Sunday, November 7, 2010

French Nuclear Cooperation, Going further

French and British SSBN's
Much has been made of the Nuclear cooperation agreement between France and the UK. While many oppose it I support it however if we are to reap real benefits from this pact it must go further than has been initially outlined.

Much of the aspects of the Anglo French treaty signed last week are simply attempts at justification of defence cuts. While it makes sens for instance for the UK and France to try and harmonise refits of their aircraft carriers pretending that we are going to operate from each others is a fallacy. As is pretending that we will both maintain sovereign capabilities (just because Dave says it doesn't make it true). However Nuclear cooperation makes allot of sense between the two.

Nuclear weapons are expensive. Almost everyone accepts that we should maintain a credible deterrent however the though of spending £20 billion on its renewal is disheartening to all but its sternest proponents in the current financial climate. France too has all the same problems we do. French budgets are likely to be cut soon and the military will no doubt bear much of this burden. With our Trident life extension our Vanguards will leave service around the same time as the French Triomphants.

These similar dates as well as the need for both Britain and France to replace there existing missiles means that we have a golden opportunity to cooperate not just on warheads but on the entire system from the boats to the missiles.

At present the United Kingdom relies on US manufactured Trident II D5 missiles. While the United Kingdom stresses its ability to fire these missiles independently in the end we do not own the missiles themselves. We merely carry US navy missles on rotation. These are returned to the US for maintenance and upgrade. While the UK may be able to maintain the ability to fire independently it cannot really claim to have a fully independent deterrent.

France is the only western nation other than the United States which builds its own SLBM's. While arguably not as capable as Trident the new M51 SLBM is a formidable missile. Due to budget constraints the French were not able to produce the larger and more capable M5 missile and had to instead opt for the M51. Cooperation with France on a Trident replacement could allow us to jointly develop and manufacture our own SLBM giving us a much more independent deterrent than we presently have. Another issue is that even with a life extension the Vanguard Replacement are likely to be finished before the D5 replacement missile Trident E6. If the dimensions of this missile are changed dramatically then we may have to put our boats in for costly over halls. With only 3 boats likely in the class it may not be possible to maintain continuous at sea patrol's if one boat is in a long maintenance.

The French do not have the same level of experience as the United Kingdom in construction of Nuclear Submarines. While French SSN's and SSBN's are excellent platforms they are not as effective as their Royal Navy counterparts requiring more frequent re fulling and with a higher noise profile. Cooperation on boat manufacture could allow the French to acquire a better next generation submarine with out having to spend a massive amount on R&D.

Warhead design is actually a mute point. The United Kingdom and France both already cooperate heavily with the USA on this. The warheads used by all three nations are believed to be nearly identical. As with testing and maintenance. Its unlikely we will gain much in the way of technology however we are likely to be able to save a significant amount of money with a combined design. While warhead manufacture is probably something we are not prepared to combine we can likely make significant savings with the combined servicing and maintenance.

If we are truly looking to save on this cooperation then we should also consider combined manufacturing of the vessels. The UK and France both struggle to keep their domestic Nuclear Submarine Industries afloat. Combining these industry may allow the two to share a more viable industry providing around 14 SSN and 6 SSBN's in the next generation. Allowing one yard and one reactor facility to work continuously rather than having long gaps in production causing skilled workers to leave.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Britsh Carrier Strike Group

Below is a link to a U Tube video. Some of the info is out of date following the SDSR however its an impressive look an the RN's future capability. Give us somehting to look forward to in 2020

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What a load of C**P

Yet again another highly inaccurate report splashed across the world media that the US has offered to provide vessels to protect the London 2012 Olympic Games. According to the report the US has offered to station a WASP class LHD in the Thames to provide air defence. It really amazes me just how bad reporters have become at providing accurate coverage of military issues.

If you are going to make up something on a slow news day then at least try to make it believable.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Finding a Home for Ark Royal

With the Scrapping of the Harrier as well as the removal of Ark Royal the UK has been left with out the ability to  project fixed wing air power for a decade or more. The Ark Royal is to be paid off immediately and either scrapped or sold. While we are unlikely to need a fixed carrier aviation in the next decade it would be good to be prepared. We also have to consider how to regenerate a carrier capability in 10 years when the new Queen Elizabeth Carrier comes online around 2020.

It is important to note that most of the crew that will serve on Queen Elizabeth in 2020 are still at primary school today. With no carrier available in the next 10 years how will we train these people. More importantly how will we find the senior petty officers, technicians, aircraft handlers etc. The one's we have today will likely be on the dole shortly. Same to with the pilots, are we to expect the RAF tornado drivers to suddenly become naval aviators in 10 years? If we had a core of FAA pilots we could likely supplement these aviators with RAF types but what we are now faced with is starting completely from scratch in 10 years time. That will mean throwing away 93 years of experience in operating aircraft at sea.

There is another option though that we have not yet considered. Ark Royal will likely need a new home. Arguably the ship could go on for another 10 or 15 years with appropriate refits. Her Sea Harrier FA2's are lying in storage unused since 2006. Many of these aircraft were only 7 years old when retired. They still represent a very potent air to air capability. Similarly there GR9 versions have only just been upgraded. Maintaining a fleet of these very capable weapons would be relativley inexpensive for a military with a decent budget.

The opportunity that now exists is to sell Australia (for free) the Ark Royal as well as some of the FA2 and GR9 Harriers. The Australians are not over committed in Afghanistan and the Australian government does not have a  massive budget deficit. It would be relatively easy for Australia to under take this.

What is in it for us?

If we transfer Ark Royal and her aircraft to the Australian Navy we could also loan out many of our Navy personnel to them as well. Specifically the carrier specialist like aircraft handlers, weapons loaders and pilots. We could also seconder new navy ratings in the near future to the Australian Navy with a view to having at least a partially trained core of sailors for when the Queen Elizabeth comes online. Also arming a close Allie with a capability such as Ark Royal will help us and the US with containing Chinese ambitions in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. I do not think it would be to difficult to find a substantial number of Ark Royals crew who are presently facing unemployment to transfer to the Australian Navy and keep doing the job they have been doing before in the tropical Pacific. It might be difficult to get these people to transfer back to the RN in 10 years however atleast some of them would come and we would be able to send our new trainees on 1 or 2 year secondments to learn from them between noe and 2020.

Whats is in it for Australia?

The Australians are planning to build two Canberra class LHD's in the next decade. These vessels will likely operate the F35B Lightening II. However Australia has zero experience of operating carriers since World War II. Having the Ark Royal as well as a number of RN personal will allow them to build up their own indigenous capability for the future. Ark Royal can also give them a very potent carrier capability on the cheap and almost straight away. The cost of taking on Ark Royal as well as 12 FA2's and 12 GR9's would likely cost the Australian Navy no more than $400 million per year.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fleet Deployments Under a Maratime Strategy (RSDR)

Fleet Deployment Map Major Surface Units

Above is a link to a high resolution map showing the fleet deployments we could have under a maritime strategy. The map only shows major unit deployments of the Astute SSN, Type 26, Type 27, Type 45 and Carrier Task force. 

We Get Air Power, Why doesn't the RAF?

The Royal Air Force was established in 1917 by amalgamating the Royal Flying Corps and the Naval Air Service. The RAF was established principally as a UK defence force to protect against German zeppelin and bomber attacks. The other main reason for establishing an independent service was that the Generals and Admirals of the time did not really get air power and were thought to under invest in it. This is understandable, Men like Kitchener were born in the age when steam trains were a new technology. It is understandable that people who started their careers on sailing ship's or horse back could hardly be expected to grasp such a revolutionary technology and it's impact on war. However every admiral and general nowadays have grown up in an age dominated by aircraft. They get it, we might argue that they get the need for air power far more than the RAF top brass.

The Royal Navy has just mortgaged it's entire fleet of frigates and destroyers in the hope of getting just one aircraft carrier and a handful of planes to go on them. The Amry has been desperately crying out for ISTAR platforms as well as decent ground attack aircraft. On the Other hand in a bid to save it's fast jet toys the RAF has gotten rid of the Harrier to save a few pennies. The Harrier is perhaps the most important aircraft in British service. It gives the Navy a fixed Wing Strike capability, The GR9's sister Aircraft the FA2 Sea Harrier provided perhaps the best Air to Air capability in the European NATO military before the entry of the Typhoon. The Harrier gave the Army close air support in Afghanistan where is performed fantastically in a difficult environment, one the Tornado has so far proven weak in.

In addition to the Harrier the RAF has also scrapped the MRA4. This aircraft which we have already paid for would not only have provided the navy with a Maritime Strike and Reconnaissance platform it would also have provided perhaps the best ISTAR platform for the army in Afghanistan. In addition it would have given the UK a limited but highly effective strategic bomber capability with the aircraft able to fly 7,000 miles carrying a bomb load of up to 10 tonnes of precision guided weapons including Storm Shadow. The RAF has scrapped these aircraft to keep in service the Tornado. While I ma not doubting the Tornado is an excellent aircraft it cannot compare to the MRA4 and Harrier. Everything the Tornado can do the Typhoon Tranche 3 can do better. That's a fact. Keeping Tornado gives the RAF no more capability than it would have had with the new Typhoons.

The FAA pilots of the Joint Force Harrier have come out as saying that they were set up by the air force to fail from the start. Tornado served in Iraq while that was the most high profile theatre. We have been in Afghanistan for 10 years and until recently Tornado has never served in Afghanistan. It was miraculously deployed to Afghanistan just in time for the defence review where it could become a sacred cow unable to be cut as we need it to fight the Taliban.

The RAF has a budget of nearly £8 billion. To put it in perspective that's almost as much as NASA. At present it has 10 Tornado aircraft deployed in Afghanistan. In an age of austerity can we afford a force that for £8 billion can only deploy 10 aircraft. Even in the Iraq war the RAF could only deploy 36 combat aircraft. A Single QE carrier with full Air Group would be able to deploy 36 aircraft. In a time of crisis such as the Falklands both Carriers would be able to deploy with 72 between them as well as there own AWACS coverage. It seems strange that the Navy is able to deploy more than 7,000 people almost a quarter of its total number to a land locked country not once or twice but three time's when the RAF a land based service can send perhaps 5% of its force.

In a world where a new fighter bomber costs almost as much as a Frigate to purchase and run we must be careful where we are spending our money. Can we really trust such a large budget to a group of men who have the gal to not only set up the pilots of the FAA for the treasury chop but even there own Harrier pilots. How would you be feeling right now if you were an RAF member of Joint Force Harrier. How would you feel if you were a member of the British Amry knowing that the superior ground support aircraft had been got rid of simply because the Tornado mafia in the RAF ordained it.

We have to question the intelligence and ability of any human being let alone senior member of the government who did not see this as a ploy. It was pretty obvious what the RAF were up to long before SDSR even started. Why are the RAF allowed to decided on what they loose from their service. Surely it should be up to the other services that the RAF is suppose to provide air support to.

The navy was prepared to sacrifice its frigates and even its aircraft carriers in the defence review. The Army prepared to sacrifice its heavy armour and artillery because both services new these were not what was needed for the current campaign. The RAF did the complete opposite.

The RAF is not alone in its single service devotion to useless high tech toys. The US Air Force is even worse. It has been trying to kill the A10 Warthog since the plane took off . Despite the fact that the plane is probably the most useful aircraft in the current threat environment. The US air force continues to spend $200 million on an F22 or $2 billion on a B2 even though these planes are absolutely useless in the current environment. The reason for the poor integration of air forces with other services is not difficult to understand. Air Forces look to fight other air forces. That is what they want to do, that's what they spend most of their time training to do. That's what all their platforms are designed to do. Supporting ground troops or hunting submarines is a distraction to what they consider their real task to be. Unfortunately that is not the world we live in. We liven in a world where we need aircraft to shoot up insurgents on the ground armed with AK47 and RPG's. Its hard to justify a $ 2 billion dollar aircraft to achieve a task such as this.

Britain lead the way in creating the first independent air force in the world. It was the right thing to do at the time and it served us well.Surely now is the time for the UK to once again lead the world in being the first to scrap the air force and give its assets to the other services who understand the need for air power far more than the air force do.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Towards a Maritime Doctrine, A Super Power on a Budget (RSDR)


The defence force advicated here is based on a defence review conducted in a previous post RDSR

Even with defence cuts the British military budget will still be on the order of $60 billion per year. That is a significant investment in any one’s eyes on behalf of the British public. Defence budgets are usually justified on a basis of defending the nation. It is possible to justify around a quarter of the United Kingdom’s defence budget on actually defending the United Kingdom mainland and Over Sea’s Territories.

The rest of the budget is devoted to support for allies and our diplomatic standing. It is worth the British peoples while to support armed forces that can project the countries Independent foreign policy.

Having a substantial army with a small navy means that we can only act as part of a coalition. Generally the coalition will be American lead and dominated. A substantial British Army presence in a US coalition amounts to a subsidy by the British tax payer for US foreign policy. We may hope to influence US foreign policy as a result of our contribution however even if we spend everything we have on the Army we will never amount to more than 20% of any US force. Historically this has proven an insufficient amount to gain any significant influence over US foreign policy.

A naval strategy centred on the second biggest blue water navy allows us to project force and act independently. While we will be unable to sustain occupation forces we will be able to strike hard and fast. We will be able to plant the only other banner other than the USA that the west can act around. This large naval strength will give us an enhanced diplomatic standing beyond that whic we enjoy today.

Every country in the world has an Army. Most have brown water navy’s. Arguably the USA is the only remaining true blue water navy. If we were to rebuild a true blue water navy then we would be one of two rather than one of 180.

While army’s fight wars navy’s win them. The reason that Britain and America have been undefeated in major conflict except with each other in the last 300 years was domination of the sea. The ability to purchase weapons, raw materials and even man power from abroad. Not to mention being able to maintain their domestic economies. With the increase in global trade the seas are more important today than ever. He who controls the sea controls the world.

China is likely to be the number two power of the early 21st century, Then number one power after 2050. If Britain went to war with China in a non nuclear exchange with a large army even with the use of friendly neighbouring bases we could not hope to win. China could build an army with more soldiers than the United Kingdom has people. No matter the quality of our forces the sheer over whelming numbers of China would win the day.

However China is predominantly a land power. We could build a navy that was bigger with far more advanced technology. We could maintain this position for at least fifty more years. If China went to war with Britain where Britain had a very large blue water navy capable of beating the Chinese navy then all we need to do is blockade the Indian Ocean for six months. The inability of China to import oil, minerals and most importantly food would cause the Chinese economy to collapse. If we are able to defeat the second most powerful country in the world then arguably we become the second most powerful country in the world in military terms.

Indeed this is the strategy we used to defeat Germany in World War I. While the British and French Army held the line it was mass starvation which eventually brought Germany to the table. Even though its army was much larger and arguable more capable than the British and French Army it mattered little. If it was unable to feed its people it could no longer fight.

Having a large navy allows us to veto the foreign policies of other large powers. For instance if the combination of the Chinese and British Navy’s was able to defeat the US Navy then we effectively gain an ability to veto US action. A large Army only gives us the ability to support US action, not discourage it.

Navies are very hard to build. The ships themselves take years, the technology decades and the training and ethos centauries to perfect. We maintain a force today comparable in technology to the US Navy. Something the RAF cannot claim against the US Air force which is perhaps 20 years ahead. For countries like India, China and Brazil even being able to match us in spending terms would still leave them with decades to catch up on technology .

Navy’s unlike army’s rely principally on machines to define their capability and strength. “How many ship’s in your navy” rather than how many sailors. Army’s rely principally on numbers of people “how many boots” rather than how many tanks. For a high income nation with very advanced technology a navy capitalises on our strength’s. A force which relies on number of people highlights our weakness.

Armies are also much quicker and easier to re generate. The British Army went from a professional force of around 100,000 men in 1935 to a force of over 1 million by 1940. Arguable these men were the equal of any army the Germans could field man for man. Other than the ASW frigates the navy we fought with for most of World War II was either built or ordered before the outbreak of war. If we reduce the Army and find ourselves in need of a large army in future we will be able to relatively quickly rebuild it. If we lose our Navy we will never be able to regenerate it.

We are an Island, that’s obvious however our island status is of little use in a world where jet aircraft can cross the channel in seconds. However we live in a continent where we consider every nation an ally. Even on the boarders of our continent we do not see any truly dangerous adversaries. In essence our continent is an Island. Any future threat we may face will have to come across the oceans. Having the ability to deny our enemy use of the sea insulates our continent from attack and hence keeps us safe. Navy’s can not only intercept threats on the other side of the world they can deter that aggression in the first place. What’s the point in China trying to invade Europe if it knows its troop ships will be sunk in the Ocean before they ever arrive? Better not to even try in the first place.

Maintaining a large navy where others do not have one allows us to keep a prominent place in the world. With the number two navy we could be certain of independently retaining our seat on the Security Council. Having the world’s 4th largest navy, 20th biggest Army and 7th biggest Air force gets us nothing. We could do these two force structures on the same budget.

What do we need and what can we afford

We will always need basic air defence for the UK mainland as well as Falklands and other overseas territories. We will need a sufficiently large reserve force of army personnel in the UK both as an ultimate guarantee of our security as well as to assist in civilian unrest and disasters. We will always require a small fleet of frigates and OPV’s to protect our EEZ and sea boarders. Everything else is essentially forces used to support our allies and project our influence abroad. As such these other forces are up for grabs in conducting a maritime doctrine.


We can expect to maintain a budget of £40 billion for defence over the longer term with real terms increase after 2015. This will represent around 2% of GDP. Of this budget around £10 billion is consumed by the ministry of defence and central bureaucracy. A budget of around £30 billion goes to the three armed forces themselves.


At present the Army consumes almost half of the defence budget. These funds give the army the ability to deploy 9 brigades as well as Special Forces under 22nd Special Air Service Regiment and a brigade of Ghurkhas. In addition the Army has a Territorial reserve force of some 30,000 men.

At present the Army can deploy a division sized force for 6 months and sustain a reinforced brigade indefinitely in theatre. After SDSR this force will drop to a light brigade sized force. That will be 30,000 for 6 months then around 6,000 after that.

In a maritime focused strategy we will have to consider very draconian cuts. The ability to sustain a force the size of a brigade will not be required. We will need to be able to strike from the sea hard and fast. Follow up peace keeping forces will have to be provided by allies.

The regular Army force I will recommend will be three brigades. Able to deploy two brigades in a single Marine Army Expeditionary Force. These brigades will be enhanced with 3 armoured battalions as well as organic aviation capabilities. In a long running peace keeping mission this force will be able to maintain a single battalion sized battle group. Deploying in a brigade sized force we will be able to sustain an operational duration of no more than 18 months. In addition this force will be supplemented by a national guard built around 5 brigades. Unlike the present TA these forces will be deployable if needed in the form of an armoured division. The reserve force will constitute the bulk of the Army’s heavy weaponry. I will set a budget of £4 billion per year to cover this force.

Royal Air Force

The Royal Air force will be amalgamated with the Army. All we can justify for the Air force would be three squadrons of Typhoon fighters in the air defence version. Three squadrons with around 84 typhoons would provide sufficient cover for the UK as well as allowing for some deployments to over seas’ territories however these would be limited. Other Air force planes would be transferred to the Marine Expeditionary force such as A400M and C17 as well as helicopters. AWACS would be gone to be replaced with a navy E2 D aircraft. The Rivet Joint aircraft would be kept along with a handful of tankers. I will allocate a budget of £2 billion per year to cover this force.


The marines would go under an amalgamation with the Army to form a Marine Army Expeditionary Force.


The entire point of this exercise is not to create balanced force but a dramatically unbalanced force.

The Budget we can now spend on the Navy is approximately £24 billion per year. This is three time what we spend today. For this budget I would expect to be able to sustain a substantial blue water capability.

Carrier task force – Carriers are no longer the key to open ocean warfare. Submarines are far more capable. However carriers afford two main benefits. They offer substantial power projection capability especially in support of a Marine Expeditionary Force. They are also excellent platforms for visible demonstrations of power such as flag flying and gun boat diplomacy. However they are expensive when the cost of their escort’s and aircraft are taken into account. For that reason I will select to have Three Queen Elizabeth Carriers. That gives us the ability to permanently deploy one to the India Ocean while having at least one more in reserve. The Carrier strike force will be escorted by four Type 45 destroyers which will be enhanced with TLAM, Towed Array Sonar, SSM’s, CIWS, and ASW Merlin Helicopters. In addition a single Astute SSN will accompany the task force as well as a fast fleet tanker and a logistics ship.

Carrier Air Group- With the removal of the RAF’s expeditionary capability we will now need the fleet air arm to provide all of our required forward deployed air assets. Firstly the carrier air group will have four E2D Hawkeye AWACS aircraft to replace the current fleet of Mk7’s and E3D’s. In the fighter and strike role the carrier will deploy 24 F35 C Lightning II’s. The carrier will also have to deploy additional ISTAR and deep strike capability. This should be provided by twelve Sea Taranus UCAV’s In addition there will be four ASW Merlin’s onboard. The ship should also have a complement of four Greyhound C2 aircraft for COD.

Submarines – Submarines provide the Navy’s most powerful blue water capability for offence against an enemy navy. In fact modern SSN’s such as the Astute Class or Virginia class provide such a major capability it is unlikely that any surface platform would survive the onslaught of an advanced SSN force. While SSN’s cannot give us sea control they can give us a sea denial capability. Denying our enemy the use of the sea. For this reason I would opt to increase our SSN force to 32 boats from the present force of eight.

Amphibious Task Force – The Amphibious task force will now be required to land a division sized force on a beach. For that reason I will essentially double the force. This would see Two Juan Carlos style LHD’s Four Albion Class LPD’s and 8 Bay Class LSD’s.

In addition the Task force would be escorted by two Type 26 Combat Ship’s and Two Type 45 Destroyer.

Escorts-For diplomatic as well as security reason it will be necessary for the Navy to have a visible presence in every ocean. This presence will have to be from a powerful surface combatant. In the past we used cruisers to provide this. However today if built to the correct standards an Up Gunned Type 26 Combat Ship could be considered a cruiser. Essentially if built right it will be a general purpose destroyer. The vessel should be equipped with SAMPSON light Phased Array radar, Aster 15 SAM, TLAM and a 155mm main gun. Our ambition should be to have one of these vessels deployed in every significant body of water in the world. We would look to have one of these vessels deployed at all times in, The North and South Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arabian Gulf, Western India Ocean and South China Sea. To provide this patrol’s we will need twenty four T26 vessels.

In addition to the Type 26 we will need a smaller cheaper frigate able to deploy to many places and carry out a number of general roles. The Type 27 frigate vessel will supplement the T26 in ocean patrols. We would require a fleet of 20 of these vessels.

Minor War Vessels

Minor War Vessels-To maximise our visibility in World Ocean’s we would require a large number of vessel’s able to conduct counter piracy, disaster relief, EEZ patrol and Mine Counter Measures. These vessels would be cheap, versatile auxiliaries with little armament beyond a main gun and flex modules. However they should be fitted with at least CAMMS for AAW protection. The C3 vessel would fit this role. We should expect to maintain 64 of these vessels. Four of these vessels should also be equipped with an Ice Breaking hull to replace HMS endurance and provide the ability to deploy a force into an Arctic or Antarctic Environment.

Logistics-Logistics ships would be vital for such a globally deployed Navy. We would require a fleet of two repair ships, two medical ships, twelve logistics ship’s, six fast fleet tankers, six smaller fleet tankers and six support tankers. We would also maintain a heavy sea lift capability with 6 Point Class RoRo’s.

The fleet Size would now be:

3 * CVF

32* SSN

2 * LHD

4* LPD

8* LSD

14* Type 45 destroyer

24* Type 26 Combat Ship (C1)

20* Type 27 Frigate (C2)

64* Minor War Vessel (C3)

2* Repair Ship

2* Medical Ship

12* Logistic ship

6* Fast Fleet Tanker

6* Small Fleet Tanker

6* Support Tanker

6* Point Class RoRo


To achieve this force we would allocate an annual budget as follows

Aircraft Carrier’s £523 million

Frigates and Destroyers £4,146 million

Minor War Vessels £1,155 million

Amphibious Ship’s £706 million

Strategic Sea Lift £33 million

Fleet Support £932 million

Survey £259 million

Naval Aircraft £5,241 million

Submarines £10,092 million

Total £23,087 million

Comparison with other Great Powers

The table above gives a comparison of the new enlarged Royal Navy with other world Navy’s. Numbers alone cannot compare a navy’s capability. The US Navy and Royal Navy operate a large force of SSN’s while most of the rest operate just a handful of old SSN’s and SSK’s. It is the same with other platforms such as amphibious vessels and destroyers where the RN and USN have much larger more capable vessels.

However this enlarged Royal Navy would have around 40% of the combat power of the US Navy. It would likely be able to defeat the Navies of India, Russia and China Combined singled handed. As the US Navy is forced to deploy most of its combat power in the Pacific to protect its western coast the Royal Navy could easily outnumber the US navy in the Indian ocean which is likely to be the most important Ocean of the 21st century. I would argue that a Royal Navy of this size and capability would define us as a narrow spectrum super power as opposed to great power. Indeed this is not dissimilar to our position in the 19th and early 20th century at the height of Empire.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Real Strategic Defence Review (RSDR)

After reading the marketing materials (sorry National Security Strategy) or toilet paper that has come out of Number 10 (because it did not come out of the MOD) I have decided to write my own Strategic Defence and Security Review.

My Credentials

While many people may describe me as naval centric, I have never actually served in the Navy. I have served in the British Army and I am a long time admirer of the Royal Air Force. So I consider myself to be relatively unbiased. As I have actually served in Her Majesty's Service I consider myself infinitely more qualified than the bunch of Lib Dem and Tory T**Ts who came up with this drivel.

Strategic vs. Tactical

When it takes 10 - 20 years to get a major new piece of equipment into service and wars such as Afghanistan are expected to last at least 15 years, I do not believe a review with a 5 year horizon can be considered strategic. I will attempt to look at the security threats we will face over the next 25 years. I will also not look at issues such as flu pandemics and flooding in the UK as these are issues for health-care and other civilian agencies.


Threats will be organised with their severity and likelihood each threat will be assigned a score based on these two variables.


I will then attempt to assign the type of military we need to counter these potential threats as well as leaving enough capability to cover unforeseen events.


I will assume that the budget we can expect to maintain in the medium to long term is 2% of GDP.

What threats will we face in the next 20 years?

The threat we face will derive from the social and economic trends that we can already see beginning to play out today. In the same way that the Wall street Crash caused the great depression that lead to WWII ten years later.

Trends that exists today are

Globalisation - The spread of new technology to people and countries that have previously not had access to high end technology. Also the reliance of countries on resources obtained from abroad.

Resource Constraint - Insufficient energy resources as well as minerals and basic foodstuffs to keep pace with globalisation and economic growth.

Radicalism - As a result of globalisation and new technologies ideas and organisations can easily become supranational. Governments may fall to be replaced with radical parties. These new governments may seek to export their radicalism to other neighbouring countries.

Environmental Issues- A warming climate will serve to exacerbate the resource shortage in the near term. Also issues such as lack of drinkable water and people dispersed by flooding and droughts will cause instability. Countries susceptible to these problems will be less able to fend off radicalism.

Demographics-Dwindling birth rates amongst Europeans and Anglo Americans will lead to slower economic growth levels in the west. Smaller birth rates as well as immigration will likely lead to substantial shifts in voting demographics in these countries. Flat growth levels and falling populations will likely severely weaken economic and military strength of mainland Europe and Japan. The United Kingdom, USA, Canada and Australia can all be expected to continue to grow however their comparative economic and military strength will be significantly weaker than today. Differences in migration patterns may also change these countries demographics in a way that makes it increasingly more difficult for them to maintain common positions in the way they have in the past.

Rising Powers- Future Mega Powers such as India and China will begin to rise to the fore front of world affairs while rising super powers such as Brazil, Russia and Indonesia will also become more significant in world affairs.

New Lands- As technology improves and weather patterns change new lands previously out of reach from humans such as the deep sea and Arctic will become open to colonisation. Resource constraints as well as displacements caused by global warming may lead to conflict over these new lands and the resources they offer.

Learning from History

Most of these trends are nothing new. They have been seen on numerous occasions in history. Post World War II we entered a bi polar world i.e. the USA and the West against the USSR and the East. After 1991 we entered a uni polar world with the USA being the sole super power. This is not unlike Britain in the 19th century following Waterloo or the Roman Empire following its defeat of Carthage. It's typically a position which does not last long. We can now see the weakening of American power in a world which will eventually contain 7 great powers (USA, EU, China, India, Russia, Indonesia and Brazil). This is not unlike Europe in the 19th Century (Britain, France, Prussia, Austria Hungary, Italy and Russia).

The globalisation phenomenon is nothing new. The spread of ideas and the radicalisation of countries is not unlike the rise of the written word. Books made it possible to convey ideas in the 16th century like Protestantism. In the 19th century it was nationalism and in the 20th century communism. Today the internet makes things faster but the rise of extreme Islam, right wing fascists and even Christian fundamentalists is no different to the rise of new political agendas in the past.

Environmental extremes have been seen before as well. Events such and the mini ice age in Europe as well as other cold and warm periods have caused periodic movement of populations in the past. Often leading to wars of inhalation between two groups of people. Indeed even the fall of the Roman Empire can be attributed in part to environmental changes in Europe.

New Lands have been discovered in the past. New ship technology allowed the 15th century Europeans to sail the world. Discovering new lands to extract resources and often fighting with each other for the control of those resources.

Applying lessons from history can help us to analyse how the trends we see today will play out in the future. It can also give us an insight into how to deal with them.

Threat Matrix

As we can see we face a diverse range of threats. I should clarify that I consider a terrorist attack on the UK such as 7/7 a low danger level. We are talking about a National Security 40 - 50 people dying in a terrorist attack while tragic does not really affect the nation in the way that Russian Tanks rolling into Calais would. The main threats as I can see are posed by threats to our energy supplies or the fall of Middle Eastern governments to extremism such as the toppling of the Saudi Royal Family.

The threat of rogue states such as Iran obtaining and using Nuclear Weapons is also a high level of threat. Almost all the threats we face in the future will happen at great distance from the UK. Most also involve state actors rather than individuals or organisations. Terrorism acts either using conventional means, Weapons of mass destruction or Internet attacks are really matters for the Police and security services. However the military might be expected to assist in the aftermath of a WMD attack or respond with an invasion of foreign country or terrorists bases as we did in Afghanistan following September 11th.

Type of Defence Needed

With a diverce range of threats posed not to the mainland United Kingdom but to our overseas interests we require deploy-able forces able to strike hard and fast and sustain themselves without the use of neighbouring allies’ bases. We will also likely need the ability to not only strike but to take and hold territory for extended periods of time.

Our Allies

We could generally expect our allies in NATO to take care of a conventional threat to Europe. We could also expect to have our allies participate or lead an operation against a rouge nuclear state. We should expect to cooperate with our allies on ballistic missile defence.

In the past the west has always tried to maintain the free flow of energy to all nations. However that was assuming a big enough supply for everyone. As oil wells begin to run dry and we discover there is not enough to go round our allies may act in their own best interests. America and China have already made statements stating that under no circumstances would they allow themselves to be denied oil. In the past in a multi polar world we have seen the two biggest players divvy the world up between them. For instance Spain and Portugal in 1494 split the world between them in the Treaty of Tordesilla. They did not ask the opinion of anyone else they just did it. What if America and China decided to divvy up the Middle East between them?

Similarly with EEZ issues and the opening up of new lands we can expect to be on our own. If India began to drill for oil in Diego Garcia or China began mining in the British Antarctic Territory our allies would not come to our rescue. In issues or resources and EEZ's even close allies can become bitter enemies very quickly. Look at the Cod wars of the 1960's. The UK, Iceland, Denmark and Ireland are all close allies but have been unable to settle EEZ disputes of the eastern Atlantic. Especially when potential oil revenues are at stake. Canada and the USA have had major issues concerning rights to oil in the Arctic. What would we do if the USA started drilling for oil off Bermuda?

With ecological disasters and the resulting flood of refugees would be required to take our place in the international community, providing peace keepers reconstruction aid etc. However our required input would be limited and made with the wider international community. Similarly with failed states we would expect to act as part of a wider community. However it may be necessary for us to provide the initial door kicking exercise as we may have had to do in Kosovo. We might also be expected to provide fast well armed forces able to stabilise a situation as we did in Sierra Leoan or America did in Somalia in 1993. What we won't be doing on our own is Vietnam or Afghanistan style COIN operations. The bad taste left in the public mouth by Afghanistan will likely prohibit this type of long lasting occupation of a country with little or no strategic value. In the future strategic value will mean significant energy, mineral or food resources.

In a multi polar world, with dwindling natural resources and increasing pressure placed by rising populations and climate change it will be far more important to be a substantial player in world affairs. History tells us that in a world like this, small players are excluded from sharing the cake. The lezzy fair defence position maintained by the likes of Germany and Japan will do them little good in the future. While direct threats to any major nation from another state are highly unlikely no country is an island in the 21st century. We all rely on an increasingly long and vulnerable supply chain to extract our resources and sell our goods. Defending and maintaining this supply chain will likely be the biggest defence challenge in the 21st century. Allies will be useful in this to a point however in many cases it may actually be our current allies that we come into conflict with.

As demographics change both in our country and in our allies we may also find historic relationships becoming less certain or capable. For instance the rising number of Hispanics in America will likely cause the US to look more and more to the south rather than across the the Atlantic to Europe. Similarly the dwindling population and economic clout of places such as France and Germany may make them less willing or able to act.

Our military of the future will have to be able to participate in coalition actions be they peace keeping or pre-emptive attacks. However we will have to have the ability to act with more allies than just the USA. We will also require a military that can act independently when necessary and importantly can help to insulate us and our supply change from and increasingly dangerous and unpredictable world starved for resources. Furthermore we will require a military that can give us a substantial independent clout to maintain or enhance our diplomatic standing.

Ideally we would have a large standing army with a substantial fleet to accomplish these security tasks. However defence spending does not take place in a vacuum. Having a large army and navy is not affordable. We must pick one over the other.

By doing this we will become a narrow focused great power. If we do not do this then we will not retain great power status. Before WWII Britain was arguably a narrow focus great power with a massive navy and tiny expeditionary army.

Otto Von Bismarck was quoted as saying the following in 1864 "If Lord Palmerston sends the British army to Germany, I shall have the police arrest them."

Arguable the last time we lived in a multi polar world of great powers we followed a naval strategy. This choice worked out very well for the United Kingdom.

The threats we face in the future would favour a maritime doctrine such as RUSI's Strategic Raiding strategy. As opposed to a land centric focus such as Global Guardian.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beyond SDSR the 2015 choice

While the scale of the cuts made to the armed forces were not as severe as the may have been they were still pretty grim. The UK defence budget and strategy has been put entirely into the fight for Afghanistan. Indeed Afghanistan is the only strategy now for defence. Win Afghanistan at all costs is the new slogan. What the salami slicing has achieved is to cut many capabilities but leave the core of the services intact. What it has not done is come up with any grand strategy for the future. The Navy has lost some frigates but kept it's sub's and the new carriers. The Air Force has lost the harrier and MRA4 but kept the bulk of it's fast jet fleet. The Army has lost some of it's armour as well as forces stationed in Germany but much remains intact.

Essentially the SDSR has sought to postpone any strategic thinking until after Afghanistan. Given the mess we are in and the tough fight ahead it seems there was little else they could do. However one result of SDSR 2010 is to draw the battle lines for the future. SDSR 2015 will likely be the place where the UK's real strategic future is decided. One thing is clear. In apsense of a real threat to the homeland or western Europe we can not expect to go on the way we have in the past. A military that ticks all the boxes as we have expected to do in the past will cost more than the country is willing to pay. When the choice is aircraft carriers or hospitals the later is likley to win every time.

It's right that the government offers up the defence budget in the near term to try and win Afghanistan. Pulling out now would do two things. It would ruin our standing with our key allie the USA. It would also tarnish our reputation. Don't forget the fear our armed forces generate in others is largely based on their track record. After the USA pulled out of Vietnam many doubted America's resolve. The Russians invaded Afghanistan. The Iraq's invaded Kuwait largely on the belief that America was unwilling or unable to to respond and in a battle would not suffer the required level of casualties to win. However after the 1991 Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq 2003 I doubt if any one in the world doubts America and Britain's resolve or ability to respond. Leaving Afghanistan with out some form of victory in what ever shape that may take will tarnish this reputation and it may take a generation or two to get it back if ever.

However win loose or draw we will be out of Afghanistan by 2015. We simply cannot afford to stay any longer. Nor can our allies the USA and NATO. With this deadline in mind it will be necessary to spend the next few years taking a serious look at what challenges we will face in the future, what military we will need to respond to them and most importantly what kind of military can we afford. The level of 2% of GDP will likley be the floor and ceiling for military spending for the next generation. The key debate for 2015 and beyond will be Land or Sea. An Army doctrine of large land forces able to participate in American operations (global guardian) or a maritime doctrine centred on the Navy and Marines (strategic raiding). In the past we have attempted to do both relativley well. However in the future only one will be affordable. We can either have a kick as Navy or a kick ass Army. One will have to be subservient to the other.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SDSR Whats in and Out

David Cameron has just announced the major headlines of the SDSR. Actually most of these have been announced in the press over the last few day's

Whats Out

Harrier gone immediately along with Ark Royal

MRA4 Canceled

Astute number 7

The Type 26 frigate

British forces Germany reduced by half to 2015 all back by 2020

Army reduced by 7,000 men

40% reduction in Challenger and AS90 numbers

Four Type 22 frigates gone immediately fleet of 19 escorts to be kept

Trident Replacement delayed until 2028

war heads cut to 120 from 160

Vanguards to carry just 40

Whats In

Tornado kept

F35 C to be acquired instead of F35B

Prince of Wales to be built for Traps and Cats while Queen Elizabeth kept in active reserve

Review of the TA possibly being given a regenerative armour capability

New flexible frigate program started C2 Medium Vessel Derivative

A400M to be kept

Not mentioned

Gurkha's were not mentioned however the size of the Army 95,000 suggests one less brigade which may be the Gurkha brigade.

How many F35 C's to be purchased speculation is 70

Amphibious fleet or HMS Ocean

Plymouth naval base presumably to be kept

Which RAF bases are to close.


Ummmm not as bad as it might have been but allot that does not make sense. Canceling Harrier leaves us with no ability to launch aircraft at sea for a decade. However now we don't have any aircraft carriers I suppose that does not matter. No Carrier Strike Group will free up loads of escorts and save the government all those headlines about not having a Falklands Patrol ship. Not sure how we are going to have sailors for the new carriers if they don't have any ship's to sail for 10 years. However we are not to worry as David Cameron has also announced that we are unlikely to need carriers for the next 10 years.

On the plus side we are finally getting rid of the F35B in favour of the F35C so when we do have carriers in future at least they will be decent.

The Army did not get off unscathed which seems fare with 7000 to go by 2015. Ability to sustain a brigade in theatre with the ability to surge 30,000 into a theatre is to be the main capability of the Army. Not Sure if the 30,000 includes 3 Commando. The MRA4 is to go, does that mean that we will no longer have a maritime patrol capability. Can't imagine the MR2 lasting much longer and there is definitely no money for a replacement. This is a major issue for NATO as the MR2 provides ASW patrol for the entire alliance in the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap.

C1 seems to be up for the chop. Sorry Brazil you better buy FREMM. Not to mention £126 million on development gone. Some form of new lighter general purpose frigate to be designed. That will mean that the best ASW navy in the world will have no ASW capability in 10 years time.

All in all it looks like the usual salami slicing. This force structure seems to have little to do with any of the goals laid down in the NSS yesterday other than the £500 million given to cyber crime. We have been told that we are to maintain our ability to project forces but we are not to have any carriers to do that. All in all I am confused. The only strategy seems to be to maintain Afghanistan forces and pray nothing else happens in the interim. Also our new strategy is not to stop conflicts but prevent them with the international aid budget. I really can't see how that would actually work. Very confusing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

White Hall White Wash, NSC Brief

I have not read the entire 38 page report from the National Security Council nor do I intend to. However I have read parts of it and it's enough to make me sick. To me it's a document simply aimed as ever with the Tories at justifying defence cuts. Basically the document priorities every kind of threat that is cheap to deal with and pushes the real serious threat's down to what it calls tier 3 level.


Tier 1 - Hostile attacks on UK cyberspace

Tier 3 - Disruption of oil or gas supplies to the UK


I am not stupid, I do realise that threats to Cyberspace are important but can we really justify putting the UK's Oil and Gas Supplies in the same league let alone two tiers lower.

If Cyberspace was attacked and the Internet completely destroyer the UK would return to a state like it was before 1998 (When we had a decent defence budget). If our Oil and Gas supplies were completely disrupted we would return to a state as we were before 1850. Victorian technology trying to feed 60 million people on a small island would likley not work out so well.

Maybe I am being a bit harsh. Maybe the government is looking at the likeliness of an attack assuming that Cyber Terrorism Attacks are easier to do than disrupting oil supplies. Below I have put examples of the top of my head in the 20th and 21st century where people have attempted to disrupt our energy supplies as well as times when major cyber attacks have taken place.

Threats to Oil and Gas Supplies

Suez Crisis 1956
Six Day War 1967
Yom Kippur War 1973
OPEC Crisis 1973
Iran Iraq War 1980's
1991 Gulf War
Russia on multiple occasions in the past 10 years
Russian Georgian War 2008

Major Cyber Attacks from States or Terrorists


So actually attacks on our energy supplies are far more likley than threats from the phone line. The type of worst case scenario Cyber Attacks shown in movies like Die Hard 4 have been frequently shown to be fantasy (Science Fiction). Most very sensitive technology such as military C4, Stock market computers and Power grids are not on the Internet. For a terrorist to upload a virus they would have to physically be in the building. If it was as easy as it's made out then it would be happening all the time.

Indeed cyber attacks are happening all the time and have been since the Internet was started. Companies and governments as well as consumers spend billions a year on protecting themselves. Internet Security Companies spend allot of money on many of the most talented people in the business. Do we really think a £500 million cash injection into the MOD or the Police can match this. Are soldiers or police men the type of people who we really need to be looking at this kind of thing. Would they be able of even understanding such a field as virus's logic bombs etc.

Let's be clear, the real reason for putting something like Cyber Terrorism as a tier 1 threat and disruption of oil and gas as tier 3 is that cyber terrorism along with all terrorism is cheap to deal with. You don't need multi million dollar missles or multi billion dollar aircraft carrier just a couple of guys sitting in an office scratching there arses staring at a computer screen.

This government is a joke. We can criticise the last government all we want but atleast SDR 1998 was a serious attempt at a review. This is just a cuts program dressed up in some attempts and deluding people that the world is a safe place, wars no longer happen and all we need to worry about are some Jihadists trying to kill us through the phone line. If SDSR is a cuts program then just say that. Tell us we need to cut back on military expenditure to pay for the NHS. Don't try to delude yourselves (because you are not deluding us) that you have taken any kind of serious look at what kinds of threats we will face in the future or that you have a scooby what to do about them.

New Sources of Revenue Might be the Answer

One thing that we can bet on coming from the SDSR will be less frigates. We are already in a position of not having enough frigates to cover our bare bones standing deployments let alone other commitments such as Anti Piracy and Counter Terrorism. While many people are screaming at the top of their lungs about the dangers of not having enough frigates I feel this could represent an opportunity for the Royal Navy.

Firstly when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. Frigates are far from ideal choice for most missions they are assigned. They are too small and lightly armed for land projection, too costly and over armed for EEZ patrol. They are optimised for ASW work however if it ever came to a real ASW battle against and advanced enemy with SSN's it would be suicide to venture out of harbour in any frigate. In the past we have slotted frigates into these roles. Frigates such as the T22 and T23 as well as the classes that proceeded them replaced the old cruiser for flag flying and ocean patrol. We used frigates because they were cheap and we had allot of them sitting around. However with new frigates such as the T26 coming in at £400-£500 million a piece and at most 10 of them being built this is no longer the case.

Scrapping the bulk of the RN's frigates might allow the navy to get back to basics and start using warship's built for purpose. As I have written in previous post's vessels such as the Khareef Corvette and Port of Spain OPV built here in the United Kingdom and far cheaper and more suited too Anti Piracy, Counter Terrorism and EEZ patrol than a frigate.

The big problem they Navy faces however is a dramatic tightening in it's budget. Probably being cut to a bare bones fleet of 20 destroyers and frigates. At present the only way to finance some new OPV's and Corvettes would be to cut the number of frigates even more.

However using some innovative procurement strategies as well as new sources of revenue the Navy may be able to acquire a new fleet of these small boats with no detriment to the existing fleet.


UK Ship yards have been very willing to work on PFI basis with the military. River Class OPV's has been acquired on PFI deals in the last few year's. Acquiring a fleet of small boats in this way will allow the Navy to get ship's with out laying down any money in the near term. However as with all PFI's the cost would come in later years as the navy would have to pay to lease the vessels over time.

New Sources of Revenue

What we should remember is that the navy provides a service. Having warship's and patrol vessels in an ocean makes it a safer place. While the Navy is tasked with protecting merchant ship's registered under the Red Ensign it is not duty bound to protect other ship's flying under flags of convenience. Charging these vessels for protection could generate a substantial amount of additional revenue. There are three ways we might consider making additional revenue's from shipping.

Charging For Convoys - Merchant vessels could sail under the protection of a Royal Navy vessel. The ship owners would pay a fee for this protection. They may also have embarked marines on board to fend off any attacks from pirates. The benefit's to the ship owners would be two fold. Firstly lower insurance premiums. Secondly ships at present are having to steer far away from the African coast to avoid Somali pirates. Putting extra cost on for fuel and slower ship turn around. Escorted convoys would be able to take shorter journeys through more dangerous waters.

Charging Lloyd's- The navy could come to an arrangement with Lloyd's of London. If Lloyd's are insuring a vessel and its cargo possibly for $1 billion or more then it's worth their while to pay for that vessel to reach port safely.

Entering the Insurance Market - The RN could actually enter the insurance market. Covering vessels and cargo's travelling under it's protection. It would be relativley simple for the RN to set up in the Lloyd's Insurance market. Perhaps offering single insurance contracts for outbound vessels traveling across the Indian ocean. These contracts could be offered at a discount to the normal market under the condition the boats were travelling in a RN convoy. Under the presumption that prevention would be cheaper than compensation the Navy should be able to turn a profit.

Benefit for the Royal Navy

There would be several benefits for the Royal Navy. Firstly the Navy should aim to turn a profit on these operations. That profit could be plowed back into other operations such as Caribbean patrol, Frigates, Carriers etc. Secondly the increased demand for ship building would allow the navy to benefit from better economies of scale. If we offer too lease 10 OPV's from BAE we might expect to get a C2 frigate for half price. The vessels themselves once finished their PFI deals will be put up for sale. The RN might look to buy these vessels outright for a reasonable price in future to supplement the gaps left in the escort fleet. Thirdly having vessels deployed to a trouble spot weather convoying paying merchant men or not allows us to avoid having to send any of our escorts on NATO or EU missions under the guise that we are already participating heavily. The country would benefit from this too. Technically this would be an export and with building the ship's and maintaining them we could look to create hundreds of new jobs.

Increasing Demand

Somali Piracy will not go a way for some time (if ever). Somalia is a failed state, it's been a failed state since 1991. With out a large ground force and reconstruction effort piracy will not stop. America and the West will not get involved in Somalia and the Africans don't have the capability to sort it out themselves.

The combined might of the US, NATO, EU, Russia, China and many of the RIMPAC nations has cobbled together a fleet of around 27 warship's. While these ship's have made an impact on piracy they have not stopped it. A fleet of this size is unsustainable in the long term. The shipping industry will be crying out for something to be done once these naval forces are reduced or removed altogther. This means that the RN can reasonably expect to conduct these operations for a decade or more. Even if Somali piracy does stop it can always move else where as it has in the past.

Every nation on earth benefits from free trade across the high seas. However too many countries neglect to pay their dues to keep the sea lanes open. To many ship's register in tax heavens to avoid paying tax. It's high time these people paid for the service provided by the Royal Navy, US Navy and a handful of others.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

State on State Warfare is Dead. All we need is Anti Virus

Apparently one if not the only winners of the SDSR will be Anti Cyber Warfare Operations. The government is prepared to offer a boost of some £500 million to protect the countries IT infrastructure.While it is obvious that we need to defend ourselves against Internet threats,is this a job for the military?

A cyber attack will be one of the 16 tier one threats identified by the SDSR as things we should prepare for. These tier one threats will also likely compromise people travelling on planes with box cutters as well as terrorist's buying smoke detectors to take that little radioactive bit to build a nuclear weapon. There is also likely to be a memo attached to the SDSR from both Nick Klegg and David Cameron announcing that state on state warfare is a thing of the past and we no longer need to be ready for it.

Obviously the 1982 Falklands War, 1991 Gulf War, 1999 Kosovo War, 2001 attacks on the US by the Taliban (The effective government of Afghanistan) and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq were all symptoms of the cold war even though most of them happened after the cold war. Also Iran building a Nuclear bomb does not constitute a threat to the country in the same way that Nigerians copying credit cards does. I am not sure what the government is buying for it's £500 million but I recon we could expect to get at least 10-20 million copies of Norton for that price.

The strategic defence and security review is a nonsense dreamed up by Ant and Dec. While Defence and Security share some links they should not be examined at the same time with a view to prioritising one over the other in a spending review. Security is a job for the police with the assistance of the military and security services where as defence is a job for the military. Mission creep is what got us into the mess we are in today where the Navy's is expected to provide distaster relief around the world, The Army to police Heathrow Airport and the RAF to shoot down airliners. While I am all for using our military effectively and efficiently we have to accept if the country wants to cut back on defence spending then these are the areas to cut. Let the police and MI5 deal with it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Swapping Budgets of the Army and Navy

Until recently I had no idea that the Army's budget was so much larger than that of the Navy. In this post I want to look at what we could have if we were to give the Navy the Army's budget and the Army the Navy's budget.

Present Budget's

Navy £7,945,340,000

Army £13,684,869,000

The present Army budget is almost double the Royal Navy's Budget

What type of Navy could we get for the Army Budget ?


3* Queen Elizabeth Class

Air Group

3* Carrier Air Group 69* F35C  4*E2D Hawk-eye


12* Type 45 Destroyer

12* Type 26 Combat Ship

12* Type 23 Frigate

Amphibious Task Force

4* Juan Carlos LHD

4*  Albion LPD

8* Bay Class LPD

Minor War Vessels

12* C3

12* Khareff Class Corvettes

12* River Class OPV


12* Astute

4* Vanguard

Royal Marines

3* Commando Brigades

1* Deploy able Divisional HQ

What Kind of Army Could we have with the Navy's Budget?

The Army could field 5 medium brigade's as well as it's special forces such as 22nd SAS regiment. This would allow the Army to deploy and sustain a single brigade.

On this budget we could sustain 3 reservists brigades constituting the bulk of the UK's armoured capability.

While the Army would be slimmed down dramatically the extra Commando Brigades as well as the Reservists in the Armoured Division would give the UK almost the same capability as at present.

 Which structure is Better?

In the modern environment of asymetric warfare fought on distant battle fields faster lighter forces are what we need. A Commando Division would give us the ability to not only respond in force but sustain a brigade much more easily than the present force structure can. With the Army budget the Navy would be comfortably the second biggest and most capable in the world.

What Planet is the RAF on?

With even more last minute leaks from the SDSR coming out it now seems that the RAF is hell bent on keeping it's Tornado's. After previously offering up the MRA4 for the chop they are now (once again) trying to get rid of the Harrier GR9.

Axing the Tornado fleet now will save £7.5 billion over the next 10 years. This is largely due to the fact that the Tornado requires a new upgrade to get it through to it's planned retirement date of 2022. Lets face it £7.5 billion is a tidy saving for a defence budget that is f**ked for the next 10 years.

Getting rid of the Harrier will save £1 billion. Hardly worth the bother.The Harrier has only just finished being upgraded from GR7 to GR9. Axing the MRA4 will save £3 billion over the air crafts life time as we have already just spent nearly £4 billion building the things.

Axing the Harrier now will leave the Royal Navy with two Invincible aircraft carriers and an entire carrier strike group with no aircraft until the F35's are ready in 2018. It will also leave fleet air arm pilots with no planes until 2018. In-fact this may be the RAF's motivation. Scrapping the Harrier will  instantly destroy the fleet air arm and leave the new carriers with no pilots for when they do eventually get their planes.

Scrapping the MRA4 will leave Britain with no long range airborne maritime patrol. Making it more difficult for trident submarines to depart the UK. It will also leave the RAF with little in the way of reconnaissance aircraft to provide the Army with its required C4 ISTAR capability.

The RAF is once again proving that it does not get the concept of joined up operations. One service covering another service to deliver a full spectrum capability. The RAF top brass (Known as the Tornado Mafia) are so hell bent on keeping their shinny toys to play top gun in that they are prepared to deal a death blow to any part of their service that is actually useful. Maybe we should all be asking the bigger question. If the RAF is going to behave so irresponsibly can we afford to keep it? Transferring RAF assets and personnel back to the Navy and Army could save billions and give us the type of joined up military we so desperately need.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Don't Worry Hill-dog

Hillary Clinton has now weighed into the SDSR debate.

Asked during a trip to Brussels for a NATO meeting whether the cuts in defence, specifically in Britain, worried her, she said: "Yes. The reason it does is because I think we do have to have an alliance where there is a commitment to the common defence."

It seems strange that a women who only 9 months ago was ready to stab us in the back during a meeting with the Argentine President and who's State Department referred to the Malvina's in a press conference is concerned that we are cutting back on defence.

However I would say don't worry Hill dog. As we said to you following your comments on the Falklands. I am sure you can get Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to send a loyal brigade of Argentine forces to Afghanistan for the next 10 year's. As well as a few A4 Sky hawks for ground support.

Argentina's latest military purchase, Proving that not all allies are equal

Astute, Could We Sell It?

While the British Submarine Industry is capable of building perhaps the best submarine in the world, it has not made any foreign sales in over 30 years. This is largely due to the fact that the Royal Navy only uses nuclear submarines. Conventional wisdom states that SSN's are too expensive for foreign navy's and that Nuclear boats can't be sold on the open market. However with emerging navies like India and Brazil going out of their way to build SSN's there may be a market for them after all. Selling even 3 or 4 Astute's might allow us to retain our nuclear submarine industry even in the face of a 10 boat Royal Navy.

Who might buy it?

Astute Submarines built for the Royal Navy cost in excess of £1 billion. Presumably and export version will cost more. Very few navies have this kind of money to chuck around. However growing powers like Brazil and India may represent a market.

If India purchased even a handful of these vessels it would be able to dominate the Indian Ocean. These boats are far more capable than anything the Russians, Chinese and Pakistani could offer in response.

Brazil has sought help from France and Russia as part of it's indigenous SSN program. At present the Brazilians claim the boat will not run on highly enriched Uranium. This will limit the boats power and will mean that it will be required to return to port every 5 years to refuel.

Australia is looking to acquire 12 submarines for a project cost of AUD 38 billion. These boats are to be conventional but with the capability of an SSN. At present the Australian government has ruled out an SSN to fit the bill however the capability they require seems very difficult with a SSK. As navy's such as China and India begin to deploy SSN's public opinion in Australia may shift more towards accepting nuclear submarines. AUD 38 billion would definitely cover a purchase of 12 Astute's.

Can we sell it?

International treaties do not prohibit the sale of SSN's between countries, nor the transfer of the technology it's self. For instance the US gave the UK Nuclear reactor technology in the 1950's. Russian has given technology in the past to China and supports current Chinese efforts to acquire modern SSN's. Russia is also supporting India and Brazil in their efforts to aquire SSN's.

(under the U.N. Arms Register and the Wassenaar Arrangement) are remarkably permissive, essentially allowing countries to make their own decisions on exports of diesel and even nuclear-powered submarines, with the only stipulation that they “declare” sales of larger submarines or those equipped with certain types of longer-range missiles. But no actual, international limitations exist.
The US participated heavily in the building of Astute unlike previous British SSN's. This was largely down to the fact that we had not built a nuclear boat in nearly 10 years and much of the design skill had been lost. Astute may be covered in the Technology transfer treaty we are trying to get the US to ratify at present. However for the moment the US has not ratified it and will likley not do so for several more years if ever. One thing would be clear though. The US would be unhappy about sales and would certainly refuse to cooperate with us in future on SSN design. 
The main legal issue that would arise would actually be with the fuel for the boats. We could sell the boats and even the reactors however British and American submarines require nuclear fuel enriched to a level of above 90%. It's illegal for any state other than the 5 recognised nuclear weapons states to have uranium enriched to this level under the non proliferation treaty. However India is not a signatory to this treaty and obviously has the ability to enrich uranium for it's nuclear weapons. Brazil while maintaining it's not enriching uranium for its own SSN program is refusing to play ball with the IAEA so we can assume they probably have the ability to make there own HEU fuel. Australia has no uranium enrichment capability and will likely not pursue one.

Would we want to sell Astute?

The advantages of selling Astute would be two fold. It would represent a massive export industry for the UK. It would allow us to maintain our submarine industry well into the future when the Royal Navy is likley to begin building an astute replacement in the 2020's.
The US gave the UK SSN technology because it realised that on it's own it could not build enough boats to counter the Soviet Navy. Selling Our allies SSN's might allow us to better counter countries such as China in the future.
The disadvantages would be numerous. SSN's like Astute represent the pinnacle of human technology. With out platforms as good as these any potential adversary would find it immensely difficult to fight us. We have learned in the past during conflicts such as the Falklands and Iraq that a country who is our Allie today may not be in future and we have often found our own weapons being used against us in future conflicts.
It will take India, Brazil and even China decades to catch up with the US and UK in the field of SSN technology. Selling them these boast allows them to catch up over night. While they would buy the first generation from us you could bet that in 10 years time they would be building there own after ripping off our technology.
While India and Brazil may be able to enrich there own fuel it would be wrong for us to encourage proliferation. Even if technically it was not illegal.
However there is still one option available. Australia has the same treaty with the US as the UK does in relation to technology transfer. We can always be sure that in any future conflict Australia will be on our side our neutral so we are unlikely to find this technology used against us. It would help the RIMPAC nations counter the increasing threat of Chinese SSN's. The main issue we would face is the HEU fuel needed for the reactors. However we could easily come up with a compromise where by the Reactors themselves were owned by the Royal Navy and run and maintained by RN officers. This would also mean that Aussie boast would have to return to the UK for refueling and maintenance would would help us offset much of our costs for our own Astutes.
The other obstacle to over come is Australian public opinion. At present the Australian public is very anti nuclear. However the requirements that Australia has for a future SSN will be near on impossible to provide with an SSK. Australian public opinion may change if they begin to feel threatened by Chinese SSN's and Indonesians SSK's in waters they have previously considered to be Australian. If Australia does change there mind about SSN's we should be ready to help out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Re-Emergence of the Battle Ship Pt 1

HMS Hood coming out of Rosyth
We all love those pictures from the "good old days' watching the Grand Fleet sail out under the Forth Bridge with those massive guns gleaming. For more that 50 years that is all they have been, old pictures. Battle ship's don't form a part of any one's navy today. Even the US Navy that prides itself on not just keeping but building even more cold war relics does not have a single battle ship in its fleet.

However a raft of new technologies coming in over the next 10 years may see the re-emergence of the battle ship. The battle ship may even serve to replace the aircraft carrier as the main surface combatant in the second part of the 21st centuary in the same way the aircraft carrier replaced the Dreadnoughts during World War Two.

Lessons from History

HMS Dreadnought
The battle ship of the Twentieth Century stemmed from HMS Dreadnought. The ship was so influential that subsequent classes were named for it. Dreadnought was built on lessons learned from the Russian Japanese War of 1905. It was shown that the ships with the larger calibre guns could out range the other vessels and so engage at ranges that kept them safe.

Inevitably these lessons once applied to other navy's lead to a naval race pitting ever larger calibre guns against each other. The bigger the gun the bigger the vessel required to carry them. In 1906 when Dreadnought was launched she carried ten 12 inch guns. She displaced 18,000 tonnes and could travel at 21 knts. Built just 30 years later the Yamato Class displaced 70,000 tonnes and carried nine 18 inch guns with a top speed of 27 knts.

Yamato Biggest Battle Ship Ever Built

The Demise of the big gun battle ship

The battle ship's demise was caused by three factors:

Aircraft Carriers- During the Second World War aircraft carriers replaced battle ship as the main strike platform of the fleet. Battle Ships were limited to engagements at 20-30 miles, where as carriers could strike enemy fleets at ranges of 300 miles. Eventually this range would stretch to over 700 miles with the advent of modern jets.

Price- Late model battleships represented massive investments by nations. Their  huge gun's, massive engines and exquisite armour took years to build and cost millions of dollars.

Missiles- Missiles replaced guns as the main weapon of surface combatants. This meant a small corvette or OPV could carry the same hitting power as a battle ship. This made it impossible to justify the expense of any form of new build battleship.

While battle ships were supplanted by aircraft carriers during and after the second world war this was not to say they were of no use. The US Navy kept it's four Iowa Class Battle Ships in service until 1991, forty years after they entered service. A longer service life than many of the fleet carriers of WWII. Their main purpose post WWII was land based power projection. There massive 16 inch guns could out gun an aircraft carrier close into shore. They were also fitted with Tomahawk missiles for deep strike and harpoon for anti ship battles. There huge size and thick armour made them all but immune to sea skimming sub sonic anti ship missiles. This meant they could travel close to shore to carry out shore bombardment with little fear of land based batteries or small boats. However at the end of their service life there was no budget or appetite for replacing the Iowa's. They left service and their role of shore bombardment in support of Marines was not replaced.

New advances in technology may see battle ship re introduced into blue water navy's in the next 10 to 20 years. Also the aircraft carrier is exhibiting many similar problems to the big gun battle ship in the 1940's.


There is a myriad of new defensive and offensive technology coming out which will make battle ships not only feasible as carrier replacements but actually more capable and cost effective.

Rail Gun from BAE

Rail Gun's- While rail guns have been the holly grail of naval weaponry for more than 50 years modern super conductors are beginning to make them a reality. The US Navy already has plans to put Rail Gun's into the Zumwalt Destroyers once available. These guns are intended to engage targets at up to 1,000 miles. Rounds can also be guided onto target's using smart munitions technology such as Excalibur. Importantly these type of munitions are cheap in comparison to missles or bombs dropped by aircraft. They will be small with no exhaust trail travelling at transonic speeds and almost impossible to guard against.

Lasers- While unlikely to be used as offensive weapons they will soon begin to make their debut as defensive weapons. Plans are already afoot to replace the RAM and Phalanx CIWS with a solid state free electron beam laser. Anti ship missles and aircraft are unlikely to every fly at sea level of speeds in excess of Mach 2-3. With a defensive system that can travel at the speed of light even mach 3 seems a little slow. It would be like the Swordfish bombers of the 1930's travelling at 90 miles an hour trying to Torpedo a Type 23 frigate with Sea Wolf. Lasers may give warships an immunity from air attack in the future. If aircraft can't attack ships then it makes carriers look expensive and of little use beyond long range reconnaissance.

Raytheon Laser CIWS has already shot down UAV's

Sensors- New phased array radars as well as future sensors such as LIDAR (Laser Radar) may also make it increasingly difficult for even stealthy aircraft to attack ship's.

UAV's- Unmanned Ariel Vehicles are small and relativley cheap to build. They don't need large supper carriers to launch them. They can fly for thousands of miles and remain on station. These can effectively give the fleet forward deployed eyes and ears allowing a battle ship with long range rail guns to engage targets well over the horizon.

Satellites- While satellites have been around for a long time they have typically not been avalable to battle field commanders in real time. However as the new generation of satellites become cheaper, smaller and more capable ship's at sea may be able to use targeting data provided by them. Again a long range rail gun using data supplied by satellites would be an awesome force to recon with. Far more deadly that an Anti Ship Ballistic Missile.

Armour- Armour has always been the key to the battle ships defence. With modern advances such as Carbon Nanotubes and Kevlar we may once again see a return to heavy armour being incorporated in war ship design. Also Innovative designs such as water armour might allow us to start thinking again of warships that can take multiple hits and keep fighting.

Missiles- Missiles are becoming more advanced. Giving a warship the ability to strike with precision and at long range against land targets. Factor in loitering munitions and a large warship can have almost the same strike capability as a carrier for a fraction of the cost.


Zumwalt Class Destroyer will eventually recieve Rail Guns

Carriers were once considered the cheaper alternative to battle ships. However using new US Aircraft Carriers as an example we can see the Carrier will cost $10-$15 billion, it's air group may cost $20-$25 billion and it's escorts will weigh in at around $10-$12 billion. That is anything up to a cost of $52 billion. Not to mention the running costs for the vessels and the roughly 6-7,000 sailors required to man them. At present there are no battle ship's being planned however the new Zumwalt Class Destroyers are similar to what we might envisage and they come in at $3 billion. They require no escort and no air group to support them. They also have a relativley small crew of just 200 or so.


If rail guns work then there is one thing we can be sure of. Vessels with larger rail guns and greater electrical capacity will be able to fire larger shells at longer distances than smaller ships with smaller guns. As with the Dreadnoughts this will likley lead to ever larger and larger vessels. These vessel will be far more able to defend themselves aginst surface and air threats with new missles and lasers.