Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tornados, Typhoons and Lightnings. The Mother of all storms SDSR

F35 taking of from HMS Queen Elizabeth
With the current SDSR being debated across the year one of the main areas for review is the choice for the Joint Combat Aircraft. This aircraft will replace the Harrier GR9 and be operated by both the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Navy. Its principal mission will be to conduct strike mission flying from the new Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers.

At present the F35B is slated to fulfill this requirement. However with cost over runs in the program as well as reduced capabilities both the Navy and Air Force are looking at alternatives.

This debate also takes place in the wider context of the SDSR. Asking two primary questions. Should the navy have a carrier strike capability and is the RAF necessary in the modern age.

I will outline the various choices for the JCA and how they will impact the wider questions that the SDSR is attempting to solve.

F35B lightning II

While much of its cost and capability is still unclear their are many fundamentals that we can draw upon. Firstly the F35B will be the most expensive variant of the F35 family. Secondly in terms of weapons load, speed and range it will be the poorest performer.

With this in mind the F35 would seem like the worst choice. However its STOVL ability will allow it to save money over time as the assumption is that a STOVL aircraft will not require cats and traps on the carriers. Pilots will have to train less which will also save money.

Further more a STOVL aircraft can operate closer to the front lines from smaller airfields so can have a higher sortie rate and provide better close air support for troops on the ground. The US Marine Corps Harriers were able to generate the highest sortie rate of any aircraft during the 1991 Gulf War for this reason.

F35 C Lightning II

A CATOBAR design meant solely  for the US Navy as a replacement for the older F18's. This aircraft will have the highest SPECS of any of the JSF aircraft in terms of range and payload. It will be significantly cheaper than the B version.

The main drawback will be the need for catapults on the carriers. While the CVF program has been designed with sufficient space to incorporate Catapults it has no steam boilers. In order to operate a catapult it will need to use an electromagnetic system. At present this technology is plagued with difficulties. Although both the RN and USN are continuing to develop their own versions.

FA 18 E/F

Since Boeing lost the JSF contract it has been keen to push evolved versions of the F18 family. On the face of it this is the cheapest option available. With a fly away cost of Just £40 million per aircraft. The F18 also has the advantage of being a combat proven aircraft. In addition it comes in an air superiority version which would allow the RN to provide a proper CAP.

The drawbacks are that this design is nearly 20 years old. Even in its more advanced version its future potential is probably limited. As the JCA is intended to operate well into the 2040's the F18 may not be able to keep up.


The French left the Euro fighter project specifically because they required a carrier version. Rafale is a 4.5 generation fighter similar in capabilities to the F18. Its main draw backs are higher cost around £60 million fly away and the fact that it would also require a CATOBAR carrier.

Sea Griffin

SAAB has proposed a version of its Griffin Fighter to India to fulfil its need for a carrier based fighter. The idea is that by using precision landing technology the land based fighter can be navalised with little modification. Griffin represents probably the least capable fighter choice and with a land based version costing £40 million it is likely a carrier version would be nearly as expensive as Rafale with less capability than the F18

Typhoon (N)

A navalised version of Typhoon has been examined on several occasions. It was declared that modifying the tranche 3 RAF typhoons into a naval version was the preferred option if the F35 program was canceled. However bringing the Typhoon to sea would be difficult as the air crafts basic design prohibits a pilots vision when using a high angle of attack landing. The stowage of weapons would also be inhibited as they would be too close to the deck. The Typhoon is also not cheap  with a £45-£50 million price tag for the land based version any Typhoon N is likely to be on the region of £60 million each.


The choice of CATOBAR and STOVL versions will also have wider effects. Probably the most significant choice will be that of the Airborne Early Warning platform. With out AEW the Royal Navy suffered heavy losses in the Falklands. In a bid to improve its ability it brought in a AEW version of the Sea King mk 7. However with limited range and  altitude this helicopter version is no where near as capable as a Hawk-Eye E2 or an AWACS E3D.

At present the RN intends to fly a Merlin Based AEW platform for its future requirement. Boeing is keen to offer an AEW based on its V22 Osprey however this is likely to be a very expensive aircraft. It will also now allow for any commonality with the RAF.

STOVL aircraft can fly in weather that CATOBAR planes cannot and the carrier is not required to turn into the wind for take offs and landing's. This can be very useful for operations at sea. They also have a reduced training requirement and land based RAF pilots would be able to operate from the carrier with little additional training.

Supporting Industry

It is important for the military to purchase its equipment with a view on maintaining the UK's industrial base. This would favour a navalised Typhoon. However with 15% of the JSF built in the UK (far more than the UK's potential orders) the JSF will have a key role in maintaining UK aerospace manufacturers. Especially BAE and Rolls Royce. RR who make the lift fan for the F35B have stated they will loose 300-700 British jobs if the UK does not order the F35B. The choice between B or C would have little effect on BAE. RR along with General Electric have been lobbying hard to build a jointly developed engine for the F35. It is unclear at the moment weather the US will reinstate this program however they are said to be keen at generating competition to keep Pratt and Whitney's costs down. I would say given GE's massive industrial and political base its more than likely that they will get the go ahead at some point. This may mean that we can get our own F35's with Rolls Royce Engines.


Being able to independently operate the aircraft is key to the UK. After congress failed to ratify a treaty allowing the UK access to technology the UK threatened to pull out. Re assurances from President Bush and the eventual ratification of the treaty calmed the UK's fears however their is still some debate on weather the UK will have full access to the software source code.

Traditionally the UK likes to buy US equipment then improve the operating software. They did this in the case of the Apache and ended up selling it back to the Americans.

It is likely that France and Sweden would give full access to their technology so the UK could independently operate the aircraft.

Wider Debate

The final JCA decision will be taken in the context of the wider debate currently surrounding the SDSR. With a cost of £10 billion the JCA is one of the prime targets for cuts. The Navy's carriers will cost an additional £4 billion to construct on top. As usual the RAF is keen to get rid of the Navy's aviation capability to preserve it's own.

However both the Navy and Army are questioning the need for the RAF with its large number of strike fighters. With little threat to Europe or the UK the military's key role is now power projection. The RAF wedded to its large land bases has been of very little use in the Wars fought after the 1991 Gulf War. Instead most of it's task has been providing strategic airlift for the Army as well as helicopters support. It has to be said these are areas that the RAF does not like to operate. The RAF has also failed many of its required tasks especially in helicopter support.

What option to choose for the JCA

With the high cost a navalising land based aircraft the Gripen and Typhoon are probably non starters. The high cost of Rafale in comparison to the F18 rules it out too.

That leaves us with 3 possible aircraft

The Queen Elizabeth will operate 36 JCA's. In order to maintain 36 JCA's on ship a total purchase of 63 aircraft will be necessary. To operate two air wings we will need to purchase 126 JCA's

This would give the following total purchase prices

F35 B     unit cost £100 million   total cost £12.6 billion

F35 C    unit cost £ 85 million     total cost £ 10.7 billion

F18 EF  unit cost £40 million       total cost £5.04 billion

On a cost basis the F18 wins hands down. A purchase of F18's could save the tax payer around £7 billion. However pulling out of the JSF program would mean that the UK's work share would likely be dramatically reduced. The JSF program is likely to cost in excess of $700 billion. The UK shares 15% of that work roughly $105 billion. This would represent the largest ever export in UK history and accounts for tens of thousands of high tech jobs.

Given these figures pulling out of the program makes little sense even if we could save £7 billion in the short term. We should also remember that the JCA choice will probably represent the last manned fighter every employed by the UK. Choosing a 30 year old design may put us into a difficult position later on. The F35 B and C will also represent a quantum leap in capability over the F18. For these reasons I would discount the F18 EF.

That leaves us with 2 choices. While the F35B will no doubt be a decent aircraft the C version will obviously be far superior. With a bigger faster aircraft able to carry more bombs we could look to employ less airframes and get a similar performance.

For every plane we reduce on the carrier we get rid of 2 airframes. Having an air wing of 36 aircraft seems excessive. For instance 36 strike aircraft is what the RAF was able to deploy in total to Operation Telic the invasion of Iraq in 2003. While the Queen Elizabeth CV can accommodate 40 aircraft or possibly even as many as 50 in an emergency it does not mean that it has to. US carriers can accommodate almost 100 aircraft but rarely sale with more than 60.

The choice of the B variant by the Navy was made before the recommendation for the Queen Elizabeth Class. For a small Invincible type carrier it made sense. However after going to the expense of producing a 65000 tonne super carrier it makes no sense spending more money on a a less capable aircraft when we can buy a cheaper better one.

For these reasons I would recommend a reduced purchase of F35 C. If each queen Elizabeth operated 24 we would require a total purchase of 42 airframes per carrier wing. A total order of 84 airframes in the C variant would mean a total cost of £7.14 billion. That well with in the £10 billion budget allocated to the JCA at present.

24 F35 C would give us a strike ability second only to a Nimitz Class carrier and even then not by a long way. The risks of choosing the C variant are that we have not operated a CATOBAR carrier in a long time and we would need significant training to do so. In fact the RN seems to be ahead of the game on this and has sent more Harrier pilots to the US Navy for training this year than ever before. RN and RAF Harrier pilots are amongst the best in the business and I have no doubt these  highly capable aviators would be up to the task.

Secondly their is the issue of the EM catapult. A new Carrier with a new catapult technology and a new aircraft is potentially a recipe for disaster. It will likely take a few years to sort out and they're will probably be a period of 1-2 years when the UK is with out a carrier based strike component. However given this new capability will last for up to 50 years and will represent such a quantum leap in performance it is something we can accept.

Rolls Royce will loose around 130 orders for its lift fans in the F35B version. While this will impact the company significantly it will not be a death nail. Staying in the JSF program will allow the UK, GE and Rolls Royce to continue to lobby for the F136 engine which may lead to significantly more orders for RR in the future than the lift fan ever could have.

Wider Debate

The wider debate about how and if the UK should employ strike aircraft is key to the JCA decision. Choosing the F35C and having the ability to place 24 in theatre makes the RAF's current ability to employ 36 GR4 Tornado's and GR9 Harriers seem comparitivley weak.

Purchasing the F35C and operating them under the Fleet Air Arm would allow us to replace the current Harrier and Tornado force. This would see the main strike fighter capability of the UK switch from the RAF to the Royal Navy.

Early retirement of the Tornado is likely to save some £7.5 billion. Enough to pay for the reduced JCA purchase. The Harriers which cost much less would be withdrawn once the JCA was operational. This would leave the RAF operating a single force of just 160 Typhoons. However with the Typhoons Tranche 3 having far superior ground attack capability to the Tornado or harrier the RAF would still have an effective strike package. In an operation the UK could deploy perhaps 24 F35C and 12-24 Typhoons. This would be a significant increase in present capabilities with a much reduced cost.

Choosing the C variant could also lead to other cost savings. We could replace the 7 E3 D century's and the 10 Sea King AEW with a single purchase of 12-14 E2D evolved Hawk eye's. With the cut in aircraft numbers as well as the ability for carriers to operate closer to their area of operation we could also reduce the Tanker fleet. Currently the future strategic tanker contract envisages the need for up to 15 aircraft with 9 being available to the RAF. This new look force could make do with just 6 full time tankers. This could save another £ 8 billion over the life time of the contract.


The RAF should also loose control of its helicopters. It makes far more sense for the Army to operate these than the RAF.

UAV's and UCAV's

To placate the RAF and to enhance future capability we should begin development of a 6th generation UCAV. Possibly based on the BAE Taranis program. The advantage of such an aircraft is that it does not require much in the way of continued training with pilots only needing to operate through simulators. A great deal of these aircraft can be maintained for a fraction of today cost. The UCAV should also be carrier capable. Eventually the Queen Elizabeth's might operate with a combat air wing of

4 E2D Hawk eye
24 F35 C's
12 SeaTaranis UCAV

This would represent a world class carrier air-wing and could be achievable by as early as 2020.


Like it or not in a more unstable world than ever we are going to have to fight more wars. With the increasing islamisation of the middle east and the dwindling supply of natural resources things are only going to get worse.

In order to intervene we need strike aircraft. In every war we have fought since WWII the US Navy has been able to employ its carrier strike force to great effect. In every war since WWII the US Air Force and RAF have struggled to deploy aircraft. If we have strike aircraft we need to make sure we can use them when ever they are needed. Carrier aviation gives us the best chance of this. If the current SDSR is looking to cut cold war relics then surely the massive fleets of cold war jets possessed by the RAF should be the first thing to go. The potential savings could be on the order of £15 billion. Far more than the cost of the Carriers and F35 C's required to repalce them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Last Time Around (Defence Reviews of the 1960's)

CVA 01 Queen Elizabeth Class 1966
Below is a paper reviewing the defence reviews of the 1960's and the battle between the RAF and the Royal Navy. If you change the dates you could be forgiven for mistaking this as extracts from the current SDSR. It is intersting to note all the conflicts which again croped up especially the deployment to Kuwait in 1961 to prevent an Iraq invasion.

In the end the RAF won the battle last time round.. The carriers were canceled and we had to fight the Falklands War.

Amphibious Renaissance

The Royal Navy and the Royal Marines, 1956-1966[1]

Dr. Ian Speller, King’s College London and the

UK Joint Services Command and Staff College

Expeditionary capabilities, including amphibious forces, are currently undergoing something of a renaissance within the British armed services. The change in the strategic environment since the end of the Cold War has brought a corresponding change in defense posture. Where once the Royal Navy was primarily concerned with the struggle for sea control in the eastern Atlantic it is now adapting to a new role projecting power and influence far beyond Britain’s shores. This is not the first time that such a change has occurred.

From the mid-1950s, the Royal Navy undertook a major reappraisal of its role, reducing the emphasis that it placed on preparing for a war against the Soviet Union and placing a new priority on power projection. Expeditionary capabilities, previously ignored, became central to the fleet’s rationale. The navy developed a concept of mobile amphibious task groups, supported by large aircraft carriers and the necessary escorts and replenishment ships. These forces were to concentrate in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, in the region described by the British as ‘east of Suez’. Almost inevitably, this brought them into conflict with the Royal Air Force (RAF) who had developed their own scheme for the projection of power overseas. In the debates that followed, the various strengths and limitations of either case were discussed exhaustively and the value of both was tested in a number of actual operations.

The debates are of historical interest because their outcome had a fundamental impact on the shape and size of the British armed forces in the 1970s, 1980s and beyond. They may also be of contemporary value as they highlight issues that remain important today, particularly as both the United States and the United Kingdom once again seek to project power overseas in a fashion that is militarily effective, politically acceptable and economically sustainable.

Obviously, in 20 minutes I will not be able to cover the subject in as much detail as I would like. I may have to skim over some points. I would be delighted to elaborate on these during the discussion period. All of the important issues are covered in some depth in my paper, copies of which are available on request.[2]

The Future Role of the Navy

The 1956 Suez Crisis demonstrated the inability of the British armed forces to mount a rapid military response to crises beyond Europe. As a result, the 1957 Defence Review articulated a shift towards smaller, professional forces and greater strategic mobility to meet the demands of limited conflict beyond Europe.[3] Even prior to Suez the Navy had anticipated the requirement and developed a new concept for the Future Role of the Navy. They announced that, in the future, forces devoted to major war would be reduced and resources would be reallocated to limited war tasks. At the center of this new concept was the creation of a task group built around an aircraft carrier and a new ‘commando carrier’ that would be based at Singapore.[4]

The new concept represented a fundamental shift in naval priorities. Prior to 1956 the main emphasis in plans and procurement had been preparation for a major conflict with the Soviet Union. Power projection capabilities in general and amphibious forces in particular had received a low priority.[5] The change did not occur without some opposition. However, despite some initial misgivings, in the years after 1956 the navy embraced their new expeditionary role. Two 20,000 ton aircraft carriers were converted into helicopter equipped ‘commando carriers’ (LPH); the obsolete ships of the Amphibious Warfare Squadron were replaced by the new LPDs HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid and six new Landing Ships, Logistic (LSLs) were built.

Amphibious vessels were only one component of this new expeditionary capability. Aircraft carriers were at the center of the proposed new task force. The Minister of Defence, Duncan Sandys, had begun his defense review with a skeptical attitude towards the value of aircraft carriers. However, the First Sea Lord, Lord Mountbatten had skillfully overcome this opposition by demonstrating their value in support of operations overseas.[6] Unfortunately, gaining and maintaining approval for the replacement of the existing ships would prove more difficult.

The Admiralty developed the case for their new task force. Drawing on assets from all three Services the core of the force was to be an Amphibious Group of three operational ships, based at Singapore. These ships would be supported by four aircraft carriers, of which a maximum of three would be in service at any one time. An amphibious group of this size would be able to land and support a balanced military force of up to brigade group size. It would be able to conduct a tactical landing against a hostile shore or on a friendly coast where reception facilities were absent.[7]

Should Britain be required to maintain a presence east of Suez with no bases except in Australia the Admiralty advocated what was called the Double Stance. This required the maintenance of two amphibious groups supported by a total of six large aircraft carriers in order to guarantee the permanent availability of a brigade sized landing force with appropriate air support. The resulting force, to be called the Joint Services Seaborne Force, would draw on assets from all three services. Needless to say, this would require a significant increase in expenditure on the navy.[8] Unsurprising the key Chiefs of Staff study completed in 1961, British Strategy in the Sixties, ruled out the Double Stance on the grounds of cost. Nevertheless, it did approve the concept of a single amphibious group requiring the deployment of all four major vessels east of Suez. Aircraft carrier strength was limited to one and later two such vessels maintained in commission in theatre.[9]

The utility of the Admiralty’s concept was demonstrated during the 1961 Kuwait crisis. In response to a perceived threat to Kuwaiti independence from Iraq, the British deployed to Kuwait a reinforced infantry brigade group supported by air and maritime assets. Under the existing plan to reinforce Kuwait, the majority of troops were to arrive by air and join equipment held in stockpiles in Kuwait and Bahrain. However, in the first days of the crisis, both Turkey and Sudan refused to allow over-flight of their airspace and this, in conjunction with the ‘air barrier’ of unfriendly states in the Middle East, seriously undermined the plan. Indeed, 24 hours after the initial Kuwaiti request for help on 30 June the only full unit in Kuwait was No. 42 Commando landed from the commando carrier HMS Bulwark and supported by half a squadron of tanks from the LST HMS Striker.[10]

Unimpeded by political restrictions and able to poise over the horizon in international waters, ostensibly slow amphibious ships proved quicker and more mobile than the air transported alternative. In addition, and in contrast to troops arriving in long-range transport aircraft, the troops landed by helicopter from Bulwark did not need airport facilities to arrive and if necessary could secure theatre entry in a non-benign situation. In the event the amphibious force was able to adopt a covering position to secure the entry of the follow-on forces arriving by air and no Iraqi attack materialized. It was noteworthy that despite the existence of airfield facilities at Kuwait and Bahrain, the RAF was unable to secure a satisfactory air defense environment before the arrival of the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious on 9 July.[11]

By 1964, all of the ships of the Amphibious Group were in service or being built. The situation regarding aircraft carriers was less satisfactory. The hulls of all of the existing ships had been laid down during the Second World War. Expensive modernization programs might extend the lives of these vessels but it was clear that if the navy was to maintain a fleet of three operational carriers into the 1970s, as planned, new construction would be required. The Admiralty favored large carriers over smaller, less capable vessels. Despite some concern that large and therefore costly vessels might encounter political opposition, in June 1962 the Admiralty approved a design concept for a ship of 53,000 tons and costing about £60 million to construct.[12] This brought them into conflict with the RAF who had their own ideas about the best way to deploy air power overseas.

The Joint Services Seaborne Force versus the Island Stance

In what became known as the ‘Island Strategy’ or ‘Island Stance’ the RAF claimed that British interests could be supported through the application of long-range air power deployed from a notional series of bases that could be established across the region.[13] The strategy offered a more limited intervention capability based around the use of long-range strike aircraft and air transported troops. It provided for intervention by a parachute battalion and an infantry brigade group, without armor up to 1,000 miles from the mounting base. The majority of the military force would be left in the United Kingdom and deployed by air into theatre if required.

The Admiralty correctly interpreted the Island Strategy as an attack on their plans. There was no place for either aircraft carriers or amphibious ships in the RAF plan. The navy criticized the scheme on the grounds strategic reality, political feasibility, and military practicality.[14]

They claimed that the strategy was not realistic because it was inflexible. Being tied to static bases, it would be unable to adapt to meet new threats in different areas. They also questioned the political feasibility or desirability of maintaining all of the island bases that were required. It was suggested that the establishment of bases off the east coast Africa would be interpreted as a threat to the newly independent East African nations. This might result in an increase in Chinese or Soviet influence in the region.

The navy also pointed out that the military feasibility of going into battle at ranges of up to 1,000 miles was untried and was dependent on there being no worthwhile opposition in the air or on the ground. In any case, even under the most favorable conditions, with four days warning, it would still take between eight and ten days to undertake the unopposed airlift of a brigade group 1,000 miles forward. There was little difference between this figure and the reaction time for a seaborne lift. The air-transported troops would have the additional disadvantage of arriving unacclimatised. With few land and air forces permanently based in the theatre the strategy would also lack the physical deterrence associated with seaborne forces.

The debate was conducted in the context of bitter inter-service rivalry. In the short-term, the shortcomings of the Island Strategy and the superior intervention capability of carrier/amphibious forces ensured the success of the Admiralty case. On 30 July 1963, the Minister of Defence announced to Parliament the decision to build an aircraft carrier of about 50,000.[15] The Admiralty clearly hoped that more would follow. Indeed, they went as far as to agree a name for the second vessel. Unfortunately, this success was to be short lived. Within three years, the carrier replacement program had been cancelled.

The Royal Marines

Inter-service rivalry also characterized the relationship between the army and the Royal Marines. The Royal Marines had prospered under the navy’s new role. The Commando Brigade expanded from three to five battalion-sized units and consideration was given to raising a sixth. The brigade also received additional artillery and logistic support elements, provided by the army. These were designed to allow the brigade, or individual commando units, to operate independently in an expeditionary role. This caused some disquiet in the army who displayed a periodic interest in the amphibious role east of Suez. This had less to do with a genuine commitment to amphibious operations than to a belief that by replacing one or more Royal Marine Commando units they might be able to avoid cuts to their own infantry regiments. Such attempts became particularly vigorous as the defense review initiated by the new Labour Government in 1964 began to bite.[16]

It is hard to portray this as anything other than cynical single-service politics. The army had no knowledge or experience of amphibious operations whereas the Royal Marines were specialists in this role, with years of hard won experience. In reality, it made little sense for the already over-stretched army to take on a new responsibility at the expense of the Royal Marines who were fully manned and turning away prospective recruits. In the event the gathering pace of change made the debate rather academic as the role that was being fought over was abandoned. Nevertheless, the debate over who should provide the infantry element of an amphibious force, and the degree to which specialist skills are required, has proven to be an enduring one that can still invite controversy today.

The End of Empire

The Royal Navy contributed towards the protection of British interests overseas in a variety of ways during the 1960s. This was particularly true of the east of Suez region. From exercises with allies and port visits by individual vessels, to participation in the ANZUK naval force and provision of the Hong Kong frigate guard ship the navy was an everyday feature of the military and diplomatic life of the region. The conceptual basis for the navy’s policy was founded on the belief that the mobility and access provided by the politically free environment of the sea offered the ideal means of projecting power over a wide area and in response to unforeseen circumstances. They also believed that on many occasions the threat of air strikes by distant (and thus unseen) bombers would be insufficient to deter opposition and that troops arriving at secure airports in long-range transport aircraft would not suffice in all circumstances.

The utility of the maritime concept was demonstrated in operations at Kuwait in 1961, at Tanganyika in 1964, and during the final withdrawal from Aden in 1967.


In the decade between 1956 and 1966, British amphibious capabilities had undergone something of a renaissance. Old, obsolescent war-built ships and craft were replaced by a modern mix of helicopter-equipped commando carriers, dock landing ships, and logistic landing ships. For the first time since 1945 the Royal Navy accepted amphibious warfare as a high priority task and the Royal Marines prospered. The Admiralty did not claim that they alone could meet the needs of British foreign and defense policy overseas and portrayed their concept for a maritime strategy as being inherently joint. Army units would provide support and follow-on elements for the amphibious group while RAF land-based aircraft were acknowledged as a vital supplement to carrier-based aviation. Inevitably, however, the concept of a Joint Services Seaborne Force was liable to attract funds to the navy budget and at the expense of the other services. The ‘Double Stance’ was ideally suited to British needs east of Suez, but a navy that included six large aircraft carriers and eight major amphibious ships could only be afforded if radical cuts were made in other areas of the defense budget. This was never likely to happen. The Single Stance approach adopted in the 1960s placed a much smaller burden on the budget, but this reduced capability made it inevitable that scarce ships would sometimes be in the wrong place at the wrong time

When reception facilities could be guaranteed, air transported troops promised faster arrival times than the maritime alternative. Likewise, land-based fighter and strike aircraft could provide a cheaper alternative to carrier aviation when crises occurred within range of their bases. Neither situation could be relied upon. In situations where reception facilities were not available, or where larger forces requiring heavy equipment were needed, a mixture of maritime and air transported assets could build up a balanced military force faster than by air alone. Experience at Kuwait and Tanganyika showed that when a warning period allowed ships to poise offshore, maritime assets could offer an extremely rapid intervention capability. Strike aircraft operating from island bases lacked the mobility, flexibility, and physical deterrence associated with a forward deployed maritime force. There was also a serious question about the long-term viability of the bases from which they would operate.

The concept of a task force comprising an Amphibious Group and a large aircraft carrier and supported by joint assets was extremely well suited to British needs. Able to travel freely across international waters without reliance on forward bases, host nation support or over-flight rights—maritime forces could offer influence without provocation in a way that could not be matched by land based alternatives.

Unfortunately, the operations that they were designed to support were essentially those of choice rather than necessity. When the government chose to concentrate resources on more immediate tasks, the maritime approach was doomed. For a period, in the late 1960s, the government sought to use airpower as a means of maintaining a very limited intervention capability. This did not occur because air power could do the same job better, or more cheaply. Rather, it was a reflection of the fact that the task had changed. Britain no longer aspired to maintain the robust, multi-faceted intervention capability that the maritime force provided.

The military and political value of the Joint Services Seaborne Force concept was belatedly demonstrated during the 1982 Falklands conflict. The task force that re-captured the Falkland Islands was in essence a smaller version of the force envisaged by the Admiralty twenty years earlier. Unfortunately, it lacked the scale and range of capabilities envisaged in the 1960s, and for this the sailors, marines, soldiers, and airmen were to pay a heavy price. However, the ability of a balanced maritime force to respond rapidly and effectively to unforeseen circumstances was demonstrated once again. The task force that sailed from Britain in April 1982 provided a visible sign of British determination and offered the politicians a variety of political options including, ultimately, the re-conquest of the disputed islands. This could not have been achieved by any other means. The arguments deployed by the Navy in the 1960s were vindicated once again. Given their stated desire to maintain a role in the wider world, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic would do well to remember this.

Commonwealth of Independent Nation States (CINS) Pt2

Why would we choose to sign up?

There are different reasons and benefits every nation would receive. I will outline these on a country by country basis.


Canadians often share a difficult relationship with their numbers to the south. Fiercely independent Canada has done its best to preserve its national sovereignty. However with a population of only 30 million Canada has seen its place slide over the past decade. The smallest of the G7 economies Canada is struggling with maintaining its military and foreign policy.

Canada is a large producer of oil and other resources however it is part of NAFTA and most Canadians feel aggrieved by the treatment they receive at the hands of the USA when it comes to trade. As part of CINS trade bargaining would be done at super national level giving much more economic weight to deal with other countries and make sure foreign markets are open to us.

Canada also has the issue of its northern boarder. With the North West passage opening up and the scramble for arctic resources Canada needs a much larger military presence to deal with Russian incursion. Canada's traditional Allie America is also scrambling for these resources. Canada may become marginalised as the US and Russia negotiate who gets what in the 21st century.


With a massive resource boom all looks well for Australia at the moment. However present success covers some of the structural weaknesses apparent in the Australian economy. Primary resource extraction is not always going to be so profitable. The economy needs to diversify away from this sector.

Attempts to increase Australias military standing in the region have also met with difficulty. Australia is attempting to build a much larger and more capable Navy however with little expertise in construction of warships and submarines the country is struggling to build these new units.

Australia is also located in a dangerous region. Many of its numbers eye it resource riches with envy. Indonesia is very near by. Not only is it unstable but it has a population 10 times that of Australia. China to is becoming more assertive in the south china sea and pacific areas that Australia considers are in its sphere of influence.

Australia has also suffered from a volatile currency which can often damage its export industry.

New Zealand

In recent year New Zealand has struggled economically. The Kiwi dollar has risen and fallen sharply. This has caused major damage to New Zealand's exports. Its farmers have also suffered greatly in trade negotiations with tariffs imposed against New Zealand.

Incursions in particularly by France during the rainbow warrior incident have highlighted New Zealand's lack of security. With a small military NZ relies principally on Australia and the USA for its security. However in the power plays of the 21st centuary who can be sure that these partners will be their in force at all times.

United Kingdom

The UK continues to struggle with its place in the world. With its place in Europe increasingly marginalised by France and Germany as they move closer to integration and its relations with the USA becoming strained the UK desperately needs a new direction. Sustaining its number 2 military power status has become increasingly difficult given the rise of china and the UK's relatively small economy.

The pound has been open to pressure in international markets being attacked by speculators on several occasions. Moving into the Euro is an increasingly unlikely event for the UK. The UK also has to contribute a very large amount of money to the EU over £20 billion per year. With a small agriculture base and a comparatively small export trade with Europe the UK gains little from EU membership.

In short a loose conglomaration of independent nation states dealing principally with foreign policy and monetary policy makes sense for all of these countries.

How to start?

Starting a project like this is not with out precedence. Who would have thought in 1945 that France and Germany would be signing the treaty of Rome just 10 years later. Reconciling four countries which are for all intense in purposes identical would be far easier.

Most voters are not concerned by issues such as trade negotiations, foreign policy and military matters. The first thing to start with should be these areas.


Starting with a common command and control the process could then be rolled out to common procurement and eventually joint deployments. All these military served under a common banner just 60 years ago and have operated together in many numerous theatres together since.

Trade Negotiation

The UK would likely have to renegotiate its position with in Europe. As Canada would have to renegotiate its position with in NAFTA. However with the worlds second largest economy behind them it should be possible to maintain equitable free trade agreements with everyone required.

Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy could be decided upon by a council of ministers in the way the EU use to be. A single seat on the UN security council would represent all parties and a presidency could be rotated between all the PM's of each country. Becoming the worlds second most powerful man is likely to be quite appealing to the PM's of all countries involved even if its just for 6 months.

Space Program

In order to build a nation it is necessary to give its citizens something to make them proud. A CINS space program including manned flights possibly even to the moon as well as deep space probes could achieve this for a relatively small cost.

Freedom of Movement

Giving the people of all 4 nations freedom of movement in each others countries would come up against little difficulty. It would probably also be met with wide spread support of the people. Indeed most people cant understand why we don't have it in the first place. Eventually common passports could be issued but only once people are comfortable with the integration process.

Combined Immigration

One of the key benefits especially for Australia would be a combined immigration policy. Asylum seekers could be spread across all four nations taking much of the heat of of Australia.

Common Currency

After a number of years perhaps 10 or more a common currency should be established. This would give the biggest economic benefits to most of the states.

It would be relativley simple to combine the interest rates of Canada and the UK however much more difficult to factor in the higher inflationary economies of Australia and New Zealand. It would likely be necessary in the beginning to use taxes rather than interest rates to control local inflation. There must also be some form of transfer mechanism between nations who are performing well and nations who are not. A lack of such a mechanism is what has lead to the difficulties being face by the Eurozone at present.


All nations would keep their sports teams in the way that Scotland and England do at present. However a joint Olympic team would help to foster closer national ties. Especially if the team won the Olympics.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Commonwealth of Independant Nation States (CINS) Pt1

Since the Second World War the UK has distanced it's self from its former colonies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. When the UK joined the EEC in 1972 it had to put trade tariffs on these countries cutting its final economic ties with them.

Post WWII the US has taken over from the UK as these countries main allie. However as we well know the US can be a difficult ally and often pursues its own objectives at the expense of its friends.

The UK as well as all of these countries are now struggling with their identity in the 21st century. Too small to be fully independent in a world of mega powers but too proud to consider more integration with larger economies such as the USA or Euro land.

An opportunity may now exist to rejoin the UK with the nations of Canada, Australia and New Zealand to form a new country. As the Americans would say this idea is way out of left field however its not as crazy as it sounds and the benefits could be massive both economically and militarily.


Obviously the 4 nations that would make up this country span the globe. This would mean that each nation would have to maintain a high degree of autonomy. I would suggest limited integration to a similar level as the members of the Euro zone have at present, all be it with a bit more clarity and a less clumsy bureaucratic system.


An elected super national Parliament seated in London at Westminster. The government would have a limited remit dealing with.

  • Foreign Policy
  • Military Policy
  • Monetary Policy
  • Immigration
  • Trade policy
As Australia, Canada and New Zealand operate identical political systems to the UK, integration would be simple. We also already share a common head of state. Our legal systems are also already integrated with the Law Lords (House of Lords) passing judgments in each country in the way the supreme court does in the US. The UK would have to remove much of the EU legislation and its subservience to the EU court of human rights however I doubt their would be much protest in the UK.

The present national Parliaments would remain in place. The Super National government would have limited tax raising powers but would rely on national contributions in the way the EU does at present.

To prevent offending any one, the seat of English Government could be moved from London to Manchester. With the powers of the new Parliament the present United Kingdom would not work. Scotland should become an independent nation inside the new format leading to 5 separate independent states. Wales and Northern Ireland could be offered the same if they so choose. This would make England the largest single state in this Union but would give it only 40% of the total population. MP allocations could be waited in favour of smaller nations such as Scotland and NZ giving the following distribution of MP's.

England 30%
Canada 25%
Australia 20%
Scotland  10%
New Zealand 7.5%
Wales 5%
Northern Ireland 2.5%

Whats in it For Me?

All these nations have their own separate national identities. However we share almost identical histories, social issues and beliefs. All of this is under threat from the rise of large countries such as China and India as well as conglomerations such as the EU. In short we need to become part of a larger group weather we like it or not. The UK with the EU, Canada in NAFTA or Australia with ASEAN. Its better to join with people who don't require you to change your ways or culture.

Together we are Strong

The Commonwealth of Nations would be today one of the worlds largest economies. We would have a combined GDP of $4.63 trillion dollars. Making us the worlds second largest economy ahead of China and Japan.

China would surpass us by 2011 and India would likely over take us around 2020. However Brazil, Russia and Indonesia would never over take us until well into the 22nd Century if ever.

Our population would be 120 million making us the 11th largest in the world. Ahead of Mexico and behind Japan. However with our higher population growth above 1% we would over take Russia and Japan in numbers before 2030.

We would be the largest country in the world in terms of area with a land mass of 18 million km2

We would be the largest exporter of all metals and we would be the third largest oil producer in the world behind only Russia and Saudi Arabia.

We would also be the worlds largest food exporter.

In terms of military we would have the worlds second largest defence budget. We would maintain that spot until atleast 2020. We would also have the worlds second biggest aviation sector and we would be in the top two for Arms exports.

In short we would be a super power. Not on the same scale as the US but bigger than the rest by quite a margin.

British Indian Ocean Fleet

Diego Garcia
With the end of the cold war the focus of British Military Forces has moved from Europe and the North Atlantic to the Middle East and South Asia. The coming power struggles of the 21st century are likely to be between the mega powers of India and China as well as other large Asian countries such as Indonesia. Any future power struggle is likely to revolve around the middle east and whats left of the world's oil supply. If the United Kingdom is to continue a leading role in the 21st Century it will have to become more involved in the Indian Ocean again.

The current Somali Pirate situation has highlighted the lack of ability of western navies to deploy and maintain a fleet in the Indian Ocean. The combined forces of NATO, Russia, China, Japan and others have been able to deploy a total of 27 warships of Somalia. Even this relativley large fleet has been unable to deter pirate attacks. With most western navy ships required to deploy from Europe or the USA to theatre it is become difficult to maintain a substantial presence in the area.

The rise of terrorism has made it much more difficult to base naval units in the Indian Ocean. Attacks such as the USS Cole have spooked navies to stay out of port in all but the most benign Islamic countries. Ships transiting to the Indian Ocean must also use the Suez canal. However with the increasing islamisation of countries like Egypt this route may not always be available.

All these factors are only going to get worse across the 21st century. To be ahead of the game I feel it is time to look at basing a Royal Navy fleet in the Indian Ocean once again.

Ships based in the Indian Ocean will be able to respond much quicker to emergencies and give the UK a massively increased diplomatic recognition from countries like India, Indonesia, China and Australia.

Fleet Base

Other countries such as the USA and France have established bases in the Gulf. However this is less than ideal location for situating a large naval base. The main problem is the threat from Iran. With little difficulty Iran could block the Straits of Hormuz. Aircraft attacks would also pose a threat and the potential for changes in local governments might see bases having to be closed.

A substantial fleet base needs to be well outside of any potential adversaries range of attack. I would say the British Indian Ocean Territories provides the best solution. The joint US UK base at Diego Garcia already has a large runway and substantial anchorage. The US UK agreement on use of Diego Garcia expires in 2016. I would allow the US to stay however with more of the base area turned over to UK forces. Dry dock facilities would have to be installed but other than that almost everything we would need is already there.

Arial View of Diego Garcia


As we would be operating a large military base we would have too defend it. I would like to see a squadron of typhoons based a Diego Garcia  12 aircraft in total.

As most of the Russian submarine threat has dried up in the North Atlantic I would also move some of the MRA4's from Scotland to Diego Garcia perhaps rotating 3 through the airfield at all times. The ability of these aircraft to launch Storm Shadow would give the UK a small strategic bomber capability in the Indian Ocean as well. We would also have to base tanker planes for support.

Total AWACS coverage over the area would be expensive however a radar contained on a BLIMP would allow for wide coverage at a much cheaper cost. We would possibly base a single AWACS aircraft to support extended operations.

We would also have to maintain at least a battalion of soldiers on the base.

Naval Forces

Operating a substantial Naval Force including carriers and amphibious ships would likely be expensive. Instead I would opt to permanently deploy.

  • 3 SSK's
  • 2 SSN's
  • 18 Venator C3 escort Frigates
  • 3 Type 45 batch 2 destroyers
While ships would be based in Diego Garcia they would rotate back the UK for maintenance. Crews would also rotate by aircraft in the way they do to the Falklands to operate HMS Clyde.The naval base would have the ability to change the modular aspects of the C3 patrol frigates such as different guns, Sensors and Multi Mission Containers.

In addition the Indian Ocean fleet would be supplemented by either a carrier strike force or amphibious ready group unless it was required some where else.

Areas of Operation

These vessels would operate from Australia and the South China Sea to the Gulf and Red Sea.

Paying for it

Basing ships closer to their area of operation would reduce the need for transit saving fuel and time. We could probably close the Plymouth Naval Base and 1 RAF base in the Moray firth.

Personnel would need an area for rest and recreation. The Maldives are only an hour away so personnel could spend time their on shore leave.

The base should be affordable with in the current budget.

Diplomatic Issue's

India has never been happy about Diego Garcia. It see's the base as operating in its territory. Forming a military alliance and conducting joint training exercises should help to alleviate India's concerns. China would not like it however hampering China's ability to operate in the Indian Ocean would be the main aim of the base.

Falklands 2, Could We Win?

This is a post I previously made back in August. I intend to revisit this idea of retaking the Falklands with the forces we have left after the SDSR next week. 

Much has been made of recent cuts in the navies escorts. Particularly the assumption that with the reduced number of escorts we would be unable to win a Second Falklands War. However this argument of less escorts does not take into account the quantum leap in the capability of the new ships and submarines in the Royal Navy today.

As the Falklands is probably the ultimate test of any Navy's ability to project force I will examine a scenario that could lead to a second conflict and attempt to test the UK's ability to respond to the situation militarily.


Time Argentine Invasion:  June 2011
Attacking Forces:  Argentina, Venezuela
Rational :  Argentina,Very large oil deposits discovered around the Falklands
                Venezuela, Hugo Chavez wishes to deflect criticism at home with a war against acorrupt capitalists

Initial Attack

Under the pretext of a joint military excercise Argentine and Venezuelan aircraft attack Mount Pleasant Airbase. They are some how able to catch the RAF typhoons on the ground and close the runway blocking British reinforcement's.

Venezuelan Aircraft Armed with Sunburn Anti Ship Missiles engage type 23 frigate HMS St Albans. HMS Clyde is sunk in port Stanley by Aircraft dropping retarded bombs. A large combined Venezuelan Argentine force is landed ashore. 300 British Army personnel based at Mount Pleasant put up a good fight inflicting heavy casualties but heavily out numbered and with no hope of re-supply eventually have to surrender.

(To make this scenario work I have had to give the opposing force many additional aids. The Argentine forces on their own have no ability to conduct this type of operation. Even with Venezuelan support two Typhoons in the air would probably over power them. The Venezuelans do not presently have Sunburn Anti Ship missiles and would probably be unable to knock out a type 23 with anything less.I have also assumed that no Royal Navy SSN is around the islands. If there was the opposing Navy would likely be decimated)

In the aftermath of the battle the joint Argentine and Venezuelan forces have captured the airfield at Mount Pleasant and repair the runway allowing large scale reinforcments.

The UK prepares to respond by sending a task force. However as the attack has come just before the winter the fleet cannot be dispatched for another 3 months. Task force sales in September 2011 to recapture the islands.

Defending Forces


Argentina has had a very tough time since the last war. It's military has been unable to even replace losses that it sustained in 1982. They have also be unable to update their equipment in line with modern advances. Most of their aircraft flying today were in the air in 1982. Their Navy is little better.


Dassault Mirage III   9
A4 Sky Hawk          20
IAI Finger                6
Mirage V                 6
Super Etendard        14


Destroyers                4
SSK                         3
Corvettes                  9


9 Brigades in total so I will generously assume they can deploy 3 to the conflict. Probably not with much heavy armour though as RN submarines would quickly prevent re supply by ship. Only airlift would be possible.


Air force

Venezuela has  a total of 24 SU-30 MKV Flankers with another 35 on order. I will assume that they can deploy and sustain 24 in this conflict. The Aircraft will be armed with Russian built Sunburn Anti Ship missiles.


I will presume that Venezuela can contribute a brigade to the Falkland Islands


Venezuela has 6 elderly frigates however given rough conditions in the South Atlantic I will presume they cannot contribute to the conflict. I will also assume that they cannot deploy any SSK's as they are too old and of too limited range to engage in the South Atlantic.

Opposing Force

Sinking two Royal Navy Ships and killing a large number of personnel who probably cause enough of an outrage to involve our allies. However for the purpose of this scenario I will assume that our allies will only provide moral support in the form of arms blockade and sanctions. The UK will however be able to abandon all NATO standing deployments and be able to surge its entire force. I will also assume that 16AAB and 3 Commando are not in Afghanistan and are available for deployment.

Royal Navy (Force to be deployed)

Type 22 Frigates 3
Type 23 Frigates 9
Type 45 Destroyers 3
Type 42 Destroyers 2

Trafalgar Class  4
Astute Class 2

(Amphibious Task Force)
Ocean Class LPH 1
Albion Class LPD 2
Bay Class LSD 3
Point Class RORO 6

HMS Ark Royal
HMS Invincible

Type 23 frigates are able to achieve an availability rate of 89%. Out of the 13 in service I have assumed that only 9 would be available. I have assumed that 3 Type 45 are available which is a conservative estimate. Three type 45 Destroyers and 2 of the elderly type 42's. It may be the case that by 2011 5 Type 45's would be available however I wanted to be cautious in my assumptions.

Air force

As with last time the RAF would be limited in its ability to respond however unlike last time the E3 D AWACS could give the fleet a limited radar coverage. With 7 E3 D and the RAF's increased tanker ability I will assume it is possible to give the fleet AWACS coverage for half the time around the Falkland Islands

The hole left by the E3 D would be plugged by Sea King MK7 AEW giving the fleet total radar coverage upto 150 miles.

Fighter Aircraft

Harrier GR9     24
Harrier FA2     12

While the FA2 is no longer in service a limited number have been maintained in storage. As far as I am aware these aircraft are still available. Given 3 months to prepare I am sure 12 could be reactivated for service. In 2011 Meteor will probably not be available however the Blue Vixen Radar and AMRAM will give the Harriers a massive advantage compared to the last conflict.


Assume 3 commando and 16 AAB along with elements of 7th Armoured. With the much improved amphibious capability in 2011 it would be possible to deploy heavy armour such as challenger and heavy artillery units such as MLRS and AS90 to the conflict. It should be pointed out that the British Army of today is far Superior in equipment, tactics and experience to the Army of 1982. For the purposes of this scenario I will assume that if these formation get ashore that the battle is already one.

Opening Round

First Tomahawk Attack on Mount Pleasant

The opening round of the conflict will likely be carried out by the Royal Navy SSN's. Two Astutes and a single Trafalgar class could first deploy special forces for the purpose of monitoring the airfield. These three vessels could deploy the UK's entire arsenal of 64 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Using SAS recon teams and satellite imagery it would be possible for the Submarines to launch 18 missiles at Mount Pleasant simultaneously. This would take mount pleasant out of the equation all together. With limited air refuelling the Argentine and Venezuelan forces would probably have had to deploy half their fighters at Mount Pleasant all most all would have been lost.

Combat Range GR9 Stormshadow
The UK has a limited stock of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and can only deploy them from Submarines. However it has more than 900 storm shadows. Each of the GR9's can fire 2 at a time. With 2 sorties per day the carriers could fire 96 storm shadows per day. This rate of fire could be theoretically sustained for 9 days. The carriers could attack the Argentine mainland airbases from a distance far beyond that of the land based opposing aircraft. Allowing the two carriers to strike at will until all of the enemy air force is destroyed..

Round 2

With Mount Pleasant and Stanley Airfields out of action the Task Force could begin to move closer to Argentina. The Next round would probably see the Harrier GR9's armed with Storm Shadow attacking the remnants of any airforce in the Falklands and flying against the Rio Grande Airbase in Southern Argentina. The SSN's would engage airbase further North in Argentina knocking out most of the combined air force.

Round 3

As the task force moves closer in the remnants of the enemy air force would likely now attack. They may also try to engage the task force with SSK's. The task force would deploy 9 type 23's. These ships are now the world's preeminent ASW platforms deploying the Merlin helicopter and the type 2087 towed array sonar the type 23's can find and destroy the argentine SSK's at distance beyond where the sub can fight back.

The enemy airforce attacks would now come up against a much different force. Firstly ships would stay further out at sea relying on helicopters to ferry in Marines and Para's who would be able to set up air defence system's before a ship approached the coast. Apache Gun Ships and GR9's would provide cover against any opposing land forces until a beach head had been established.

In the last war most successful aircraft attacks were carried out by the Argentine A4 Sky hawks. These still make up the bulk of their air force. However flying at low level dropping iron bombs would be at best suicide against a type 22 or type 23 armed with sea wolf and CIWS weapons system. Flying with in a hundred miles of a Type 45 with Sea Viper would be embarrissing. Especially when the Type 45 would have an accurate radar picture from an AWACS or AEW Sea King.

The only aircraft able to engage would be the Super Entanders and the Venezuelan SU 30's with Sunburn. It is hard to say how many of these aircraft would have survived the cruise missile attacks however what is left will have to penetrate a CAP flown by FA2 harriers armed with AMRAM and controlled by AWACS. They will then have to penetrate a screen of type 45's to launch their missiles which would themselves have to penetrate not only an outer defence of type 45's but an inner defence of type 23's with sea wolf and then the goal keeper and phalanx CIWS. I would doubt if any missiles would get through such a screen. Missiles launched at great distance as they would have to would also be highly susceptible to decoy's launched by the fleet. I would suspect after 1 to 2 days of this their would be little in the way of opposing airforce left to hamper the landing of heavier units ashore.

FA2 vs Su 30 Flanker

On the face of it the Flanker is the better aircraft. However with the type 45 able to engage high flying targets at over 100 miles the Flankers would have to fly low to launch their missiles. Flying at the edge of their range they would have little time for dog fighting. Firing AMRAM from a high altitude at the Flankers would allow the Harriers to get the first shot in. In a low altitude dog fight the Harriers would have an advantage. It has been reported that in a low slow dog fight the FA2 can achieve a 2 to 1 kill ratio against even an F15.

SSN-22 Sunburn vs Sea Viper

The SSN - 22 Sunburn missile is perhaps the most lethal anti ship missile on the market today. At high altitude it can reach speeds of mach 3. At low altitude it can travel at a speed of mach 2.2. The missile Carry's a 300kg warhead and has a range of 100KM. While the SU 30 Flanker at present cannot deploy sunburn I am presuming for the purpose of this scenario that the Venezuelans can adapt it for use on their aircraft. In order to employ the missiles they will have to come to a range of 100KM. This is well inside Sea Viper's 120km operating range. While the SU 30 might cover the distance to launch before the Aster 30 missile hit it it would likely not survive after launch. If launching at a low altitude the SU 30 would have to come in much closer to get a radar lock on the Type 45. This would give the CAP a better chance of intercepting. Following launch at 100km the Type 45 would have around 30 seconds to react. Sea Viper is designed to deal with the Sunburn missile however it is hard to say what the exact outcome of this battle would be.

Type 45's pitted against SS N 22's would have a much greater chance than the Type 42's did against Exocet in the last war. I feel confident that the Type 45's could deal with the slower moving Exocet missle fired by the Argentine Super Etandars this time.

Round 4

With Heavy armour and artillery brought ashore as well as a significant number of Apaches the British forces can now mount a long range concentrated attack against the forces on the ground. This would allow UK forces to engage the enemy at ranges they could not return fire at. With no air cover, re supply and a heavy bombardment from land sea and air the enemy ground forces would quickly surrender.

In short i feel UK forces are far more capable of carrying out a second Falklands War than they were the first. Land Attack cruise missiles, AWACS, AMRAM and Sea Viper would all knock out their airforce long before it came near the fleet. With no effective ASW capability SSN's would keep the Argentine Navy in port. The ASW capability of the RN should be able to deal with 3 SSK's and the British Army is better and more capable than ever. The amphibious platforms of the RN and RFA would be able to take a larger and much heavier force ashore and could even do it from over the horizon avoiding the need for a San Carlos type landing in the initial stages. Rapier and Starstreak missiles would be able to intercept any low flying aircraft coming in to attack the beach head meaning the Navy would not have to send its frigates in to act as cannon fodder.

The British Army of 1982 had not fought a major engagement since Korea. The British Army of 2011 has been at war since the 1991. It is far better equipped and combat hardened than at almost any time since WWII.

Even with Venezuelan Support and a missile that Venezuela currently does not have the UK forces would still be victorious.

The question over escort numbers is a mute one. Yes we had allot more escorts in the last war but the type 21's were little more than cannon fodder. The Type 42's were effective out at sea but useless near land. The lessons learnt from these ships have lead to a massive improvement in the capability of RN escort vessels. Less is defiantly more. Also the Navy no longer has to worry about a soviet invasion so the entire force can be sent to the conflict zone.

Other Options

Venuzala is likley the only country who would possibly become involved in this campaign on Argentina's side. If the admiralty felt that the SU 30's in the area armed with Sunburn were too great a risk to send the navy against they would also have other options. Venuzala is relativley close to British Territories in the Carribean. All these islands have airfields long enough to accomadate Tornado and Typhoon aircraft. With a little aerial refulling these aircraft could launch storm shadows against Venuzala. If we destroy Hugo Chavez house, government facilities and airfields it wont be too long until he pulls out. The Typhoon has the apparnet ability to defeat the SU 30 at a rate of 10 to 1.

Their are three Britsh Over Seas Territories with runways able to accomadate Typhoons. I have illustrated the combat range of typhoons armed with storm shadow below.

Strike Range of Typhoon from British Territories

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Replacing Trident

The present UK defence Budget is under enormous pressure. With a £37 billion pound hole in MOD finances to be plugged many programs will likely have to be canceled or scaled back. The Government is also said to be seeking a 10%-15% reduction in military spending over the next 5 years. In addition to this the treasury is now stating that the MOD will have to find the money to replace the current Trident System. Traditionally the treasury has funded this separately. With the initial cost of the program likely to be on the order of £20 billion and the entire program including through life costs potentially as high as £100 billion the MOD will likely be decimated trying to afford this.

A number of studies have looked at potentially cheaper easier ways to replace trident. However every study has come back backing an SLBM on the grounds of effectiveness, cost and political fallout.

I do not doubt that a Ballistic Missile Launched from a Submarine is the best way to give the United Kingdom a credible deterrent. However spending £100 billion on a ship that's only job is to destroy the world is unaffordable, inefficient and robbing other areas of defence to pay for it is dam right dangerous in the present climate.

With this in mind I would like to examine a cheaper way to provide our deterrent in light of the present funding crisis the government presently has.

Why Do we have Nuclear Weapons?

At the height of the cold war this question was obvious. We needed to deter a Soviet attack on Europe. While the USA provided most of the Nuclear Weapons deployed by NATO the question the Russians could always ask is would the US use these weapons unless directly threatened on home soil. The answer according to Robert McNamara (sectary of Defence under JFK and LBJ) was no. Having the UK and France with credible deterrents complicated this picture for the soviet's. No longer having to Solly factor in a US response but two other nation's as well who were allot closer to the potential area of conflict.

After the end of the cold war this question is much more difficult to answer. Indeed knowing that the US and Russia have over 6000 deploy able war heads each seems almost comical in the modern age. The UK has around 200 war heads which is less than any other permanent member of the security council. With the reduced level of threat in the world in the interdependence we all have the question of maintaining a nuclear deterrent becomes more difficult to answer. The government points to rogue states such as Iran and North Korea as our principal threat. However given the despotic nature of these countries leaders the threat of mass nuclear retaliation is probably not the best way to deter an attack from them. Continuous at sea deterrents cost £10's of billions are hard to justify if the only threat they have to counter is a piss poor middle east of far east aggressor who does not have the range or capability yet to hit us.

Indeed if this is the only threat we will face it would be better to spend the money on ABM defences. A large single ICBM would be relatively easy to knock down in the boost phase with a Type 45 and Aster 30 or 45 missile.

The other main argument used to maintain the deterrent is that in an uncertain future we can't be too sure about when we may face another major threat. Nuclear weapons took decades and cost billion's to develop and if we get rid of them we will loose the ability to easily make them again in future. This argument is a valid one. However it cannot justify the expensive use of continuous at sea deterrence with the ability too launch a counter strike in 15 minutes.

The main reason as I can see that we maintain our deterrent is a diplomatic and political one. As they said in yes minister "we have nuclear weapons because the French have them" With our place in the world already under threat from the rise of the mega powers removing our Nuclear capability would likely lead to us loosing our seat on the security council. It would also be even more difficult for us to follow our own foreign and military policy if we solely rely on US help in the worst case scenario. This is a valid argument as well however it does not justify a cold war style deterrent system with all the cost it entails.

Types of Nuclear Missions

In the modern age their is almost zero chance that we will be required to lob hundreds of warheads at an adversary in an all out exchange (World War Three Style)

There are three possible scenarios I can envisage for a nuclear exchange (even though they are very remote possibilities. Any deterrent system should be based on these scenarios)

  • Terrorist Strike ( Use of NBC weapons by a terrorist cell would require a response probably limited to several tactical weapons 50kt-100Kt
  • Rogue State ( Iran or N Korea firing several missiles at us or our allies. We could almost certainly rely on the US for the response which would likely be taking out of military facilities and possibly the nations capital. One war head for the city and possibly 10-12 aimed at military bases) ( 2 D5 missiles could provide this.)
  • Major Power (some kind of exchange with Russia or China very unlikely but really the only major opponents we could even think of having a nuclear exchange with.) (Weapons used to take out military bases and civilian structures but probably not cities in the modern era unless they hit ours first) Would require dozens of missiles and war heads. The exchange would almost certainly involve US, UK and probably France as well.
Any of the above scenarios excluding the terrorist one would not happen over night but instead would build over time. Allowing for forces to be deployed and weapons to be made ready. They would certainly not involve some type of Nuclear sneak attack with no justification.

Alternative Deterrent

There are two main alternatives to SLBM's.

Submarine Launched / Air Launched Cruise Missile

The main advantage of this type of solution is that it could be performed by existing platforms such as Astute Submarines or Typhoons. Most cruise missiles were originally developed to deliver nuclear weapons and modifying Storm Shadow to carry out this role would be relatively easy and cheap.

The main drawback is that in order to build a deterrent as credible as the SLBM we would need hundreds if not thousands of deployed warheads. An enemy will always consider it to be possible to shoot down most of the missiles and would likely not be deterred from attacking.

The other main problem is that if we say needed to fire some conventional weapons at China or Russia they would have no way to know that these were not Nuclear weapons and would likely respond with their own Nuclear weapons before they found out.

Land Based ICBM

On the face of it the cheapest solution however the political difficulties of sighting missile silos in a small country like the UK have always prohibited this. Fixed sites are also easy for a potential aggressor to knock out. Land based ICBM's are going out of favour with the US and France so we would probably have to build our own system from scratch.

It seems clear that an SLBM system continues to be the most viable and cheapest solution for a credible deterrent.

Why does Trident need to be replaced?

This is a valid question. The government puts the need for the first trident replacement vessels in 2022-2025. Given the US Ohio class vessels were built before the Trident vessels it seems strange they will retire later around 2030-2040.

This is because the Ohio's have had a major midlife upgrade to extend their life. The Royal Navy sates that as it only has 4 boast as opposed to the US Navy's 14. It cant pull ships of the line for long enough for this type of overhaul. It would be left with only 3 vessels instead of the 4 required to provide at sea deterrents.

This is probably nonsense as three ships could maintain the deterrent as long as one is not knocked out in an accident. However maybe the bigger question we should ask is do we need continuous at sea deterrents. The chance of a massive sneak attack from another major country a basically zero. Also we can probably rely on other NATO allies in the event of a sneak attack to respond. Giving the Vanguards a mid life overhaul and extending there service for 10-15 years would allow us to make the Trident replacement decision much later and allow us to pay for it at a time when our budget is not so badly stretched by the global recession and two wars. Moving the replacement forward in time would also better allow us to fit in our system with the US and French repalcements.

At present the US will replace its Trident D5 missles with the Trident E6. However the replacement would be needed until after 2030. If we have to design a submarine between 2012-2020 we will have no idea of the size and dimensions of the missile. If the US decides to make E6 a different size to D5 as they have done in the past our Submarines would be useless.

The French will also need to replace their vessels after 2030 as well. Finding a few billion for a submarine upgrade would be much more feasible in the present budget that £20 billion + for a replacement.

The real reason the Navy needs to build a Trident replacement is to keep the Nuclear Submarine industry going. The UK needs to build a new submarine every 22 month's to maintain the Rolls Royce reactor making facility and the yard at Barrow. With the Astute class production run coming to an end after boat 6 or 7 in 2015-2018 the yards will need something else to do.

The last gap in nuclear submarine production from the late ninety's to the mid 2000's decimated the UK's capability and meant that BAE needed allot of help from the US to build Astute. While under handed this argument is valid. Having a viable Nuclear Submarine Industry is key for the continued existence of the present style Royal Navy. The Navy was not actually expecting to have to pay for these boats from its own budget and we might just see the treasury's decision make the MOD pay for the replacement lead to the Vanguards life being extended.

Cheaper Submarine Solution's

The main cheaper submarine solution that has been touted is combining the SSN and SSBN fleets into a single vessel type. The idea being that maintenance can be shared, R&D cost spread across a larger number of units and vessels maintained for redundancy can be reduced.

The main draw back is the size of the vessels required. Nowadays SSN's spend much of their time in the littorals. An Astute class already weighs in at 7000 tonnes. A Vanguard SSBN comes in at a whopping 16,000 tonnes. It would only really be feasible to add 4 missile tubes to an Astute until it became to bulky to operate in the littoral environment. Just 4 missiles could be armed with up to 40 War heads.However with most feasible nuclear missions requiring just a single warhead the submarine could probably only deploy 13 warheads i.e 3 missiles with a  single warhead and 1 fully armed with 10. Hardly a credible deterrent to someone like China. Adding in more missile tubes would likely make the vessel to large to operate in the Littorals where it is designed to spend most of its time.

A New Solution

Looking at what an SSBN does, one has to ask the question why keep the N. The main purpose of an SSBN is to sit quietly in the middle of the ocean secret, silent and undetected. Ready to fire a barrage of missiles if required. Nuclear propulsion is very noisy and requires a super human effort to make these vessels as quiet as they are. In the cold war Nuclear propulsion was the best way to achieve this. However advances in diesel Submarines SSK's over the past 20 years have negated many of the benefits of a Nuclear Submarine. SSN's required to deploy all around the world and also out run surface ships to make attacks can justify the expense of nuclear. However if all you want to do is sit quietly below the surface and not travel to far an SSK with air independent propulsion is a much quieter and much cheaper solution.

Some may say that an SSBN mike be expected to sneak up quietly to an enemy coast and must be able to deploy any where in the world. For a preemptive strike this is the case. However for a deterrent system expected to launch in 15 minutes at any where in the world it is not. A missile such as Trident has the ability to travel 12,000 km. A range such as that puts any potential advisory we could ever face in range of a missile fired from the base at Faselane. An SSBK with 12 launch tubes could be built for allot cheaper than a SSBN. Maintenance period would be less leading to less boats being required. Perhaps just 3 vessels could meet this requirement. Instead on 90 day patrols these could be reduced to jsut 30 days. The boats could sit quietly of the West Coast of Scotland in heavily defended territory with aircraft, Submarines and surface ships all providing additional protection. a 30 day patrol could be carried out purely on AIP with no need to surface. Shorter patrols would likely put much less stress on personal and help to retain high quality staff.

Building an SSK with AIP would also help UK industry. We have not built an SSK since the upholder class in the late 1980's. Our SSN's are to advanced and expensive to sell on the open market. As a result our submarine export market is now zero meaning that our yards rely solely on Royal Navy orders to sustain them. The AIP technology developed for the SSBK could easily be put into smaller vessels and sold helping to sustain the yard at barrow even when they navy has no orders to place.

Choice of Missile

The UK has always relied on the US to provide it with SLBM's. While the UK pays part of the development costs and buys 64 of its own missiles it does not own any. Instead the USN provides 64 missiles to the RN from its stockpile and rotates them for maintenance and upgrades. Hardly and independent Deterrent. While I do not wish to waste allot of money on a new missile system I think operating along the present lines makes a mockery the notion of an independent deterrent.

The French spent EUR 4 billion developing their own SLBM M51. While in the past US missiles where much better than their French Counterparts the E6 trident is likely to be very similar to the d5 as well as a newer generation of French Missiles. Cooperating with the French instead of the US would allow us to have independent maintenance facilities and joint manufacturing. With the problems the French military is having at present they would probably be willing to allow us access to all their technology and our requirements fro the missile would be identical. 8-10 MIRV warheads with a 12,000 km range.

Sustaining Industry

It is my belief that the Navy has to maintain a fleet of SSN's. These vessels are perhaps the most important weapons platforms in the modern era. With rising costs the number of platforms has been cut to the bone. * Astutes reduced to just 4-6 maybe 7 if we are lucky to replace 14 Trafalgar and Swiftsure Class. We must maintenance a building rate of one vessel every 2 years to maintain the industry. Instead of a new SSBN I would simply increase the order of Astutes to 12. Given a 2 year build time and a fleet of 12 ships being repalced every 24 years we could sustain both the fleet and the industry. The batch 2 astutes 7-12 should be modified with a four silo missile tube inserted. This tube should be flexible able to accommodate a trident D5 or 7 tomahawks in the way the US Navy Ohio SSGN's can. These vessels could be used in the traditional SSN role or as an SSGN with up to 66 Tomahawks. They could also be used to plug the gaps in the at sea deterrent when the Vanguards enter extended refit. They could also be used to supplement the SSBK's in times of crisis or if a Major adversary appears. We can Insist that any Joint program with France have a missile volume able to fit inside our tubes on both the SSBK and Astute Batch 2 Sub's


If we look at the budget of £20-25 billion which will be required to replace the existing trident system.

£11-£14 billion will be allocated to purchase the new Submarines

Changing the system to the one I have outlined would cost

6 Additional Astute Submarines  £ 1 billion each = £6 billion

3 SSBK Cost estimate £600 million per vessel = £ 1.8 billion

The total cost of the project would be £7.8 billion roughly half of a like for like replacement. Obviously SSK's even with AIP systems are much cheaper than their Nuclear counterparts. They are also significantly cheaper to run through the vessels life time.

Not only would we save a massive amount on the submarine replacement but we would also have the utility of 6 extra SSN's in the fleet with a massive cruise missile load. We would be better able to sustain or Nuclear Submarine industry and we could get back into the field of submarine export. Something we have been unable to do for over 20 years.

With an SDSR which is suppose to be getting rid of cold war relics it seems strange that the only real cold war relic we have left (Trident)  is ring fenced from cuts and its repalcment is not open to debate.