Thursday, September 30, 2010

European Power Projection and the UK

Military Power Projection is the one item lacking in Europe that prevents the EU from being a super power. While the EU accounts for some 25% of military spending and has over 2 million uniformed personnel it lacks any independent ability to project power outside of its boarders. Without power projection EU foreign policy will never match the unions economic weight. This lack of ability represents a golden opportunity for the UK to further enhance its own foreign military and diplomatic standing.

EU power projection and the USA

Rightly or wrongly the USA has continually criticised the European members of NATO for spending too little on defence. While the USA spends 4% of its GDP on defence the European average is closer to 1.5%. The USA's criticism is that European Nations spend too much on cold war style standing army's and heavy armour and too little on expeditionary capability.

In many ways the USA is correct. However the USA has actively discouraged any for of independent EU military force projection. Officially the USA's position is that the European members of NATO should spend  more on forces able to operate under NATO. America contends that a separate force structure or platforms is wasteful especially given the small budget in the first place for this. Unofficially the US seeks to undermine an independent European capability because it undermines the USA's position in the world as the only super power.

NATO is an American institution. Almost all of NATO's C4ISTAR assets as well as strategic lift and logistics are controlled by the USA. If the EU is unable to operate without the US then EU foreign policy has to be subjugated to American approval.

With the rise of China and a US defence budget that is soon to be squeezed substantially the US is keen to maintain Europe in this position. Delegates are now debating a new NATO power projection strategy. This will see members contribute to what are essentially US lead operations.

The USA is looking down the road. It realises that with Europe on side and NATO accounting for 75% of world military spending as well as nearly 60% of world GDP that China will never be able to compete on equal terms. Indeed Russian and China combined spend only 15% of what NATO spends on defence. No mater how fast China grows it will never come close to matching this.

While the USA and the NATO alliance is vital for insuring world stability we should not feel that we have to subjugate our own foreign and military policy to it. The USA is not always right. At times it is to slow to react such as Bosnia and Rwanda and at other times it is too quick to act such as Iraq and Vietnam. Having a second military force in the west will help to improve world stability not undermine it. NATO should remain an alliance based on defence and mutual security not expeditionary warfare.


If the EU is to have its own power projection capability it needs the United Kingdom. The UK has the largest defence budget in Europe. Other than France its the only country with substantial power projection capability. The UK is the only country in Europe with the C4 ISTAR (Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Targeting and Reconnaissance) assets to actually launch an independent military force. The UK is also the only country in Europe with strategic air and sea lift capability as well as the ability to land a brigade from the sea.

In short if Europe wants to act with out the USA then the one country that can help is the UK. We should take advantage of this by enhancing our own capability to allow European nations to project power through our own force structure. This would allow us to control Europe's ability to act. This would give us effective control of European foreign policy in the way the Germans dictates economic policy. Foreign policy with out the military means to back it up is simply words. He who controls the guns controls the policies.

If we control the military and foreign policy of the worlds largest economic power then we ourselves become far more important in world affairs. Our relationship with the USA will be enhanced. Allies are only allies if they can both bring something to the party. If the US needs us to use European military power then  we become very important to the USA.

Some European nations particularly France are unlikely to like this. However most of the rest are probably well prepared to accept it. Most Europeans care little for foreign intervention. The UK has been the one nation in Europe prepared to fight be it in Kuwait, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone or Iraq.

In order to fulfill this role there are a number of areas where we need to improve our capability. However as I said before Europe spends $200 billion + per year on defence. Most of what we need is already in place.

What capability do we need?

As a starting point we should look at the forces the US deployed in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. While this size of force is probably beyond Europe's means it should give a reference to our ambitions for power projection.

In Operation Iraq Freedom the US deployed the following formations.


3rd Infantry Division
4th Infantry Division
101st Airborne Division
1st Marine Expeditionary Force

4 Divisions made up by roughly 15 brigades containing around 250,000 soldiers. This is likley beyond Europe's capability however it should be possible to deploy a smaller force of 180,000 men in three divisions around 10 Brigades.

This force should be able to deploy for up to 6 months. Europe will also need to be able to sustain a force of roughly 90,000 men around 4 brigades for and indefinite period for peace keeping and stabilisation roles.


The US deployed 700 strike aircraft against Iraq 2003. However with even more advances in weaponry this number would not be required in future. A force of 200 strike aircraft should be a sufficient amount for Europe to carry out a large scale expedition.


The US deployed 4 Carriers with battle groups to the region. While this is more than Europe could hope to muster it will be essential to be able to deploy atleast 2 large deck carriers in support of any operation.

What would we need to put in place?


Europe currently has on order

700+ Euro fighter Typhoons
100+ Rafale's
300+ F35 Light II's

as well as numerous F16's tornado's and other legacy platforms.

That's 1100 strike aircraft. It should be possible for European air forces to deploy 200 modern strike aircraft into a region with little difficulty.

Where Europe is lacking is in Intelligence aircraft and command facilities.

The UK can provide most of these assets. With the New Rivet Joint Planes as well as AWACS and ASTOR we can provide most of the Intelligence, Command and Control Europe needs. Where we are short is on long range strategic UAV like Global Hawk. It may be prudent to acquire a capability such as this with the New Taranis UCAV. A long range stealthy platform could easily double in the intelligence role as well as strike.

The other area that Europe is lacking in in stealthy strike aircraft and UCAV's that could kick in the door during early operations. Being able to deploy two carriers to the region with 70 F35 C would allow the UK to dominate Air operations in a European Coalition. In addition a number of Taranis UCAV's deployed from world wide bases such as Diego Garcia and Cyprus would allow us to hit deep strategic targets and air defence sights making way for other Europeans Air Forces flying Rafale and Typhoon.

Strategic Life is another area where Europe is lacking. In total the EU only has 7 strategic lift aircraft. These are all operated by the RAF. Currently the UK along with the rest of Europe plans to buy a substantial number of A400M's. If the UK reduced its purchase of these aircraft and increased its C17's it would be able to help in ferrying coalition force's to theatre.

It may be wise for Europe to purchase a number of Transport and Tanker Aircraft it's self. European NATO members share AWACS a squadron. A similar arrangement could be made using perhaps 20 C17's and 20 A330's. The A330's could double as tankers in the way that the new UK strategic tanker will. With the UK fielding 13 tankers and 14 C17's and a central EU force of 20 C17's and 20 Tankers we would have sufficient logistics to deploy and sustain forces.


It is essential to deploy two large deck carriers for the operation. With 2 on order for the UK and one in existence with the French Navy we almost have this capability. If the UK increased its carrier fleet to three then we could always be assured of two.

In order to facilitate the ability to always have 2 carriers the UK and France should coordinate deep re-fit's of these vessels so that two are never laid up at the same time.

In addition heavy sea lift capability would also be required. Increasing the Number of Point Class RORO to 12 would allow us to deploy a much larger force. We could also see the EU purchase 12 of its own. These could be operated as passenger ferries unless needed in time of War.


If we improve the ability of our Army to deploy forces. Especially giving the TA a heavy armour expeditionary capability then we can look to deploy two TA armoured brigades and two regular army infantry brigades to a theatre. Both of these should be deployed under two divisional HQ's. Our European coalition members can then attach forces up to a brigade in strength to our Divisional HQ's A deployment might look like this

1st Armoured Division

7th Armourd brigade (TA)
1 Mechanised Infantry Brigade (Regular Army)
1 French Armoured Brigade
1 Spanish Infantry Brigade

3rd Mechanised Infantry Division
4th Armoured Brigade (TA)
3rd Mechanised Infantry Division (Regular Amry)
1 German Infantry Brigade
1 Dutch infantry battalions
1 Polish Infantry battalion
1 Italian Infantry battalion

In addition to a Marine Divisional HQ these formations would deploy under a British Corps HQ


We should expand our Marines to include a second Brigade and divisional HQ. These two brigades could be reinforced by other European members forces in the same way as the army however it would likley be at the brigade rather than divisional level.


Germany, France and Italy all have reconnaissance satellites. If the UK could add 5 photo reconnaissance satellites to this then Europe would have a powerful space based intelligence capability. One are that would be lacking is a SIGINT. The UK would be unable to share its Echelon satellite data with the rest of Europe. Again it would make sense for the EU as a whole to invest in perhaps 3 or 4 satellites for this purpose. The data should be made avalable to any EU force. Even if that is a single member.


The UK's Skynet system already has sufficient capacity for a coalition force to operate anywhere in the world.

Increasing our own military expeditionary capability and getting Europe to purchase joint strategic assets would allow Europe through the UK to deploy a substantial war fighting force any where in the world.


Much of the capability we need is already in place. One of the most important things to do would be to practice and demonstrate our capability. An annual exercise deploying a marine brigade and a 5 yearly deployment of a the full Corps would demonstrate our ability to act. It would also help us to smooth out any bumps in command and control.

Coalition of the willing

Europe has 27 members. They will not always agree on military intervention. However if the UK forms the backbone of operations it won't matter. If the Germans don't want to send troops then an Italian brigade could be sent instead or more battalion sized forces from smaller EU nations could be added.

Peace Keeping

After any operation there will be need for some form of stabilisation force. If the regular army can deploy and sustain a brigade sized force and the British Peace Keeping corps could also deploy a light brigade then we could maintain a divisional HQ in the theatre. This could be supplemented by various EU partners. In the example above Germany may not want to send forces for an attack but may be willing to deploy forces after an attack for peace keeping. Again if we form the backbone fo both operations then we can maintain control.


  1. "Unofficially the US seeks to undermine an independent European capability because it undermines the USA's position in the world as the only super power."

    I am sympathetic to the notion of building up europes willingness and capability to conduct expeditiony warfare, and i recognise that making it semi-independent of NATO would make this more likely, however, i do not agree with the statement above.

    America is crying out for europe to be a useful partner for the 21st century, at a time when its own hegemony is in decline, and it faces new challenges in the east.

    Nothing would please europe more, provided Britain was on the inside to ensure sympathetic anglophile bent to policy making.

  2. "America is crying out for europe to be a useful partner for the 21st century,"

    I think useful tool would be more accurate than useful partner.
    America is unhappy EUrope wont help America achieve American objectives, but I've not seen much to believe they want a EUrope capable of achieving EUropean objectives.

    Much as I like the idea, I think its just that, an idea. Our European Partners are all talk. We'd get 27 Command Staffs big enough to run an army group and an infantry company from Estonia.

  3. I don't hold any grudges to the US and their desire to subjugate European foreign and military force to their own. The guy on top likes to stay there. They can often see even a close Allie that begins to match them or surpass them as a threat.

    Britain did the same thing in the early twentieth century. Germany had always been a natural Allie of Britain. In fact in 1914 on the eve of War Royal Navy ships were even on port visits in Germany. However the thought of that Allie beating our old enemy France and becoming the dominant European mainland power was enough to turn us against them.

    America uses NATO has a way to control European power. Why else would it still be so keen to promote an Alliance which costs it allot of money and gives it almost no benefit.

    We should remember that well America under Clinton and bush was keen to act in a number of conflicts before 1993 America had no appetite for this. Even with almost all of western Europe desperate to intervene in Bosnia nothing of consequence was achieved until 1995 when NATO under America got involved.

    In a post Afghanistan world America will likley retract in the way it did after Vietnam. In a highly unstable world the west desperately needs another pole it can gather round to form coalitions to act.

    I agree that most of the European nations would likley be unwilling to send much in the way of forces however with the UK taking a leading role we would not need much from other EU nations to field a large force. If every country attached a single battalion to an operation we could have 9 extra brigades attached to our forces.

    Using the Iraq invasion as an example. While this was a highly contentious campaign in comparison to something like Bosnia or Kosovo it was supported by roughly half the countries in Europe. The Likes of Spain and Poland sent forces. Others were against it such as Germany however at the time the social democrats were in power. If the Christine Democrats had been in then we might even have seen German forces deployed. With 27 nations and 400 million people we could afford a divided Europe and still deploy a size able force.

    However as of toady no matter how much Europe wants to act it can't with out US assistance.

    A hodgepodge Euro farce were every one gets a little bit of command would never work. One nation would have to take control and the only nation in Europe likley to do that is the UK.

  4. "America uses NATO has a way to control European power. Why else would it still be so keen to promote an Alliance which costs it allot of money and gives it almost no benefit."

    To the first; of course it wants influence, we want influence over NK's nuclear program, i want influence over my local newsagents beer prices, everyone wants influence.

    To the second; historically because the USSR mattered, today, because they want a partner.

  5. There is a difference between influence and subjugation. I am more than happy to have the US influence us. However if its not reciprocal then whats the point. Letting any one western nation dictate policy is not good for any of us. Just look at what happened in Iraq. Even deploying 20% of coalition forces the UK had zero influence over the way the war was fought and how the peace keeping was handled.

    If we are totally dependant on America for military projection then we subjugate our selves to a US electorate that seems to make very bad choices time and time again. Why should I and my country be dictated to by the electorate of another country. Especially when my country and I raise more than $500 trillion a year in tax. Surely that gives me and every other person in the UK the right to exert our own influence on the world stage.

    Once again I should state that I am actually quite pro American. I just want them to be a mutial allie. In recent years it feels like they think they are the Roman empire sending out edicts to the provinces.

  6. We got the second in command position which was our objective, if that didn't get us the influence we needed then we'll have to rethink the 15% policy.

    The answer would be for europe to pull its weight militarily, which aside from france and norway no-one is interested in doing.

    I accept the desire and desirability of greater independence from american foreign policy, but i cannot accept that america works to prevent the EU from becoming an effective force.

  7. "but i cannot accept that america works to prevent the EU from becoming an effective force."
    It does, but not in a "mean" manner.

    Look at the suggestion.
    We all agree, its cool.
    Yet it binds Europes out of area military to UK (or US) support.

  8. I think you are correct raging Tory, America's actions are benine but never the less they do seek control on some level. To be honnest my proposal is for the UK to do the exact same. Offer Europe ability to act but only with our approval.

  9. I do like some of the ideas above, and i write now in 2012 a time where european defence is in need of unity more than ever, however defence cuts threaten our most prized assets, uk carriers for example. I fear that the only way that the ignorant uk and eu public will bcecome aware of these shorcummings is in times of war. by then however it will be to late.