A long-awaited announcement regarding the British forces' ongoing equipment programme has just been made by Defence Minister John Hutton. As had been expected, Mr Hutton has decided to pour cash into the lame-duck UK helicopter industry and to postpone spending on the Royal Navy's planned aircraft carriers. He has also decided …
Since when has Yeovil, the home of AgustaWestland been in Dorset? I'm sure my address is Yeovil, Somerset!!
Well, at least my job is more secure now. Took the government enough time to make their decision.
$6m for a seahawk...? er...
Im curious as to where lewis (and everybody else...) gets this figure of $6m for a Seahawk... last time i looked the Brazilian Navy paid nearly $195m for just four of the birds...
Even my code addled brain can work that at nearly $50m per airframe...
Yeovil is in Somerset, not Dorset. Otherwise the article is spot-on. Even though a number of my friends were relying on the Future Lynx being approved it is obvious even to them that its a waste of money (and even then just a posponement of the next Westlands crisis).
Insert my normal comment about Lewis' pro american standings....
Insert my comment about how I agree with him about the carriers....
Insert new comment with suggesiton he run for office if he know so much :)
Government doesn't care about the taxpayer or soldiers, but does care about business men who happen to be their "friends". I'm very shocked.
MOD Procurement = cash poured down the drain in vast quantities, usually by those with a scant grip on reality.
Some years ago, I was asked for the usage statistics of a certain part of kit fitted on board one of our nuclear submarines. We use about 12 but they get re-charged on return I said, I could almost hear the cogs turning at the other end of the phone, as the caller did the maths & announced the requirement would be 250 at a cost of around £1000 each.
Id already informed the half wit that the equipment was due to be retired from service & whats more, the part was recycled anyway so we would never need any new ones.
I was informed "dont tell me how to do my job" or some drivel like that. So let me see thats £250,000 of tax payers cash straight in the bin then? At which the telephone went silent.
What a complete waste & Im sure theres countless stories like it - the £330 million upkeep project that achieved... er, um, Im not sure really.
If only they could get their heads out of the sand and see whats going on at the coal face.
Spot on about the
... the need for carriers and what useful chaps they. In times past it hs to be said, simply rocking up off the coast with a carrier group was enough to avoid hostilities.. of course that probably wouldn't be the case now.
I'm also inclined to agree with points about buying off the shelf kit but freely admit if my job were on the line as a result I'd probably feel different.
The gummint can find £250Billion for it's friends in the city, but it cant find around a hundredth of that to arm the troops they put in harms way in the first place.
Definitely first against the wall when the revolution comes. Maybe even before.
Couple of corrections
AgustaWestland are owned by Italians.... Selex and currently they are building helicopters for the Americans in the UK because Lockheed cant master the technology needed!
General Dynamics UK won the FRES project because most of the electronics inside is part of its other big UK MoD contract Bowman (and the bowman project that is 7 years late and according to some commentators it has bankrupted GD UK 5 times over as the MoD wrote a good contract for once! Unlike the once given to EDS for £6bn for DII which is now closer to £10bn!) But Fres was going to be built in the UK...
The US Navy gets them at $10m a pop, or at least they did for their last order in something like November last year.
The Brazilians paid what they did for just 4 helicopters, but its the training, technical support and other facilities that makes it cost so much.
If memory serves the Spanish picked their Seahawks up for around $16m a pop. They bought about a dozen.
I could cope with the MoD Buying American for FRES if they paid me that half million.
Seriously though, if we bought all our defence stuff from the yanks, then what happens when we fall out with them? Also, their stuff is only cheaper because of the scale of their purchasing, it is not necessarily superior and in many cases inferior. You could probably buy your defence equipment cheaper from China, but would you trust it?
But really do we want to be dependant on the yanks, or would you like a self sufficient nation that can defend itself from the superpowers if required?
Defence budget: suggested alternate savings
If we wanted to slash the current/future defence budget by cancelling expensive things we don't need for future wars: why not abolish the Royal Air Force?
As it stands, Lewis's argument in favour of having a capable Royal Navy, aircraft carriers, Fleet Air Arm etc is plausible right up to the moment where we have to fund it.
If we discontinued the Royal Air Force to save money and reassigned its assorted responsibilities to the Army Air Corps and to the Fleet Air Arm we taxpayers could be quids in, and the surviving armed forces would have fewer inter-service areas of responsibility: transport aircraft full of paratroopers might belong to the Army just like the paratroopers, and maritime reconnaissance and antsubmarine patrol aircraft might be being operated by the same Navy they were supporting.
Fair's fair. Perhaps the author is pro-American, perhaps not. The question is, is the defence spending he advocates better than current defence spending? I do understand that all nations prefer to have a 'home grown' defence manufacturing base, it is a basic strategic desire. But, if securing that manufacturing base weakens the very defences that the nation requires then perhaps it is best to be pragmatic and have a strong defence force and lose some or all of the manufacturing capability.
It is quite possible to re-incarnate a defence manufacturing industry at some point down the track I presume.
Mind you, having said all of that, here in Australia where just about everything for the armed forces is sourced outside, the 'powers that be' still manage to 'require' modifications to the offered packages that make them outrageously expensive.
Unless i'm mistaken the unit cost for the basic Blackhawk army version was $6m but that was in the early to mid eighties so presumably would be somewhat more expensive nowadays. That would throw a spanner (FOD!) in the costings in the article. I'm sure it would still work out a lot cheaper to buy a proven platform than the steaming pile of cr*p that Westlands will no doubt serve up (very late).
Even Paris could work that out!
Hi! I'm Ed Winchester.
Still doesn't mention....
Fighting two wars on a peace time budget... talk about wearing out people and equipment.
Also, who fights a war economically... you have a choice fight to win or fight economically (=lose)
Covered Special Missionary Operations and Skunk Works v2.0
"if necessary shooting down sea-skimming missiles from behind, a feat far easier and cheaper to achieve than trying to do it from ahead with a multibillion-pound miracle destroyer screen."
A Point of Specific Further Clarification please, Lewis. Is the above quote meaning the same as .... "if necessary shooting down sea-skimming missiles from behind a multibillion-pound miracle destroyer screen, a feat far easier and cheaper to achieve than trying to do it from ahead."? ... as I have assumed that it is a miraculous destroyer screen rather than anything able to destroy miracles, which would be AIMission Impossible and also QuITe Illogical.:-)
Of course, the very best Specialist Soldiers are those who Prevent Wars with Spooky Stealth Vehicles which aren't Offensive Weapons but Unbelievable Transport for Special Intelligence Deliveries.
Obviously it is Presently Missing, given ITs Zero ZerodDaily Presence, and is thus an Intelligence Oversight and Failing, which is therefore responsible for Armoured Deadly Combat.
Even the slowest schmuck can see that it is Failing in Madness. Whose Intelligence/Words are being Followed, for everyone appears to be Programmed to Follow/Wait for Orders, so that assumes someone in IT Command and Power Book Control.
Change the Program/Record would be a Real Good Plan Beta, MeThinks.
Pay now vs Pay later
"From we taxpayers' point of view, this is a bit like paying your gas bill using a credit card. It postpones the problem, but it costs you a lot more in the end."
I hear this type of argument fairly often but it completely misses the point. The important thing is our *ability* to pay. If you can't afford to pay your gas bill in full then it's irrelevant that paying in cash costs you less than paying with credit. In cash you can't pay, but with credit you can.
Also, saying that aircraft carriers were useful in a recent illegal invasion of a foreign nation is hardly likely to win many converts.
Lastly, you may have noticed that we are undergoing some financial difficulties at the moment. Most of us are more concerned with the government's ability to keep hospitals and schools running than we are with their ability to threaten foreigners.
Carriers are sitting ducks
With the amount of Sunburn missiles floating around at present and with the perspective of Bramos and Co joining in the supersonic cruise missile party any carrier is pretty much a target for shooting practice. Even the American carriers are sitting ducks. Big nuclear powered fat ducks which can be culled at will by nearly all potential "opponents".
This article puts the things nicely in perspective and it was written before Bramos was tested. As a matter of fact, the things have only gotten worse since that time: http://www.rense.com/general59/theSunburniransawesome.htm
What the article misses however is that the navies have been there before. It is essentially a repeat of the pre-WW1 situation when the first submarines could shoot nearly any battleship at will, but there was no means to discover them and no means to fight them. By 1916 all battleships dragged nets around them which were more than sufficient to guard against the fairly weak torpedos in use at the time.
So what the fleet needs is not new aircraft carriers. It needs lots of small, expendable, cheap boats capable to drag a blimp barrage behind them. Simple and Stupid. Even better, nothing to prevent putting some old write-off Phalanx guns on the Barrage blimps. While they are totally useless on a ship, they will be perfectly sufficient when hoisted to 100-200m above the sea level. Cheap, cheerful and most importantly - effective until we find another way to deal with the changed situation.
Once we have figured out a way to deal with the fact that nearly all countries out there can swat a carrier group with impunity we can go and build some new ones which are fit for that age. Before that any money on carriers is good money thrown after bad.
That price for the Seahawk looks a bit low, unless it's the US Navy's equivalent of the Blackhawk that is just a transport aircraft without the usual radar and other sensors that the Anti-Surface Warfare version has. That's were the cost is, and even if we bought Seahawks instead of F Lynx we'd undoubtedly double the price of the US version by specifying different sensors, avionics etc. Also the CTS800 engine is a 50/50 venture between Honeywell and Rolls-Royce so it's a bit dishonest to call it an American product as I'm sure one of those companies is based in the UK.
Agree with the bit about the Carriers and FRES though.
I can understand if you're a Navy guy why it would seem like the end of the world. But you've overlooked most of the more subtle implications (as ever) of this budget bodge.
>Well, at least my job is more secure now
It's funny really, The Register is quite a popular news site in defence circles and yet always with the caveat of "except that idiot defence reporter"...
For shame, was the "research" on the unit cost of the blackhawk done from wikipedia?
You missed a bit
Large pieces of the carrier contract will be built in Portsmouth.... before being delivered to Scotland to be nailed together....
Now, given that the 2 Portsmouth seats are at best marginals, I guess our share of the work wil go ahead even if they have to sit on a dockside in Scotland somewhere for 3 years.
There again, I'm old enough to remember the local tories 1979 election slogan of 'Labour will shut Portsmouth dockyard'..... 2 years later the tories tried to do it too
So I guess the moral of this story is "If you work in the defence industry, both parties will screw you"
Our ongoing delusion
When are British politicians finally going to grasp the fact we're not a major power any more and we really don't have huge interests around the World that need defending. We're just the latest big European power to find the world's moved on. The Swedes used to dominate the military balance in Central Europe, now they've decided they can do much better selling flat-pack to the rest of the World whilst defending their own territory. Do the Dutch really miss their global empire and massive Navy? What about the Portuguese and the Spanish?
Let's just accept it, Britain: it's a bit crap.
Labour sinks more ships than the Argentinians
This is a disgrace, and troops will die as a result. Cold hard simple fact, however they dress it up. The UK could no longer mount a serious blue water operation alone and as a result of this will be entirely reliant on host nation support to mount serious littoral force projection operations in the near to medium term. A carrier is not simply an airfield (albeit one that does not require foreign political permission to operate) It a capital ship capable of commanding operations entirely independently, of being the launchpad for force projection from the littoral into the land (and with the advent of Tomahawk and a reasonable air wing, that means a damn long way)
The ground attack and close support a carrier group can easily and quickly deploy is essential to the foot-sloggers, as is the capability to insert and more importantly extract by air. In the ever increasing uncertainty of geo-politics it is independence and freedom to manoeuvre, it is the ability to increase diplomatic pressure without the need to invade sovereign territory - simply by the positioning of a fleet. Iit is the ability to pre-position whilst diplomats debate UN resolutions, and on a less blood-thirsty note it is the capability to provide a massive assistance to civilian administration in times of disaster.
"It is upon the Navy that under the good providence of God the wealth, prosperity and peace of these Islands and of the Empire do mainly depend".... Damn right then, and now (maybe ditch the god bit)
[ex-RN Officer, and Civil Emergency Planning Officer]
@ Where do they get the price
The price of a Blackhawk is $5.9m
The ever reliable Wiki lists the price of a Seahawk as $29m (although that's the brand new MH-60 version, not the in use SH-60 variants). So £6m seems about right depending on the exchange rate.
The Brasilian order includes training for pilots & ground crews as well as (the expensive bit) 5 years of maintenance and spare parts.
There are already a bunch of crises where we can't or don't intervene. Georgia, where the Russians have nukes and a huge military. India/Pakistan, ditto. Zimbabwe, where it's likely that any intervention would start a civil war and make things worse.
So why is it so essential to spend billions on a colonial military to send to the remaining hotspots where this doesn't apply? Why not just freeze the miscreants money and trade and wait for matters to sort themselves out?
That way, we just need armed forces as a final defence if the British Isles get threatened - which would be a whole lot cheaper and simpler.
Economically from the national perspective it makes some sense to maximise UK content, assuming the companies make a profit some comes back in tax and their employees all pay tax, then there's the local benefits of a well paid workforce and the effect they have on local businesses, the council's tax base, etc, etc. If the loot stays in UK it circulates in UK, toss it to the excited states of hysteria its lost to the UK economy. Of course MoD should be arguing this as a reason for their budget to increase.
And by comparison UK is a very open defence market, a quick glance across the channel mon ami? Or try Germany, don't like them, then I offer Japan, they buy lots of foreign equipments and make it locally, and don't delude yourself that they do it cheaper.
On FRES and GD, my understanding was that the vehicles are basically designed in Switzerland. And since when did UK use 'scout' vehicles? Is this another indictment of UK education, they can no longer spell reconnaissance?
I certainly agree about the RAF, their raison d'etre was strategic bombing, a mission now assigned to Trident therefore no longer any justification for an independent airforce. I look forward to the resurrection of the RFC.
"So why is it so essential to spend billions on a colonial military to send to the remaining hotspots where this doesn't apply? Why not just freeze the miscreants money and trade and wait for matters to sort themselves out?" ..... By Rich Posted Friday 12th December 2008 00:22 GMT
Is that the Zimbabwe Protocol .... Remote Scorched Earth, Collateralising Debt Operation?
Whisky Tango Foxtrot, Interrogative?
General Dynamics UK Ltd (aka GDUK, with sites in Hastings, East Sussex and Ashchurch in Wales) is "prime contractor" for the UK side of FRES, so not quite sure how this fits Lewis's rant - are you getting American (the "GD" bit) kit, or British (the "UK" in the name)?
The American helicopters suffer from the same hot-and-high issues as the UK helicopters, but the American government is a bit quicker to spend the money to actually pay for the "improvements" needed to bring the kit up to the specs that were recommended in the first place (ForEx, Apaches are American-built, and they cannot launch full-load in Afghanistan or Iraq either - just like out Lynx. But at least Lynx can carry either the troops *or* the weapons - Apache is only supposed to carry weapons... oops).
The basic airframe for a Blackhawk might, with "bulk-buy" discounts, favorable deals from the US Congress and various other "cost-cutting" be around Lewis' £6m but that won't take account of the time and effort required to support them, or to train the UK personnel to do so - or is Lewis really suggesting that we should let the Yanks do it all for you - again?
About the only heli capable of performing anything near a useful service in these two theaters are the Chinooks - mebbe you should scrap all those expensive Jynx/Future Jynx, Merlin, Sea King/Commando, Puma, Griffon, Squirrel etc that Lewis seems to think are so useless and just buy some more off-the-shelf Eggbeaters and let Boeing do all your support, maintenance and training?
Didn't the US Navy nearly lose a destroyer or frigate because some cad drove a bumboat alongside loaded with explosives? Since Lewis's beloved RN cannot even tell when they are five miles (allegedly, as seen from Witehall/Westminster) off course, or protect their men (and one woman) from all those nasty Iranian gunboats, what hope is there that they will be able to protect two great big f*ck-off floating airfields from some evil genius armed with an AK47, a couple of bags of TNT and a sampan?
Lewis, wake up. If you were to ask The Man On The Front Line what they wanted from the suppliers, you would get a very different answer from the one you get from the Top Brass, and both these answers would be worlds apart from what the Politicians and Beancounters would want the Forces to have if it were down to them.
In an ideal world, the British armed forces would have all the kit they needed to do their jobs as "requested" by their political lords and masters, regardless of expense - if "Our Boys (and Girls)" are prepared to put their lives on the line to defend Truth, Justice and the British Way then the odorous slime in Westminster who send them into battle with substandard kit - and frequently insufficient amounts thereof to boot - would forget such self-serving tricks as placing orders for kit from their own constituencies just to garner a few votes. But face it, that ain't gonna happen.
Instead you get the fightin' few sent into battle with kit designed years ago to the cheapest possible limits and then made by the lowest bidder. Yes, you could save a few pieces of silver by buying American hardware and letting the manufacturer support it, but there was something on the idiot box a couple of days ago about some American commander getting his panties in a bunch when the civilian support crews refused to "service" (as in, refuel) his AFVs between 1300hrs and 1400hrs, and charged double to do so after 1700hrs...
Maybe you should stop spending so much time reminiscing over the RN's "Glory days" and start thinking about how the AMERICAN forces view their kit - or do you *really* believe it is only the Britsh forces who buy webbing, boots and body armor from "outside sources"?
Typical the old Labour lot decide on robbing the armed forces and then under-equpping them... Westland made a deal with Sikorsky to build SH-60's back when they first came out with British Electronics inside but the government bought more Lynx...
As to the Aircraft Carriers they need catapults that would give them more options F/A-18E's F-35C's E-2D Hawkeye's and they could use a COD aircraft then...
So here's an idea...
Give the Soldiers H&K G36 (At least they work) Piranha's and enough body armour kits for everyone of them get some Blackhawks or NH90's as well as a few more heavylift helo's buy a few MI-26's.
Scratch the Daring class and get Arleigh Burkes catapults on the carriers keep the Type 23's and the subs oh and build some Diesel Electric boats with AIP's to back up the Nuke's buy some small missile boats to provide in-shore protection instead of using a minesweeper with a 20mm cannon. and use them properly.
Keep the Eurofighters and the twin seaters turn into strike platforms al a F-15E. Get more transporters C-130 C-17 get out of buying that A400M hunk of junk and instead of renting the tankers buy them cancel the Nimrod and buy the P-9A.
And before anyone says anything I am British and ex-forces... and my final comment is if we want to fight a war on economics we might as well pack up and go home....
This is news?!?
Fat cats...lobbyists...corruption...incompetence - sounds like business as usual.
Pseudo maritime power.
"More seriously, Britain would find that whenever a crisis erupted in a warzone somewhere, there would be a need to establish a secure air base ashore nearby..."
or we could just stay at home and spend within our budget on things like DEFENCE.
After all, its not like there's a shortage of understudies to take over from us: http://www.defense-update.com/analysis/analysis_091207_navy.htm
"Nobody is saying so publicly, but it seems clear that the Americans weren't going to let that happen again with General Dynamics' "Piranha" vehicle. "
Surely some mistake - don't you mean the Swiss MOWAG Piranha? The GD ripoff is the LAV-25...
And as for this bollocks about the UK leaking American defence secrets, I suggest Lewis should read up on his history. UK companies generally GIVE SECRETS AWAY, not leak them (which implies something shady and underhand) - usually in response to an offer of "information sharing", and most often to our good 'friends' across the Atlantic (see all-flying tailplanes, Rolls Royce jet engines to America and Russia, stressed metal skins for aircraft, Chobham armour and many others- why do you think so many of these "American" 'inventions' and 'discoveries' have ENGLISH names??).
It certainly wasn't the UK that gave the Chinese the plans for their F16 lookalike, or sold secrets and "lost" nuclear fuel from top secret American research labs during the 1960's was it?
The Great Super Sub Atomic ProgramMIng Secrets Giveaway .....Loding Phase
"UK companies generally GIVE SECRETS AWAY, not leak them (which implies something shady and underhand) - usually in response to an offer of "information sharing", and most often to our good 'friends' across the Atlantic" ... By Anonymous Coward Posted Friday 12th December 2008 10:34 GMT
And nowadays, that is a very profitable route for inventors too, AC, who can easily host their tempting wares online to a global audience at practically zero cost. And you invariably find that they are trailed in publications not dissimilar to El Reg.
The only aircraft carriers we need...
...are already built, from solid rock, and anchored in the North Atlantic. Face it - we have lost the Empire.
"the UK would wind up with a Navy"
Funny - I read that first as "wind up the Navy". I wonder which is right..?
A couple of quick points....
Lewis paints a beautiful picture of the all powerful carrier battle group. However they are a bit useless if you are attacking a landlocked country (Like Afganistan for example) or a country with little coast line where most of the action is far inland (Like Iraq perhaps). But if we ensure we only get into fights with smallish (carrier aircraft tend to be short range) countries with extensive costlines we should be fine.
As far as the carriers costs increasing if they are delayed I'm struggling to see why (beyond inflation). Projects that are delayed and cost much more do so because that delay time is spent redesigning the project as people try to modify the spec as its built. The delay doesn't cause the extra cost, the reason for the delay will be the cost driver.
And finally, the MRA4 subhunter will be a......subhunter. As the Navy isn't actually equipt to track subs (a bit worrying as subs love big targets like new carriers) the RAF will be doing this still. In it's spare time it's a surveillance aircraft (Visual, radar and sigint); search and rescue aircraft; comms support etc and will be working harder than a carrier fleet waiting for a coastal enemy to attack.
Carriers in harms way
This article massively overlooks the vulnerability of surface ships to attack by submarines. Diesel-electrics are two-a-penny and dont require highly trained operators to deliver a lethal torpedo package (witness South Korea's lethality). Proliferation of these vessels is immense - projections show that there will be 100 of these "unfriendly nation submarines" in the Pacific alone by 2014 , let alone else where in the world. The Type 45 may protect the carrier against air attack, but without decent anti-submarine protection they're dead ducks. The Type22/ 23 ASW frigates will be end-of-life by the time the carrier enters the water with their hulls stretched well beyond their intended life usage, yet their replacement (the future surface combant) in-service date is flying out to the right faster than a supersonic jet. Quite simply, we can't afford to buy the carriers as on current defence expenditure plans, they'll be at the bottom of the sea the first time there's any sign of trouble as there's no credible plan to ensure they aren't sunk by submarine attack.
Surface ships will be the first to be sunk...
if the UK actually gets into a serious fight with a competent enemy, rather than the stoneage opponents we still have problems beating.
If the Iranians had acted differently recently, the MOD would be looking for a new ship to christen HMS Cornwall.
Succinctly put, old lad:- definitely with you there 100%.
However, as the cretins-in-charge will almost certainly have not ordered enough ammo, might one suggest that the "against the wall" scenario be replaced with the old traditional "rope & a lamppost" operation?
Get the prices right and compare like for like
The US was paying about $10 million each for UH-60L blackhawks in 1998 for the Air National Guard. in 2003 there was a proposed sale to Jordan for 8 UH-60L at 27.5 million each with spares and support equipment etc.
And the UH-60L blackhawk is just a transport aircraft where the Future Lynx is for the army a battlefield reconnaissance helicopter so needing expensive sensors.
To buy a reconnaissance helicopter from the US is tricky since they cancelled the RAH-66 Comanche after spending $6.9 billion and also recently cancelled the replacement programme for the ARH-70
For the Seahawk/Knighthawk
The US price $29 million each for MH-60S Knighthawk (the transport version), $46 million each for MH-60R Seahawk (the multi-mission) which would be the one the Royal Navy needs
Thailand is paying $41 million each for 6 MH-60S seahawks spares etc an extra 12 million over the US price.
The US price doesn't include the develpment cost and when they sell abroad they not going to be givening that away for free.
Surface aircraft carriers?
Why can't we build a subsurface aircraft carrier? Or one that surfaces to launch then dives again? Silent, invisible, probably nuclear powered- it'd not be hugely expensive to run (though you're looking at a Nimitz sized bill for the thing- though it'd be cheaper than a separate sub and aircraft carrier) but it would have a devastating effect on the morale of other countries navies. And as a country with a huge store of knowledge about underwater workings (thanks to our oil exploration guys), nuclear power and general tech-stuff we have the capability to build one natively.
An AUV/glider patrol could detect subs and approaching boats, mapping them out in great enough detail that you'd be able to tell what type of vessel was approaching, as well as performing mine-detection operations- and with a slight modification to existing commercial umbilicals you could have several tens of kilometers of range with a tethered high-powered Battle-ROV, making it easy enough to perform complex sabotage operations on enemy vessels, tow divers and equipment, repair damage to its host vessel from the outside, and so on.
Anyway, good article! It's horrendous to hear Bush say the war's not over etc etc etc only for his lapdogs over here to say "Bugger this, we're not going to pay for our troops to stay alive out there. But we're not going to pull out either due to our "Special Relationship".
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