Priorities and Options for SDSR 2015 – A Southern or Middle Eastern Threat



In the Mediterranean, the UK maintains a permanent presence on Cyprus and Gibraltar and there are two Infantry Battalions based on the former.

RAF Akrotiri would provide an operating base for up to three swing-role fighter squadrons, ISTAR, AWACS and aerial tanker aircraft.

British forces do not have adequate access to bases for the deployment of anything more than a Brigade, their helicopters and transport aircraft in addition to an Expeditionary Air Wing.  As a result we would have to rely on allies to provide air bases where troops can be deployed and supported.

The Royal Marines could deploy with a full naval task force.  In this planning scenario one of the QE carriers would operate three F-35B Squadrons – one would be a Naval Air Squadron for fleet air defence/anti-shipping and two would be RAF Squadrons primarily for CAS/SEAD and land strike.

The second QE carrier would operate one Naval Air Squadron of F-35Bs for fleet air defence/anti-shipping but would primarily operate Merlin naval heavy lift helicopters and Chinook heavy lift helicopters.  This carrier would support the Royal Navy’s full amphibious forces.

Long distance support for the naval task force would also be provided by Maritime Patrol Aircraft with the assistance of A330 Voyager aerial tankers.

Altogether the UK would be contributing over 90 swing-role fighters to support the 900+ combat aircraft available to southern European NATO air forces.

Together with France, Italy and Spain, European NATO countries would be able to deploy a total of five aircraft carriers and four amphibious groups.

Mediterranean Operations – the white areas could be covered by Typhoons operating from Gibraltar, Sicily or Cyprus and the blue could be covered by carrier based F-35Bs.

Mediterranean Operations

To provide minimum effective land and naval task forces requires:

  • at least 1 Division strength unit made up from Special Forces, the Air Assault Brigade, Royal Marines Commandos and 1 Armoured Infantry Brigade plus the 2 Infantry Battalions based on Cyprus
  • 5 Apache AH Squadrons
  • 3 Wildcat AH Squadrons – 2 AAC and 1 Royal Marines
  • 1 Lynx AH Squadron and 1 Dauphin LAH Squadron – dedicated to Special Forces
  • 3 A400MC Atlas Squadrons
  • 2 A330MRTT Voyager Squadrons
  • 4 Chinook HC Squadrons
  • 2 Merlin HC Squadrons
  • 2 Puma HC Squadrons
  • 3 swing-role fighter Squadrons
  • 1 E-3 Sentry AWACS Squadron
  • 5 ISTAR Squadrons
  • 1 Maritime Patrol Squadron
  • 2 QE aircraft carriers
  • 4 F-35B Squadrons – 2 fleet air defence/anti-shipping and 2 CAS/SEAD/land strike
  • 2 amphibious transport docks
  • 3 landing ships
  • 9 destroyers/frigates
  • 4 Merlin HMA Squadrons and
  • 2 Wildcat HMA Squadrons.

This would clearly be an international operation in partnership with other NATO members.  Regular training with southern NATO forces would greatly aid the effectiveness, co-operation and inter-operability of all combat forces.  In particular joint operations with local air forces, French, Italian and Spanish aircraft carriers and amphibious groups should be a high priority.

In this region Italy, Turkey and Spain are currently modernising their air forces with F-35 and Typhoon fighters.  Unfortunately Greece has not been able to do this and still operates 50 older F-4s.  We should work with the German government to find a way of providing the Greek Air Force with the necessary finance to replace these aircraft with Eurofighter Typhoons which would strengthen NATO’s southern defences.

The rest of the series

1 – Introduction

2 – Defence of the UK

3 – Other Sovereign Territories

4 – NATO

5 – A Southern or Middle Eastern Threat

6 – An Eastern and Northern Threat

7 – Global Intervention

8 – Land Command 2025; Appendix 1 – Army 2025

9 – Naval Command 2025; Appendix 2 – Royal Navy 2025

10 – Air Command 2025; Appendix 3 – RAF 2025

11 – Conclusion – The Options for Change; Appendix 4 – An Abundance of Riches: MoD Procurement 2015-25

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