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back to article MoD's Baron techwealth quits for Le Mans biofuel bid

The UK's tech-millionaire aristocrat defence procurement minister has quit, saying that he wants to spend more time racing biofuel cars. Paul Drayson holds a PhD in Robotics from Aston University and made an estimated £80m personal fortune during a business career that included a management buyout at Trebor, the sweets maker. In …

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Defense procurement

Some would say that when the government takes money out of the UK economy in taxes, it has an obligation to put it back through spending, not send it abroad. Defense spending on UK products represents a stimulus to the british economy, maintaining british jobs and developing high-technology industry. Defense R&D in particular is an investment in science in general, not just in the military.

Equally pertinant is the fact that American kit is cheap because US companies are able to achieve greater economies of scale by flogging the stuff around the world. If we sold more stuff abroad, and the US less, the price differential would not be so noticeable.

Besides, it's one thing to buy US parts because they're cheaper, it's quite another to lack the ability to produce them yourself. The DIS is designed to maintain capabilities, not necessarily to produce everything in the UK. Maintaining capabilities occasionally requires buying the more expensive option.

Free trade is all very well, but the world does not show any signs of becoming a peaceful utopia any time soon, so there are certain things you need to be able to produce for yourself.

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Silver badge
Mars

Spring Clean....... but making WwwAI for What ? WwwAI?

Seems like he was a complete and utter waste of Space and his "resignation" just a smoke screen to cover the fact that he was booted out or was going to be booted out of Office for gross incompetence and lack of Future Vision. Defence is not about keeping old businesses going, its about having Lead Systems.

Playing with his toys will probably be his best move. We wish him well.

Now what about this WwwAI Stuff? What exactly does IT do ITs UniVersal Force Command and Control? And if you Buy IT in do you then Own IT rather than just Lease ITs Ownerships to Server Co-Incidental Wares/Collateralised Investment Products and Parallelling Services?

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Thumb Up

Heh

"These troublemakers sometimes suggest that in fact Drayson could have bought the whirlybirds from Sikorsky, given each sacked worker at AgustaWestland a half-million-pound payoff, and still saved £180m for the taxpayers."

This troublemaker wouldn't be you by any chance? :)

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Coat

With his exemplary record...

one has to wonder whether the good Baron has been drinking his fuel...

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Troublemakers?

Surely you mean those nasty people that actually take an objective interest in the subject, have a basic understanding of strategic implications and are not part of the greased palm gravy train?

Are there such people? Know you of any?

Taking odds on His Lordship to wash up on the board of Bae systems within the year thus completing the circle of incompetence, malfeasance and ongoing clusterf**k.

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Anonymous Coward

@Simon Ball

That sentiment is all well and good in peacetime. However when we are fighting two substantial wars where our soldiers are grossly ill equipped the consideration of commercial issues is taking the piss.

Hmmm... I feel a rant coming on...

...ah, here it is..

<rant>

When we are at war we should act like it. We've sleep-walked into both these conflicts, soldiers moral is low, their equipment is based on the peacetime needs, the medical care for large numbers of injured hasn't been funded and the numbers of injured is even concealed. This is yet another example of the wealthy people in the country acting like all is peace and light in the world while we send the poor people to die for a bullshit cause.

</rant>

Unfortunately because most of the Labour party don't want to be involved in wars, we're unlikely to see them grasp the bull by the horns.

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@ Jon B

I actually heartily agree. But that has less to do with precisely where our equipment comes from and far more to do with the scandalous inadequacy of the defense budget. Current funding is wholly inadequate to our needs even if we bought from the cheapest supplier. I was simply observing that the premium on British kit is worth paying simply to keep the money, the jobs and the technology in the country.

Though as far as battlefield support helicopters go, for the love of God take the bloody things off the RAF and given them back to the army. We'll never have enough of them as long as the procurement decisions are being made by fighter pilots.

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Unhappy

You expected better?

The last time the Westminster Wallies supported our troops was in 1940 when they could almost smell the enemy.

To imagine for one minute that a conflict half a world away is going to worry them unless it impacts directly on their re-election is p^^^ing into the wind!

As regards to BAE (Bribes And Excuses) - words almost fail me, if this article was a TV script it would be rejected as being too ridiculous.

We bought Apache's and put them into storage because we buggered about with the power plant and no-one could fly them.

Let's face it, the people in government are only there because they cannot get a real job, so as a result they could not organise a drinking party in a brewery.

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Flame

Simon Ball so right - Bruce SO WRONG

MiNobleLord Drayson was - in truth - one of the very few compenet MinDP we have ever had - ever

For an insight into our proud history of helicopter silliness I heartily recommned Lewis P's book; essentially, the UK Armed Forces have exercised silliness since the damnations against common sense were invented

and yes! it was LP who started the "give everyone in Yovile half a million quid" line, I can only imagine LP has never been to Yovile...

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Unhappy

I live in Yeovile....

.... so can I have a half million quid so I can leave. Please. Pretty please?

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IT Angle

Re Defense Procurement

"Some would say that when the government takes money out of the UK economy in taxes, it has an obligation to put it back through spending, not send it abroad."

Really? Loads of British government contracts involve money going abroad. Every IT contract to EDS or IBM involves large foreign owned companies. What makes defence so special? Apparently the desire to make sure that people don't have the kit they need.

" Defense spending on UK products represents a stimulus to the british economy, maintaining british jobs and developing high-technology industry. Defense R&D in particular is an investment in science in general, not just in the military."

Simply no. Current mega-budget items are things like Nimrod (a must for anorak 1950s aircraft enthusiasts) or aircraft carriers. Neither has a real world application. Look, its been a British government fallacy for years, doubtless in some drug induced haze an Admiral fantasises that the Nimrod boys will leave their ancient comet and invent a better DVD player. Its simply not going to happen. Lets take a test - all the readers that have PS2 or PS3 or something similar at home go "Whoo". Everyone with an SA-80 go "yee-hoo" I'm willing to bet that there are a lot more "Whoo" out there,

To put it another way - Japan imports much of her military kit and she's been pretty damn innovative (although she does also have a number of US made helicopters built by Kawasaki). Admittedly Japan doesn't go in for massive military operations.

"Equally pertinant is the fact that American kit is cheap because US companies are able to achieve greater economies of scale by flogging the stuff around the world. "

So by your argument it appears that nearly every other country on the planet agrees that US kit is a lot better than their British competitors. Who are we to stand in the way of the bulk of international opinion? Might as well get something decent for our money.

Look, the SA-80 was bought by only the poor suckers in Jamaica, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. In the case of at least 1 of these the likelihood of the military using their weapons on people who actually have guns is nearly zero so the SA-80 is a perfectly respectable weapon for that purpose. Ethical people will be glad to hear that the SA-80 was given as part of the foreign aid - at least the poor suckers (or their population) didn't have to pay for them.

"If we sold more stuff abroad, and the US less, the price differential would not be so noticeable."

Hm... SA-80A2 rifle costs around $2000 a pop (we have around 200k of them, at a cost of £450m), the M-16A2 $400 at list price, the AK-47 is available worldwide from $50 upwards. The M-16 is considered to be a highly capable rifle, the AK-47 and her many variants are legendary. The SA-80 is, at best lets face it, slowly recovering from a reputation as a death trap ("The SA-80 is a lethal weapon. Often to its user"). A recent test firing showed it to be highly reliable, but sources in Afghanistan and Iraq still say that the weapon is deeply flaky.

"Besides, it's one thing to buy US parts because they're cheaper, it's quite another to lack the ability to produce them yourself. The DIS is designed to maintain capabilities, not necessarily to produce everything in the UK. "

So we can go to war with the Americans? Cough, gag, gasp. My money is on the Yanks. In fact, I surrender now. Look, the reality is that Iranians have F-14's flying nearly 3 decades after they broke military ties with the Americans and that includes time spent fighting a massive ground war, neither of which the British have done. The argument that we need to keep throwing masses of money away to keep some navvies on-line in case we decide in a mad moment to burn Washington down again is in reality just an argument that the Iranians are, apparently, a lot smarter than the RAF techies. Its possible, sure, but I doubt it.

The reality is that all this spending money, which was once fine when we were rich, is that we want the ability to re-enact the massive failure that was Suez. That the military in the UK is able to get away with this kind of delusion is a sign of how inept our politicians are.

"Maintaining capabilities occasionally requires buying the more expensive option."

Sure. But the UK always goes expensive, and never gets the capability it needs. Buying the better US helicopter gets us more effective kit, sooner and - for the same money - more helicopters. Going the Merlin route gets nothing immediately, gets less in the future, and gets fewer helicopters.

If you mean we spend more to get less is the same as maintaining capabilities the question is capability for what? My guess is more waste. Each job in the UK defence industry is subsidised to the tune of, give or take, £15,000 a year. The dole payment for these useless workers is not £15k a year.

Of course you might like the fact that the British military pays too much, doesn't get what it needs, and faces cash crises like 2001 when entire infantry regiments were eliminated to pay for the worthless kit that they had ordered in previous years (Eurofighter, we're looking at you - we might note that the highly capable Sea Harrier was dumped for the Eurofighter).

"Free trade is all very well, but the world does not show any signs of becoming a peaceful utopia any time soon, so there are certain things you need to be able to produce for yourself."

Such as? We buy in an awful lot of kit, we spend an awful lot of money and money is very tight right now. The UK cannot afford to have one system for each service to play in a particular game. The obvious thing to do is stop wasting money on prestige projects and military stupidity. An example? Lets take something like anti-submarine warfare. We have, on the books or currently awaited:

Merlin Mk1 helicopters at a cost of £4-5bn

Nimrod MRA4 patrol planes £3-£4bn

Frigates £2-4bn

Attack submarines £3bn

Total cost: £12 to 16bn. Thats a lot of equipment that could be of use in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or we could waste it re-enacting the Battle of the Atlantic.

So who will this kit be used on? Well the most likely opponents are the Iranians. They have 3 Kilo-class submarines.costing in total around £400m. In other words we're spending some 30 to 40 times what the Iranians are to deal with a threat that doesn't really exist. Nice. Welcome to bankruptcy.

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