8 posts • joined 1 Jul 2009
Don't forget Typhoon
I support Lewis but a key point he is missing is that in assessing what aircraft are needed it's not just a Harrier vs Tornado debate but it's about the whole RAF inventory.
All of the weapons carried by Tornado can be carried by later batches of the Typhoon. There are therefore no capabilities that we would be loosing from the RAF inventory if we withdrew Tornado. You would still have a twin engined, high speed combat airctaft capable of carrying LGB's, Storm Shadow, ALARM, etc.
You do have capabilities in the Harrier that are not available elswhere in the inventory, most particularly the ability to operate from a carrier.
We are therefore losing more capability by withdrawing the Harrier (whose capabilities are not reflected alswehere in our aircraft inventory) than the Tornado (whose capabilities are available elsewhere in the inventory).
A sensible review would have:
1) Scrapped Tornado and used some of the savings to fund more Chinooks, C117's and air to ground capability for the Typhoon and Nimrod
2) Kept the Harrier
3) Kept Nimrod (after we've paid all the money for it) but given it an LGB capability so that it could be used in a loitering bomber role in the way in which the US use their B52's and B1's thus giving it more relevance than a purely ASW platform.
4) Kept Sentinel given its relevance to COIN operations.
5) Transferred all RAF helicopters to the Army Air Corp and saved all the staff office jobs created by the joint helicopter command.
Sadly we just got stupid Treasury inspired salami slicing removing a little bit of every type of capability as per every set of defence cuts dressed up as a defience review over the last 20 years.
Well done David "John Nott" Cameron - destruction of the RN - mission complete
I disagree with you on tanks Lewis. The Canadian's reversed their decision to get rid of tanks after finding they were useful in Afghanistan and they were vital in Iraq in the insurgency as well as during the army to army engangement. As one US officer said, when under fire from RPG's or IED's troops hide behind Bradley's and Abrams, not Hummers and LAV's. Also the experience in Kosovo was that without ground forces to oppose, the Serbs were able to split up their tanks and hide them making our air campaign completely uneffective in terms of denigrating their armour. It was only the threat of armoured ground forces being comitted that forces them to negotiate.
I'd say about 200 tanks and 500 armoured AFV's is right.
You don't mention FRES but getting rid of that sounds right as well. Medium vehicles (like the LAV mentioned above) are over spec'ed for peacekeeping and under protected for high intensity wars. You want a combination of heavy and light for these two different missions.
I'm with every point you make on the RAF except the Nimrod. We should have got rid of Tornado and kept Harrier. We should never have built the Nimrod but now we have we should get some use for it. Maritime surveillance, communications relay and ASW are missions we do need to undertake. To get value for money though we should have equipped the aircraft with a PGM capability (Storm Shadow and Paveway) and used it in the way the US uses the B52 and B1 to loiter over battlefields where we have air dominance. That would have given the Nimrod more relevance to our mission given how much we've spent on it.
For the RN retaining a world class MCM and SSN force are welcome but everything else is stupid. We should have kept Ark Royal and both Illustrious and Ocean as well as the Bay's. The decision on carriers and amphib is ridiculous.
Retiring the Type 22's makes sense and in future we must go with a high/lo capability mix (we do need some escorts Lewis). At the moment to get the number of hulls we need we leave capability gaps on our ships which means they are under-armed for high end warfighting and over-armed for peacetime duties.
We should be planning to replace the 13 Type 23's and the the 6 ageing RFA's of the Leaf, Rover and Fort Austin class with:
*8 High end frigates equipped for ASW but also carrying SSM and cruise missiles
*6 Large helicopter equipped offshore patrol vessels
*6 Fleet replenishment ships that each carry half a dozen large helicopters
We must buy the E2D for the reasons you stated and we need to equip the Type 45 with all the weapons it is fitted for but not with as it will not longer be escorting carriers which make up for its anti-ship and anti-submarine weapon deficiencies but will need to operate independently and now constitutes 30% of our escort force.
Other than tanks, Nimrod and being a little excessive with regard to escorts this was a very good article Lewis and far better than the superficial rubbish that so called commentators are filling the broadsheets with.
Oh, lastly, on Cameron - did you notice he thinks we have Typhoon's rather than Tornado's in A'stan. Sums up the mans military knowledge perfectly.
The usual shambles
We could have bought the US Aegis System years ago which includes not only Standard missiles but also the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) which is more capable against low flying fast targets. This system was perfectly adequate for Germany, Holland, Norway, Spain, Australia, South Korea and Japan and would have been in service years ago avoiding the cost of expensive refits to keep our ageing Type 42 destroyers in service.
But no. Building British whether it is value or not is always our first priority and if that's not possible then buy European to show what good little Europeans we are. For heavens sake don't by a cheaper, proven already available US system!
Just do a comparison between what we have got as our AAW destroyer and the US (given they are reportedly around the same cost per ship). Their Arleigh Burke Flight 2a class destroyers have twice the number of anti aircraft missles, two helicopters to the Type 45's one, their anti aircraft missiles can be used against warships whereas those of the Type 45 can't leaving her with no anti-ship missile system, the US ships have land attack cruise missiles anti-submarine torpedoes which the Type 45 does not and crucially for an AAW platform, they carry the Co-operative Engagement Capability allowing them to network tracking and targeting capability with other ships. The Type 45 might get this capability in 2014.
If the Type 45's anti aircraft missiles eventually work they will be better than the US equivalent but the US ship is far more rounded (and general capability across a number of missions is vital the fewer ships you have) and was available years ago. Alternatively we could have bought cheaper designs (such as the German F124) and had more hulls than the 6 we can afford to replace the 12 AAW destroyers we previously had.
Still, being good Europeans and putting civilian defence jobs ahead of military need is a much more important priority than properly equipping the forces.
Tanks yes, medium vehicles no
I agree with the comments of those who think the tank is far from dead. The focus in the article seems to imply tanks were last used to any great effectiveness in the 1991 Gulf War. However, as some posters have already made clear, US (and British) tanks provided the spearhead in the Gulf War of 2003 and the Canadian's have re-equipped with tanks following their experience in Afghanistan (see Operation Medusa for example).
The idea that you will always have complete dominance of the air with plentiful ground attack aircraft/helicopters permanently present is fanciful both in practice and in the expense needed to resource it. Tanks can hold ground in a way aircraft can't and they provide vital protection for infantry. Like anything they are not invulnerable (very large IED's for example) but we wouldn't build any piece of kit or send soldiers anywhere if the only judgement of success or relevance was that none of them could be lost to any other type of weapon system.
Where I do agree with Lewis is on the irrelevance of medium level vehicles. They lack the protection of high end assets and they are too expensive for low level policing. It is hard to see what threat environment they are relevant for. As a US officer was reported to have said in Jane's Defence Weekly, when there were bad guys with RPG's about his troops didn't hide behind Strykers; they took cover behind M1's and Bradley's.
Some armoured recce in very very very modest numbers is okay but I agree with Lewis that we should be spending our money for recce on UAV's and well trained infantry.
I'm fine with investment on high end armoured vehicles and on low end policing vehicles but let's cut out medium capability vehicles that are good for no mission and focus on these two ends of the spectrum. The savings in FRES money would be far better spent on reinstating the four battalions of infantry lost in the last set of defence cuts.
Good post Lewis - as ever
It's not anti British to want our defence money spend on best value equipment that gives our forces what they need and gives taxpayers value for money. It is in fact pro-British and pro-common sense.
The defence budget is not limitless so the first question is not whether we need airborne ASW capability but whether it has a higher priority from the available funds than other capabilities.
The second question is what is the best way to provide the capability if we do need it.
I do think we need an airborne martime patrol, anti-submarine and anti ship capability. I do not think however that is is fairly low on the lost of current and likely future priorities as compared to say helicopters, transport aircraft, aircraft carriers and well equipped and more numerous infantry. Only when those things are adequately funded should we spend on airborne maritime patrol aircraft.
However, the real issue here is the second question. Although the US aircraft may be reduced capability it is likely to be perfectly adequate given the small numbers of diesel powered submarines we would be hunting in the most likely future scenarios (e.g. the submarnies of Iran and North Korea).
If the numbers given by Lewis are right then we could have bought 12 US aircraft for £2 billion. That would mean we had an airborne ASW force of 30% greater numbers than we are now going to get for half the money.
The rest of the money could have been spent on around 20 additional Chinook helicopters and another half a dozen C117 transports. Both highly relevant to current and likely future conflicts.
I'd have rather had that mix of kit for my £4 billion thanks very much.
...yeag, QRA has been very busy. This year they have intercepted two Russian aircraft approaching UK airspace and last year it was five.
Well worth the £20 billion investment in Typhoon obviously.
1) Cut the number of Typhoons to 140.
2) Sadly, to make them any use we will have to enable them to carry Storm Shadow and LGB's. 3) Leave the ground support role to the Harrier and then the F35
4) Institute a massive RAF base closure programme (60%+ of existing bases) to recognise the smaller number of aircraft they are flying.
5) Reduce the number of RAFand civilian personnel accordingly
6) Transfer all helicopters to the Army Air Corps allowing further manpower savings through winding up the Joint Helicopter Command
7) Cancel the Future Lynx helicopters component relating to the army and buy additional UAV's for armed reconnaisance instead
8) Use the savings from base closures and personnel reductions to lease additional C117's, A330 Tanker/transports and Chinooks (things we actually need)
Harpoon and anti ship capabilities
Part of the reason that the US does not fit Harpoon to the Flight IIa Arleigh Burke's is that their Standard SAM's can be used against surface warships. The current British SAM, the Sea Dart, fitted to Type 42 destroyers can also be used against surface warships. The new Sea Viper SAM for the Type 45 destroyers cannot be used against surface ships. Our new £1 billion destroyers will therefore be less capable against surface warships than the 30 year old vessels they are replacing.
Take a Hurricane to the Tornado
@ maliciously crafted packet
Those GR4's will never show up unless a nearby friendly country with the required infrastructure gives us basing rights to fly them from. We're an island surrounded by allies, no enemies.
Scrap the GR4's. Deep strike can be done by the Tomohawks on SSN's, the later batches of Typhoon and to make up for the loss of Tornado we should outfit the otherwise mission irrelevant Nimrod to carry Tactical Tomohawk and Storm Shadow and fit Tactical Tomohawk to the Type 45.
The combination of Tomohawk on ships, submarines and a long range aircraft plus the Typhoon is more than anough deep strike capability. The Typhoon, Harrier and Apache is sufficient for ground support.
Once Tornado is withdrawn (concurrent with the introduction of the later batches of Typhoon), the direct cost savings in maintnenance etc will be added to by base closures, cuts in the number of training aircraft and (sadly but necessarily) reductions in RAF and civilian personnel.
Hand over the Merlins to the Navy to replace the antiquated Sea Kings supporting the Royal Marines. Hand over Chinooks and Pumas to the Army Air Corps.
The savings from Tornado withdrawal and getting rid of the all the brass and staff employed by the Joint Helicopter Command should fund the equipping of Nimrod and Type 45 with Tactical Tomohawk and safeguard the other investment programmes with minimal impact on the defence capabilities that we actually need. there might even be some left over for the additional infantry, C117's, Chinooks and UAV's that we actually need.
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