The defence force advicated here is based on a defence review conducted in a previous post RDSR
Even with defence cuts the British military budget will still be on the order of $60 billion per year. That is a significant investment in any one’s eyes on behalf of the British public. Defence budgets are usually justified on a basis of defending the nation. It is possible to justify around a quarter of the United Kingdom’s defence budget on actually defending the United Kingdom mainland and Over Sea’s Territories.
The rest of the budget is devoted to support for allies and our diplomatic standing. It is worth the British peoples while to support armed forces that can project the countries Independent foreign policy.
Having a substantial army with a small navy means that we can only act as part of a coalition. Generally the coalition will be American lead and dominated. A substantial British Army presence in a US coalition amounts to a subsidy by the British tax payer for US foreign policy. We may hope to influence US foreign policy as a result of our contribution however even if we spend everything we have on the Army we will never amount to more than 20% of any US force. Historically this has proven an insufficient amount to gain any significant influence over US foreign policy.
A naval strategy centred on the second biggest blue water navy allows us to project force and act independently. While we will be unable to sustain occupation forces we will be able to strike hard and fast. We will be able to plant the only other banner other than the USA that the west can act around. This large naval strength will give us an enhanced diplomatic standing beyond that whic we enjoy today.
Every country in the world has an Army. Most have brown water navy’s. Arguably the USA is the only remaining true blue water navy. If we were to rebuild a true blue water navy then we would be one of two rather than one of 180.
While army’s fight wars navy’s win them. The reason that Britain and America have been undefeated in major conflict except with each other in the last 300 years was domination of the sea. The ability to purchase weapons, raw materials and even man power from abroad. Not to mention being able to maintain their domestic economies. With the increase in global trade the seas are more important today than ever. He who controls the sea controls the world.
China is likely to be the number two power of the early 21st century, Then number one power after 2050. If Britain went to war with China in a non nuclear exchange with a large army even with the use of friendly neighbouring bases we could not hope to win. China could build an army with more soldiers than the United Kingdom has people. No matter the quality of our forces the sheer over whelming numbers of China would win the day.
However China is predominantly a land power. We could build a navy that was bigger with far more advanced technology. We could maintain this position for at least fifty more years. If China went to war with Britain where Britain had a very large blue water navy capable of beating the Chinese navy then all we need to do is blockade the Indian Ocean for six months. The inability of China to import oil, minerals and most importantly food would cause the Chinese economy to collapse. If we are able to defeat the second most powerful country in the world then arguably we become the second most powerful country in the world in military terms.
Indeed this is the strategy we used to defeat Germany in World War I. While the British and French Army held the line it was mass starvation which eventually brought Germany to the table. Even though its army was much larger and arguable more capable than the British and French Army it mattered little. If it was unable to feed its people it could no longer fight.
Having a large navy allows us to veto the foreign policies of other large powers. For instance if the combination of the Chinese and British Navy’s was able to defeat the US Navy then we effectively gain an ability to veto US action. A large Army only gives us the ability to support US action, not discourage it.
Navies are very hard to build. The ships themselves take years, the technology decades and the training and ethos centauries to perfect. We maintain a force today comparable in technology to the US Navy. Something the RAF cannot claim against the US Air force which is perhaps 20 years ahead. For countries like India, China and Brazil even being able to match us in spending terms would still leave them with decades to catch up on technology .
Navy’s unlike army’s rely principally on machines to define their capability and strength. “How many ship’s in your navy” rather than how many sailors. Army’s rely principally on numbers of people “how many boots” rather than how many tanks. For a high income nation with very advanced technology a navy capitalises on our strength’s. A force which relies on number of people highlights our weakness.
Armies are also much quicker and easier to re generate. The British Army went from a professional force of around 100,000 men in 1935 to a force of over 1 million by 1940. Arguable these men were the equal of any army the Germans could field man for man. Other than the ASW frigates the navy we fought with for most of World War II was either built or ordered before the outbreak of war. If we reduce the Army and find ourselves in need of a large army in future we will be able to relatively quickly rebuild it. If we lose our Navy we will never be able to regenerate it.
We are an Island, that’s obvious however our island status is of little use in a world where jet aircraft can cross the channel in seconds. However we live in a continent where we consider every nation an ally. Even on the boarders of our continent we do not see any truly dangerous adversaries. In essence our continent is an Island. Any future threat we may face will have to come across the oceans. Having the ability to deny our enemy use of the sea insulates our continent from attack and hence keeps us safe. Navy’s can not only intercept threats on the other side of the world they can deter that aggression in the first place. What’s the point in China trying to invade Europe if it knows its troop ships will be sunk in the Ocean before they ever arrive? Better not to even try in the first place.
Maintaining a large navy where others do not have one allows us to keep a prominent place in the world. With the number two navy we could be certain of independently retaining our seat on the Security Council. Having the world’s 4th largest navy, 20th biggest Army and 7th biggest Air force gets us nothing. We could do these two force structures on the same budget.
What do we need and what can we afford
We will always need basic air defence for the UK mainland as well as Falklands and other overseas territories. We will need a sufficiently large reserve force of army personnel in the UK both as an ultimate guarantee of our security as well as to assist in civilian unrest and disasters. We will always require a small fleet of frigates and OPV’s to protect our EEZ and sea boarders. Everything else is essentially forces used to support our allies and project our influence abroad. As such these other forces are up for grabs in conducting a maritime doctrine.
We can expect to maintain a budget of £40 billion for defence over the longer term with real terms increase after 2015. This will represent around 2% of GDP. Of this budget around £10 billion is consumed by the ministry of defence and central bureaucracy. A budget of around £30 billion goes to the three armed forces themselves.
At present the Army consumes almost half of the defence budget. These funds give the army the ability to deploy 9 brigades as well as Special Forces under 22nd Special Air Service Regiment and a brigade of Ghurkhas. In addition the Army has a Territorial reserve force of some 30,000 men.
At present the Army can deploy a division sized force for 6 months and sustain a reinforced brigade indefinitely in theatre. After SDSR this force will drop to a light brigade sized force. That will be 30,000 for 6 months then around 6,000 after that.
In a maritime focused strategy we will have to consider very draconian cuts. The ability to sustain a force the size of a brigade will not be required. We will need to be able to strike from the sea hard and fast. Follow up peace keeping forces will have to be provided by allies.
The regular Army force I will recommend will be three brigades. Able to deploy two brigades in a single Marine Army Expeditionary Force. These brigades will be enhanced with 3 armoured battalions as well as organic aviation capabilities. In a long running peace keeping mission this force will be able to maintain a single battalion sized battle group. Deploying in a brigade sized force we will be able to sustain an operational duration of no more than 18 months. In addition this force will be supplemented by a national guard built around 5 brigades. Unlike the present TA these forces will be deployable if needed in the form of an armoured division. The reserve force will constitute the bulk of the Army’s heavy weaponry. I will set a budget of £4 billion per year to cover this force.
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air force will be amalgamated with the Army. All we can justify for the Air force would be three squadrons of Typhoon fighters in the air defence version. Three squadrons with around 84 typhoons would provide sufficient cover for the UK as well as allowing for some deployments to over seas’ territories however these would be limited. Other Air force planes would be transferred to the Marine Expeditionary force such as A400M and C17 as well as helicopters. AWACS would be gone to be replaced with a navy E2 D aircraft. The Rivet Joint aircraft would be kept along with a handful of tankers. I will allocate a budget of £2 billion per year to cover this force.
The marines would go under an amalgamation with the Army to form a Marine Army Expeditionary Force.
The entire point of this exercise is not to create balanced force but a dramatically unbalanced force.
The Budget we can now spend on the Navy is approximately £24 billion per year. This is three time what we spend today. For this budget I would expect to be able to sustain a substantial blue water capability.
Carrier task force – Carriers are no longer the key to open ocean warfare. Submarines are far more capable. However carriers afford two main benefits. They offer substantial power projection capability especially in support of a Marine Expeditionary Force. They are also excellent platforms for visible demonstrations of power such as flag flying and gun boat diplomacy. However they are expensive when the cost of their escort’s and aircraft are taken into account. For that reason I will select to have Three Queen Elizabeth Carriers. That gives us the ability to permanently deploy one to the India Ocean while having at least one more in reserve. The Carrier strike force will be escorted by four Type 45 destroyers which will be enhanced with TLAM, Towed Array Sonar, SSM’s, CIWS, and ASW Merlin Helicopters. In addition a single Astute SSN will accompany the task force as well as a fast fleet tanker and a logistics ship.
Carrier Air Group- With the removal of the RAF’s expeditionary capability we will now need the fleet air arm to provide all of our required forward deployed air assets. Firstly the carrier air group will have four E2D Hawkeye AWACS aircraft to replace the current fleet of Mk7’s and E3D’s. In the fighter and strike role the carrier will deploy 24 F35 C Lightning II’s. The carrier will also have to deploy additional ISTAR and deep strike capability. This should be provided by twelve Sea Taranus UCAV’s In addition there will be four ASW Merlin’s onboard. The ship should also have a complement of four Greyhound C2 aircraft for COD.
Submarines – Submarines provide the Navy’s most powerful blue water capability for offence against an enemy navy. In fact modern SSN’s such as the Astute Class or Virginia class provide such a major capability it is unlikely that any surface platform would survive the onslaught of an advanced SSN force. While SSN’s cannot give us sea control they can give us a sea denial capability. Denying our enemy the use of the sea. For this reason I would opt to increase our SSN force to 32 boats from the present force of eight.
Amphibious Task Force – The Amphibious task force will now be required to land a division sized force on a beach. For that reason I will essentially double the force. This would see Two Juan Carlos style LHD’s Four Albion Class LPD’s and 8 Bay Class LSD’s.
In addition the Task force would be escorted by two Type 26 Combat Ship’s and Two Type 45 Destroyer.
Escorts-For diplomatic as well as security reason it will be necessary for the Navy to have a visible presence in every ocean. This presence will have to be from a powerful surface combatant. In the past we used cruisers to provide this. However today if built to the correct standards an Up Gunned Type 26 Combat Ship could be considered a cruiser. Essentially if built right it will be a general purpose destroyer. The vessel should be equipped with SAMPSON light Phased Array radar, Aster 15 SAM, TLAM and a 155mm main gun. Our ambition should be to have one of these vessels deployed in every significant body of water in the world. We would look to have one of these vessels deployed at all times in, The North and South Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arabian Gulf, Western India Ocean and South China Sea. To provide this patrol’s we will need twenty four T26 vessels.
In addition to the Type 26 we will need a smaller cheaper frigate able to deploy to many places and carry out a number of general roles. The Type 27 frigate vessel will supplement the T26 in ocean patrols. We would require a fleet of 20 of these vessels.
Minor War Vessels
Minor War Vessels-To maximise our visibility in World Ocean’s we would require a large number of vessel’s able to conduct counter piracy, disaster relief, EEZ patrol and Mine Counter Measures. These vessels would be cheap, versatile auxiliaries with little armament beyond a main gun and flex modules. However they should be fitted with at least CAMMS for AAW protection. The C3 vessel would fit this role. We should expect to maintain 64 of these vessels. Four of these vessels should also be equipped with an Ice Breaking hull to replace HMS endurance and provide the ability to deploy a force into an Arctic or Antarctic Environment.
Logistics-Logistics ships would be vital for such a globally deployed Navy. We would require a fleet of two repair ships, two medical ships, twelve logistics ship’s, six fast fleet tankers, six smaller fleet tankers and six support tankers. We would also maintain a heavy sea lift capability with 6 Point Class RoRo’s.
The fleet Size would now be:
3 * CVF
2 * LHD
14* Type 45 destroyer
24* Type 26 Combat Ship (C1)
20* Type 27 Frigate (C2)
64* Minor War Vessel (C3)
2* Repair Ship
2* Medical Ship
12* Logistic ship
6* Fast Fleet Tanker
6* Small Fleet Tanker
6* Support Tanker
6* Point Class RoRo
To achieve this force we would allocate an annual budget as follows
Aircraft Carrier’s £523 million
Frigates and Destroyers £4,146 million
Minor War Vessels £1,155 million
Amphibious Ship’s £706 million
Strategic Sea Lift £33 million
Fleet Support £932 million
Survey £259 million
Naval Aircraft £5,241 million
Submarines £10,092 million
Total £23,087 million
Comparison with other Great Powers
The table above gives a comparison of the new enlarged Royal Navy with other world Navy’s. Numbers alone cannot compare a navy’s capability. The US Navy and Royal Navy operate a large force of SSN’s while most of the rest operate just a handful of old SSN’s and SSK’s. It is the same with other platforms such as amphibious vessels and destroyers where the RN and USN have much larger more capable vessels.
However this enlarged Royal Navy would have around 40% of the combat power of the US Navy. It would likely be able to defeat the Navies of India, Russia and China Combined singled handed. As the US Navy is forced to deploy most of its combat power in the Pacific to protect its western coast the Royal Navy could easily outnumber the US navy in the Indian ocean which is likely to be the most important Ocean of the 21st century. I would argue that a Royal Navy of this size and capability would define us as a narrow spectrum super power as opposed to great power. Indeed this is not dissimilar to our position in the 19th and early 20th century at the height of Empire.