back to article Falklands hero Marine: Save the Harrier, scrap the Tornado

A Marine general famous as the leader of Britain's heroic commandos and paras during the Falklands War – joined by some retired admirals – has written an open letter to the nation arguing that Prime Minister Cameron's recent decision to scrap the UK's force of Harrier jumpjets and preserve the RAF Tornado bomber fleet was a huge …

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But

Politicians make judgement from nice comfortable offices, a long way from the coal face of defence & seldom make the right decisions anyway, who ever is in government.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: But..

In this case they probably make the judgements of the advice of the military. If the military says it's better to have 19 frigates and a tornado force, than 1 aircraft carrier 10 frigates and a harrier force, then I guess that's what they went for. In purely political terms Ark Royal and harriers are surely more 'sexy' than the alternative so I suggest they took the advice rather than the more sexy alternative. (I'm not saying the military gave the right advice.)

By the way, we will still have HMS Illustrious don't we? It can be used as a floating base for Apache Helicopter Gunships? In the worst case scenario, could be borrow some harriers from the US Marines?

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WTF?

Sexy?

The decision will have been primarily based upon what military supplier is "friendliest" with the procurement mandarins in the MoD.

Dumping the most versatile (and coolest) aircraft in the world is bonkers unless someone is getting a serious back scratching.

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No, no no

No, its not 'sexier' to have Tornados that Harriers, the Harriers can be used when the airfields at Port Stanley, or in the UK, Afghanistan or where ever have bloody great holes in them, the Tornados at that point are so much useless scrap metal.

No we can't rely on the Americans to lend us squat - they didn't in WW2, they didn't during the last Falklands, they never will... especially as (they pointed this out last time) Argentinia is their 'best buddy' in South America.

No 'Illustrious' can't be used as a base for a bunch of helicopter gunships as they can be shot out of the air by a bow and arrow and are therefore totally useless - certainly no match for either fighter planes or various missiles. We already have a helicopter ship anyway - same hull as lusty.

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Anonymous Coward

Disagree

The US did provide support to the UK in the Falklands war in many ways, most of which cannot be revealed (can't tell I'm afraid) as a result of US assistance in several areas, President Ronald Reagan and the US Defense Secretary received honorary knighthoods.

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FAIL

Not very good at reading comprehension are we!

1. The poster did not say the Tornados are sexier - he said the Harriers were!

2. Whether or not an Apache can be shot down by a Bow and Arrow is irrelevent - this has absolutely no bearing on whether than can be launched from HMS Illustrious or not!

I am guessing you are only 15 and thus typical Gen Y - stupid, lazy, greedy, arrogant and a complete and utter total waste of space!

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US assistance

It's reasonably well known the US provided the UK with Sidewinder missiles and satellite pictures of the area.

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Illustrious

'lusty is currently in drydock at rosyth undergoing refit, so when she comes out of refit ark royal will go into reserve and then be scrapped rather than having a final refit to take her service life up to when the new carriers appear.

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wasn't required

strictly no, the US (actually NATO) agreed that the UK could use sidewinders that were part of the uk's inventory but were committed to NATO.

I think any satellite intel would have been available anyway because we have an agreement to share stuff like that.

in terms of materiel technically we got most help from the kiwis who lent a frigate to take over from one of ours in the indian ocean.

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Latin: decimatio; decem = "ten"

Kudos to Lewis for the (rare) proper use of 'decimation'; 6 downed GR1s out of roughly 60 deployed in the 1991 Gulf conflict is indeed 1 in 10. Looks like all that expensive education wasn't wasted after all...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decimation_%28Roman_army%29

(Nice article, BTW)

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Sorry, no.

The job of a journalist is to make himself understood by his readers.

Lewis chose to use a word that many of his readers would misunderstand. At best, that's bad writing. At worst, it's dishonest -- was it his intent to lead people into believing the situation was worse than it is, while not "lying" per se?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Sorry, no.

The readers could look it up.

I think it's better when you're writing to flatter your readers' intelligence rather than patronising them (ie talking down to them) by over-explaining your terms.

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lol@Sarah

Am liking the irony of the overly detailed explanation of 'patronising'

:D

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Anonymous Coward

Merriam Webster

(3)

a : to reduce drastically especially in number <cholera decimated the population>

b : to cause great destruction or harm to <firebombs decimated the city> <an industry decimated by recession>

----

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/decimate

The Cambridge Guide to English Usage states that the nonspecific use of this word to mean devastate or severely reduce the numbers of is ‘nowadays the commonest use of the word in both British and American English, and it’s registered without comment in modern dictionaries.’ It also advises against using numbers with the term, as ‘They are redundant where it means “reduce by one tenth,” and where it doesn't they confound the arithmetic.’ [15]

The 23 occurrences of decimate in the British National Corpus — compare decimates, decimated, and decimating — almost all clearly accord with the nonspecific sense. The only references to the historical sense are two complaints about modern usage and its critics.

----

However, Lewis is clearly using it in the context of massive losses and further suggests that they were all shot down by anti-aircraft fire, this isn't the case, as only 3 were lost due to Iraqi air defences. It seems the RAF are capable of losing a fifth by simply flying the things.

This originally cropped up he was claiming decimation due to the use of a particular low level bombing technique, it's even further out in that context.

Also, he seems to think that the harrier is more capable in hot high conditions than the tornado, it simply isn't - it has the same problems.

I agree with his conclusions though, keep the harrier, halve the frigates and buy more Chinooks.

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Silver badge

F*ck Merriam Webster

I've always understood decimation to be

1. The Roman 1-in-10 version

2. More recently (in terms of human history) bastardised into meaning massacred/suffered massive losses.

Version 1 first and foremost though. Given the 6 from 60 another commenter quoted I'd say it's unfair to summise that Lewis was using it in the context of massive losses and would err on the side of him having used it to refer to the 1-in-10 nature of the losses.

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The Origins of Decimate ...

The origins of the word come from the actions of one Roman General - can't remember who (and when I tried to look it up I found my choice was about 500 years later). A legion had rebelled against it's commander, and as a punishment and a warning to others, the general in question ordered the legion to line up and then for every tenth man to be slain on the spot.

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bzzzt wrong

They were ordered to draw lots with the losers having to be killed by their squad mates.

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The low-level concept

@TheJonB:

"Lewis is clearly using it in the context of massive losses and further suggests that they were all shot down by anti-aircraft fire, this isn't the case, as only 3 were lost due to Iraqi air defences. It seems the RAF are capable of losing a fifth by simply flying the things.

This originally cropped up he was claiming decimation due to the use of a particular low level bombing technique, it's even further out in that context."

Quite. 6 aircraft lost during 1500+ flights, with 2 of those losses occurring *after* the move away from low level missions, does not strike me as a particularly resounding condemnation of the use of low-level tactics.

@Lewis:

"the idea was that it might get in undetected beneath Soviet radar in a Cold-War-turned-hot scenario, though the decimation of low-flying Tornados by feeble Iraqi defences in 1991 retrospectively cast a lot of doubt on that"

As has already been pointed out, the Iraqi AAA was hardly what you'd call feeble. In addition, consider that in the Cold War scenario the Tornado would be expected to operate at low level over the European battlefield, a terrain somewhat different (and more amenable to radar avoidance) than the rather featureless deserts of Kuwait and Iraq. The results obtained by many RAF crews during Red Flag competitions suggests low and fast wasn't an entirely dumb concept. The existence of the F-111 also suggests that going in low and fast against Soviet defences wasn't considered an entirely dumb concept by our friends across the pond...

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Anonymous Coward

Other types...

Actually this makes me wonder how other aircraft types faired.

I believe 3 B52's were lost, and at least 7 A-10's without counting the ones too damaged to be repaired. But I've no idea how many were deployed, and I could be wrong about those numbers too.

Is 10% actually an expected attrition rate for aircraft in a first strike against a prepared and substantial air defence?

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Coat

Exactly

I reckon a squadron of Hurribombers could do the job just as well too. Unfortunately the Hurricane is in fairly short supply these days, so Reapers it is.

Or maybe we could get a few squadrons of used Fairchild A10 Warthogs from the US. Slow but heavily armed and armoured they'd be ideal ground attack aircraft. Awesom cannon on those.

Either way the Tornado is a waste of time. Isn't it being phased out in favour of six or seven Eurofighters anyway? Better to junk the lot now, keep the Harriers and buy Reapers and A10's.

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Boffin

A-10

The A-10 is apparently popular amongst Americans in Afghanistan because it provides effective ground support: some seem to regard it almost as a flying tank because of its robustness and armaments, and I guess there's a reason it's still in active service today after so long.

Fast jets are all very well, but when you want something loitering in the sky providing effective cover, it doesn't help having the thing shoot over the horizon *again* after having missed - with some expensive missile or overspecified bomb - whatever it was you wanted to hit with old-school dumb projectiles.

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Grenade

Yeessss!

I'm in Afghan at the moment, and we called in an A-10 this week. It is the bomb (excuse the pun). The sound of the 30mm cannon is *astounding*.

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Anonymous Coward

TL;DR

I'm sure Lewis' article is all very well and good, but this really isn't rocket science. Lets break it down:

(1) The only way to save money is to axe an entire fleet, allowing the training and support structure to be removed.

(2) The harrier fleet is not big enough to meet all our commitments were we to get rid of Tornado.

And that's it.

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Anonymous Coward

I know...

I know that and "where's the IT angle?" postings are met with "you don't have to read them" responses, but this is supposed to be an IT site. It says so on the masthead. So the question is why let these miltiary stories in because you have staff with an interest in that direction?

I read phtography sites and you don't get stories about, say, fire engines on there because one of the contributors used to be a fire fighter.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: I know...

This is The Register.

I never understand these whinges.

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Terminator

Amazing but true...

One of the surprising things about military aircraft... the airframe is almost worthless in comparison to the electronics/software payload.

Not so much aircraft with computers. More high performance computers, with wings and a fuel tank.

Try to think of it as a flying computer story, and you'll be fine.

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Where's

The Register angle in your post? I don't see one. If you're going to post in the Register's comment section, please be relevant to the standards and philosophy of The Register.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh well

"Try to think of it as a flying computer story, and you'll be fine"

There's an awful lot of hardware out there that's heavilly computerized, so presumably we'll be looking forward to washing machine articles in future?

In all seriousness though I've heard the same reasoning given for space shuttle related stories, and don't they rely on a load of ancient 80186 computers? Hardly cutting edge. Likewise the Tornado dates, IIRC, to the early seventies. While it's computing hardware has no doubt been upgraded over the decades it would, unlike something like the eurofighter, be capable of flying without all that computing power.

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FAIL

Washing Machines?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/10/09/washing_machine_attack/

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Terminator

Flying Appliances

...others having already posted sensible replies...

Think of the story more as human interest, but for humans more interested in hi-tech than their fellow meatbags. Most anyone on this board has likely seen 'True Lies' and the way the Harrier J.J. blazed sky-trails of awesome (and I even hear the Govenator wanted to use a harrier for getting around town, but after he was turned down the Humvee became Arnold's military asset of choice). Think of this as the brave puppy story you'd get at the end of the 10 O'clock news.

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Headmaster

You just don't get IT?

This is El Reg.

It is probably one of the more relaxed IT news sites.

Chilled out IT dudes come here. Hoopy Froods, if you must. And yes, they're mostly dudes I would wager.

What to most boys like or like to talk about?

Girls, beer, computers, automobiles, things that go boom, girls, football, mobile phones, girls, toys, silly pranks like PARIS, sciency stuff, Terminator, girls...

Things that they can mentally, if not physically knock one off to.

El Reg has on many occasion featured many or all of the above.

I rest my case.

But feel free to bitch about it. That's another thing this place is for. General bitching and trolling.

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nope

They're specially made rad hardened 386's

Main reason being, radiation.

They were upgraded in the late 90's

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Anonymous Coward

386!?

386's? Well in that case they are indeed the highest of tech. Or maybe not.

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Flame

10 or 30 min are both dead meat

If the Argentinians manage to procure Su-35 from the Russians both are equally dead meat anyway. Both are obsolete by today's standard.

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Anonymous Coward

thing is,

As annoyed as Argentina may be that we're using the Falklands as an excuse to steal oil off of their coastal waters they arn't likely to go to war nowdays. For example it's no longer run by a military regime that "disappears" people. It's pretty childish for us to continually refer to Argentina with these out of date sterotypes.

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Flame

And that is exactly what worries me

If it was yet another military dictatorship it would have started the war right here and right now and Britain would have had a chance to win.

All it was needed to win the previous Falkland war for Argentina was to wait for a year or so. By that time the Exocets would have been fully integrated with their launcher aircraft and the Invincible would have been flying an Australian flag. So Britain would have been unable to mount any effective response short of nuking Buenos Aires. That was not something the hunta in their standard testosterone poisoned brain state would consider. Hence it lost the war.

A civilian government like the one Argentina has at the moment led by someone as smart as Mrs Kirchner will calculate the right moment and execute it at the right moment. She has already gathered the support of all of Latin America in advance (with the UN letter being a prime example to that). She is buying the right kit from the right suppliers and if she decides to have the Falklands the only thing the British government would be able to do will be if she would like that with a New Georgia garnish or without.

There is bugger all Britain can do about it at the moment short of stationing half of its Tornado and Eurofighter fleet down there. Not like there will be a war in Europe anytime soon so they might as well project power where such projection is needed instead of being a subsidy for Labour-voting scottish precincts.

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your point?

A waste - any country can end up with a pretty bad leader - whether this a democracy electing Hitler (and he was elected) or Bush (same here - and he started more than a single war), or whether its a country that is taken over in a military coup we can't rely on other countries staying just as they are now... .especially not when there is a very expensive highly profitable raw material involved.... I wouldn't put it past the USA to be negotiating to buy the oil from Argentinia after a successful invasion the USA felt unable to stop - after all they did try and negotiate with Stalin to ensure the destruction of the British empire that they bled white in WW2 - Stalin didn't play ball so its taken the yanks a little longer to destroy it.

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Fail

No Hitler was not elected.

Gb2 schoolbooks

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Grenade

Black Buck

Lewis writes: Black Buck [...] achieved very little - the Argentine aviators who so menaced the Task Force were based on the mainland, not the islands themselves.

Well yes, because the runway at Stanley had holes in it, holes made by Black Buck. Otherwise it would have been used by the occupiers - or at least Argentine air defence aircraft would have been there, making the Harriers' task that much harder, and large transports could have been used, to bring in loads of extra equipment, making... &c &c

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Rather far from the truth

It was only half a hole part way down one side of the runway - and that was repaired within a few hours. It was also too far down to prevent the Argentinians using Port Stanley for their Pucara ground attack aircraft.

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Flame

In those days it was too short anyway

In those days the runway was too short for any of the Argentine fighter aircraft anyway.

Amidst all strategic mistakes Argenina did the biggest was not to unload all of its runway building equipment at Port Stanley ASAP and extend the runway by any means necessary even if they would have had to redo completely at a later date.

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Anonymous Coward

Cost

Cost of repairing a hole in a runway - £100

Cost of putting a hole in the runway - priceless.

Well done the RAF - lol

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Anonymous Coward

Acute Vulnerability of the UK

Economically, defensively, strategically... we're currently more vulnerable than I can ever recall in my lifetime, and probably beyond.

Critically short of money. With a misconfigured/crippled military. And a strategic dependency on other countries to supply our armed services with aircraft, vehicles, and weapons.

And meanwhile committed to a pointless, endless, ill conceived war in the middle east.

So cocking up the battle weary remains of what little defensive capability the UK has seems careless beyond belief.

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Funnily enough...

... I can't remember a time when this wasn't the case.

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Happy

Pah Humbug

Ironically, isn't that exactly how we started in WWII - underfunded, too-scaled-back military, old technology, economy in the toilet, strategy in disarray?

We did alright there...once we got through the paying-for-the-war recession that is.

Maybe we should have another World War?

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Unhappy

Lucky you

I've always lived in feeble-joke England and it just keeps getting worse

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We didn't do all right in WW2

Sold all our gold (cut price) to the Americans

Sold all our companies (very cut price) to the Americans

Gave all our bases to the Americans - for free (lend lease my ass)

Were kicked out of Europe in a couple of hours, out of most of the rest of the world shortly afterwards

At the time we still had some decent equipment (ask the guys that rejoiced at all the stuff we left behind at Dunkirk)

We were lucky that the Germans didn't keep bombing our airfields, if they hand't stopped they would have all been out of action and none of our fighters would have been capable of flying - the reason we came up with the Harrier that doesn't need an airfield.

We were equally lucky that in those days we still had enough of a Royal Navy that we could protect shipments we were reliant on from elsewhere in the world - we don't have that capability now we are more reliant than ever.

We still in those days were capable of manufacturing the equipment of war - guns, bullets, tanks, lorries, uniforms, these days we've 'outsourced' all of that capability to China, South Africa, Belgium, France and the USA.

We might as well disband the puny remains of our armed forces - they aren't strong enough to protect us, we can't reinforce them, we have no industry and no money, a government that doesn't give a fig about the country and (just like the previous Labour government) would rather see us ruled from Brussels than London. Frankly actually I think we'd be safe, because apart from the Falklands oil there really is f**** all reason for anyone to invade.

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Flame

Maybe we should have another World War?

And maybe your an economically illiterate <expletive deleted>?

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I love the muth of the harrier needing no real airbase

What's always over-looked in those statements is the support requirements for the harrier do as they require lots of heavy equipment, fuel and maintenance gear, much of which is normally shipped in by ... air using freight aircraft (which require long runways).

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By air?

Or indeed, by sea. On ships. Like the one they can happily live on and attack anywhere in the world from.

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