back to article Cameron cocks up UK's defences - and betrays Afghan troops

Prime Minister David Cameron has taken personal charge of sorting out the UK's defences. Not only has he cocked it up more than somewhat, he has also slashed vital helicopters for our troops fighting in Afghanistan - and then lied about it. If you want detail on that last bit, skip to the last page. Otherwise, we'll take it …


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  1. O
    Thumb Down

    The only thing abysmal about the cuts ....

    ... was that they weren't considerably larger and didn't entirely rule out a replacement for Trident.

    I know you like stuff designed for killing people, Lewis ... but this article was just silly. Major military spending is neither desirable nor affordable.

    Being a good (world) citizen is much better, cheaper foreign policy than sending troops off in shiny metal boxes to kill people in far-off lands.

  2. Pahhh

    @let me make it clear to you... #

    @richard 69

    Let me make it clear to you Richard - You obviously didnt read the article.

    The point of the article was that the plans leaves us wasting money on things that are no longer relevent where we should be putting money on things we need. There could actually be a saving if we cut what is obsolete and spend more economically on what we need.

    You got the "fucking" point now? There, I'm macho like you now by swearing.

  3. neb

    i'm more macho

    fuck fuck fuck fuckitty fuck fucking fuckers fucking arse fucking badger flange fuck

    see more swearing

    worship me as your god mortal

    ps: flange is such a good word, mmm isn't it?

  4. Mark 65 Silver badge


    Ranks right up there with minge.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why they dont

    Why they dont cut the officer core I don't know.

    As it works out that each major can only command 6 troops because there are so many, then they need sacking.

    Wonder how much that would save.

    Sack all the ruperts

  6. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: why they don't

    Well, the theory goes that, in the event of a real war and conscription, we would need a base of trained officers to manage the large numbers of cannonfodder conscripts. It takes longer to train officers (during WW2, privates often got as little as three weeks real training!), so if we have extra today we can expand and still maintain a reasonable level of quality. The RN uses the same argument to justify their large number of officers, as Lewis should know. In the event of war, you can buy or build planes, tanks and even warships quickly, you can even get masses of soldiers up to readiness in a short period, but training skilled people and officers takes longer to much longer.

    Instead, we should be asking why there is still such an enormous number of civil servants working in the MoD (or a number of other Government departments)? It's years since Cecil Parkinson highlighted the idiocy of having an ever-increasing number of civil servants to look after an ever-decreasing number of soldiers, sailors, arimen, ships, tanks and planes, especially when you consider the expensive systems provided that are supposed to have REDUCED the administration load. Politicians know it is career suicide to upset the civil service UNLESS the public says they won't get re-elected, so instead of "two carriers or no votes for you", I'd rather it were "two carriers paid for by a lot less civil servants, or no votes for you".

  7. Desk Jockey

    Get a grip on yourself!

    Bloody hell, one hell of a rant that was fun to read, but completely failed to do some proper analysis.

    Buying 22 Chinooks WAS NEVER a sensible decision, want to know why? Because WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH BLOODY PILOTS TO FLY THEM OR ENOUGH ENGINEERS TO SERVICE THEM!.It takes at least 2 years to train the pilots and longer for the engineers and by then combat operations in Afghanistan was meant to end. This ignores the fact you have 17k less service men on top of that. 12 Chinooks is a far more realistic number and far from betraying troops, it puts the right resources in at the right level, well too bloody late actually but Cameron cannot speed things up on that front.

    As for the A400M plane, give up on the buy American line. Cameron himself hinted they would buy more C-17s, but think of cancelling the A400M order as impossible as cancelling the carriers only with instead of several thousand ship builders hating your guts, it is more like 5 European countries! Labour locked the country in and poured in billions in development. You might as well get some return for all that dosh. Cancelling is just not an option without causing an almighty political mess.

    Finally cancelling that many frigates is also a stupid idea. They are still actually quite useful and they do a hell of a lot that amphibs and carriers can't do. Like head directly into harm's way and drop those special forces guys off onto the beach...

    There are some valid things to rant about, especially on the Tornados and Nimrods, but undermining your decent arguments by not doing the research properly and coming up with completely crap suggestions that do not take account of the real world does the argument no favours.

  8. Tom 260

    short airfields

    One advantage the A400M has over the C130/C17, regardless of its greater expense versus carrying capacity, is the ability to use much shorter airfields, as well as unpaved surfaces.

  9. ChrisC

    Oh dear...

    "One should also note that every time a British fighter has shot down an enemy plane since WWII, the fighter took off from a carrier to do so."

    Repeating this again doesn't make it any less untrue than it was the last time you mentioned it.

  10. JMB

    No UK long range SAR cover

    The scrapping of the Nimrod MRA4 means that the UK has no long range fixed-wing Search and Rescue capability, we have had none since March 2010 when the Nimrods were retired but that was claimed to be just temporary until the new one was in service.

    If a ship or aircraft gets in difficulty out in the Atlantic or goes missing then it will be out of the range of the SAR helicopters. Also the Nimrods used to assist SAR helicopters by directing them to a vessel and so saving time as well as giving safety cover whilst there are away from land.

  11. graeme leggett Silver badge

    Might scrape by

    Since they've delivered one working one so far I think. Rename it Nimrod SAR.1 and keep it for weather patrols and if there's a major civilian incident its use can be billed to some other department.

  12. Mark 65 Silver badge


    "keep it for weather patrols and if there's a major civilian incident its use can be billed to some other department."

    Health Dept. would be a good starting point.

  13. IanPotter

    one airframe effectively useless

    Quite apart from the relative level of expense to keep a single example of a type operational the operational readiness of such a set up would be of no real benefit as it would not be able to respond quickly enough to any emergency. Until it was withdrawn from service there used to be a Nimrod on one hour readiness for SAR tasks and could co-ordinate searches over a vast area using surface, helicopter and fixed wing aircraft and with in flight refuelling could do so for hours.

    This is a major loss in capability no matter how you cut it.

    The two main tasks the RAF should be able to perform in order to defend Britain are long range maritime patrol and airspace defence. Typhoon whatever else could be said about it can perform the latter task very effectively (although the number of planes needed to do so is a lot smaller) but without a credible Nimrod replacement we effectively lose control over a huge area of the North Atlantic.

  14. John A Blackley


    Weak, inane and accusatory drivel from a frustrated leftie.

    "No it wasn't a Labour project, it was a Tory one." "The Labour party didn't do this, it wos the Tories wot dun it." "Labour didn't start this, the Tories started it."

    Good God, man. Can't you do your crying somewhere else?

  15. Graham Dawson

    Lewis is a leftie?

    Regardless of his political preferences, he's right. The cited projects were started under the Tories, but that doesn't absolve Labour of anything they did, it merely places the responsibility where it belongs.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Nonsense

    "Weak, inane and accusatory drivel from a frustrated leftie."

    Enter the squabbling Britards. How about this: it was the fault of both Labour and the Tories.

  17. serviceWithASmile


    if the political parties in this country were *actually* different from one another, rather *all* being a bunch of scumsucking nepotistic parasites with different coloured ties, you'd come close to having a point.

    You want to hear some weak, accusatory drivel?

    How about "I read an article I didn't like waaa waaa waaa it's all Lewis Page's fault waaa waaa waaa"

    The start of the article clearly had the word "Comment" as a heading. Not "The Truth".

  18. Danny 2 Silver badge

    The real reason for tanks

    Six tanks rolled into Glasgow to crush the local strikers on 27th of January 1919, so given the social cuts just announced it is no surprise Cameron wants three battalions of them.

  19. Chris 22

    We can only hope that the army remember the cuts

    and thus the tanks role the other way when ordered.

    Oh how I wish.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Good Point - But Misses Fact That

    The people of this once brave land no longer care about, or have the courage to stand up to, government injustice.

    They've freely swallowed the sterilisation medicine of soap opera television, celebrity and "the war on terror" for so long that taking to the streets is impossible.

    Cameron wouldn't need tanks to put down anything. All he'd need to do would be threaten the removal of, say, Eastenders for a week and they'd give up immediately.

    We make a joke of the French and their supposed unwillingness to fight. But they certainly know how to protest and make their voices heard.

  21. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: The real reason for tanks

    Of course, you also forget to mention that the Red Clydesiders had so little support even in Scotland that the six tanks were really unnecessary. The strikers were returning to work by 4th February, though the obstinate strike committee didn't declare an end to the strike until 12th (the tanks had left several days earlier). Besides, who needs tanks to suppress Scots nowadays? All you have to do is let them come south of the border for work and they suddenly become quite civilised. The ones that stay up north we can happily leave to mess up their own affairs by giving them their own toothless "parliament" at Holyrood. As an exercise in divid and conquer - or maybe that should be divide and maintain rule - Holyrood is amusingly effective.

  22. bobbles31

    Can I....

    nominate Lewis for rant post of the week?

  23. JohnnyWas


    With regards to the trimming of the Chinook order, if I remember correctly the delivery date was some time AFTER the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan making ti a nice purchase for Boeing but not one that would have helped our troops on the frontline.

    It made a nice bit of PR fluff for McBroon but very little operational sense.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Tory voters hang your head in shame. No matter what you say, we would not be practically defenceless under any other party.

    What are these "people" thinking?

    Tories are usually from a privileged background, they don’t need a credit line to get by, which is why they are in the process of slash and burn. The majority of normal people have debts, and they rearrange their debts in order to afford to purchase necessary items.

    What would the condems know about it? Very little it would seem!

    The banking sector caused this whole mess, so how is it fair that I have to pay for it? And why do they insist on repeating "the biggest deficit shit"? The deficit is CAUSED by the greedy bankers, and our need to prop them up.

    What ever happened to common sense?

  25. ChrisC
    Thumb Down

    Sorry, my head is staying held high...

    "No matter what you say, we would not be practically defenceless under any other party."

    We're not exactly defenceless right now. We might not have the same ability to go on the offensive halfway around the world, but that's not the same thing as being unable to defend ourselves if someone brought the fight to us.

    And if you think things would have stayed rosy under Labour, I'd just like to ask you one question. For how long could we have continued to afford to maintain in a state of readiness, let alone use to its fullest potential, the armed forces we had (and were planning to retain had Labour stayed in power), without having to either go on maxing out the national credit card or making even more drastic cuts elsewhere in the budget?

    What are they thinking? Perhaps they're thinking we need to do something pretty damn sharpish to start paying off the quite frankly insane levels of debt Labour have racked up, before things get even worse for us. Some Tories as individuals might not have much experience of managing debt on a personal level, but as a party they seem to understand managing it on the national level a damn sight better than Labour ever did.

  26. Mark 65 Silver badge


    "No matter what you say, we would not be practically defenceless under any other party."

    No, we'd be demonstrably bankrupt.

  27. FoolD

    You sure?

    >> The banking sector caused this whole mess, so how is it fair that I have to pay for it? And why do they insist on repeating "the biggest deficit shit"? The deficit is CAUSED by the greedy bankers, and our need to prop them up

    And the deficit is still getting bigger because the bankers are still causing a mess is it ? (the cuts so far will only slow down the increase in deficit, not reduce it).

    The deficit is big because public spending was / still is out of control - in all areas. G.Brown printing money to bail out the bankers just made it worse - it did not, in itself, the CAUSE the deficit.

  28. Tom 35 Silver badge

    They could follow the Canadian liberals on helicopters

    Cancel the useful helicopter order (to expensive!) and order some cheapo model. But here is the brilliant bit, order one that only exists on paper and CGI animations. Then you ask the US to act as your taxi service.

  29. Knowledge

    No money for soldiers?

    Better pack up shop and come home then. Permanently.

  30. Adam Williamson 1 Silver badge

    the US and France, eh?

    "The only time you actually need a Nimrod or something like it is when up against a big, powerful force of enemy submarines. The only such forces now in existence are operated by the US, UK and France, so this is an unlikely situation."

    Oh, Lewis, Lewis. The UK has been at war with *both* of those within the last two centuries, which as you've been telling us all along is a mere eye-blink to the military bureaucrat's mind. They're probably just lulling us into a false sense of security!

  31. davenewman

    Wait for the wars against over-consumption

    When London is flooded from climate change, we will not be fighting wars to get oil - we will be fighting to stop over-consumption in places like Florida or Midland, Texas. Now there is a use for a truly independent nuclear force.

  32. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: the US and France

    "The UK has been at war with *both* of those within the last two centuries"

    Only just, and right now, France has its hands full with, er, the French. (Good luck with that, Nick.) The US is so much more powerful than everyone else on the planet put together that the only thing keeping us safe is that they believe they already own us.

  33. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  34. O


    Lewis' article was somewhat of an insane rant. But this, this really is something.

    Assuming this isn't a trolling expedition, you seriously need help.

  35. John G Imrie Silver badge

    I'm sorry

    The Daily Mail is that way ==>

  36. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!

    Dear me, Popo, where do I start?

    Dear Popo,

    "If it was up to me i would put ME into power" - I just bet you would.

    Tell you what, you establish your own little white-supremacist mini-state in your back garden, and cut off diplomatic relations with the rest of England until we see sense and come begging for you to save us all. I'm sure you won't be waiting long before we come and abase ourselves before your ranty majesty.......

    Yours sincerely,

    A. D. Irtyforeigner

  37. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: Dear me, Popo, where do I start?

    I think Mr Popo assumed that El Reg readers were too sophisticated for /sarcasm tags, but it seems he was wrong.

  38. garethx


    Why do we want carriers? If you are worried by navel threats you need submarines and corvettes. Come to that Tornadoes have an anti shipping role around the UK.

    Carriers are good for attacking other people but we are unlikely to do that in the near future. They are also very tempting targets. Personally I’d worry about a US carrier group, with a UK carrier (especially equipped with Harriers) its a rerun of the Price of Wales and the Repulse

  39. Anonymous Coward

    navel threats

    >>> If you are worried by navel threats you need submarines and corvettes.

    WTF? I didn't realise belly-button fluff could be so dangerous.

  40. John 48

    Tanks still have a place

    If you read any of the crop of recent front line accounts from Iraq* and Afghanistan, it seem fairly clear that there is still a significant use for armoured brigades to support troops on the ground in counter insurgency roles. Columns of Warrior APCs supported by Challenger II main battle tanks often proved to be the only way of safely delivering vital resupply and troop relief in urban siege situations like that of Cimic house in Iraq.

    * Read Dan Mills "Sniper One" for a breathtaking account of British forces in the thick of an all out conflict not seen since WWII

  41. Nigelb

    Tornados for Scooters

    Why not ground those hugely expensive Tornados, cancel the hugely expensive F-35s, and buy up NZ's surplus - and completely rebuilt - A-4 Skyhawks?

    The Scooters carry a reasonably big load for a reasonable distance, and they can be transported by the white elephant carriers. The Scooters will cost a lot less to operate, and will operate in many more places. In fact they'd be cheap enough to operate that the pilots could even get some practice now and again.

    Certainly they're not brand new, but they are affordable - maybe even free if you haul them away. But you'd best get them before that American mercenary air group gets them all.

  42. john 112

    defense is insurance

    Have a nagging worry.

    Western defense posture in general seems to be to downgrade and assume the future enemy will be idiots on camels.

    When you really need a defense force is when you have to face someone scary, such as the chinese which regret to say are still on the horizon.

  43. David Leigh 1

    Political claptrap

    Since when did El Reg become a political soap-box for rabid and disaffected people to rant on? If I wanted to hear someone's political excrescence, I would go to an appropriate website.

    Can the editor please ensure that no overtly political views are published, it just demeans the integrity of what is otherwise an excellent website.

  44. O


    A good post and one I wholeheartedly agree with.

    Lewis, on recent evidence, should be looking to get a job at the Mail or News of The World.

  45. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: Political claptrap

    Well, apart from the fact there is a fair chunk of IT involved in just about any UK military kit built in the UK, there is also shedloads of IT bought for the MoD which could be affected by cuts, all of which is of interest to the readership. Of course, those excuses aside, there is also the sport to be had in lampooning the ranters, anyone that voted for Broooooon, the Scots, the Fwench (still looking for an angle to get that in on this forum), the antiwar squealers, Greenpeckers, Dummicrats, etc, etc..... That might explain why forums off Lewis's articles usually have the highest number of posts, even compared to ones exposing the silliness of iPhone fanbois (ding - add another group to the list!).

  46. David Ward 1

    why are you here?

    don't read it. simple!

  47. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Chinooks also good for mine clearing.

    Their ground overpressure is more than adequate to detonate anti personnel mines laid near the surface.

    This "exciting" new technique has been field tested by the UK in Afghanistan.

    Hopefully next time they will have got the soldiers out of the minefield (perhaps by getting the US to send a blackhawk, although a Lynx *should* be big enough for a casualty evac as long as it is only *one* casualty) first.

    I'd love to have have seen Paddy Ashdown* in the defense post. I don't know what his position would have been but I doubt he would have swallowed what sounds like a *lot* of senior officer corps BS from all 3 services.

    *for those of you less familiar with UK political parties Paddy Ashdown was the Liberal Democrats leader about 3 leaders ago. Prior to that he spent some time in the Navy Special Boat Section, *roughly* equivalent to the US Navy SEAL units. SBS has been helping to apply the royal boot to the rear ends of various ill mannered foreign powers from WWII onward.

  48. IanPotter

    RE: Chinooks also good for mine clearing.

    "*roughly* equivalent to the US Navy SEAL units."

    Very roughly, as in competent and not so likely to throw a frag grenade at the hostage they're are supposed to be rescuing.

  49. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    "Very roughly, as in competent and not so likely to throw a frag grenade at the hostage they're are supposed to be rescuing."

    Not exactly their finest hour I agree. I'm not sure how much training they do in hostage rescue (except possibly on ships and offshore drilling rigs. Not something you're likely to see around Afghanistan. In the States I think the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team handles major incidents but abroad I think it's a bit more confused). I'd guess it's a little tricky to change gears from the enter-building-kill-everyone-inside to the enter-building-kill-everyone-inside-except-the-hostages without plenty of practice.

    Not having any stun grenades seems very surprising. If the operation was specially mounted there should have been enough time to get the right kit, and it's pretty hard to believe the US Navy had run out (too many set off at parties?)

    The SBS are little known outside the UK and it was to give people a reference point they might have heard of.

    As various countries in Europe from Germany onward (The Munich Olympics shoot out 1972) have learned there *are* worse outcomes than letting terrorists get away. The big one being killing one or more of the hostages you are meant to rescue in the full glare of international media coverage.

  50. gribbler


    I think this was a well written comment piece, even if I don't agree with it all. The big problem I have is with the Nimrod. Given the horrendous amount of money we've spent on them it seems a real shame not to get any use out of them now that they are payed for and ready for service. Of course the fact that my sister flies in them and is now looking at redundancy might colour my opinion a little.


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