Recent combat operations by British and allied forces in Libya are beginning to tell us a lot: not so much about the future of Libya, which remains up for grabs, but about the tools one actually needs for fighting real-world wars against real-world enemy armed forces. The vast bulk of our own armed forces are set up, equipped …
The problem isn't so much "fighting the last war". The problem is that the RAF and army are locked into a mindset of fighting a war which never actually took place (land war with the Sovs in Europe). And as a kicker, the strategies they would have used in this non-existent war have been proven (in Iraq I and II) to be ineffective. Plus the navy played political chicken with their carrier fleet, never thinking anyone would actually swing that axe, and lost big-time.
Thing is, you need to think about who you're likely to fight. You're not going to fight China or Russia, or anyone with serious weapons, bcos they've got nukes and we've got nukes. So we go for diplomatic sanctions with them instead. No, you're only *EVER* going to be actually fighting the tinpot dictators and random nutjobs - the whole "global policeman" thing. So plan for that, yeah?
'The Harrier could even carry Storm Shadow, assuming you actually wanted to do that for some reason.'
Err, no it couldn't - http://services.parliament.uk/hansard/Lords/ByDate/20101111/writtenanswers/part004.html
'The Harrier fleet actually had more aircraft modernised to drop the latest smart weaponry'
Apparently not Brimstone (main anti-armour air-to-ground missile) though (see above).
Plus with less than half the combat radius of a Tornado GR4, a Harrier taking off from the coast of Libya (never mind a safe distance out to sea) wouldn't get half way across the country without refueling putting targets in the south out of range entirely.
Except all there is in the South is sand! - If you really want to bomb that far south you can let the Cruise Missiles do it (range is over 1000 miles), and you can still refuel a Harrier
As far as I'm aware GR9 spec Harriers should have Storm Shadow and Brimstone integration, as to whether they actually ever carried them is another matter (probably all provisioned for Tornados), but they certainly should be able to use them. A quick look at harrier.org.uk would seem to confirm this
...and yet another example of Lewis not having a clue; the last variant of the MD/BAe Harrier II was the GR9 and that was not qualified for most of the newer smart weapons.
Actually if you read that government report properly, it is about STANDARD operational loadouts, you'll also see that the Harriers were carrying Maverick missiles, which are anti-tank missiles.
So no need to introduce Brimstone until the Maverick stock is depleted (Harriers carried these from GR7 onwards)
Oh at it is indeed cleared to carry paveway IV - the latest smart bomb.
The GR9 spec calls for these weapons, the only one cancelled was ASRAAM carriage - not cleared for use just means they haven't been arsed to clear it for general use, usually for reasons of money, e.g. We need to use up the Mavericks, so no point testing or training crews for Brimstone (yet), or are we really going to stick a Storm Shadow on a Harrier. It doesn't mean they cannot use them
You fail at reading comprehension
The Hansard reply lists, not "standard operational loadouts", which phrase is only used at all when stating that there is no negative effect on the standard load of either Harrier or Tornado of higher (exceeding 25 degrees celsius) temperatures while operating in Afghanistan, while noting that the GR9's capabilities are less by comparison, but a table of all "targeting and reconnaissance pods, air to ground weapons and air to air weapons that have been cleared to be carried by Tornado GR4 or Harrier GR9". It is readily apparent that Tornado can not only carry a vastly greater array of these, but that even on a like for like basis the Tornado can carry more of the same weapons than the Harrier; or as the answer states "Comparatively, the Tornado is more capable. Its standard load carries more weapons enabling greater flexibility whilst on missions.". Brimstone is already being used effectively by Tornado, as is Storm Shadow, and even if the Harrier had ever completed certification to carry either operationally, Tornado can carry more of them, faster and further. They can carry more Paveway IVs, too.
Not the whole picture
Sorry but this completely neglects some other Harrier advantages:
They were cheaper to run
They had a greater availability rate
Ability to be delivered by sea (This is the big one)
Ability to undertake martime operations (we are an Island after all)
Use of rough and ready airfields - Tornados couldn't be deployed to Afganistan for years due to this.
Yes they can carry more but battlefield interdiction in Afganistan rarely requires a full loadout.
You are still neglecting the that Harrier had Air to Ground anti-Tank capability in Maverick - without considering the fact there are no Tanks in Afganistan - Therefore those missiles are overkill
And, Typhoons can just about do everything a Tornado can and better, especially over the next couple of years - Therefore we've removed a useful asset - and then replicated what we have left in another airframe.
We could have kept Harrier for Battlefield Interdiction/Martime/Fast Response and replaced Tornado with Typhoon taking over Strike and Air Defence
As the Hansard answer shows, Tornado cost £35,000 per hour to operate, Harrier £37,000. The ability to deliver by sea was going by 2014 anyway, well before the QE class enters service, since the remaining pseudo-carriers were being retired. This also removes maritime operations, except those launched either from friendly countries if overseas or from the mainland if you're talking about home waters - and in both cases, Tornado could carry more, farther and faster.
Battlefield interdiction in Afghanistan may rarely require a full loadout, but, and one hesitates to point out that which ought to be staggeringly bloody obvious, Afghanistan is not the only part of the world where we might need strike aircraft or the only battlefield environment in which we might be operating. Bluntly, this seems a constant with all the Page-ites; Harriers would work in Afghanistan, therefore they would work everywhere for everything. They may not be using those anti-tank missiles in Afghanistan, by the way, but what have they been firing Brimstones at in Libya? Why, tanks, I believe :-).
Regarding Typhoon, yes, it will have a robust air-to-mud-capability, true, but not in the next couple of years; we'll only have something like 8 pilots certified in the strike role in that time in Typhoon. We have a shitload more qualified on Tornado RIGHT NOW.
What seems obvious to me is in that link...
... that the RAF is more interested in getting things cleared for Tornado than Harrier. This has little to do with what each can carry with equal effort, just what the RAF decided to spend money on.
I suppose from the viewpoint of the *Air Force*, the Tornado may be a superior bombing craft - the calculation is correct as long as you force the Harriers to use the same airbases as the Tornadoes, thus making them fly the same distances.
However, once you add the Navy and its ability to get a airbase (carrier) very close to the target, the Tornado's advantages are neutralized as they get farther from Britain or farther from the closest convenient airbase. As an all-around power projection tool, the Harrier is superior.
And what you don't seem to want...
...to acknowledge is that even if Ark Royal wasn't being scrapped now, it would have been in 2-3 years along with Illustrious, so there would be NO CARRIERS for your vaunted Harriers to fly off; they would have had no option but to use land bases in 2-3 years anyway. There will be no carriers until the QE class comes in, along with F35 (and we'll be flying those off a French bird farm initially, which is capable of flying conventional carrier aircraft anyway), which means that the most capable plane that can be flown from a land base is the one we should keep, and that's Tornado. Arguments about what could fly off carriers that we've been planning on scrapping anyway are moot.
And to add to Registerfail
While most the Soviet-era planes may now be considered old, the Mig-27s and SU-22s are the same generation as the Tornado and Harrier, as are the Mirage F1s the Libyan air force is equipped with. I can't comment on their state of maintenance or quality of their pilots, but a F1 is more than a match for a tornado or harrier in a dog fight (with comparable pilots and properly maintained of course).
For that argument to be valid, you'll have to
... demonstrate how the F/A-18 lacks abilities that caused it to have been shot down. Quite frankly, while the Typhoon is incrementally superior, the main disadvantage the Hornet has in this competition is that it already actually had a chance to fail, while the Typhoon can still hide in the world of theory.
It is like arguing if only the Brits used SM-1s and Sea Sparrow in the Falklands they wouldn't have gotten so slammed. While the theoretical merits of each can be debated, the main difference is the same - the American systems hadn't had a chance to fail so it gets the advantage of being able to hide under theory.
Just as important, while we may accept for any individual sortie, the Hornet has a higher risk of getting shot down, on the operative level, that doesn't mean a net loss if it is substantially cheaper, allowing many more of them to be operated and allowing for much greater mass and shock in the attack.
Simple error by the author?
"The Tornadoes had flown 3,000 miles from Kent to do so,"
News to me. Given the ones involved were flying from Norfolk which is some 120 miles from Kent. Or has the MoD been engaged in some complex coverup - not enough fuel to get them the full 3,000 from Marham?
Assuming not, have any other howlers slipped past during editing?
Tanks for nothing, Lewis
You're at it again, Lewis, ensuring your many sensible opinions are tainted with way too much raving over hobby horses. Please explain to Register readers how the 5 (shortly to be 3) tank regiments and 8 armoured infantry battalions, equipped with kit bought 20 years ago, supposedly suck up all the money from the other 32 non-armoured battalions when the biggest expense in the Army is personnel?
You could try familiarising yourself with British operations in Basra, Al-Amarah, and Afghanistan, where tanks from the British and Danish armies remarkably proved and are proving remarkably useful, despite their opponents not having any. Indeed, the US Army has upgraded hundreds of tanks for fighting in built up areas against insurgents precisely because of long experience in Iraq (see TUSK).
It's strange how our "light infantry" war in Afghanistan seems to rely on infantry riding large, heavily armoured vehicles, that are hard to transport. Of course, they are called Mastiff's and Ridgebacks, so they are, like, so totally different, and much better. Until, of course, the Taliban accquire Kornet missles, whereupon those tanks will be seen in a different light; if there are any left
Do you really need an airforce to get rid of a dictator?
Or would one, well aimed, bullet be enough?
ISTM we're still playing war by the gentleman's rules of the eighteenth century. Mustn't shoot the leaders old chap, that wouldn't be sporting. Better that thousands of ordinary soldiers get killed or mained than "one of us" should suffer.
We know that western democracies (I nearly said "civilisations") are not above assassination - just look at the drone attacks in Iran/Afghanistan not to mention other countries long, if not glorious, history of killing enemies of the state remotely. Even the history of special forces ops going back to whenever they were invented. Sure, there may be some difficulty in finding suitable targets, once they are given the chance to go to ground - which may just be a good reason for doing the job sooner, rather than later (maybe just after they attain office?: "Do you enter name swear to uphold ... <bang> <thud> ... next please!")
If you really want to save lives, then addressing the seat of the problem is the fastest, cheapest and most effective way of proceeding. You never know, a few high profile examples may even make prospective baddies think twice.
The CIA is happily murdering people as fast as it can in Pakistan, A'stan, and anywhere else it can find targets. British SF are also involved in such operations. And Mossad is cheerfully slapping limpet-mines to the sides of people's cars in Iran and strangling people in Dubai. We've already proved that we're morally 'ok' with such acts, so that's clearly not what is holding us back.
Gadaffi hasn't remained the despotic ruler of a nation and sponsored terrorism on and off for 40 years by being slack. He's mobile, well protected (and no: I don't mean just by his 'Amazonian Guard'), and used to having his life threatened. He's got sense to keep a low profile at the moment; much as Saddam did.
I think that if we knew where he was, and the strike could have been made without causing a lot of other deaths, he'd already be dead by now.
"Gadaffi hasn't remained the despotic ruler of a nation and sponsored terrorism on and off for 40 years by being slack"
Here and I thought he got there by virtue of his good looks and his Michael Jackson-inspired fashion sense.
Anybody that ugly has to be mean. I'd like to use him to make gargoyle biscuits. Spread out the batter on a marble counter, place your hand on the back of his head, and slam firmly into the batter repeatedly. Batter is entirely optional.
Grenade's for Gadafi to use as a suppository.
Assassination?!? - Yeah that should work.
Lockerbie was another form of assassination in retaliation for a civilian mid east aircarft downed by by the US. Not quite as acceptable now, is it.
The west seems to be hellbent on trying to MAKE more enemies than it actually defeats.
'We can be pretty sure what the unspecified number of Storm Shadows was, as the Tornado can carry only one Storm Shadow into combat '
Four hardpoints on a GR4 are capable of carrying Storm Shadow, however with drop tanks on the wing pylons it's quite possible they carried two each, for example:-
You want to replace the Eurofighter with the F/18? Are you nuts? The Eurofighter is a proven capable warmachine, easily able to despatch F15's with impudence, so I'm going to guess it'd be able to take down the F/18 quite easily also. (Spain Typhoon vs US F15, 7 dead F15's out of 8, 0 dead Typhoons out of 2).
I know you loath and detest BAE systems, the CEO must have run over your favourite cat or something, but go back and look at history, look at what happens to the UK when we allow our arms industry or any industry to flounder. From producing 80% of the worlds ships after WW2 to producing about 5%, the loss of skills needed to produce arms, such a narrow vision because of a deep seated hatred for anything BAE, how can you consider yourself an unbiased journalist when your bias is plain for anyone to see.
Might be a stupid idea but...
...it can't be worse than those the MoD come up with. How about a nice big double hulled cargo ship with lots of flat deck space (like a container ship). Fit it with LOTS of vertical launch tubes for Tomahawks, some anti missile defended and lots of fire fighting ability. Then cruise up and down the Gulf of Sidra lobbing missiles as needed.
I haven't ready the article...
...but let me guess.
The general gist of it will be.
1. The UK armed forces kit is rubbish and expensive
2. We should have just bought US kit instead which is simply super
How did I do?
It's how every Lewis Page article goes innit?
Of course no mention of the fact that the British or French have not managed to shoot friendly children while rescuing a pilot who crashed thanks to mechanical failure of his jet.
Osprey not Blackhawk
"...Americans in a Blackhawk that rescued the pilot..."
I thought it was a Marine Corps Osprey.
I think the poster was also laughing that the F-18, so revered by Lewis in his article, is the only coalition aircraft lost to date.
"Americans, not people you want going to war alongside you."
Indeed not. It's why you want to stick as close as *possible* to them on the ground.
That way any of *their* friendly fire takes some of them at as well.
US Politicians *hate* having to explain that and US media can definitely sniff such a story.
The article is tendentious and selective. It proposes all our armed forces should be designed around a couple of recent encounters. No. Forces must be prepared to fight any enemy in any geography. I might as well say: "Oh. we didn't use rifles in Libya, so we are stupid for having rifles". Or "Our last 2 wars were in hot countries. Chuck out all the big coats".
Get rid of all tanks, yeah ? Weren't tanks the whole basis of the Gulf War 1 and the liberation of Kuwait ?
The next battle could be anything. Fighting in the jungle, blitz kreig in the dessert, boarding pirate vessels at sea, urban house-to-house. The enemy faces the same difficulties, and all military leaders wish their arrangements could be better.
The title is not required, and must contain letters and/or digits.
" Weren't tanks the whole basis of the Gulf War 1 and the liberation of Kuwait ?"
It turned out that there wasn't actually anything for them to do once they got there. The airpower that went ahead cleared the table.
Our lack of helicopter lift is frequently cited as a contributing factor to our casualties in Afghanistan.
But if Our Brave Boys are in big, fat Chinooks, won't the Taliban switch from IEDs to shoulder-launched SAMs instead, as the Mujahideen did when they gave the Soviet Union a thrashing?
Or do they lack a Charlie Wilson-style benefactor to supply such kit?
Join the dots, buddy
How many shoulder-launched SAMs do they use to take out the current range of helicopters (not just the ones carrying Brits)? So why would us putting a few more in the air to carry our soldiers suddenly cause that to change?
Re: Join the dots, buddy
"How many shoulder-launched SAMs do they use to take out the current range of helicopters"
I don't know. That's why I asked. Care to enlighten me?
The Real Point
There are places where the (unelected) government does worse to it's population every day and the "international community" does nothing. As soon as oil is involved they're straight in on "humanitarian" grounds. How many countries have had brutal civil wars in the last fifty years with no intervention from the UN?
Last I heard Libyan oil amounted to less than 2% of the world's oil supply. So the question I have is how does the cost of this operation compare with the cost incurred by the increase in oil prices?
Procurement or Procuring?
Defence procurement in the UK has been an unspeakable mess for as long as anyone cares to remember, with feather-bedded contracts given to produce badly designed, barely usable equipment. For example the SA80 idea had been around since since the late 1940s but only finally entered service in the mid '80s. A 40 year development for something that was much worse than the weapon it replaced! (Although the optical is sight quite good).
On the other hand, TSR2 was killed early in development even though it was streets ahead of anything else at the time.
Royal Navy carriers (remember those?) had 3D RADAR systems in 1968 but not in 1982 and probably still don't.
Buying suitable kit at a bargain price from a willing overseas supplier isn't a new idea. In 1855 the War Office purchased a job-lot of cavalry sabres (made in 1796) from Germany to equip heavy dragoons for the Crimean War. Admittedly, the technology didn't go out of date quite so quickly in those days but you take my point.
Just in case you were wondering, no, I don't think Lewis Page is always 100% right but he's usually 94% right and that's good enough.
I speak as one who, like Lewis, (same service but a generation earlier) has been there, done that and have the scars & medals to prove it.
Our service personnel deserve better but continue to deliver, despite the efforts of politicians, civil servants and Very Senior Officers (who should know better).
RE: Archie the Albatross
"Just in case you were wondering, no, I don't think Lewis Page is always 100% right but he's usually 94% right and that's good enough.
I speak as one who, like Lewis, (same service but a generation earlier) has been there, done that and have the scars & medals to prove it.
Our service personnel deserve better but continue to deliver, despite the efforts of politicians, civil servants and Very Senior Officers (who should know better)."
Good for you! I agree wholeheartedly, even though I lacked the guts to wear a uniform.
I think some of some of Mr Page's more emotive articles come from just these sorts of experiences. He's been there, done it and is now watching some of his brothers (and sisters) in arms fighting and dying; their overpriced substandard kit; the outrageous business dealings of BAE; the senior MoD officers who are scheming to preserve their little empires. And he's thinking "there but for the grace of God go I".
I think the only problem he has is getting someone who signs the cheques for the procurement deals to listen! Keep it up, Lewis.
...while the idea of a bullpup rifle certainly had been around since the forties, the weapon originally proposed and adopted, the partially Czech-designed EM2 was completely different to the SA80. The Enfield EM2 was reliable, accurate and used a highly effective .280 intermediate cartridge whose recoil, unlike that of the subsequently adopted 7.62x51mm was controllable in automatic fire. It was killed off at the insistence of the US who forced all of NATO to adopt the latter cartridge, which they had adopted in the M14. Which they then shitcanned, adopting the M16 in 5.56mm instead. Thanks, guys. SA80 grew out of a bullpup version of the AR-18, a cheap and nasty stamped-metal alternative to the M16 which was popular with the IRA among others.
Good Strories In Strange Places
On the subject of defence procurement I was surprised by a programme on the telly a couple of weeks back. It was a cooking programme featuring Heston Blumenthal catering on a submarine. What surprised me was that the sub which was intended to be on operations for 90 days did not have the capacity desgined in to carry 90 days worth of food for the crew.
Did the spec for that sub mention the need for storage 90 days worth of food? Why did somebody in the MOD sign off the design? Did the designers read the spec? And why had nobody in the navy shouted about it until that bald feller came along?
True enough, and well-noticed...
...mind you, in the Libyan thing the Trafalgar class in the area appears to have spunked more than half its total ammunition in one firing, so I doubt a 90 day patrol's a realistic likelihood!
It's ALL about business
In my opinion the whole affair is just an excuse to go blow up the Libyans hardware so that when the new democratically elected gov. come in the y have to buy some nice shiny new hardware.
From their saviours of course.
" no cash???"
"Don't worry we take black gold. I knows your good for it."
I guess highly opinionated defence articles are a change from highly opinionated nuclear ones...
You make some good points, but once again, it's rather ruined by distortions half-truths and outright fibs made in order to inflict your opinions on us.
"France and the USA both have carriers operating off the Libyan coast right now, but our foolish decisions in the recent review have left us on the sidelines." - Good job, too. Looks like ditching the carrier has saved us millions. The article is written from the standpoint of someone who wants to be involved in every conflict going. Maybe our government are seeking to reduce the conflicts that we can waste money on. Maybe we shouldn't be projecting slivers of force half-way around the globe and our military should remain a deterrent force against more serious conflicts.
I'm also shocked by the gall of calling Tornadoes 'slow' in comparison to Harriers. That's flat-out deception.
The idea of calling artillery 'extremely expensive' and 'requiring enormous logistical support' is ludicrous when you then wave the flag for air-power, which has FAR more logistical requirements and is far more expensive. Artillery is dirt cheap in comparison, can put far more munitions on target than a 'plane can, exposes no aircrew to risk, is not restricted in loiter time above the target, and is always there ready to respond. I know that the green bits between the sea aren't really your area of expertise, but artillery is Queen of the Battlefield for a good reason.
I did wonder if this was also a chance for the Arab League to see the Typhoons up close in the hope that they might buy some from us, as they are probably the target market for them and the only people with money to spend on them.
I like the register, with the exception of articles written by Lewis, I wish you'd get a new job.
The really important thing here is
So how do you spell his name?
Ghad...Gadh...Khadd...Kadh...oh, bollocks, I give up...
One reason to keep the Storm Shadow
It is a brilliant name for a weapon - very Captain Scarlet. By comparison Tomahawk isn't nearly as whooshy sounding.
More like Action Force - Storm Shadow was Cobra's answer to Snake Eyes!
Something I wanted to pick up on...
...aside from the nonsense about Harrier being able to launch Storm Shadow (which it couldn't; nor Brimstone, nor ASRAAM, nor could it carry Litening 3 or RAPTOR, nor Enhanced Paveway, nor ALARM...) was Lewis's apparent joy that we're being saddled with (leased) Rivet Joint RC135s with (leased) crews to fly them. Lewis, can't we have a few cracks about them being 1954 vintage airliners, belonging in a museum, perhaps call their crews a vintage aircraft enthusiasts club? Or do we only do that when we're vilifying much superior British aircraft and crowing over their being scrapped?
Tools for the job
Did someone just pull that list from Wikipedia without thinking about it?!
Admittedly, storm shadow is stupid on Harrier, but it is provisioned for it, but not cleared.
Brimstone was in the process of being cleared, but they were dragging their feet possibly because Maverick was operational and filling the role, why spend money while they are still in stock
ASRAAM was cancelled for Harrier, seeing as it is a bomber and sidewinders are still pretty capable, it's fair enough - if you need air cover, bring Typhoons.
Litening 3 does the same job as the Sniper pods carried by Harrier
RAPTOR is a recon pod carried by dedicated Tornado platforms (GR4A) with very limited strike capability - These could possibly be kept on like we did the recon Canberras in the event of ditching Tornados.
Enhanced paveway III, so what, Harrier carried Paveway IV.
ALARM - Gulf War 1 era anti radar missile, well Harrier never was a SEAD aircraft, Typhoons more suited to this, early-ish Tranche 2 aircraft should be able to carry it.
And the whole point about the RC-135 aircraft - There are hundreds of them out there, that means they are going to be cheap to run and maintain with greater availablity, instead of having to custom make each part like they did with the Nimrod, when parts fail
...and your point seems to be that some of the weapons capabilities of Tornado can be replicated to some extent by Harrier. No-one would dispute that, but a couple of points; firstly, you're relying upon previous generation weapons in several of those cases - there's a reason Maverick and Sidewinder are being replaced, and given that Tornado can carry SNIPER as well, I'd suggest that there are probably good reasons why they're going with Litening III. Secondly, all you've shown is that Tornado can do everything Harrier can and more besides. Incidentally, keeping on "recon only" Tornados while ditching the remainder of the fleet and going with Harrier still leaves us with multiple fast jet types with the attendant logistical and maintenance headaches that type reduction was supposed to get rid of.
As regards the RC135, your argument sounds rather like that made for the Sherman as being a good tank - easy to produce, easy to service and cheap. Shame that it was a crap weapons system with a useless gun and armour made of tinfoil and spitwads (nicknamed Ronsons, because they lit first strike, every time); and the analogous situation is true; Rivet Joint can't match the capabilities of the R1, never mind the intended R2 (and the last government's decision to cancel the R2 was criminal, IMO). MRA4 was over-budget, massively, but we had already spent that money, and the result was a massively capable aircraft not just for maritime but also land reconaissance and attack, with superior ELINT capabilities. Lewis keeps calling them "sub-hunters" to belittle their capabilities, but they would have been, indeed were, way, way more than that. As regards custom parts, the MRA4 had a massive degree of parts commonality with commercial Airbus aircraft (glass cockpit, avionics, engines etc.) which would have reduced that necessity massively. We should have kept R2 and MRA4.
War isn't what it used to be, is it.
Is there any difference between a rebel and a terrorist and a dissident? And is the masterplan to sell expensive weapons to Arab states but not equip them with arms and defensive measures which are effective against any foe and spill the beans on capabilities and weaknesses? Is that why they are not deployed and/or flying peace-keeping sorties?