances do not line up but it is just a basic idea of what might be on the cards.”
    – with exports breathing new life to Typhoon Eurofighter component production, while not affecting the final assembly in the UK, the following might be a win-win:
    1. take F35 deliveries slower (the famous Block4 etc…)
    2. get an additional sqdrn’s worth of Tiffies (keeps the line in existence, and to have 12 available, you would need to order how many? 20?)
    3. UK could show symbolic support to the Euro-army proposal, by proposing a joint NATO Atlantic MPA force (of course not contribute anything that we do not have already; just like what we did with the NATO Ground Surveillance project)

    Money better spent, capability upped faster, synergies utilised better and rather than getting to only nominal IOC hurdles faster, actually bringing into service tested and debugged products (F35, P8…)

  34. Thx. Some interesting perspectives. Hadn’t thought about the average Brit being insulated from the dangers of the world but that’s true. I wasn’t aware of the level of debt faced by the UK and its policy makers. I still glaze over when I hear the e word but that’s no excuse. Orwell had it pegged–we do keep the bad guys away (or in my case used to) and my family hasn’t a clue. The liberals among them think the world is a marvelous place filled with wonderful people marred only by warmongers like me.

  35. @ Steve

    if Putin wants to send a message to E European countries that NATO can’t and won’t defend them then he has spectacularly failed. even countries like Finland that stayed out of NATO during the Cold War and clambering to join. Putting has made it clear if you are not in NATO then be prepared to take orders from Moscow again.

    As for capabilities like SU34, I would love to see them up against modern fighters like Typhoon or Rafale or for that matter F22 not to mention modern air defences like Aster.

    It’s true to say that a Russian invasion of E Europe would not require the same troop levels as the UK/USA invasion of Iraq. It would require ten times more. we had to mass 250,000 to do invade a medium sized country with complete air superiority, massive training and tech advantage against a depleted enemy with little or no will to fight. Putin can use ethnic Russian’s and hybrid war but it won’t get him past the Baltic and certainly not into Poland. The Poles will fight and with NATO support would take the Russians apart quite rapidly.

    As for the Russian economy improving over time due to the current crisis I just don’t see it. The nation has almost nothing left and the average savi young Russian wants nothing more than to get out.

    Russia’s only real card to play is its vast nuclear arsenal. Which is why they continue to hord it. Nor does Russia have any real friends. The Chinese have shown no interest in deals and the day Beijing can counter the Russian nuclear arsenal is the day it will take back all those ethnic Chinese people and gas fields in eastern Siberia.

  36. I think the British people are fed up of paying for defence primarily as we are and island in a pretty safe neighbourhood with little threat posed to us. We also have enough nuclear weapons ready to launch at a minutes notice capable of removing any potential enemy of the face of the earth. Further more we spent 300 years paying for everyone else’s security and all we got was a big heap of debt, post colonial guilt and told to fuck off by basically every country in the world.

    Now tell joe blogs public why he needs to pay for an aircraft carrier at the expense of the local hospital with that back drop. Considering how little the armed forces have done for the UK and how much for everyone else it’s quite astounding just how much appetite there still is in the UK to fund them.

  37. It would be good to see some demonstrator programmes, like EAP, Triton and Taranis before them. What about allocating soem funds to build a ‘Dreadnought’ tech. demonstrator. Rather than the usual suspects (BAe, Thales etc.), could get some of our best engineering universities and RN engineers working together – Southampton, Imperial College, UMIST and Cranfield, with ship designers from BMT and Rolls Royce, maybe build it at Appledore? Give it a decent budget. £50-£100m . Focus on new materials (composites) , power systems (energy conserving gizmos) and weapons (directed energy, rail guns, offensive cyber and the like) and automated systems – a long lead programme for eventual T45, T26 replacement.

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