Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Challenge - Defence Policy

The strategic environment for Defence has changed radically and Britain's Armed Forces are not equipped to meet the tasks they are now being called upon to perform. We need to re-equip and re-organise for expeditionary warfare.

Firstly, let's stop pretending that the nuclear deterrent has anything to do with defence. Pull it from the MOD budget and stick the cash under the Cabinet Office where it belongs. Obviously, given Trident and the probability that any replacement will be SLBM, then a largish chunk of this will be handed back to the Royal Navy to pay them for operating the system. This will remove some fairly large distortions from the system.

Secondly, we need to decide what sort of defence we want. We need a core protective element - I don't believe that Britain is likely to be attacked by anybody other than the French in the near future but we do have the odd outpost here and there. I believe that we need to strengthen the Army's current deployment posture so we can be fighting 2 medium conflicts deployed at any one time (i.e. what we are not quite managing to sustain with Iraq and Afghanistan at the moment) without having people returning from one operational theatre and straight out to the next (as just happened to an acquaintance). More importantly, the RAF and Royal Navy need to re-equip to play their part in these conflicts.

Thirdly, we need to sort out procurement. Too many projects are too big, too European, and fail. Let's just buy what we need - this will generally, although not exclusively, mean buying American. The money saved can be used to create new industry in the very limited areas affected - although the expertise of British design shops and specialist manufacturers will ensure that we will end up supplying a reasonable quantity of components. However, stuff we can trivially make here, ammunition for example, let's bring that back in house. I actually have no problem with re-establishing Royal Ordnance as a government "agency".

And additionally, by service:

Strategic Systems

New (Naval) post, separate from FOSM - reporting operationally to the Cabinet Office and budgeted through them.


Yes to the carriers (and enough Type-45s to protect them in deployment). Yes, some anti-submarine.

New littoral protection ships - corvettes, if you will. These can carry a couple of helicopters (but not the Merlin) - small and carrying a big kick - Apache Longbow will do; heavily gun armed (155mm not 4.5" - for NGS), gun and missile protection systems. Close-range anti-submarine only - limited anti-ship (these are not designed to get in to battle with other ships.) Design them for shallower water ops, probably on a SWATH hull. We may even call them "monitors".

Bin the Astute class and replace it with a proper SSGN - similar to the Soviet "Oscar" class, carrying enough of a mix of missiles (SLCM & anti-ship) to really make it a contributor to littoral warfare.

And we'll have another Commando, if we can manage it, please.


Hmm, this is going to piss the (heavy) cavalry off. Firstly, if we are going to be doing peace-keeping, we need a new class of armoured vehicle - let's call it a battle-wagon. This needs to be able to transport an infantry section safely around a town, be appropriately armoured against IED and light anti-tank weapons (i.e. the ubiquitous RPG) and with appropriate support fire-power (0.5" chain-gun and a heavier cannon.) Just to keep the purple-trouser brigade from leading a revolution, let's give them a whole bunch of decent recce vehicles to replace the CVRT. Small and fast, a comprehensive sensor outfit, and a decent anti-infantry weapons fit. Possibly back to wheels rather than tracks.

We need new light artillery. I really think that the Royal Regiment would like some of these.

Replace the SA-80 with these or something extremely similar.

Give the Army Air Corps back all tactical helicopters & greatly improve combat transport lift capability. This might actually be something that the Gremlin can do.


(Actually, if I had my way I would reform the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service but that is probably not politically realistic.)

Okay, stop Typhoon at current levels of delivered. Concentrate on ground-pounding for the combat air side. STOL capability means that JSF is certainly the medium term answer. In the mean time, let's see if we can lease some of these and these.

You lose tactical heli-lift - we'll argue about Chinook later. Whoever is running it, in theatre heavy heli-lift needs to work and it needs to be under tactical command of the Ground Component Commander.

If we keep going with this piece of euro-crap, you need to remember that we also need strategic airlift - so C17 or similar. At the same time, let's modernise the movers' fleet: a nice modern jet liner, either of these firms will do one for you - economy seating, a bit more cargo space (the average squaddie packs even more than your mother-in-law), and a reasonable suite of defensive design, build and tricks.

Let's concentrate on support in the field.



Roger Thornhill said...

What is your view on the Cougar/Tempest HEV? Seems a well-tried vehicle but not sure on the fit around other elements.

As for helicopters, if I put on my tin-foil hat, I would wish for the return of a Rotodyne-based craft. Large payload and in modern form 500+mph. Very rapid response!

Oh, and we could build our own hovercraft again...

Surreptitious Evil said...

I have not seen one in action but, although it seems to be a good anti-mine vehicle, I don't think it will have the necessary IED protection for Iraq - remember we are talking about multiple 152mm HE shells, here. If they can blow 4 people out of the back of a Warrior AFV? Had you seen this from MOD?

I think we need something more substantial (although Mastiff is clearly a better option than Snatch or Saxon.) Better armour and better armament. Probably sufficient to make it an RTR rather than a Infanteer drive.

If my son and I can make a hovercraft I am sure UK.plc can come up with something :)

Roger Thornhill said...

S-E, the Mastiff is the 6x6 version of the Cougar.

Makes a Humvee look like a G-Whiz.

AFAICT the Warrior is flat bottomed, so any mine would give it a hard slap. The Mastiff is V shaped and so directs the blast away. I suspect it would survive better than the Warrior. I also hear it is designed like some lizard to discard wheels to protect other parts and so require only repair, not replacement of the entire vehicle.

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