back to article BAE aims to keep all-u-can-eat ticket at MoD pie-shop

Fairly soon now, most observers are agreed, the UK Ministry of Defence will have to announce budgetary plans for the coming years. Typically, this is a matter of dull routine. But this year business as usual won't do. The MoD budget rowboat is so overloaded, so near to capsizing, that something big has to be thrown overboard. On …

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BAE is the main problem

A couple of things would help no end:-

Buying off-the-shelf stuff that does the job that needs to be done, rather than fancy long-range programmes where the needs have changed competely by the time it's delivered,

A bit more competition in the industry

But I guess BAE would do everything in its power to prevent these.......

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Nice one Lewis

...but shouldn't it be 30%BAE as only 30% of them are British, or maybe AAE?

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Coat

A few words...

I feel I must object to the assumption that 'stealth = superiority'. Your jibes with saying "and it's not even stealth" are a bit unfair as you assume Typhoon would be better if it was stealth with those inevitable design restrictions that would bring. You compare it to the F22. It is commonly accepted that in VR the Typhoon will beat the F22. In BVR the F22 may have an advantage and we, being mere civilians, will never know where the true advantage lies. I point you to a quote I found, I am not a subscriber so I cannot check it out for myself but try "International AIR POWER REVIEW" - year 2006, issue 20, page 45. - ISNB: 1-880588-91-9 (casebound) or ISBN: 1473-9917.

"...more recently, there have been repeated reports that two RAF Typhoons deployed to the USA for OEU trails work have been flying against the F-22 at NAS China Lake, and have performed better than was expected. There was little surprise that Typhoon, with its world-class agility and high off-boresight missile capability was able to dominate "Within Visual Range" flight, but the aircraft did cause a surprise by getting a radar lock on the F22 at a surprisingly long rate. The F-22s cried off, claiming that they were "unstealthed" anyway, although the next day´s scheduled two vs. two BWR engagement was cancelled, and "the USAF decided they didn´t want to play any more ."

You may have been insinuating that the cost is expensive considering that it does not have stealth, well the F22 project's costs are/have been ballooning too. One only has to look at the B2 aka "Worlds most expensive aircraft" too.

Perhaps this may help too: http://www.raf.mod.uk/purpose/airpowerunderpressure.cfm

However, I do realise that this is only a minor point in what is otherwise another excellent article from El Reg. Don't get me wrong, I agree with you, but I just wanted to add my 2p. Personally my bet is on the MR4 going. One must also ask (which you did hint at in your article) when are we going to start thinking out a replacement for the GR4?

Let the flames begin...

PS Anon as I want the flames to be online only...

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Black Helicopters

I'd love to see..

A list of uk.gov officials and ministers who, over the decades, has handed huge chunks of our tax money to BAE and who from that list subsequently got cushy jobs at BAE. Or an account of just how much money BAE punt out in backhanders and other illegal 'incentives' and 'facillitation fees' to those who green-light such massive spending.

Up until this morning that seemed like a pipe dream as BAE's PR department.. sorry.. I meant the UK government, of course.. have closed down such investigations for reasons of 'national security' (obviously it would be bad for the country to find out that those running it will cheerfully bend over backwards for their uber-rich buddies, that our industrial-defense complex is as bent as a 3-trillion-pound note and that defense procurement descisions are based more on vote-winning and filling those rich buddies pockets than it is about military need).

Today's news that the Law Lords are having none of that shenanigans means that maybe there is hope after all. Just maybe. I'm not holding my breath.

UK.gov could provide a perfectly good military for the budget they have if they just stopped buying useless, overpriced shite from their mates - but that will only happen if they are held to account by us all.

Ike was right (about this at least) - http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwightdeisenhowerfarewell.html

Sadly the prospect of an 'alert and knowledgeable citizenry' in the UK (or the US for that matter) holding these incompetant, corrupt chancers to account is becoming more and more laughable by the day as our societies get ever dumber.

One can only hope that this is coincidental and that those in power over us did not hear that speech and set about mitigating the threats to THEM he indirectly detailed in it (threats that are very different, indeed perhaps the exact opposite of, the threats to US that spoke of directly).

Black Helicopter because.. well, I HOPE that I'm just spouting paranoid liberal, leftist nonsense. I FEAR, however, that I am not.

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Unhappy

It's the government that's at fault

The biggest problem is the MoD procurement processes. There is no cohesion or foresight. The people who sign the contracts to buy stuff are not the people who use the stuff in the field. There are few programs that really look at how they are going to integrate with existing kit, processes and personnel before they go into production, so vast amounts of money then has to be spent changing the specs and integrating.

What is really needed is a proper capability-based procurement process, with larger numbers of small experimental evaluation programs before the big programmes start.

Also, if the USA was more willing to share technology both ways then off-the-shelf stuff would be more appealing. Our weak PMs have not really done enough to try and make the exchange of info more bi-directional.

Obviously BAE use whatever persuasive arguments they can for getting cash. So do supermarkets though ("think of the local jobs generated", etc. while buying up vast quantities of land that might be better used for afforable housing). That's capitalism for you.

(I am a former BAE employee still working in defence industry)

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Stop

Eurofighter?

Hmm, taking a fast jet interceptor and hastily bolting on a load of kit to turn it into a Multi-role combat aircraft. What can possibly go wrong?

<Sound of Bob Calvert's "Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters" album playing in background....>

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Me

Alternatively

Scrap Trident and its son and withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Another excellent piece from Lewis

Thousg as another commenter has suggested, isn't there serious money to be saved (outside BAe, sadly) just by scrapping Trident?

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El Reg speciality: meaningless titles to stories.

El Reg (or Reggie as he was born) does like to use crap titles, doesn't he?

I look forward to compiling a book of the most outstanding ones, which of course no-one will buy.

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No surprises

Having had the misfortune to experience the MOD/BAe procurement process, I am not at all surprised. I could not believe the sheer effort in getting any proposals past the 7 layers of management/committee hell. By the time it nearly reached approval, the original proposal was out of date and need re-scoping and re-submission.

The $500 spanner is quite understandable when you have been though this.

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Coat

And we used to have toi excellent equipment

One of the things the Army plans to replace is the Land Rover.

Which has just been bought by Tata in India.

Is it a coincidence that the Ishapore Arsenal in India kept making Lee Enfields for a long time after the British Army replaced them with the SLR?

Well, there shouldn't be any problem supplying the Vickers machinegun in 7.62mm.

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@Richard

Thats a great idea, why didn't anyone think of that before, the MOD could just buy submarines, aircraft carriers, tanks, fighter planes straight off the shelf.

The reason why programmes take so long is because the the MOD requirements are constantly changing, something that BAE has had to pay for a number of times.

If there was an off the shelf product that meets the MOD's requirements then its their decision to buy it, but more than likely there would be no off the shelf products that meet their requirements.

BAE are a supplier, and the MOD are the customer, its the MOD's decision what they buy. Its not like you can blame Tesco's if you buy 12 donuts when you only needed 6.

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Anonymous Coward

Not quite maybe...

What about the recent monster contract with our favourite democratic, human rights, free speech loving and oil producing ally (who we aren't bombing), the Saudis?

They'll be soon be receiving the machines originally destined for the RAF, who then might just actually get the number of EFs they want (i.e. less than 232) and fully kitted up so that they can fire live hedgehogs at tremendous speeds at the Taliban/generic terrorists/whatever.

In short:

1: The Saudis get the EF much earlier than would have been possible (i.e. finding sufficient 'slots' or waiting until the end of the RAF production run;

2: It means the RAF doesn't have to buy all 232, saving money using it to make all EFs bought upto Slice 3 standard;

3: The UK gov was the major driving force behind this deal, so would have had some leverage on Bae (re: point 2 above).

Then again, if the arms probe is reopened... I still have faith though that British civil servants will dip into their mastery of dodgyness to find a solution that would shuit all...

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Dead Vulture

Changing Requirements

And of course the original contract was for round donuts which was later changed to square donuts without a hole.

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Unhappy

Money talks and...

"Thats a great idea, why didn't anyone think of that before, the MOD could just buy submarines, aircraft carriers, tanks, fighter planes straight off the shelf."

Indeed they can. And at a very competitive price too. Which, given that the whole point of the article is that the MOD is flat broke, is very much an issue.

Lets take the SA-80 (IW, or whatever name its failure is hidden under this week). Production cost in the UK? £2000 per unit. The M16A2 cost? The list price is £200 per unit - and for a quarter of a million units, you're not paying list price, the discount will be massive.

Right there that's a £400m saving. That is 40% of the current cash crisis. OK so that money is sunk cost, but there are other current examples where similar costs can be cut with a bit of nouse.

"If there was an off the shelf product that meets the MOD's requirements then its their decision to buy it, but more than likely there would be no off the shelf products that meet their requirements."

Requirements are lovely; they are pristine dreams, untrammelled by the harsh world of cruel, cruel reality. Every plane is a new Spitfire, every infantry weapon a new Lee-Enfield, something that will live on in legend for generations to inspire schoolchildren and appear in war movies and make the civil servants who work on the paperwork stride proudly in the steps of Mitchell. Ah, to dream.

On the other hand the money to fund them is the reality. The Americans have a lovely saying - money talks and bullshit walks - which is pretty appropriate here. The MOD can create any requirements it wants (the bullshit), but without the budget its worthless.

For the MOD requirements are now secondary to cash. As every 4 year old discovers if there is no cash then they cannot have their new toy. In short getting rid of the MOD requirements and simply buying what they can actually afford might be a big step towards reality.

"BAE are a supplier, and the MOD are the customer, its the MOD's decision what they buy. Its not like you can blame Tesco's if you buy 12 donuts when you only needed 6."

Sure, but if you're strapped for cash then its not Tescos, its Aldi or Netto. And then Tescos aren't selling anything (which is, again the point of the article), so they go down.

BAE have realised that this is coming and have, quite wisely, slipped off to the US where military keynsianism is in full swing, and which will continue until the Americans realise that they are, in fact, broke. The F-22 costs around $400m a piece, and the US air force wants 380 of them (though its only getting 168). No-one can afford that for long.

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Boffin

It has been a while...

but if you look back at the major and minor wars that the UK has fought over the last 50 years, the need for solid ground troops, ground support and naval strength is major.

We've not had a need for nukes and without meaning to sound like a pacifist, I would like to add that if we indeed had to use them, it's pretty much game over for us and the world anyway.

Closing Aldermaston, which employs over 5,000 people alone, as well as cancelling trident and son will save several billion.

Keeping the Comets flying is wasteful - whoever signed off on this should be hung from an Italian balcony - bowels out. There are other ways to accomplish this sort of surveillance at a much lower cost.

We need the carriers and support fleet. We need the naval jets (JSFs). Even the Eurofighters make sense, although let's do Tranche 3 and pass the older ones to the Saudis. After all, if we don't arm the Saudis, the Americans will and I would rather have the British in charge of part supplies than the Yanks, base on recent experiences of their foreign policy in the Middle-East.

The natural alternative, of course is to fight only the wars that our weapons are suited for. This would mean ignoring Iraq/Kosovo/Afghanistan and picking a fight with Russia, China or France. Or the USA :)

Blue head, because I can feel the radiation affecting me already...

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Paris Hilton

Hum!

I'm sure one of the reasons why the RAF loves the Typhoon to bits so much is because the RAF brass love nice, flashy kit that flies at high speeds and makes things go "boom" in the air and (after modification) on the ground too.

Sadly, the RAF don't really like slow, lumbering and large aircraft like helicopters or transport aircraft as they look boring, sound boring, don't really go very well with the pilot's superbike and they come with annoying requirements like being forced to carry loads of smelly Paras or food to the unfashionable starving masses abroad.

Hence why the lions share of the cash goes on the Typhoon and the C-130 barely gets cash to outfit it with countermeasures to help it deal with an air to air missile hitting it for example.

In truth, it'd be far better if the Army and Royal Navy be given ownership of the chopper fleet and the RAF be forced to spend x amount on its transport fleet.

Paris because the crabs are more into bling than things that are actually useful!

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Coat

Carriers used in Falklands War

What Falklands War, there was a Falklands Conflict engineered by a certain Prime Minister but no war as she didn't want to pay War Pensions to the servicemen & women involved or to their dependents when the servicemen & women were killed.

There is a current fad amongst the Governments Spin Doctors, in collusion with the Generals, Admirals & Air Marshals, to constantly refer to the Falklands War to glorify the unnecessary deaths of so many British Service personnel but a quick check of historical facts, including The Hansard, will confirm it was a conflict. There is enough lies coming out of The Palace of Westminster without El Reg contributing to it.

Right, I'll get me flack jacket now

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Black Helicopters

Rotten to the Core

This may sound obvious, but does anyone in the MoD actualy bother to find out what the poor sods at the sharp end actualy need to do the dirty jobs they've been sent to do? The PBI's and everyone else might actually get what they need then, but that would be too simpe I suppose.

Whoever suggested that MR4 was the best option in the first place needs stringing up! The only reason the USAF can keep it's vintage B52s fying is because they had a lot more built in the first place and a huge chunk of desert to sit spare airframes in so they can raid them for spares. Added to which I seem to recall reading that because of the way the original Comets were built, BAe's idea of buiding the new fusealage sections at one site and plugging them in on another ran into trouble because the older sections were essentially hand made and nothing matched up exactly the same on each airframe when they came to mate the bits together.

I'd dearly like this Govt to really upset the forces, to such an extent that the forces decide to park their tanks on the Govt's lawn! Mind you, there's probably not enough servicable, with enough crews, ammunition and fuel to do it; or is that the plan?

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Paris Hilton

Spares and Control

AC,

"Even the Eurofighters make sense, although let's do Tranche 3 and pass the older ones to the Saudis. After all, if we don't arm the Saudis, the Americans will and I would rather have the British in charge of part supplies than the Yanks, base on recent experiences of their foreign policy in the Middle-East."

First, this line of thinking, although once traditional, is simply not backed by the Middle Eastern experience. The Iranians are still flying US made F-14s nearly 30 years after the US put a full military embargo on them. If it comes to a point they still picked up Exocet under the same circumstances.

Second. Just to let you know that we're not just selling the Eurofighter to Saudi, the technology is also included in the contract, which is something the Yanks will never do for the F-22. Effectively this allows the Saudis to flog the Eurofighter technology to any other nation, such as to China. China can provide all the spares the Saudis will ever want, with no strings attached.

We're being paid around $16bn for this, whilst we spent a lot more than that creating it in the first place. I love the BAE / MOD experience.

Paris, because even she's bright enough not to just give stuff away for free.

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Pirate

RE: Starfighters and SA-80

So many myths!

RE: TeeCee - The high accident rate of the Lockheed Starfighter in Luftwaffe service was entirely due to poor training of the German pilots - they went from flying very subsonic, relatively lowly-wing-loaded Thunderjets to supersonic and very highly-wing-loaded Starfighters with very little conversion training. They also switched from clear weather visual dive-bombing (which means flying higher and then diving on a target you can see), to all weather automated bombing using radar (which involved flying a very exact low-level course whilst the bombsight works out when to drop the bomb, often in rain). Result - lots of dead Luftwaffe pilots. The only reason the myth has perpetuated is because of the much hyped bribery scanadals associated with the initial Starfighter deals, a story which was carefully broken and sustained by Lockheed's rivals. The F-100 Super Sabre had a worse safety record when flown by better-trained USAF pilots, but nothing is ever heard about that.

RE: AC and M16A2 - the real cost of the M16A2 is debatable seeing as Colt not only got a large development subsidy from the US Government, but were also assured up front that the US would not buy a foreign rifle. The M16A2 was a redesign of the M16A1 which was originally cursed by US troops (poor training - they didn't clean it properly), then by US instructors (they cleaned it too much), then went on to be the standard rifle for years before they realised it was pants beyond 300m. All this after the US had forced NATO to take the over-sized 7.62x51mm NATO round instead of the infinitely superior British .280/30). A later new NATO 5.56mm round (Belgian SS109) meant a change and the US could have bought any number of off-the-shelf designs in an open competition, but instead they insisted on giving a closed deal to Colt, who produced the M16A2 and then walked away with a nice fat cheque, promptly making the updates available to a large public market to further enlarge their profit. All this despite the fact that the US troops still aren't sure that the M16A2 is what they need, the M4 carbine being a bodge for the Special Forces people that still didn't satisfy (SOCOM are now buying a completely separate design in both 5.56mm and 7.62mm, and may switch to a new 6.8mm round entirely which has almost exactly the ballistic qualities of the old British .280/30), the US Government still insisting that they won't buy a foreign rifle, and the SA-80A2 having thrashed the M16A2 and all comers at recent NATO reliability trials. Compared to the M16A2, the SA-80A2 is also more accurate (has a longer barrel) and shorter (important if you spend lots of time in APCs or helicopters like modern troops do), and the Paras I know which cursed the original now freely state they wouldn't swap them for the M16A2 or the Diemaco C7 (apparently the latter is only suited to "soft" SAS-types!).

So please both be a bit more selective in your comparisons.

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choice

I'm always amused that everything can be bought of the shelf and everyone else does procuement better than UK. Good joke albeit in poor taste. The users are always deeply involved is establishing requirements and serving officers of almost all ranks are involved thoughout. I look forward to informed suggestions as to how to improve matters. Underinformed twaddle is cheap, put up or shutup is my suggestion.

F22 cost has been highlighted, more relevant is Excalibur. For the uninitiated this a smart shell fired by 155mm guns. The US target price is supposed to be $90k a pop, recent Canada and Aust purchases are about $150k and indicators are that it's the same to the US Army. Relevance, ahem, they are being fired in Basra to protect Brits, the firers are the US army, the UK taxpayer saves again. Obviously this shows the way ahead. UK should outsource all defence to the US.

The best longer term saving UK could make would be to abolish the RAF and divide its roles between army and navy.

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IT Angle

@Matt Bryant

Bit confused here. I suspect that you have a point, its just that I cannot see it. Most of your points are neither here nor there.

"AC and M16A2 - the real cost of the M16A2 is debatable seeing as Colt not only got a large development subsidy from the US Government, but were also assured up front that the US would not buy a foreign rifle."

First, this is just like the Royal Ordinance and the SA80. Second it doesn't affect the sale price of the M16. The SA80 came in at £450 million quid for 200,000 weapons or £2250 each. The list price for the M16 was £400, and that's way more than the military actually pay. Even to this day purchasing a "new" SA80A2 is £800 (estimated) a time. Assuming that this estimate is accurate £800 is still twice £400, so the minimum we're paying is twice as much, but its certain to be a lot more than that.

" ...then went on to be the standard rifle for years before they realised it was pants beyond 300m."

As opposed to the British who have introduced the Long Range Rifle (LRR) because the SA80 cannot shoot past 300m either.

"All this after the US had forced NATO to take the over-sized 7.62x51mm NATO round instead of the infinitely superior British .280/30)."

Jesus wept. Are people still complaining about a decision made before my dad was out of short trousers? The EM-2 v FN-FAL v M14 "controversy", which is what you're talking about, began in, what 1948? 1949? Maybe 1950? It was 1951 when the decision was made about .280, I can recall that much. So its only been 57 years. It still doesn't relate to the SA80, or the SA80 costing so much, and certainly has no bearing on the MOD's financial woes.

"the US Government still insisting that they won't buy a foreign rifle, and the SA-80A2 having thrashed the M16A2 and all comers at recent NATO reliability trials."

In the Kuwait test the SA80 still jams, on average, every 8 man hours of slow deliberate firing. In tests in Afghanistan, on the other hand, the stoppage rate was far higher, especially at the start even after careful attention and lots of specific training for each soldier. And these were Royal Marines, elite soldiers. I note carefully that they went round 3 times before they got reasonable results, this does not imply that the weapon is reliable, but it does mean that you can break the test. As Kalashnikov said on seeing the SA80 "you must have clever soldiers", sooner or later if you make them keep doing the same thing they'll get it right. And then you stop and don't test again. Which is, incidentally, what they did in 2007.

"Compared to the M16A2, the SA-80A2 is also more accurate (has a longer barrel) "

So what? Its an assault rifle. Accuracy isn't meant to be a major theme. Its still useless over 300m because it still fires a light round, and it still costs lots more than the alternative.

"and shorter (important if you spend lots of time in APCs or helicopters like modern troops do),"

Which, given that the UK has 50% of its infantry in the Light role, where they get nothing meatier than a truck, isn't as big a flaw as it is for the Americans.

On the other hand I note that you don't mention that the SA80 is heavier than the M16. This goes directly against the reason that NATO went to 5.56N which was so that squaddies could carry more ammo.

"and the Paras I know which cursed the original now freely state they wouldn't swap them for the M16A2 or the Diemaco C7 (apparently the latter is only suited to "soft" SAS-types!)."

First the paras can state whatever they like, they simply don't get a choice in the matter. Now you brought up the SAS - let take a look at what they carry. We'll start by agreeing that they are the British small arms experts. We'll also agree that they can carry what they want, unlike the paras. So what have they carried from choice? According to most reports they most commonly use the M16A2 with the M203 grenade launcher. And that combination is still cheaper than the SA80, without a grenade launcher.

"So please both be a bit more selective in your comparisons."

No. The SA80 costs a lot more than a comparative item. That's a fact. Nothing you've said alters that, or is even relevant to that point. Now if you had some evidence that the SA80 was cheaper for the British to field than the M16 you'd be in business, but it isn't.

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true and false

Yes SA 80 is a lot more expensive than at least some other rifles. That doesn't necessarily mean its not value for money. SA 80 was purchased in 3 if not 4 different versions (excluding .22 for cadet and the recent carbine version). Basically long and short barrels, and optical or iron sights. I suspect the quoted M16 price excludes optical sights. Optical sights for all infantry was another UK military innovation, now everyone is doing it. Obviously optical sights affect the weight as well as price.

IIRC the standard annual personal weapons test for infantry soldiers is out to 400m, in other words with optical sights it's good for this (at least), my understanding is that the long barrel LSW version is good for 600. Incidently while assorted gun nuts may call SA80 an 'assault rifle' its called a rifle in UK service, presumably they know what they are talking about (why would as assault rifle need optical sights?).

Although they haven't released results, which lots of people would love to see, MoD claims their comparitatve global reliability trials of the A2 version show it better than all comparable weapons. Also unlike some comparable weapons there's been no suggestion that it can fire itself when dropped (of course this might just be the superior training of Brit soldiers).

Does all this and, no doubt, other factors, give value for money? I don't know, how do you put a price on a more compact weapon against a lighter one? How do whole life costs compare? As usual these matters aren't simple.

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Paris Hilton

@Nigee

"Yes SA 80 is a lot more expensive than at least some other rifles. That doesn't necessarily mean its not value for money."

Depends if you can afford it. As the article makes clear, we cannot.

"I suspect the quoted M16 price excludes optical sights. Optical sights for all infantry was another UK military innovation, now everyone is doing it. Obviously optical sights affect the weight as well as price."

To an extent as the non-production G11 got there in the 1960s or thereabouts. SUSAT costs about £100 a unit, list. Its not sufficient to explain the massive difference in costs.

"IIRC the standard annual personal weapons test for infantry soldiers is out to 400m"

The APWT is at a variety of ranges. The MOD says the SA80 can do 400m, although they note that the Long Range Rifle is now required because the SA80 becomes inaccurate over 300m. Like most things the MOD is talking out of both sides of their mouth at once. They say the SA80 can do 400m, and say that it can't, so they have to buy another weapon that can.

Range is as much a function of the propellent in the cartridge as barrel length, and so 300m is pretty much it for a standard 5.56n rifle, just like the M-16. The FN FAL - which fires a big, heavy bullet and has a long barrel, is only rated for 500m or so, so claiming 400m for the SA80 is more than slightly optimistic.

"Incidently while assorted gun nuts may call SA80 an 'assault rifle' its called a rifle in UK service, presumably they know what they are talking about (why would as assault rifle need optical sights?)."

As you yourself noted earlier, everyone is adding optical sights to assault rifles, because it gives each soldier an available set of optics for doing vital military tasks like making sure no-one's creeping around with intent to kill you, without the additional weight of a telescope or pair of binoculars.

Second, I wouldn't get excited by British Army weapons terminology, its quite flaky. Only the British army would refer to the FN FAL as the SLR (Self Loading Rifle) - The command "Load" is a specific instruction to the user, and its the one thing that the rifle will never, ever do. In short calling a weapon "self-loading" is to completely miss the point.

The SA80 is an assault rifle, on the definition of an assault rifle being a selective fire weapon firing ammunition between that of pistol and battle rifle calibres. So, selective fire, check, rifle or carbine, check, 5.56N, check. Its an assault rifle.

"Although they haven't released results, which lots of people would love to see, MoD claims their comparitatve global reliability trials of the A2 version show it better than all comparable weapons."

Claims... I claim that Paris is just the girl for me, assuming that she comes up to my level and meets my standards. The MOD would never lie their socks off, just to protect their current political masters and post-government jobs, would they? No. Of course not.

Its not easy to be cynical about completely unverified government claims, but with practise it can be done.

"Also unlike some comparable weapons there's been no suggestion that it can fire itself when dropped (of course this might just be the superior training of Brit soldiers)."

Not really. All weapons can misfire. Even after the modifications, back in 2002, they were talking of canning the SA80A2, because it still does not work and this was an issue with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan. The solution, in typical British military thinking, was that a wave of happy-talk and additional training of second-rate soldiers (apparently this includes the Royal Marines) in weapons cleaning would make the problems all go away.

To show the level of disquiet about the SA80 in 1997 it was dropped from NATO's list of approved weapons because it was having difficulty firing NATO-approved ammunition reliably. A number of British generals bleated that it was poor quality German ammunition, which was strange as every other 5.56n weapon in NATO handled the German stuff with aplomb.

Sadly for the money we wasted on the SA80 we simply cannot sell the blasted things to other nations - no-one else is cretinous enough to want to buy them, and certainly not at the price we paid. We did give some away, but it was part of an aid package - hopefully the poor bastards that were given them won't need to actually fight anyone actually armed with a weapon that works. As Zimbabwe was one of the recipients its unlikely.

"Does all this and, no doubt, other factors, give value for money? I don't know, how do you put a price on a more compact weapon against a lighter one? How do whole life costs compare? As usual these matters aren't simple."

Not simple, true. But the fact is that the British bought a very expensive weapon, which is - at the very least - of dubious reliability, and that no-one else wants. This is indicative of a lot of things, particularly at a time of tight budgets.

So, how do we compare a meal at MacDonalds and one at the Savoy Grill, especially if the Mickie D's is five times the price of the Savoy?

Paris: Because shes expensive and reliable. And she knows what squaddies want.

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Anonymous Coward

$2million pay out to injured Iraqi

Was the squaddie holding a SA80 which misfired when it was dropped. Well thats the news.

Some more thinking required methinks.

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oh dear

we have a problem with terminology. 'Misfire' means it doesn't fire when the trigger is squeezed, totally different issue to dropping it (usually butt first) and it firing of its own accord. 'Self-loading' was a perfectly accurate description of SLR, just because some nations would call it semi-automatic doesn't negate this or its validity (its also shorter and brevity is best - hence "rifle" not "assault rifle" - a term used by w*nk*rs).

A bit of digging will reveal that inf APWT is out to 400m and if IIRC they have to achieve a certain minimum score at that range.

There don't seem to have been any complaints about A2 reliability from current operations. People keep asking about it and no one seems able to come up with any dirt (so to speak) apart from regurgitating the problems of the original. This suggests that MoD's claims may be right, frankly I wouldn't expect anything else, the trials were conducted by serving soldiers not the big bad evil empire called "MoD", if they had been a form of Zimbabewen election then word would have got around. What we really want to know is how bad all the others were and whether or not any type of AK was included.

Value for money is what counts, in the greater scheme of things small arms themselves are peanut money for a small force like UK - how does it compare to the price of other basics like good boots or NBC suits? The original problems arose (accident or design?) from a flawed acquisition process that had the weapons trialled and then production engineered to within an inch of their life. Fortunately it's a bit difficult to do this with IT. This, of course, was in the era of such things as mandating a processing chip (totally ignoring Moore's law) to give such wonders as Nimrod AEW.

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Pirate

RE: AC

"....As opposed to the British who have introduced the Long Range Rifle (LRR) because the SA80 cannot shoot past 300m either...." No, the L115A1 was bought to bolster the L96 "Long" sniper rifle seeing as the 7.62mm NATO round it fired only had a realistic reach of 1000m, and as was seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, delivering accurate fire to 1000+m was a serious problem on "peacekeeping" missions where you can't just smother the bad guy in 81mm mortar rounds. This had nothing to do with the SA80, which can actually be shot accurately to 400+m (I have heard a tale of a Para with an SA80A2 in Iraq making a confirmed kill at 500+m). Your statement is not only incorrect but also irrellevant - it's like saying the RAF bought Harriers beacuse the SLR couldn't fire over hills.

"....According to most reports they most commonly use the M16A2 with the M203 grenade launcher...." Really? Not what I have heard or seen. In fact, the SAS uses the Diemaco C7, some with M203s, not the M16A2. The SAS did have a number of M16A1s used in Borneo and some of these were used in the Falklands, but they have all been replaced with C7s as far as I know. This is primarily a factor of lightness - the C7 is like the M16A2 lighter than the SA80A2, but then many of the ops where the SAS use the C7 they are doing recce and fighting is avoided rather than sought. In fact, the SAS also like the MP5, a weapon they chose for the Iran Embassy assault, which goes to show they choose a different tool for different roles.

"....So what? Its an assault rifle. Accuracy isn't meant to be a major theme....." Ah, you've been watching too many Rambo flicks! Running around spraying fire from the hip is a good way to get yourself a pine suit. The British Army (and the US Army, and just about any professional army) takes great care in making sure their troops spend a lot of time learning to shoot accurately in semi-auto - fully-auto is for room clearing, emergencies, or cover fire. Partly this is because we also don't like wasting money on too much ammo, but also because it is just so much more effective. Killing fire is deliberate, aimed, and usually one round at a time. Since you sprout so many "reports" you may want to check some of the combat reports on Mehdi Army in Iraq and the Taleban in Afghanistan - both have lost many men with the classic AK spray from the waist, whilst Brits plugged them with careful shooting. Seeing as you are obviously get most of your research material from war films, check out "Black Hawk Down" and you may notice the Yanks piling out of the Hummers spend a lot of time in semi-auto despite the Somalis doing the AK spary, realism that was added to the film by Ranger instructors from Fort Benning.

"....As Kalashnikov said on seeing the SA80 "you must have clever soldiers"...." Actually, most Russian officers are surprised by the cleverness of not just NATO soldiers but of our NCOs. Our troops are trained to think and use initiative - our NCOs often carry out duties that even in the modern Russian forces are only carried out by officers. Kalashnikov designed the AK for the average Soviet soldier and for Soviet tactics - for short range assaults. To this end, he designed a submachinegun to fire a shortened rifle round rather than a rifle that also fired auto. The AK selector goes from safe to automatic then single-shot because it is intended to be used primarily in auto. The replacement AK-74 even has a muzzlebrake to improve accuracy when fired in automatic. In contrast, designs for NATO forces usually have a selector that goes from safe to semi-auto then fully-auto because the NATO forces still intend it as a rifle first, then a close-range SMG replacement.

"....The SA80 costs a lot more than a comparative item...." In fact, your love for the M16 has blinded you to the obvious fact that if all the Brits need is a cheap rifle then we could just buy up AKs, they sell in many parts of Africa for as little as $50 which is a darn sight cheaper than your £400 figure. But then the AK is a lot less likely to be as effective as the SA80A2. And effectiveness should always be taken into account when considering costs.

"....First the paras can state whatever they like, they simply don't get a choice in the matter...." Wrong! In battle it is common for troops to pick up the opponents' or allies' weapons and try them. I see dozens of stories of US soldiers picking up Iraqi AKs in choice over their M16A2s and especially over the M4s, but I have not heard a single instance of a Brit soldier doing the same. In fact, quite the opposite, in several recorded instances in Iraq when working for the Iraqi Authority the Brits refused to use captured Iraqi AKs, preferring their SA80A2s. Maybe Uncle Sam should try looking further afield if the US does decide to go for the 6.8mm SPC round. Even if a 6.8mm SA80 is unlikely, I'm sure Heckler & Koch would be happy to offer a G36 in the calibre. That would be the G36 already chosen by many US Police SWAT teams over the M16 family. :)

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Paris Hilton

@Matt Bryant

Matt,

I'm being amused by this as you seem to have problems with time and cost. Sorry but its getting funny at this end.

" No, the L115A1 was bought to bolster the L96 "Long" sniper rifle seeing as the 7.62mm NATO round it fired only had a realistic reach of 1000m, and as was seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, delivering accurate fire to 1000+m was a serious problem on "peacekeeping" missions where you can't just smother the bad guy in 81mm mortar rounds."

Simply wrong. Lets look at the timelines. The LRR was introduced in 2000. Afghanistan was 2001, as were the latest upgrades to the SA80. The year 2000 comes before 2001.

"....According to most reports they most commonly use the M16A2 with the M203 grenade launcher...." Really? Not what I have heard or seen."

Hm. Seen? OK so you're in the SAS. Fair enough, seems a little odd you're here, but OK. I'm working on publicly available information that says that, up until recently, the SAS fire-team has been armed with M-16s, M203s and M249s. Just like a basic American fire team as it happens. Strangely each soldier's kit costs less than an SA80. What are the odds of that?

"In fact, the SAS uses the Diemaco C7, some with M203s, not the M16A2."

In fact the SAS use anything other than the SA80A2. Which was precisely my point.

"Ah, you've been watching too many Rambo flicks! Running around spraying fire from the hip is a good way to get yourself a pine suit."

Never said that. Supporting a weapon during firing is critical. But assault rifles came into being because they create volume of fire and suppressive effect. Infantry are expected to fire, and then move.

"Seeing as you are obviously get most of your research material from war films, check out "Black Hawk Down" and you may notice the Yanks piling out of the Hummers spend a lot of time in semi-auto despite the Somalis doing the AK spary, realism that was added to the film by Ranger instructors from Fort Benning."

Errrm. No. The reason the US soldiers fired semi-auto on the day was that they were, by the end of the first hour of the engagement, running low on ammo. I'd suggest that you read the Day Report on the disaster at Bakara, and not bother with the movie. Its a great hagiography, and one of the funniest films of all time, if you know one crucial fact. That fact is that the Americans had done the same plan 5 times before. On repetition number 5 they got probed by rockets fired at the helicopters. Sound familiar? The US response? Ignore it. Ooops. Time number 6? Black Hawk Down.

Of course if you know that fact it moves the disaster from one of poor Americans into the results of hubris.

"Actually, most Russian officers are surprised by the cleverness of not just NATO soldiers but of our NCOs."

Sure. And even more surprised that they can operate the SA80.

"Kalashnikov designed the AK for the average Soviet soldier and for Soviet tactics - for short range assaults. To this end, he designed a submachinegun to fire a shortened rifle round rather than a rifle that also fired auto."

You've just described an alternative view of an assault rifle - it drops between a submachinegun and a rifle. Still, poor old Kalashnikov - if only he'd have been as clever as the British he'd have invented a weapon that has been copied more than a hundred million times worldwide, with a record of use in every environment on the planet. Oh, he did?

"In fact, your love for the M16 has blinded you to the obvious fact that if all the Brits need is a cheap rifle then we could just buy up AKs, they sell in many parts of Africa for as little as $50 which is a darn sight cheaper than your £400 figure."

The AK is many things, but it is not NATO issue, nor is it 5.56n. We will jump past your date-blindness and not mention that when the SA80 was ordered the Soviet Union were hardly likely to sell to a Cold War adversary, because that would be cruel and frankly slightly humiliating to you.

"But then the AK is a lot less likely to be as effective as the SA80A2. And effectiveness should always be taken into account when considering costs."

Sure, so there is the M16... and the many and various alternatives. All of which cost less than the SA80. Dog my cats. That's exactly my point.

"Wrong! In battle it is common for troops to pick up the opponents' or allies' weapons and try them."

Try afterwards, sure. New toys are always fun, and you can trade them with people for stuff. Carry into action, no. Its silly to carry a different type of ammo as everyone else in your unit. Its plain suicidal to have the wrong silhouette with jumpy friends around. The US does not issue AK's to normal troops, but Special Forces do occasionally use them, when they are working with people that have them.

Paris: because she understands time, and money.

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Really dumb AC

"....I'm being amused by this as you seem to have problems with time and cost. Sorry but its getting funny at this end...." Glad you're amused, but then you have no concept of requirements - the British Army's list of requirements that led to the SA80 were not met by the M16A1 or even by the later M16A2, especially in the area of accuracy. Throughout its development, the SA80 had to compete against the M16 in trials, and had to survive a vocal crowd of "experts" that preferred the "cheaper" M16. Yes, the unit cost of an SA80A2 is more than an M16A2, but the M16A2 does not fulfill the criteria, so it is not cheaper in this case, it is inadequate. Inadequate kit leads to operational failures, which usually means dead soldiers. That is a real explanation of cost. We'll get to time in a minute.

"....Simply wrong. Lets look at the timelines. The LRR was introduced in 2000. Afghanistan was 2001, as were the latest upgrades to the SA80. The year 2000 comes before 2001...." Oh, and that big thing called the Gulf War in 1990-91? That was when the old L42A1 sniper was first questioned for its ability to kill at distances over 1000m in the open desert. The L96 was accepted as a replacement but a search for a longer-ranged alternative was already in place. In fact, the British Army had already had a look at a number of options from experience in Northern Ireland where Brit snipers often found themselves trying to kill IRA snipers on the Belfast rooftops at ranges of 1Km+. I think you'll find both of those pre-date 2000, but get an adult to do the maths for you. I quoted Afghanistan as this is where the correctness of having additional range has been shown to be particularly correct, with long-range sniping being very common in the mountainous terrain. Please get that same adult to explain that last paragraph to you.

"....Hm. Seen? OK so you're in the SAS....." No, I have seen plenty of pics though, and they do not show M16A2s. I have also talked to Paras that have been in Iraq and worked with SAS units, and they did not see M16A2s either. I'm assuming that was different to what you saw in your in-depth analysis of the Discovery Channel?

"....In fact the SAS use anything other than the SA80A2...." Actually there are plenty of cases where SAS troops carry SA80A2s and wear standard Army kit so as to hide the fact they are specialist troops. SAS troops embedded with Para recce teams in Iraq wore Para uniforms and carried and used SA80s. I have that info directly from a serving Para, what is the source of your verbal diarrhea?

"....But assault rifles came into being because they create volume of fire and suppressive effect...." Actually you implied it was just to have a lighter bullet to carry. But not for suppressive fire, that is only for the short-range assault I mentioned. That's why the fireteam has a weapons like the M249 you mentioned, not the assault rifle. And, incidentally, why the Brits have retained the old Gimpy, because the old 7.62mm round does a better job in the long-range role than the 5.56mm, and why the Brits also haven't ditched the old LSW but reissued it as a marksman rifle - a lot happens before you get down to that short-range assault.

"....Errrm. No. The reason the US soldiers fired semi-auto on the day was that they were, by the end of the first hour of the engagement, running low on ammo...." Male bovine manure! Turn off Nickelodeon, put the film on and watch - aimed, deliberate, SEMI-AUTO fire from the word go. Get a parent to load YouTube and watch just about any vid on there of US troops in action, just watch the amount of time they spend in semi-auto compared to fully-auto. Better still, just go down to your local recruiting office and ask them about how they train the troops. In fact, best of all, please lie to the recruiter about your age and mental capability and enlist, then you can learn first hand. Don't worry, we won't miss you whilst you're gone.

"....Still, poor old Kalashnikov - if only he'd have been as clever as the British he'd have invented a weapon that has been copied more than a hundred million times worldwide, with a record of use in every environment on the planet. Oh, he did?..." Arguably the Federov Avtomat was the first real assault rifle in 1915, it was just the term that hadn't been invented yet, and Kalashnikov didn't even invent that. The term assault rifle comes from the German Sturmgewehr, which was applied to the StG44, which again predates Kalashnikov's work. If you had any idea of the history of the StG44 then you'd know the idea of a combined rifle and SMG replacement was first considered by the Krauts after the Fallshirmjager armed with MP40s suffered 50% casualties in the Crete campaign, largely attributed to accurate long-range fire from British riflemen. The Luftwaffe who ran the German paratroops asked for a combined weapon using the standard 7.92x57 Mauser rifle round, leading to the unwieldy FG42. It was from this that the Germans got the idea of using a shortened cartridge (7.92mm Kurtz where Kurtz = short) and hence to the StG44, only 29 years AFTER Federov who used the smaller Japanese 6.5mm Arisaka cartridge rather than redesign the then standard Russian 7.62x54R. So you're wrong again.

"....a weapon that has been copied more than a hundred million times...." The AK has not been copied, it is usually a direct supply item. You'll find there are more instances of copying with cheap SMGs like the old Sten. Well, if you had a clue you would. In fact, the AK's widespread use is down to supply - the Soviets massed produced it and gave it away for free to anyone supporting their agenda. The Czechs had a better rifle but were forced to take the AK instead. The Egyptians carried on making the Hakim in 7.92mm Mauser into the '60s long after the AK arrived in large numbers as it was more accurate at long range than the AK. So you're still wrong.

"....The AK is many things, but it is not NATO issue, nor is it 5.56n...." Yeah, just like the M16 was in NATO standard 7.62x51? In fact, the old .280/30 was accepted as a British Army standard, it was Winston Churchill that insisted we follow the American route for commonality. There is nothing in the NATO agreement that forces a NATO member to use 5.56mm NATO, it is a matter of choice with commonality of supply being the carrot and higher costs through lower production being the stick. This also goes for the weapons - there is nothing forcing the NATO members to stick to the (very political) list of approved weapons you mentioned. This was agreed as, whilst the other Europeans members could stomach the Yanks forcing first 7.62x51 and then 5.56mm on us, there was no way they were going to kill there own arms industries (and probably their own troops) by letting the Yanks force rifles on them too. So you're even more wrong.

"....Try afterwards, sure. New toys are always fun, and you can trade them with people for stuff. Carry into action, no....." Wow, you're just swimming in the brown stuff today! If you have a look on the web you'll find plenty of hits for US troops carrying AKs in their Hummers as they value the additional penetrative power of the Soviet round over their M4s. A damning report went to Congress after the invasion of Iraq which listed many cases where US troops threw away their M4s and picked up Aks because the M4s jammed too often. On the web you will also see many hits for the (usually Yank) private security companies in Iraq - check out the number using modified AKs and even shortened FN FALs rather than M16A2s. In fact, it was reports that US Special Forces often picked up and used AKs out of choice that lead to an USASOC investigation into the idea of a Special Forces weapon capable of switching barrels and mags so it could fire either 5.56mm or 7.62x39 Russian (gee, that would be the best-of-the-best Yank experts then?) that lead to the SOCOM requirement for the SCAR rifle (which was killed by Colt lobbying) and eventually the 6.8mm SPC round (which Colt aren't too bothered about as it has been designed so most rifles that fire 5.56mm NATO can be modified for the new round). Getting tired of pointing out how wrong you are.

"...Sure. And even more surprised that they can operate the SA80...." Are you sure General Kalashnikov wasn't talking about you using a keyboard? The SA80A2 is no more difficult to strip than the AK, and it is just as simple to operate even with the SUSAT, BUT the British Army spends a lot longer teaching the average squaddie how to shoot it accurately than the Russians ever did with the AK. In fact, the British Army training in total is a much more complex and in-depth affair because the Brits SELECTIVELY recruit, whereas the average Russian soldier from Kalashnikov's day was a largely illiterate conscript.

"....Sure, so there is the M16... and the many and various alternatives. All of which cost less than the SA80...." And all of which have been judged by the British Army to be inferior, which is my argument. If it was just cost alone then the SUSAT would never have been issued, but it makes the average squaddie with the SA80 even more accurate. If they just wanted cheapness then the Brits could avoid the M16 in any form and the 5.56mm and just buy surplus well-cared-for AKs from Russia along with 7.62x39 by the ton. They don't because the SA80A2 is better suited to the job than the AK or any model of the M16.

So, in summary, you're so wrong it's beyond amusing.

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Paris Hilton

@Matt Bryant

Matt,

Still laughing here. But please don't have an aneurysm on my account, so I'll try and tone the gentle teasing down. It seems to be upsetting you and making you throw some toys out of the pram.

I think, trying to get a handle on your increasingly incoherent and personally offensive notes, is that you are arguing that the SA80 is such a superb piece of kit that its worth buying at any price, and always has been.

I disagree, on the grounds of cost, and the generally low quality of the weapon, even if we accept that A2 has resolved everything, which I don't. This is a sign that the requirements were the problem. I note in passing that there is no requirement in the original SA80 specification for accuracy beyond 300m, identical to that of other 5.56n weapons.

As for your other points:

a) When you mentioned Iraq and Afghanistan I rather naively assumed you meant Iraq and Afghanistan, not Kuwait and Northern Ireland. Kuwait is sort of in the same area, but Northern Ireland is not. I cannot read your mind.

b) You're having time problems again. The L42, not the L96, was due for replacement in the mid-1980s, before Gulf War 1, so the soon to come desert war was neither here nor there. The weapons trial was in 1988, which delivered the L96. In fact this is silly, I'll cheerfully accept that since 1914 the British Army have needed a sniper rifle. There, happy?

c) Now lets look at the central point here: http://www.armedforces.co.uk/army/listings/l0097.html

Do you see a mention of 300m. In the first line. Hm. Wonder what British Army weapon has a 300m limit. Care to name it?

d) "No, I have seen plenty of pics though, and they do not show M16A2s."

Well thats OK then, because you've looked at pictures. If you look at books they have actual information. I'd suggest Asher or Geraghty.

e) "Actually there are plenty of cases where SAS troops carry SA80A2s and wear standard Army kit so as to hide the fact they are specialist troops."

Gosh. So they carry the SA80 only when its vital to not be obvious, and when not doing their key role. That's comforting that the SAS uses it as a fancy dress tool in order to not stand out among the poor suckers that have to carry the SA80 normally. And still does not alter the central point, when the SAS have an option they do not carry the SA80, which you've given loads of examples of yourself.

f) "Actually you implied it was just to have a lighter bullet to carry."

No. I said it was one of the reasons that 5.56n was chosen, and from a logistical point of view a fairly smart one, which the SA80 negated, by being heavier than alternatives. Soldiers can only carry so much.

g) On Black Hawk Down: "Male bovine manure! Turn off Nickelodeon, put the film on and watch - aimed, deliberate, SEMI-AUTO fire from the word go."

No. The film is many things, a hagiography (meaning lives of the saints) for one thing, but it is not evidence of anything. The Day Report that I referred to earlier has a complete examination of what happened and specifically mentions ammunition shortages among the Americans during the fighting. The Day Report - to use its full name - Critical Analysis on the Defeat of Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia during Operation RESTORE HOPE - is from the US Army Command and General Staff college and was published by the US department of defence. Your para mate should be able to get a copy as its almost certainly in the base library. Once you have it you can read it and take the skirmish at 17:45, page 14, of the report. The US fire, in 20 minutes, sixty thousand rounds of ammunition. Does that sound like carefully aimed fire? Really?

"The term assault rifle comes from the German Sturmgewehr, which was applied to the StG44, which again predates Kalashnikov's work."

Sure. Were there 100 million of them? No. Was the designer shown the SA80? No. Is the designer a living legend? No. Was he asked to comment on the SA80? No. Is this relevant to anything? No. You are just willie-waving over a few irrelevant things.

"If you had any idea of the history of the StG44"

Yes. I know all this. The major errors in your summary are a) They were largely New Zealanders in defence at Crete, b) the allies took huge casualties when they had to surrender, German casualties were around 20% (high, I grant, but not 50%), German paras were mainly armed with Mauser rifles as only 25% carried SMGs... I could go on, but life is too short. Lets just say that its vaguely relevant, but only just.

"The AK has not been copied, it is usually a direct supply item."

So you'll agree that there are 100m of them? Good.

"You'll find there are more instances of copying with cheap SMGs like the old Sten. Well, if you had a clue you would. "

Sten? Around 5 million made. Around 5% of the AK number.

Other than that you're back whining about things that happened when my dad was a kid.

"Are you sure General Kalashnikov wasn't talking about you using a keyboard?"

Yes. I've met him in London at a Vodka launch. Well, I say met, I got his autograph. its on my copy of "AK47".

"So, in summary, you're so wrong it's beyond amusing."

Hm. The facts are on my side, I'll stick with the facts.

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Cough, cough, backhanders, cough....

Lets see, BAE with huge budget + Canceled Investigation = 1 big fat bribe....

I thin kthe Uk shoul scal eback to form more smaller rapid deployment units, rather than hardware based on non existent full scale wars.

Buy the hardware that best fits that role i.e let the Yanks spend the developemt costs, make the mistakes and buy what we actually need, not want.

Then the poor sods on the ground may actually get the body armour and helmets they need....

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Pirate

RE: Mr Wrong AC

"....It seems to be upsetting you and making you throw some toys out of the pram...." No, I was merely lowering the tone to a level more suiting your pram-like arena.

"....specifically mentions ammunition shortages among the Americans during the fighting...." The report also found that the US forces went out expecting to be back in time for tea, not for a prolonged combat, and went out with insufficient ammo - this was the reason they were running short of ammo, not because they spent the first hour blazing away on auto.

"....trying to get a handle on your increasingly incoherent and personally offensive notes...." Sorry, I'll stop using long words and stick to those likely to be in your limited vocabulary. But then you started the name-calling. I just stuck to showing how wrong your conclusions were.

"....If you look at books they have actual information...." I find serving soldiers with real combat experience with the kit in question an invaluable guide. But, seeing as that is obviously outside your arena, why not check a book called "Sniper One" by Dan Mills, which relates the experience of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment in Al Amarah in Iraq. In this he explicitly states his confidence in the SA80A2 and its accuracy, and he should know as he was the sniper platoon leader. I think his opinion far out-rates yours in both experience or credibility. I don't have a book to hand that includes details on the SAS use of the C7, but a few simple Googles for SAS and Diemaco should show you are also incorrect there.

"....The L42, not the L96, was due for replacement in the mid-1980s, before Gulf War 1..." The L42 went to the Gulf as the MoD had dragged its heels over a replacement. The reports from the Gulf showed the aged rifles definitely needed replacing, which kicked the L96 program up a gear, and also that a longer-ranged weapon was also required. There, no mind reading required, just simple facts.

"....Sten?..." Yes, it has been copied as far afield as Cyprus, Indonesia, Kenya, just to name a few. The AK has not been copied - it has been licensed produced or simply mass supplied.

"....Hm. The facts are on my side, I'll stick with the facts...." HA! I havenm't the time to go through the rest of your errors, but you obviously have a problem separatign facts from your own preferences, possibly due to too much of the General's vodka. Have another bottle or three.

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Paris Hilton

@Matt Bryant

"No, I was merely lowering the tone to a level more suiting your pram-like arena."

Really? Do tell.

"The report also found that the US forces went out expecting to be back in time for tea, not for a prolonged combat, and went out with insufficient ammo - this was the reason they were running short of ammo, not because they spent the first hour blazing away on auto."

Hm. So the point I made about the evidence from the Day report destroying your view of Black Hawk Down the movie as some form of evidence is discounted. A report which you now claim to have read. Hm.

"Sorry, I'll stop using long words and stick to those likely to be in your limited vocabulary. But then you started the name-calling. I just stuck to showing how wrong your conclusions were."

He started it. Nunner-nunner. It was like that when I got there, and the big kid did it and ran away.

"I find serving soldiers with real combat experience with the kit in question an invaluable guide."

So the 22 years of steady complaints - from serving soldiers - about the SA80, from 1985 to - at best completion of the A2 upgrade in 2006 - didn't raise any warnings?

"But, seeing as that is obviously outside your arena, why not check a book called "Sniper One" by Dan Mills, which relates the experience of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment in Al Amarah in Iraq."

I've read it. Its a fun, uncomplicated read about the military in the middle of a political disaster. Just to remind you, the result was a political and military victory for the other side. In April 2007 British forces pulled out, leaving the opposition in charge of the Maysan Province government. Actually its rather like Black Hawk Down, lots of exciting stuff, and then the Western forces lost.

Incidentally, just in passing, have you noticed how its always the sergeants that write this stuff down. Odd, isn't it? If you're still confused about Mogadishu can I point to Stan Goff's Full Spectrum Disorder. He was the senior Rangers sergeant that confronted the senior officers about their overly regular planning, and was sent home just before Black Hawk Down.

" In this he explicitly states his confidence in the SA80A2 and its accuracy, and he should know as he was the sniper platoon leader."I think his opinion far out-rates yours in both experience or credibility."

We're back to arguing that accuracy is, in some way, relevant for a short ranged weapon. You think it is, I think it isn't. The history of the development of the weapons is with me.

Even so saying its a good - as opposed to accurate - weapon it does depend if he was ordered to write that or not, or whether there was a deal made in order to allow publication under the Official Secrets Act. Its currently impossible to say. We can say that in 2002 the order was given that there was to be no further criticism of the SA80A2 by serving personnel.

On the other hand I have Brigadier Munro, the Director of Infantry who, after the A2 upgrade, said that the entire weapon should be binned, in writing, and ultimately in public.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/09/27/nrifl27.xml

"I don't have a book to hand that includes details on the SAS use of the C7, but a few simple Googles for SAS and Diemaco should show you are also incorrect there."

I have some books / articles on the subject and I am well aware that they use it. I also know that the C7 is a Canadian made M16 copy, by Colt Canada. Naturally it costs a lot less than the SA80 (£1,000 list price), and is the standard issue weapon for a number of nations, including Denmark and the Netherlands.

http://www.coltcanada.com/c7-page.htm

"The L42 went to the Gulf as the MoD had dragged its heels over a replacement. The reports from the Gulf showed the aged rifles definitely needed replacing, which kicked the L96 program up a gear, and also that a longer-ranged weapon was also required. There, no mind reading required, just simple facts."

There is, I cheerfully admit, a lag time between ordering something and it turning up - although L96 turned up in quite a short space of time. Your timing problem is that the L96 was specified and ordered before the Gulf War, and it was already well know that the L42 was outdated, otherwise why order it?

Mind you, I'd point out that the SA80 is due for replacement in 2015-20, so there's only 7 years to go of the piece of junk before our troops get something that works. This time I only hope that whatever they get doesn't take, according to optimists, 20 years before its functional.

"Yes, it has been copied as far afield as Cyprus, Indonesia, Kenya, just to name a few. The AK has not been copied - it has been licensed produced or simply mass supplied."

No. Simply wrong. The AK and her variants are produced in at least 20 countries, including India, plus at least a million Ak's are believed to be made without license each year, and even then the license issues was only raised after the fall of Communism, in 1999? 2000? Sometime around then anyway. Prior to that anyone could make them. China has the lead in copying the AK47 as most Vietnam war era AK47s were Chinese Type 56s.

But even if your point is correct, then the SA80 - or a license to manufacture it - has still not been purchased by any other nation.

"HA! I havenm't the time to go through the rest of your errors, but you obviously have a problem separatign facts from your own preferences, possibly due to too much of the General's vodka. Have another bottle or three."

Fair enough, yet you haven't pointed out any errors, merely hand waved them away with an argument that boils down to 'you've spoken to someone who told you something at some time'. For you I tended to stop at 3 or more factual mistakes based on evidence. Sorry, but for all your passion you simply haven't the faintest idea what you are talking about.

Paris: Because she knows passion, and hasn't a clue.

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Yawning @ AC.....

"....The history of the development of the weapons is with me...." You should read the history of the M16 again, it is full of the US forces requesting longer range and more accuracy, which kinda sinks your argument completely. The continued development shows more and more nations switching to using optics on their rifles to improve accuracy, which is why Colt now offers the flap-topped receiver. In short, you're still wrong. Long-range accuracy is important to the modern front-line soldier.

"....I also know that the C7 is a Canadian made M16 copy, by Colt Canada...." You made two statements - that the SAS never use the SA80A2, "any weapon but"; and that the prime SAS weapon of choice is the M16A2 with M203. The first I have shown to be rubbish, the second you have just admitted is completely wrong too. Somehow you seem to think being worng again is somehow a victory?

"....On the other hand I have Brigadier Munro, the Director of Infantry...." And I'm equally sure the good Brigadier hasn't spent one day in action with an SA80A2, which goes back to my statement that Brit soldiers in the front line doing the fighting want the SA80A2. You can chuck up any politician-in-a-uniform you like, compared to someone like Sgt Dan Mills they zero credibility.

"....Hm. So the point I made about the evidence from the Day report destroying your view of Black Hawk Down the movie as some form of evidence is discounted. A report which you now claim to have read. Hm....." I notice that you don't disagree, merely a lot of humming going on. The Day report is not the only source of info, there are plenty of first-hand anecdotal accounts from the soldiers concerned in the public domain that mention their unpreparedness for a prolonged combat, including the low amount of ammunition carried. I haven't questioned if you have read the Day report, I simply suggest you haven't actually comprehended any of it, but you seem to be falling back on the old "liar, liar" routine - not very mature. Either disagree and be shown to be wrong again, or try and make an argument instead of casting aspersions. Better still, just admit you're wrong, fullstop.

"....There is, I cheerfully admit, a lag time between ordering something and it turning up ...." Hold on a sec, just a post ago you bluntly stated I was wrong/lying as the L96 was ordered and operational long before the Gulf War. In fact, you stated the LRR was ordered as a direct result of the SA80 family only being effective out to 300m, whereas you are now admitting it was to add capability over the L96 which replaced the L42. You can't have it both ways, but the fun bit is once again we have you admitting you were wrong. By my score that makes you wrong five times over by your own admission and I haven't even got half way down your last bout of verbal diarhea. Do you really want me to go on when you are only showing up your own errors, poor research and lack of knowledge?

"....China has the lead in copying the AK47 as most Vietnam war era AK47s were Chinese Type 56s..." The Type 56 was a "licensed" AK-47 with a few changes like the folding bayonet. The factories to produce it were set up with Russian assistance including full manufacturing drawings, so no copying involved. After the break with the USSR, the Chinese simply carried on making it without Soviet approval as it was too difficult for the then fledgling Chinese arms industry to produce a new design. India also produces or has used the FN FAL, their own version of the Galil, and even a 7.62mm NATO version of the old bolt-action Lee-Enfield Number 4. Notably, the M16 has been absent from that list. Again, no copying of the AK-47 by the Indians was involved, all licensed production using manufacturer drawings supplied by the Soviets, with a large econmoic incentive. In short, a political decision, not one of the comparative military merit of the AK compared to any other rifle, even the M16 (which, despite its cheapness, doesn't seem to be on the Indian Army list....).

"....Fair enough, yet you haven't pointed out any errors, merely hand waved them away with an argument that boils down to 'you've spoken to someone who told you something at some time'...." So, basically, your arguments all come from books of which you have no idea of the quality of the author concerned, of their combat experience, or even if they have bothered to research their subject thoroughly or just re-hashed someone else's poor research. I have anecdotal information passed on by troops who have used the SA80A2 in combat, and backed it up with a book written by a soldier with combat experience with the weapon involved, to give you the option to double-check the opinion of front-line troops. Sounds a bit more than 'you've spoken to someone who told you something at some time'. If completely destroying your pointless argument by exposing your complete lack of knowledge is your idea of having "hand waved them away" then it just goes to show you have zero ability either to accept the facts or change your opinion when confronted with the same facts.

Yes the M16A2 is cheaper than the SA80A2, but it is definately not better, not in the eyes of front-line troops. There are plenty of cases where more expensive British products actually turned out to be better in the long run, such as the Centurion tank versus the Pershing (guess which one the Israelis preferred, them being the people with more tank combat experience in the last fifty years than anyone else....). I'm trying to think of a (really) simple analogy that you can understand. The simplest way would be to compare the Typhoon and the P-40 Kittyhawk - the Hawker Typhoon had a very troubled development as it was rushed to action, but it matured to be the best ground-attack fighter of the Allied air forces, as proven at Mortain and the Fallaise Gap. However, during its development, there were many who pushed for buying the cheaper American P-40 in large numbers instead. The P-40 was by that time starting to benefit from the long development of the P-36 (check some of those lovely books of yours, it's all in there!), and seemed a safe option. However, the RAF perservered, and the Typhoon soon developed into the far superior aircarft, with the (still much cheaper) RAF P-40s being relegated ground-attack in second-line theatres. This is the same as the SA80 story - British design has a troubled gestation, has to fend off cheap American opposition based on aging tech, and political wrangling, but matures into a first-rate (but more expensive product) much loved by those that had to use it. You may recall that the Typhoon didn't get any foreign sales either, but you try going back and telling the RAF they would have been better off with the P-40! The moral is if you base all your purcahsing decisions on what is the cheap fashion of the day without checking if it is the solution that actually meets all your requirements, you will never be anything better than equal to the average, and others will have a better solution than you.

Keep drinking the Generals vodka!

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