back to article UK arms industry 'same as striking coal miners' - Army head

Blighty's top general - hotly tipped as the next head of the armed forces - has hinted strongly that the British defence industry can no longer expect to rely on sweetheart deals from the Ministry of Defence (MoD). He adds that modern warfare has now left the tank behind as surely as it has the horse. General Sir David …


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  1. Ian 45


    Why have 3 services in the modern world? We should have a single military. Apart from the carriers, the navy should just be off the shelf ships with weapon systems & radar bolted on.

    1. Jon Double Nice


      Selotape an Uzi to the front of a canoe and Bobs your uncle!

    2. Dapprman

      Lessons Learnt

      Because history has shown this never works. Armed forces when placed under one banner really do tend to become 'jack of all trades, master of none'

      1. Paul 4

        Theres no such thing

        `as an off the shelf ship, except very very small ones. Even comment things like trawlers are custom built.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Jack of all trades

        The problem is that this is happening anyway. Only it's happening in three places instead of one.

        "What's worse than one Jack of all trades? Three Ja..." Oh ok, it's not a very good joke.

      3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


        Sixty-five thousand plus members of the Canadian Forces, as well tens of thousands of other Canadian citizens who are intimately familiar with the level of excellence, training and most importantly field-leading specialisation of the men and women who make up our military would beg to differ with you, sir.


        1. Stone Fox

          Re: @Dapperman

          Canada has a military? Seriously? NOW all the piss-taking joke pictures make sense!

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            @Stone Fox

            Not only does Canada have a military, but they are both a unified service, and widely recognised by other professional soldiers as being among the, (if not the) best trained in their various fields.

            We spank the Americans regularly at Naval war games. The PPCLI and Lord Strahcona’s Horse regiments are among the best Mechanised and Armoured companies in existence. Our special forces, (especially the JTF-2) are a group of terrifying bad-ass sorts I would put up against any opposition and be confident of their victory.

            Any soldier who has had the honour of working with our fine fighting men and women will recognise that a unified service does not mean a loss of troop quality, training, nor specialisation.

            As for those who’ve never served alongside members of militaries from other countries, there is no possible basis for comparison. Armchair military analysis and attempting to understand the lifestyle, motivation and overall world of military personnel is flat out completely impossible for anyone who wasn’t at the very least raised on a base.

            It’s easy for a civilian to look at the military as a whole and say “we need more boats, or soldiers, or choppers.” Those aren’t military decisions, but rather the decisions of politicians and how they choose to allocate funds.

            The quality, professionalism and specialisation of your troops has everything to do with the culture the military retains both in combat and in peacetime. That culture, and it’s implications for producing different class of military personnel ARE the thing civilians can’t understand. As much as I believe in external accountability, and that an outside view to any profession is a good thing…

            …I have to maintain that you have to have served before you could truly pass judgement on whether a unified service is a detriment or not. Preferably have served along side the Canadian Forces, as they prove every single day that it can be done.

            1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

              Lowest Bidder

              Not only does Canada have a military, but, like Britain, it also once had a innovative aircraft industry that produced ground breaking designs like the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow, however nowadays the Canadian air force files McDonnell-Douglas F-18s.

              Britain‘s aerospace industry also produced the innovative (for its time) Saunders-Roe SR.177; however the project failed when Germany instead “decided” to buy Lockheed F-104s, helped by some ‘sales incentives’ from Lockheed.

              Other examples come to mind, such as the advanced high performing TSR-2 that was controversially cancelled in favour of the General Dynamics F-111

              I’m beginning to see a pattern….

              More alarmingly, do you want military electronics supplied by the cheapest bidder who may be the enemy in the future? Did nobody watch Battlestar Galactica?

              Gunner: Commander we’re been laser designated, bearing 062…

              Tank Commander: Roger, enemy tank, bearing 062, moving left to right, ENGAGE!!!

              Gunner: Sorry Sir, everything’s stopped worki..... hisssssss <transmission ends>

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting start.

    Why didn't you ask the good man what the next war might look like. Say, three different possible war scenarios, what the forces would look like, what gear you'd need.

    Most peace time militaries spend endlessly preparing for the previous war. It's probably better to find a couple possible scenarios and prepare on a best-effort basis for all of them. I'd like to hear his views on that, too.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      There was a chap on the radio yesterday saying exactly this. In fact he was arguing that we don't really need an armed forces at all. Maybe keep some special forces and suchlike, but he was asking why do we need a huge army, navy and air force? Who are we actually defending ourselves against with this stuff? A tank or an aircraft carrier is pretty useless against a suicide bomber! And a suicide bomber is much more likely to be an issue than being invaded by France, or even Russia or China. It's just not a realistic scenario and we are spending billions preparing for a conflict that will never be, largely to do nothing more than keep our domestic defence industry in work.

      Once I analysed the situation, I found it quite difficult to argue against.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        In the 1930's, people were saying exactly this. After the "war to end all wars" everybody "knew" there would never be another major war again. As a result, the Royal Navy was left with it's last major ships being relics that were outmatched in the first world war, the army was left with an obselete collection of junk and the RAF was still messing around with byplanes.

        By the time it became clear that Nazi Germany actually wanted a fight, the navy and army ended up getting screwed to fund an airforce that gave the RAF a fighting chance against the Luftwaffe. The reason we won the battle of Britain was more due to Hitler's stupidity than our preparedness.

        We ended up buying overpriced crap from the US, a lot of which ended up on the bottom of the ocean rather than in our hands. We eventually won the war, but the cost of american help (all of which was bought and paid for) bankrupted the empire and left Britain with debts that it took us 50 years to pay off.

        We need tanks, aircraft etc. even if they are just sitting in air conditioned hangers as a classic "force in being" to prevent attacking us with tanks or aircraft worthwhile as an asymmetrical measure. We don't need local industries pumping out vastly overpriced and under-performing equipment we can buy from somewhere else for half the price.

        1. gratou

          Dunkirk saved the UK

          All too true.

          The UK forces in the 30's were as prepared as the French ones or most of Europe's, ie not at all.

          German warfare equipemnt was way ahead. The reason the UK got a chance to fight was:

          1) The army was able to leave Dunkirk (protected at high mortality cost by the French and Belgian forces).

          2) The bit of water between the 2 pieces of land,

          3) Hitler's will not to ruffle Roosevelt's feathers

          Had the UK been connected to the continent, German forces would have had to pick between marching to London or to Paris, with equal ease. Probably both.

        2. Mips
          Jobs Halo

          "left Britain with debts that it took us 50 years to pay off"

          Like as now you mean. But we have not had a war as such.

          The truth is that the army always want more men, the Navy more submarines and the RAF more spiffy jets to fly around in. It is more about bragging rights than getting the job done.

          1. elderlybloke

            "left Britain with debts that it took us 50 years to pay off"

            Mips- 60 years is closer to the time to repay the wealthy American Armament Conglomerate .

            We are all supposed to be grateful to them as well.

        3. Anonymous Coward

          re. Quite

          "We need tanks... prevent attacking us with tanks"

          Isn't it hard to attack an island with tanks? You have to transport them by ship, so surely anti-ship systems (aircraft and submarines) are the correct equipment for defence?

          Tanks are only useful in supporting an invasion by land; modern air-ground systems (helicopters, fighter-bombers and armed drones) will utterly destroy tanks and other armoured vehicles. Read the article, the point about Gulf War 1 and the associated tank actions (i.e. Saddam's forces destroyed by air-power and our tanks just rolling in unopposed) show that tanks can't defend against anything.

      2. oldredlion


        The Argies became uppity when we withdrew warships from the area because they cost too much, and look what happened next!

        "Speak softly and carry a big stick". The armed forces are our big stick.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Here's an argument

        That chap on the radio is apparently assuming the next war will be exactly like the current war. That gets the same objection from me as the one against preparing for the previous one. Besides, you can't very well fight suicide bombers with suicide bombers, or at least the security forces can't. The secret services are another matter. What they're doing over there is protecting the large juicy target called "the populace" against asymmetric warfare, which if you're not the guerillas, takes quite a large force, and even then is tricky because they're using your strengths against you. Though perhaps it doesn't take tanks or even sophisticated rocketry very much, indubitably to the disappointment of the Americans, who by the way make up the bulk of the forces fighting over there. As they should because they basically started it, perhaps not very wisely. But I digress.

        One reason the military costs a lot (next to all the other reasons, some of which are in desperate need of fixing) is that they have to ``maintain capability'', and choosing which capabilities to maintain is by very nature a speculative business, especially if you can't afford to just buy the entire shop. Preparing for the last war is, of course, locking the barndoor for a bolted horse, but easily explainable (there's terrists in them thar towers!) and therefore politically much more palatable than hard to understand military tea leave gazing. It's not all the politicians' fault; the military brass often tends to the same for perhaps different reasons. The effect is the same though: Maximum chance of getting caught red-faced in the next war, very expensively. Doing nothing would have much the same effect and be cheaper to boot, but won't get you any brownie points for trying. Thing is, you don't spend on your military for them to fail.

        Now, I'm not a military strategist, but from someone shortlisted for the top spot I'd expect at least moderate vision, analysis, and educated guessing ability. So that's why I'd like to hear from the fellow. Before explaining what he'd do, he might explain what he's defending against.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Black Helicopters

          On the contrary

          >As they should because they basically started it, perhaps not very wisely.

          The US made a very conscious decision to fight this war abroad, and to maintain a state of low-intensity warfare in central Asia, among other places on this planet. This is a continuation of a policy started after WWII.

          War abroad means (some) peace at home, huge money for armament industry insiders, but much more importantly a reason to be permanently deployed all over this planet. Destabilising other countries also adds to the domination. All good stuff! Kyrgyzstan is next.


      4. Graham Wilson

        This was the inter-war argument that Churchill was opposed to (and he was proved correct).

        This was the inter-war argument that Churchill was opposed to (and he was proved correct).

        Irrespective of our views and opinions about the likelihood of war, the old adage keeps proving to be true: 'The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.' As in 1939, we ignore it at our peril.

        Simply, our security depends on this very large military overhead and all the connotations that go with it whether we like it or not.

      5. Gaius

        Then you didn't think very hard...

        ... Or perhaps you have some sort of crystal ball and can tell what will happen in 10, 20 or 50 years?

    2. Maurice Shakeshaft

      And that is the right place to start....

      If we are intending to fight another war (and some would say we are in another type of war already) we need to know what force configurations might be appropriate. At one time English Bowmen ruled battle fields, then came the musket, followed by ships with cannons and marines, then Tanks then planes, then nuclear weapons and 'Smart' bombs. Spying and Information technology has been a continuing element. A clever General once said something along the the lines of "a battle is only fought after it has been won". Will 3 separate, and in some ways competitive armed forces, give us a better chance of wining the battle? Why isn't GCHQ part of the MoD if it's purpose is to help avoid the fighting of internal and external wars?

  3. James Cullingham

    Artillery or cavalry?

    So, which of these is it that raises matters above the vulgar brawl level? I thought it was artillery (blame Civilisation 4!) and Google supports this (214k hits for 'artillery "what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl"' vs 22k for 'cavalry "what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl"'. Does anyone happen to know the real story?

    1. Marvin the Martian

      Cavalry, obviously.

      The fact that incorrect statements on google outnumber the correct ones shouldn't come as a surprise (if it does, I've a nasty shock for you about Wikipedia). You may want to check a bit on the type of sources --- like amount of detail about the alleged punch cartoon etc, not just the (alleged) verbatim phrase (with a word replaced or not).

      Simply think about cavalry, and their history, then compare to artillery --- it was rich knights running around on their own horses, and later running around with horses was still a more aristocratic pursuit than any other. At no point the aristocracy started buying huge cannons and play around with them on the battlefield. Gallantry etc can easily be associated with a charging horse brigade, but impossible for the workman-like loading & firing from a distance of a gross object, where your victim has no chance to get back at you.

      If you actually look for it (google "cartoon punch brawl cavalry tone") you immediately find Roman Jarymowycz "CAVALRY from hoof to track --- war, technology, and history": << The british cavalry was very much the embodiment of the clever cartoon that appeared in Punch circa 1892; a young monocled /cavalwy/ officer lounging with gin and tonic is accosted by a Gilbert and Sullivan major general: "Mr. De Bridoon, what is the general use of Cavalry in modern warfare?", the classic reply "Well I suppose to give Tone to what would otherwise be a Vulgar Brawl!" >> The seriousness, plus detail, plus source given ("14. Reginald Cleaver, "Military Education", in Punch, or the London Charivari (10 dec 1892)") should convince you.

      Fourth step if you still don't believe, download the raw page scans free from (it's page 274) and see for yourself. Unless somebody there changed the text, and changed an artillery officer into a cavalry one --- if you choose to believe that it's the end of the line I guess, unless you spend money in at an antiquarian's for an original copy.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "He adds that modern warfare has now left the tank behind as surely as it has the horse."

    I lol'd at that. What are all those UK and US special forces doing riding round on... err... horses in Afghanistan then?

    I would be a bit wary of basing our *future* army on what's going on now as well. The reason we were ill equipped for Afghanistan was because we didn't anticipate the kind of fighting we're involved in now 20 years ago. We did the same thing before the Korean war. And before WWII, and WWI.

    Unless we come up with abundant, reliable, renewable energy sources in the near future then "The Next Big Thing" is very likely to be when Russia and China start turning the screws. You really want to go up against them - even in a cold war - with a bunch of foot soldiers, unmanned aircraft and no heavy armour?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Absolute rubbish!

    The problem with pretty much all defence suppliers is that the stuff they make is stupidly overpriced. No other industry gets away with taking a relatively simple piece of equipment, spending several years and millions (it's never thousands or even hundreds of thousands) of pounds to develop it and THEN charge the end user (the armed forces) stupid amounts of money to supply it. And then charging even more (and taking years) to fix the problems that should have been fixed in the first place! It simply could never happen in the "real" world to the extent that it does in the defence industry. And defence companies have got away with this for decades, mostly (traditionally) because of the old boy network, but in these more modern times, it's more likely to be simply because "that's the way it is".

    The armed forces themselves don't help the situation - can someone explain why the RAF need twice as many (at least!) personnel to maintain and fly a helicopter than the army does? We're talking about the SAME helicopter in the SAME circumstances. The reason? Tradition! I kid you not. The RAF flies with two pilots (and won’t fly if two pilots are not available!). The army flies with one. Now pilots are not cheap to train, so you can work the rest out for yourself. The same goes for other personnel.

    The armed forces have also traditionally been completely obsessed about obsolescence and "tried and trusted" technology. This is why they have kit which is effectively based on technology that is 10 or 20 years old. This costs (often significantly) more than something based on newer cheaper technology would be. They could buy twice as much of the new technology for half the price, and have half of it sitting on a shelf if they were that worried about spares, and STILL be quids in.

    And the MoD procurement itself operates at a pace that makes plate tectonics seem like a speeding train. And the people in the MoD and the armed forces who make procurement decisions (and lets not forget the onerous contracts that they seem to land themselves with) are largely, quite frankly, not competent to do so, and have their heads stuck in the 1970s somewhere. And this whole shower is fed by an industry that knows this and is happy to suck whatever money it can from them, and ultimately, us the taxpayer.

    ...and relax....

    1. Ned Leprosy

      RIP the tank. Again.

      Quite. I've seen the tank's imminent death predicted for as long and as frequently as I've seen Unix described as obsolete and on its way out. I've no doubt people have their reasons for believing it, but it's not going to happen - or if it does, they'll find out the hard way that it still had a job to do, if not today then tomorrow.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Not tanks,

      other types of AFV (Armoured Fighting Vehicles). I don't believe we have any MBTs in Afghanistan.

      When the term 'Tank' is used in the context of defence reviews, it means "Main Battle Tank" like the Challenger 2. This is what they are referring to when they talk about the Tank division.

      Other tank-like (to the uninformed) vehicles ate things like the Scimitar, which is an Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle or the Saracen, which is an Armoured Personnel Carrier, or the Warrior which is an Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Someone has written a useful page describing them all on Wikipedia.

      You may regard this as pedantic, but to the soldier in the field and the command structure, it makes a huge difference.

    3. davenewman

      War against over-consumption

      In fact, once we start getting flooded from the effects of climate change, we won't be going to war to get oil, but to stop greedy bastards using it too quickly. So we would need to be able to attack places with lots of air-conditioning and gas-guzzling cars, like Florida or Midland, Texas. This is the environmental argument for a truly independent nuclear deterrent. It won't be Russia we need to defeat.

    4. Dave Bell

      Stop the cavalry?

      By the end of WW1, there wasn't a big difference between cavalry and mounted infantry. And the tank hadn't quite escaped the siege warfare of the Western Front. Armoured cars were the AFV of choice for mobile warfare.

      A century later, a modern cavalry/mounted-infantry could be a viable armoured force, more a reconnaisance regiment than a tank regiment. Something more like the Armored Cavalry of the US Army, more flexible than an armoured division.

      And there was a Guards Armoured Division during WW2, The tank units of the 5th Guards Armoured Brigade were all manned by infantry.

    5. Graham Wilson

      Sometimes change is not for the better but for change's sake.

      "The armed forces have also traditionally been completely obsessed about obsolescence and "tried and trusted" technology. This is why they have kit which is effectively based on technology that is 10 or 20 years old. This costs (often significantly) more than something based on newer cheaper technology would be."

      Sometimes change is not for the better but for change's sake. Let me illustrate different approaches to the deployment of military equipment with a few examples:

      1. The Lee-Enfield rifle was first introduced before the Boer War in 1895 and lasted in service for about 70 years, even now some are still in use 115 years later. Many of these rifles have seen three major conflicts WWI, WWII and Korea and were still in serviceable order thereafter. I was issued one in the 1960s which was date stamped 1914; although then nearly 50 years old and having been through two, possibly three, major conflicts when I was issued it, it was still in perfect working order. The Enfield was truly 'tried and trusted' in the military sense.

      The Enfield was eventually obsoleted not through it having ceased work or because it was outclassed by another single-shot rifle but because it was outgunned by a different class of weapon altogether, the self-loading automatics, FN/FAL, SA80/L85, M16, AK-47 etc. Phasing out the Enfield was a slow and considered process which may have been much more expensive had the process been rushed.

      2. However, the military doesn't always get it right. Only a week or so ago an article appeared in USA Today under the heading 'Sand drives Army to ditch Velcro on pants'*. Desert sand is clogging up the Velcro and it's not adhering as it should so there's a plan to return to good old buttons. Here's the problem straight from the horse's mouth:

      "Get rid of the pocket flap Velcro and give us back our buttons," Hatten wrote. "Buttons are silent, easy to replace in the field, work just fine in the mud, do not clog up with dirt and do not fray and disintegrate with repeated laundering."

      Beautifully summed up in a nutshell. Being anti Velcro on clothes, that's music to my ears. My biases aside, how the fuck did such a stuff-up ever occur in the first place? You don't have to be Einstein to know that buttons are much better than Velcro in most circumstances--even the average male who avoids the domestic washing machine like the plague knows that lint and all sorts of junk accumulates on those little hooks and renders the Velcro useless in pretty short order. Thus, you’d reckon that even the most stupid bureaucrat could mentally extrapolate that Velcro would be nigh on useless on a sand swept desert battlefield, even before any testing had commenced.

      There are similar problems with zippers. Whilst not as bad as Velcro, zippers come close. The damned things are forever jamming up or failing on me and I'm in civvy street so why would anyone risk them in the harsh environment of a battlefield? You'd think that rigorous military testing programs would have quickly eliminated them from military uniforms. I can only assume that soldiers who upon relieving themselves wanted the quick closure that zippers offer so, irrespective of serviceability issues, the military switched to them to placate whingers. Anyone have a better idea?

      Sure, this is a trite example of where the military updated too fast and or failed to adequately research the matter. Nevertheless, the outcome is the same no matter the scale: leave well enough alone unless there is a truly compelling reason to change it, otherwise it will be expensive and may fail in operation.

      3. State of the art electronics, military guidance systems, avionics, communications systems and encryption etc. are different. These systems are often cutting-edge technology and are usually implemented early--often whilst still in the prototype stage--to keep ahead of the enemy.

      Advanced weaponry is an expensive and risky business where things can and do go wrong. Failures can be expensive but if they're of high strategic importance then money is no object. The Manhattan Project and the development and deployment of nuclear submarines by both the US and USSR during the Cold War are but good examples. Both sides suffered tragic losses when submarines failed during non-combat operations, Thresher, Scorpion, K-8 and Komsomolets for instance.

      The failure of comparatively so many nuclear submarines under non-combat conditions clearly illustrates the risky nature of cutting edge military technology. It seems it's the nature of such projects irrespective of budget.



    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Think Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare.

      These are two other industries that, all too often, serve up badly re-heated solutions to non-problems.

      I'm not a squaddie but I know some. BOWMAN - the 'New' radio system for the Army actually stands for "Better of with Nokia and a map". The first SA80 was appalling. Amongst the last things a soldier needs is a weapon that is 90% reliable when you're firing at an enemy. It may choose that moment to let you down!

      If MoD designer and commissioners actually had to serve in the field with the shit they create they might be a little more sensitive, aware and speedy in creating suitable tools and resolving issues.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    But why not look for new markets

    why not rise above politics and sell warships and weapon system to countries like India which cannot buy from US due to their trade policies being linked to NPT?

    Surely this can make these industries a bit more profitable?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But why not look for new markets

      Because Israel is already doing it, and by virtue of the fact that they are surrounded by people that want to wipe them off of the map their equipment is a heck of a lot better (and cheaper) than ours.

      1. dogged

        You're half-right

        Israel's equipment is cheaper. In the main though, it's crap.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Cut the forces!

      @Anonymous coward We already do arm India to an extent, when we're competitive. India is quite likely to buy the Eurofighter - there isn't much other kit that we could offer them that they would be interested in!

      @Yet Another Anonymous coward

      Why would we be going to war in Asia against India or China? Its us that tend to be the aggressors in the modern world. If we decided to attack countries like India or China, then we would deserve to be annihilated.

      We don't need our massive armed forces. Merge the AIr Force with the Army Air Corps, and massively cut the size of our forces, so that they're actually for defence rather than "expeditionary warfare".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Big Brother


        Attack is often the best form of defence

  7. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    All i can say

    From first hand experience is LoL (yes it's that bad i have to use such language) MoD IT spending. I'd put it on par with the Nimrods for cost, effectiveness, usefulness and suppport.

    I could go into more but i signed some sort of secretive bit of paper.

    A/C cause I like my job.

  8. Rogerborg

    Bloody good work getting a word with Himself, Lewis

    How far in advance did you have to land a job as a waiter in order to get access to him?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "What is the function of cavalry in war?"

    "I suppose it must be to add tone to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl!"

    Punch, May 1911

  10. Dan Breen

    Yes and no

    Some of what he said makes sense, the British arms industry has gotten so used to being able to demand obscene prices for sub par goods, delivered over cost, and over schedule, (how late is Nimrod now?). So some Thatcherite free market competition is not a bad thing in that respect.

    However, the position w don't want to be in, is as a previous commenter has advised, being reliant on Russia or China when they decide to turn the screws.

    For example, the new Multi$cam copy uniform being issued to British troops in Afghan now is made in China, simply as they can supply on time, to the right quality, and to the right price.

    Just so long as we don't go as far as buying the Type 97 to replace the L85a2...

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: Yes and no

      One of the reasons we buy British, which we all forget so quickly, is that the US is not guaranteed to provide us with what we need, especially when it comes to software. A large component of many modern systems is actually computer code, and lots of it in really complex systems like Eurofighter. Challlenger 2 has lots of smart gubbins like ballistic computers and passive night vision scopes and a laser rangefinder, all of which needs to be integrated to work together to allow it to see and accurately shoot in the dark, through smoke or rain. It's not like they just buy several hundred iPhones and download a ballistic program off the app store, because there actually isn't an iPhone app for everything. And when the Septics say we can't see the source code, we end up with bodge jobs like the farce with the special forces Chinooks.

      And we need to see the source code because we don't trust the Yanks not to put a kill command in there, so they can switch our kit off if they ever disagree with us politically. Or if they leave a backdoor in there so they can access our kit without us knowing. Of course, either then presents the risk that an enemy could learn how to exploit a backdoor or kill switch and leave us with very expensive junk. Of course, the Yanks aren't too keen on us learning all their code secrets either. So, buying cheap is only a good option if we get full access to code and full control, and that will probably mean building in Britain (or as part of expensive European ventures) still.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Easy fix

        So buy Russian. No source code needed for that. You could buy entire factories for the price of a single overpriced British Gubbin. Only you'd have to go metric next to hiring translators.

        1. JohnG Silver badge


          Interestingly, the Russian defence industry is adopting NATO standards across the board. They see NATO as a good potential export market.

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          RE: Easy fix

          So, if we have doubts and trust issues with the Septics, do you really think we're going to have any faith at all in software crafted in Russia? Any arms company buying a factory in Russia and employing local staff would have to spend massively on screening staff and counter-intel if it even wanted to get on the short-list for consideration for supplying the UK, and then run the risk that the Russians would simply decided to nationalise the factory at any point if they don't bribe the right bod at the Kremlin. And then they'd have the problem of getting the Soviet desings up to Western standards - not easy. It would make our UK arms indusrty look cheap.

  11. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    > lol'd at that. What are all those UK and US special forces doing riding round on... err... horses in Afghanistan then?

    Jeeps, armoured personnel carriers etc - although horses would probably be better.

    But not 70-80ton main battle tanks that are too large to airfreight into a landlocked mountainous countries with no autobahns to drive your tank transporters on

    >You really want to go up against them - even in a cold war - with a bunch of foot soldiers, >unmanned aircraft and no heavy armour?

    You want to fight a land war in asia with only a division strength army?

    Perhaps BAe should develop a powerful aphrodisiac to allow us to get the UK's population upto to the sort of size we would need to conscript an army to fight India/China on the ground?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    MoD is the problem

    MoD is the problem and always has been.

    As anyone who has ever designed kit for the MoD knows, it takes perhaps 10% of the time and less of the budget to design anything. The remaining 90% is paperwork. Endless bloody paperwork.

    Eg - C3I system for a 1990s-era destroyer took less than 6 months to design - and design-prove. It took longer than that (and cost nearly as much) to win the bloody contract, never mind build it - suffice it to say that EOL components became a significant factor before the first system was even installed.

    The UK "Defence" industry is a complete pile of shit now - and has been for decades really. The ongoing reason for it being a pile of shit is the MoD. The reason for that is simple - jobsworths. Nearly 100,000 of the useless fuckers, all trying to justify their existance with more paperwork.

    Making weapons/support systems that work is pretty simple. Making weapons/support systems that work effectively for the UK forces is bloody impossible because from tender to delivery is measured in DECADES and is controlled by morons.

    So what do you all reckon, UK engineers (the poor sods that are left) are that bad? Or could it perhaps be that England treats engineering like some sort of dirty subject. Far better to listen to the "chaps" eh?

    You get what you deserve and when the mismanagement is endemic from the highest levels of govt then what the fuck do you expect?

  13. bobbles31

    I started reading this article....

    and then got the feeling that it was written by Lewis, the clue is the hyper critical bent towards the UK defence industry and the gushing nature with which he speaks about the US defence industry.

    All defence contractors are in the business of pumping as much cash out of their respective clients (governments) as possible to think that our public coffers would be better served buying different equipment from a foreign power is as ridiculous as it is naive.

    I am by no means defending the British procurement process, it sucks and we do tend to get ripped off, but the US have had their fair share of procurement cock ups. Including the Space Shuttle so please try some balance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh, but you forget a detail:

      In the US, it's the US government that pays the extortionate rates their beltway bandits charge for overpriced bodges. Others buying a ``tried and tested'', mass produced, and therefore lots cheaper product. Thing is, almost everyone else is on a much tighter budget. So if you're going to have to shop, do get their second rate stuff, as it'll outperform the third rate stuff you'd produce yourself, and you'll pay less.

      The secret is in the sauce: You don't actually need American Brand First Rate stuff to win. The Americans, too, have their blamages and cockups, just look at their frantic efforts to armour their supply lorries or even their personnel.

      If you look at the gulf war, some of the Iraqis held out surprisingly long despite all the coalition forces could throw at them. So why was the war won so easily? Well, that one's still being debated. Morale? Better gear?

      I like the argument saying ``not either, but both together'' best. It shows where the cracks in the Fair First World's armour are. We need to know our own faults to defend against people exploiting them. Which is the core business of the people waging asymmetrical warfare. And that's the scary brown people over there going ``boo'' in grainy videos causing entire war campaigns. This is the argument I'm talking about:

    2. Giles Jones Gold badge


      When they buy stuff from the Americans they make poor decisions. Apache's they have no pilots for or they decide to write their own software to save money and spend twice as much.

  14. Desk Jockey

    He might want to watch what happened to the US General...

    Before saying anything. Politicians do not tend to like honest and outspoken generals!

    Cart and horse is my immediate response. People can bleat about the arms biz (with plenty of justifcation), but the truth is that defence projects are stupidly complicated and this problem is getting worse. The US suffers from it as much as anyone else, the only difference is that they are able to throw stupid amounts of money at fixing those problems. Don't believe everything you read about UK defence procurement in the papers, newspapers did away with dedicated defence correspondents years ago and the quality of the journalism since then reflects this.

    However, the good general is right, UK defence as a whole needs a fundamental re-think. First things first though, define the mission - what do you want the UK armed forces to do? Is it to still fight two big conflicts on land, sea and air plus a little peacekeeping mission? If so, I can tell you now you need to pay a lot of money for that and you will need more tanks, planes and ships than we actually have. (On paper, the UK is still meant to be able to do this mission statement!) If however, you want the military to do peace keeping, counter-insurgency and disaster relief, then a lot of this kit can either go or be changed.

    My money says the politicians are going to write the mission statement, the military will tell them how expensive that is and then the requirement will be revised downwards. As for beating up the arms biz, what about the oil biz or the rail companies or the dodgy health companies? They all rip off the UK tax payer quite happily and politicians are encouraged to ignore this. The UK Government is going to have to generally figure out what it wants and what is the best way of paying for this. Buying everything overseas has its own quite significant problems.

    Simple rule of government - no decision is black and white, there are always un-desired consequences. Despite what journalists say, very few decisions are clear cut.

  15. Steen Hive

    Hey! Sir Dave!

    Why not do a *real* Thatcher and get the Polish to do for us what the British Army do at a quarter of the price?

    One could even sell off existing defence infrastructure to tax-avoiding cronies and foreign asset-strippers, like the traitorous cow did to everything else. Pimms all round!

  16. Rupert Fiennes Bronze badge

    Not the "tank is obselete" canard again...

    1) Tanks are essential; still. Read up on Basra, Al-Amara, or even the Danish contribution in Helmand today, let alone their primary purpose in high intensity combat. The British Army prefers to avoid such vulgar brawn, but it's still required

    2) Mastiff's are already half the wieght of a Challenger 2. Since they are wheeled, they will be largely restricted to roads. Still finding it hard to see why tanks are "obselete". Please look into the actual

    3) Absolutely agree we cannot afford a UK-first attitude to armoured vehicles. If it exists already, buy it off the shelf. The same could be said about the Type 45 (should have bought Aegis like the Spanish, Japanese, Australians etc), A400 (massive disaster, C17/C130).

  17. Anonymous Coward


    ...tells me that

    1.) The Russians and the Chinese still have a formidable Air Force, Navy and an Army. Have fun to take out a T-80 divison with your "unmounted", cheapo SAS. Also, look at the SU-34. Only the American F-22 can deal with that, if you don't have a "joker" like broken crypto.

    2.) Europe currently has 3 MBTs under development (EuroLeopard, Leclerc, Challenger). WASTE. Rationalize towards a EuroMBT.

    3.) Europe currently has at least 3 fighters under development (Eurofighter, Rafale, Gripen). WASTE. Rationalize towards Euroifgter 2.

    4.) Europe currently has at least 3 frigate programs in France, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands going on. Probably also Greece, Spain, Portugal. Waste. Rationalize towards EuroFrigate.

    5.) In General, don't expect Defence to be possible on the cheap. The Americans spend at least 100% more on defence as a portion of GDP. We actually rely on them to save our bacon, whenever something serious happens. And the stupid politicos don't even realize that. The truth is that we must reign in the giant social/health benefits expenditure. The biggest part of the German budget is now pensions subsidies at 80Billion Euros. For defence we spend about 30B.

    1. Aldous

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      the problem with rationlising into one big euro project is the specs will be drawn up and a prototype made and then the french will say "we need it to do X" then the UK will say "if it does X it must do Y as well" then the germans will say etc.....

      With each change will come the consultants, remodelling, ergonomics designers etc etc and before you know it the cost is 3 times more then the seperate project you were working on to begin with.

      The americans do and always will spend a whole load on defense with only Russia and China able to keep up, europe should really focus on being great at a few key area's then trying to build whole aircraft/boats/MBT's

    2. Ned Leprosy

      A rationalised tank

      "2.) Europe currently has 3 MBTs under development (EuroLeopard, Leclerc, Challenger). WASTE. Rationalize towards a EuroMBT."

      They try to do this on an occasional basis, sometimes involving the Septics too, but it never quite works out thanks to conflicting needs (or at least political machinations in the guise of conflicting needs) tending to drag a workable specification all over the place until it breaks. Even when they just try to adopt certain common standards, such as the "need" for a multi-fuel engine, look what happened: the Chieftain ended up with the export-crippling (albeit technically quite interesting) L60 at the 11th hour while the Germans stuck with their much more workable diesel and the Americans with petrol.

      The current situation of technology-sharing is probably the least worst solution, even if it does leave something to be desired, and even then there's the risk it might go in the wrong direction such as suggesting that the Challenger II should use the Rheinmetall gun because of its "increased lethality"; which may be true, but it's something where the cynic in me wonders if it's just because the Americans and Germans use it - though admittedly in part because to my untrained eye it looks a bit of a one-trick pony and, well, the traditionalist in me says it should have rifling, dammit!

      It isn't helped in that countries often tend to be rather parochial about this sort of thing, and in the case of the UK the random application of the rationale "it's the best because it's the most expensive" seems to factor in, too. That said, I genuinely quite like the Challenger II. Just a shame it doesn't get more international sales...

      But in contradiction to everything I've just written, the British Army historically have certainly not been averse to importing some of their best weapons: looking at small arms, for example, some of the best examples were foreign designs, such as the Bren, the Vickers (even if Sir Maxim did much of the design here), the Lewis, pretty much anything made by FN... though there does seem to be a certain national pride regarding the tank. Nearly as much as subsequently moaning about our own designs! (And "guilty as charged, m'lud").

      1. Anonymous Coward


        If it is possible to get the Eurofighter in their air and make it quite competitive, the same should be possible with MBTs.

        Krauss-Maffei's Leopard 2 is already a kind of EuroLeopard, if you look at how many have been produced (more than 3000) and are in use in Europe, Latin America, Turkey and even Singapore now.

        But certainly, there should be no Leo 3 and neither a new Leclerc nor a new Challenger.

        Indeed joint european procurement is difficult, but I don't feel it is too difficult to make something that is on par with M1A2. The MTU engine is way much better than the merkin gas turbine in terms of economics (= fuel logistics), for example.

        But there must be the political will to standardize and empower a pan-european purchasing comittee of experts (appointed by euro governments) rather than "vetoers" in the various MODs.

        Whatever LP says, Airbus has been a huge success, including the A400M and you can not replace it with C17 nor with a C130. On the civilian side, Airbus is on par (50 % marketshare) with Boeing. Time to be a little bit more proud and self-conscious I venture to say.

    3. Peter 6


      1. Definitely true but the Russians and the Chinese have their own problems. China's emerging air industry is having serious "quality control" issues with its new home developed fighters like the J-10. And the SU-34? Just a shell with engines. Theres no indication or proof that the Russians have actually gotten any farther than just making the thing fly and haven't developed any of its stealth capability or electronic systems yet.

      2. Sadly NOT waste. Challenger is now legacy as the production line has ended and the export version was canned. LeClerc is also legacy after a short but successful export life which leaves Leopard as the only European MBT on the market right now. Bit of a non-point this.

      3. Again not waste and if it is, don't blame Eurofighter for it. Who left Eurofighter in a huff? The French. Don't whinge at Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain if they can't compel the French to come back in. What are you going to do? Threaten the French with war if they don't drop the Rafale? Grippen is a completely private venture and I don't think the Swedes actually support Saab as much as everyone else supports EADS.

      4. Debatable that having seven countries in a continent that can barely agree on whether the A400 should have green or grey paint can efficiently design build and deploy a Frigate program that can not only satisfy seven differing naval visions but also be on budget and on time. Hasn't Eurofighter or the A400 program taught us anything?

      5. Agree wholeheartedly on that one.

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Defense business accounting does not help

    In *most* industries a new product is priced roughly by taking the startup costs and production costs and working out what price customers will *likely* pay for the goods. In reality it's likely in several price points will be worked out and from those a "break even" number of sales worked out. *If* product sales > break even -> Profit on *any* further sales (and the element in the costing to cover start-up is now *also* profit). If not tough.

    In defense.

    There is typically *one* customer. (Pop quiz. How much of UK designed stuff, mostly from BAe, found *other* foreign customers *outside* the original customer or partnership?)

    When you've *finally* got a workable design (AFAIK still a pretty profitable process as I suspect Cost+ is still pretty common in the UK defense biz, although *perhaps* not quite as common as it was).

    Tot up *all* the start-up, mfg costs and divide by the number of unit the MoD is asking for.

    *That* is the price they pay. It also the reason why the next (if there *is* a next) batch ordered in a reasonable time frame (IE before they lay off the workforce and break up the tooling) is substantially cheaper.

    It's a subtle difference but quite an important one. It makes the defense biz about a^&e backwards to just about *every* other product in the world.

    Mine will be the one with some spare Ferranti f100L's in the pocket. The world's first (and only) bipolar single chip microprocessor sold AFAIK to 1 customer.

    Care to guess who?

  19. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Control the Space where Words are Shared to be made Real, ...

    .... and Other Words Create Other Virtual Realities

    Hearts and Minds are where Wars are Won before they have even been Waged and that is why Special Intelligence Services always Commandeer Cloud and Communications Networks for Master Pilot Control from Secured and Stealthy Virtual Points of Intellectual Presence.

    And that will be tirelessly ongoing work of which you will probably have practically zero knowledge being as it is tailor made for others better suited to spectacularly wield and seed novel special information.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      An apple a day keeps the doctor away...

      ... but the proliferation of orchards hasn't managed to kill off the medical profession.

      And as long as that stays the case, pacifism is a luxury for those with large armies to protect them. Yes, secret services are useful for what they do. So are diplomatic services. And so would be, ideally, the British military.

  20. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Is the MoD really as big as the Army, Navy & Air Force?

    If so that is a rather a lot of civil servants.

    Note an awful lot of people in the military are *not* actually front line soldiers are are also armed admin staff.

  21. Nick Kramer

    Certainly not a Dropshort.

    In the Punch cartoon, it was a Yeomanry officer who, when asked to explain the role of the cavalry by an inspecting officer, made the oft quoted reply.

    Yeomanry regiments were the mounted version of the old Volunteers and formed the cavalry element in the 1908 Territorial Force. After the Kaiser war, most Yeomanry units were mechanised some became Armoured Recce, and some Gunners, in the Territorial Army.

    In 1939 the remaining mounted Yeomanry were the only part of the British Army still mounted on horses * they were sent to what was then called Palestine. The last British mounted engagement was by the Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons in 1941in French Lebanon/Syria - they were mechanised on 1 March 1942.

    *Compare to the Germans -The standard German infantry division (1939 pattern) required anything from 4077 to 6033 horses to move.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Fighting the last war

    The British Military is constantly accused of "fighting the last war". We are now in the process of doing the same again. The last war was counter insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. The war before that was one where we had absolute air superiority. I don't think we have a guarantee of air superiority in the next war, nor do we have a definite chance of fighting another counter insurgency war. What happens if the next war is against an India or China with a huge modern capability (think China in 20 years time) - or someone else entirely.

    We should definitely not be planning to refight Iraq or Afghanistan.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Fighting India or China?!

      With conventional forces?!

      Don't they both have nukes...

  23. Steven Jones

    Roll on the defense review

    According to the report linked to below, the UK has over 85,000 civil servants in the MOD. What on earth are they all doing?

    Having said that, the Royal Navy apparently had more admirals than fighting ships as of September 2008.

    I rather suspect that the wastage in bloated government departments and top brass is vastly out of proportion to the size of the UK's armed services which is probably not doing those on the front line any good. Let's hope the forthcoming defense review looks strongly at the cost effectiveness of the defense strategy.

  24. Gene Cash Silver badge

    I have no post

    I just want to say "Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup" again.

    Seriously though, you should really look harder at the US defense industry. It's just lost the uber-expensive F-22 contract, there's no current next-gen fighter program that I know of, it's fighting for the next-gen air refueling fleet contract, the manned space program has been shelved (which employs most of the same people and uses a lot of the same technology) and jobs are disappearing faster than Florida snowball.

    The local LockMart division just merged all its IT departments then fired 2/3rds of them, and everyone's being given early retirement. There's no more overtime, pager-pay, or telecommuting, as they try to get people to quit.

    The people and the government around here has gotten tired of $50 hammers, and it recently came out that the entire SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket cost less than the launch tower for the NASA Constellation project, and had a flawless first flight. Suddenly Obama's commercial space program has gone from being wishful-thinking paper rockets to more of a reality than anything NASA has to offer.

    You think BAE needs a beating... it should take a look at what's happening to Boeing and Lockheed-Martin and get itself in order.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Gene Cash

      "I just want to say "Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup" again."

      Yes unfortunate names are something the UK does especially well

      "the manned space program has been shelved (which employs most of the same people and uses a lot of the same technology) "

      Well the NASA bit is certainly being run down. BTW it was my understanding that most of the people working on Shuttle are dedicated solely to it. I'd strongly doubt *most* of the computers and data acquisition hardware is used any place but ISS. Some of the TPS has turned up the AF spaceplane but I can't believe anyone in their right mind is going to install hydrazine APUs as original equipment.

      "and it recently came out that the entire SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket cost less than the launch tower for the NASA Constellation project,

      Sounds apocryphal. However Federal Procurement Regulations * Cost+ contract *Schedule slippage = *massive* bill.

      AFAIK the SpaceX bill so far is c$250m which has gotten them a rocket and rocket engine mfg plant and 5 launches.

      "and had a flawless first flight. "

      Handy that their 2nd launcher uses the same engines clustered together with the same tank bulkheads and the same zero defect friction stir welding approach as their first. They learned a *lot* from those first launches and it was tranferable. It's amazing what happens when a company is set up to get stuff *done* rather than just get government contracts *regardless* of weather or not anything actually *results* from them.

      Suddenly Obama's commercial space program has gone from being wishful-thinking paper rockets to more of a reality than anything NASA has to offer.

      To be fair COTS was set up under Bush Jnr (as was Constellation). It was the Augustine commission (well technically Augustine II as he did something rather similar 20 years earlier) that said it *never* had the funding to do the job and Congress should put up or shut up.

      Note NASA's budget has gone *up* not down. The question is how NASA will use this money and the funds released from winding up the Shuttle programme. I *hope* it will run lots of "small* projects which lead to capabilities that US industry can use (or perhaps anyone who pays the license fees) and actually *fly* stuff to find out what happens. TVC *only* using differential throttling (already tried in aircraft) for rockets, *permanently* waterproof TPS, low catalycity metal TPS, sub-cooled propellants in zero boil off tanks, flush mount M0-M23 data systems, no coating blanket TPS, the FDL5 spaceplane design and GNC which does not need *every* move pre-planned and handles engine out on the fly have *all* been looked out but *need* flight testing.

      Staff *are* being hired, business is being done, but not so much in your neck of the woods, although Florida remains the hub of US launch sites.

      "You think BAE needs a beating... it should take a look at what's happening to Boeing and Lockheed-Martin and get itself in order."

      IIRC LockMart is BAe's favorite partner. Historically Lockheed might not have one the design competition but it seemed to end up being the one that got made. Like drug addicts sharing the same taste in drugs and needles, it's inevitable each will pick up the others nastier habits.

      You might have noticed the author has a fairly strong buy American bias. You may not be aware that unlike the US the UK govt cannot cancel contracts unilaterally without compensation.

  25. Jeremy Fielding

    Bringing it all home

    "We should definitely not be planning to refight Iraq or Afghanistan"

    Concur, AC.

    State actors are what threaten what must be defended.

    Continue to organise and accumulate the forces to prosecute a high-intensity war. And don't sweat harassing carpet-weavers and goat-herds with Pashtun phrase books and death-blossom munitions. War is a ruthless business. We didn't beat Dreadnoughts into broadswords because we ran into the Zulus. Strategy is the business of knowing the difference between an enemy and a mortal threat.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    One major reason why the MoD's spending plans are so out of control...

    would be incompetent managers at the MOD.

  27. Nigee

    the right track

    Over the last few years both Richards and the guy before him are both on record as saying that the nature of warfare is changing, and all forms of war will increasingly have 'unconventional' characteristics. Both men recognised the need for a limited capability to ensure against asymmetry from heavy forces against lighter ones. Hence the need for a residual 'heavy metal' capability. FRES and moble light forces are actually the sort of forces predominalty required.

    However, the need for firepower is not going to go away and precision indirect fire reduces the need for heavy direct fire, things like anti-armour sensor fuzed munitions delivered by 155mm shells against tanks and precision HE against other targets eliminate most of the need for things like main battle tanks. Guided MLRS (227mm rockets out to some 70km) is very popular in Afghanistan. For many tasks smart rockets fired from trucks are a lot more cost effective than smart rockets fired from hugely expensive aircraft (or even somewhat less expensive unmanned ones).

    Being a fair minded and not totally ignoant person, perhaps I should point out that not all 85,000 civilians employed by MoD are 'in MoD'. I think MoD has less that 10,000 staff of all types, uniformed and not. There are lots of civil servants in training schools doing clerking, routine driving, and other admin stuff, and teaching (the defence driving school near Hull is an awesome place and almost all the instructors are civvies (even if a lot are ex-military). Then there's logistics, unless its a field deployable capability storage, supply, transport and maintenance engineering is almost entirely by civilians, either contractors or defence civilians. Oh, and we mustn't forget the defence scientists either, also all civilian.

    Sorry if the facts destroy the illusions of some of you ranters from the anal aperture.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    More Rationalization

    A) EuroSLBM: Currently France develops one, while Britain copies/buys the American Trident

    B) EuroNuke: Currently France and Britain have duplicate nuke development/maintenance programs. WASTE.

    C) EuroSub Ltd: Currently, there are three major submarine companies each developing their own stuff. At least the British and French programs are expensive duplicates. Thyssen Krupp Marine systems is somewhat complementary to that as these subs are much smaller and conventionally powered. The Americans only have the GD Electric Boat division.

    D) EuroCarrier: France is struggling to finance two proper carriers while Britain has three toy carriers and develops a new version of them. Here is huge scope for efficiency and better performance of the resulting systems.

    Also, the carrier groups should be operated in a joint european organisation, as nuclear deterrence should be. Huge savings in logistics and maintenance possible.

    The key is to understand that the Americans have better and cheaper weaponry because they have a single program for all of America, while Europe typically runs three programs for each major system.

    1. Peter 6

      Oh dear not again...

      More non-points and sillyness I'm afraid.

      A) Again, don't argue with the British if the French refuse to buy Trident. The French chose to develop their own system because they wanted something truly independent. And to be honest, what exactly is the point in a "EuroSLBM" if nobody can agree to use it? You may as well should get rid of nukes completely and re-allocate the £40 Billion odd elsewhere.

      B) See above. Not waste at all as Britain and America's nuclear development programs are closely linked.


      D) Once again, missed the facts, you've ignored the fact that actually the British and French are co-operating closely to develop carriers. The two new British carriers are the design that the French will be using for their 2nd carrier.

      Also, I think you got your facts muddled up. The British are struggling to finance two proper carriers while the French struggle to operate on their single one (they only have one by the way)

      The problem with all your points is one thing: Europe. Yes, of course it'd be nice for there to be one single European program for everything and in a perfect world a single European defence force/navy/air force would operate perfectly but this is the real world.

      Like I said, have Eurofighter, Eurocopter and the A400 taught you anything? Europe can barely even agree on the EXACT wording of any eventual European Defence Force and its last big foray into the outside world (to Chad) wasn't exactly its finest hour as rather timid Irish special forces clashed with cavalier and gung ho French Foreign Legionaires.

      Also how can you save money when all of these big pan-european defence programs are coming in way over budget and late. Eurofighter has ended up way over budget (although an export success) and the A400 will end up even worse. God knows what a 20 nation Frigate program or Submarine program would end up like.

      I know you mean well but your suggestions would end up WASTING even more money than the existing problems you're trying to solve!

  29. Mips
    Jobs Horns

    "Same as striking coal miners"

    Honest Gov'nor. Never struck a coal miner on my life (they might strike back).

  30. Winkypop Silver badge

    Old Maggie the mass murderer

    The losses from Belgrano totalled just over half of the Argentine deaths in the Falklands conflict.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      WTF ???

      And Churchill was responsible for the death of Jews because his resistance made Adolf Moron even more angry ? That would be as reasonable as this post.

      The Argentinians occupied territory in the full knowledge that this could/would result in a war. A war with Uncle Sam's favourite lapdog. So Uncle Sam would duly supply all the lapdog needed to bite like a bulldog (read: SIGINT, HUMINT; IMGINT, Sidewinders etc, etc)

      Maggie had international law completely on her side and it was the right thing to do. Falklands was a very, very close call anyway. If the Argies had 40 instead of 4 Exocets, chances would have been that they had sunk both carriers.

      They can speak of luck Maggie hadn't nuked their airbases. That she would have done, if the a/c carriers had been sunk.

      1. Winkypop Silver badge

        History, try it some time

        The ship was 150 miles outside the exclusion zone....

        Pol Pot meet Bloody Maggs!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Was a vessel that could out gun any of our surface fleet. She was skipping in and out of exclusion zone looking for targets of opportunity. Both countries were at war.

          Can you honestly say that they would have done any different given a reverse of the situation?

          1. Anonymous Coward

            These Bastards Got What They Deserved

            From Wikipedia:

            "Ramón Camps told Clarín, in 1984, that he had used torture as a method of interrogation and orchestrated 5,000 forced disappearances, and justified the appropriation of newborns from their imprisoned mothers "because subversive parents will raise subversive children".[64] Many of the "disappeared" were pushed out of planes and into the Río de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean to drown. This form of disappearance, theorized by Luis Maria Mendia, former chief of naval operations in 1976-77 who is today before the court for his role in the ESMA case, was termed vuelos de la muerte ("death flights"). These individuals which suddenly vanished are called los desaparecidos meaning "the missing ones" or "vanishing ones."

            I guess not all Belgrano Sailors were exactly innocents.

            1. Tjalf Boris Prößdorf

              Get over it ...

              The Belgrano was a swimming museum that could indeed outgun any early 80ies british vessel that kept still for long enough. Very likely.

              Camps: did I miss sth.? I found no mention of him serving on the Belgrano.

              However, all's fair in war and love.

              May I remind you that after the valiant defense of 40k sheep from a 3rd rate military power there was not even a whimper - much less a bang - when red china took over Hong Kong? I'm still wondering why that might have been ...

            2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

              Churchill Vs Mad Maggie

              Not a valid comparison, Churchill, to a certain extent inherited the war, Maggie had a chance to talk her way out of the war, UN sanctions, etc. but chose to go to war to bolster popular support for her government in order to help win the 1983 general election, just as the Argentinean junta invaded the Falklands to bolster their own popularity having destroyed their own economy. Funny how the UK didn’t start fighting then Argentina invaded Corbeta Uruguay in 1976.

              And there’s the question of whether the Argentineans were invading or simply re-occupying the islands.

              Re “These bastards got what they deserved” and others, if that is truly a criteria for war can you tell me when/if Burma, Indonesia, North Korea, Iran are going to get “what they deserve”? How about Turkey? I don’t remember the UK or the USA rushing off to invade Turkey and trying to liberate Crete when Turkey invaded.

              Whatever about the pros and cons of the sinking of the Belgrano, the battle of Leyte Gulf and other in 1942 and 1943 showed what the likely result of any battleship versus aircraft engagement was going to be. One of the propaganda stories about the Falklands was the Argentineans were using old WWII bonds that failed to detonate, in reality that they were dropping modern Mk81 & Mk82 low drag bombs that didn’t have enough time to fuse fully or else they passed straight through the soft aluminum parts of the destroyers. If all the bombs that struck British destroyers had detonated then the outcome may have been different.

              It’s also interesting to note the effort required to bomb Stanley airport with the “we don’t need a conventional bomber” Vulcan, were these Vulcan not on the edge of retirement at that point, I think some of them were mothballed and had to be stripped for parts to fly the Vulcan missions. That I think says more about procurement policy and perceived enemies than anything else.

        2. Desk Jockey


          The ship was inside the exclusion zone (only just) but it was heading out. The controversy lies in the fact the Gelgrano was sunk even though she was leaving the exclusion zone.

          However, it was a declared exclusion zone and she was an enemy vessel inside it and not waving a white flag or red cross. Therefore she was legimately if controversially sunk.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Law Of War

            ..does not know "Exclusion Zones". An enemy warship is a legit target you can take out at any time and any place.

            Think twice before you start a f**king war, I suggest. And don't whine if you loose relatives. Argentina started this, they are wholly responsible.

            Flag flown on Concqueror when coming home.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Thumb Up


            And how long does it take to turn a ship like the Belgrano? Two or three minutes at worst, and just because it's guns were old does not mean they couldn't kill you or thousands of your shipmates.

            Something the leftish whingers forget is that if a ship is heading in a particular direction, it doesn't make it obiligotory to stay on the same heading, otherwise a lot of ships would run out of sea when the sharp end gets bent.

            The argument that it was heading out of the exclusion zone is ridiculous, and anybody who uses it is just showing how devoid of real arguments they are.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Speaking of "Mass Murder"

      Have a look at what the Argentine Junta did with their Internal Opponents: Thousands "disappeared" w/o a trace whatsoever. A favourite method was to load them in a plane, fly over the atlantic and simply drop them out of the door.

      Maggie's HMS concqueror attacked a warship in an armed conflict which was properly declared. Britain gave them a few days to realize their mistake and retreat, which they did not. This was all proper.

  31. Jeremy Fielding

    The wrong track

    "However, the need for firepower is not going to go away and precision indirect fire reduces the need for heavy direct fire, things like anti-armour sensor fuzed munitions delivered by 155mm shells against tanks and precision HE against other targets eliminate most of the need for things like main battle tanks"

    In war, you're not the only one doing the shooting. If the enemy doesn't have to tear up main battle tanks because you've already done it back on the parade ground, what might the enemy do with its spare time and munitions? To whom will it turn its attentions, my boy?

    You're not always going to be tasked with reducing schoolhouses and being allowed six months to trail up into a region by foot and truck.

    "For many tasks smart rockets fired from trucks are a lot more cost effective than smart rockets fired from hugely expensive aircraft (or even somewhat less expensive unmanned ones)."

    How fast can a truck run? Whatever the enemy created to tear up a "main battle tank" and pull down a supersonic screecher flashing past mountain tops and swamps could have a lot of fun with your little tarpaulin-clad buddies trundling along at 40 mph and juddering to a halt at Taliban checkpoints.

  32. Matthew


    I think you may be over-optimistic of Britain's armoured brigade taking on a Russian or Chinese armoured division! I likewise think you may be over-optimistic about our chances of taking on either Russia or China in any kind of conventional warfare.

    I'm aware of only one kind of deterrent that could cause either of these impending super-powers to reconsider the bloody nose (and nothing more) that we might give them.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More irrationalisation

    "as nuclear deterrence should be. Huge savings in logistics and maintenance possible."

    If there is one thing in life on which you do not shave **maintenance money**, it is nuclear armaments.

    "a joint european organisation" for "nuclear deterrence":

    A European decision making process. To initiate a nuclear exchange. Yes, convince the Russians that you have a two-minute reponse time to nuclear attack, and have your finger hovering over the button. Once you shake off Carl Bildt, head-butt Merkel, and run down the line past the Belgians to the Big Red Button with the operating instructions in Dutch.

    Son, which do you think made the Russians back off faster? Americans experimenting with their graduated response theories and terrified of escalation (Kind of nuclear cowards with an ironically lower nuke threshold)? Or an independent French nuclear deterrent that could be fired right into German territory on top of advancing Soviet forces? I'd say the Russians were more impressed with the dependable solidity of the French response to a Soviet advance into Western Europe than a US-led NATO debate on how to respond to said Soviet advance.

    And deeply worried about where the h*ll the Americans would actually land us in the middle of their notions about limited proportionate nuclear exchanges. A man who works with the assumption that in-theatre nuclear exchange wouldn't necessarily conclude with global thermonuclear warfare would scare the c**p out of me.

    Consolidating uniformly around single-system EURO-whatsits really takes the whip out of your hand. For goodness sake, that's how we lost the ability to smack a dysfunctional defence industry back into line in the first place. Too much domestic consolidation, let alone Euro-level crapopoly. And make the opposition work for their filched blueprints and their trojaned micro-controllers. And I wouldn't really spend a lot of time smearing your nuclear launch protocol tech around a Bulgarian-Czech-Dutch-Estonian-etc International House of Pancakes jamboree committee. I'd rather flash the Queen. It would be more discreet.

    Carrier design isn't really the centre of gravity for costs. It's carrier construction. And you're either building three of them or you're not. And I think that key components already leverage expertise where it exists: missiles, radar, etc.

    Anyhoo, who wants to go dibs on marrying a Brazilian supermodel? I'm prepared to fracture the chain-of-command.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It's going to happen anyway. Britain and France are to transfer their UN security council seats to the EU. Ultimately, there will be EU defence and foreign ministers who will call the shots (literally). Why do you think NATO HQ moved to Brussels? Napoleon would be so chuffed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        When the tough get going

        "Tough. It is going to happen anyway". Uh huh.

        Does it occur to anyone that you can add a Security Council seat to accommodate the newbies? And not just re-allocate the P5 between the senile old duffers?

        Does it occur to anyone that the French, British and American seats together give you three against Russia and China (yeah, yeah, vetoes) rather than two (US and EU) against Russia, China and Brazil/South Africa/etc.

        If you want to stick with a "magic five" but make those kind of changes and hope that some numerological psychological barrier will fend off problems, let me tell you that it will never wash with the up-and-comers.

        Two out of five is only one from a dead heat, whereas three in six is an automatic dead heat. And three in seven is only one from a dead heat.

        Or is arithmetic unpopular with the arts graduates teeming with shiny European-mindedness?

        Also, facts.

        NATO HQ *moved* to Brussels? NATO was allocated a building in Brussels right out of the gate. In the 1940s. As part of a plan to transfer a nuclear deterrent which neither Britain nor France had yet developed at the time? Do you mean SHAPE? In 1967? Consolidation was the opposite of what happened there. France went solo. Solo. Not loco.

        It is kind of obvious when you think about it. Being in Brussels just says "Take away my nuclear p***s, I want to be known as Francie from now on".

        The Brussels location was how the Americans indicated their commitment to holding Western Europe. Proximity to the battlefield. Some people make rational decisions that relate to the task at hand and leave symbolism to modern-art urinals.

        NATO is an American creature. And the EU is no more taking over NATO than Ecofin is taking over the Marshall Fund.

        "Napoleon would be so chuffed." Napoleon's dead. After being defeated. Twice. And we got a close male relation of his to serve and die as a redcoat fighting for the British Empire in Africa. Sums up Nappy, don't you think? He too thought that a broad, brittle alliance would allow him to throw his weight around. But it made him dependent on a faithless Russian ally, on unstable Mediterranean countries, encouraged overly bold moves which cost him dearly, and he fatally tried to run a logistic network by cannibalising local national resources without a flippin' clue what to do other than stick "Mine" labels on it. But you'll be different.

        If there was an EU-oriented plan, it wouldn't involve running down the Navy (which they need to harvest, not degrade, because they're mostly a landlocked continental power) and shutting down the exact type of force that's well adapted to the broad European plains. If the EU plan is to get rid of the single patrolling nuke boat the UK has (as per "take 'em down a peg" Clegg) and which the EU hasn't got, the EU isn't planning on having any nuclear deterrent at all. Unless it's going to be France's one, which just got kicked back under the US-led NATO umbrella by President Sarkozy. Oopsies. Don't worry, you can practice this geopolitics stuff a few times before getting it right. It's not like getting it right is a big deal.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mad Richard Using B52 To Scare Russia

  34. Jeremy Fielding

    I'm getting excited by trucks. I think I'm Jeremy Clarkson.

    "eliminate most of the need for things like main battle tanks"

    Um, no. See last post. Natural conclusion. Point made. But now I'm really bouncing someone off a car bonnet like Gene Hunt on meth.

    <rant on>

    You need armour or you need speed. A plane goes for speed. A tank has a go at both. A truck is a petrol bomb with volunteer burns victims.

    What do you imagine the operating range of a bread-van is? Are you planning a cockroach approach of running around in anonymous swarms? Have you heard of helicopters? Have you heard of opponents that actually have ba***rd-good versions? They'll just detect you at range and time an approach, and use terrain to cover their approach. Good God, man, you'll die

    shouting "Use the SAM". For you, they can stick to machine guns. Less missile use. Longer operating time for their HKs.

    If I could use an analogy, imagine U-Boat versus lifeboat.

    A plane can cross the Atlantic in hours. A truck mightn't be able to make it across Berlin. This isn't bl***y Top Gear goes to War in a VW camper van with some fizzle sticks and Chinese fireworks.

    Plentiful, cheap troop transport, sure. Soup it up if you want with mini-artillery. But it should be an upgrade, not a replacement.

    And I'm really kicking you. But this is essential. An M1 Abrams has got a fire-control system that can out-aim Annie Oakley. In your little trucky-wucky, how quickly do think you can set up and fire, set up and fire, set up and fire? You won't even have the targeting and sensor set-up. You couldn't tell if Big Bird was mating with Elmo six foot above your heads. You have no ABC protection. No smokescreen generator. Limited terrain options. Low speed. And a driver that's less covered than Jordan's chest.

    A truck might have to worry about light anti-personnel mines in a way that a tank might brush off. If an M1 walks into the middle of a T-whatsit threesome, it can finish the three of them off single-handedly before they can finish sweeping their turrets around. What would you do?

    The theory of the bazooka'd up infantry-man who can best heavy armour would get out of fantasy land pretty quickly if the target became builders' vans and Leyland scrap merchants.

    You would be vulnerable to: Snipers. Grenades. Semi-automatics. Hand-pistols and rattlesnakes.

    It goes on and on...

    War of the kind that concerns this nation involves serious, dedicated opponents who won't be awarding you demolition contracts for mountain villages.

    <rant off>

    Sorry, Nigee, you had an interesting, informative post, and a good point about the defence scientists and instructors. We need them too.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Continuing the same line of thinking...

    Aside from job losses, a big snag with buying stuff from the yanks is that they have a tendency to retain control over the kit we paid for. Trident is good example - we cannot fire those unless the yanks allow it. In this case, there is no point having our own kit - especially when we are just getting dragged into the USA's foreign adventures. Why not just let the yanks fight (and pay for) their own wars, with their own kit?

    We should retain sufficient resources to defend our own interests and let the yanks continue the expensive business of bringing freedom and democracy to the rest of the world. Some of the newer NATO members seem keen on recent US foreign policy - why not let them takeover from the UK?

  36. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Easily Solved

      A) Buy Rafale and the French Carrier Designs. Junk F-35 jumpjet.

      B) Buy the French SLBM.

      C) Don't eat Burger. Makes you fat.

  37. Mike Richards Silver badge

    The only problem with this is...

    Thatcher WAS in charge of the country when most of the current batch of white elephants lumbered off the drawing board. She was just as in love with BAe as her successors.

    Perhaps now is the time to bring back the Sandys report and scrap all manned aircraft in favour of unmanned whooshy things.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      ELINT anyone ?

      Killing Ak-47 wielding islamists from safe altitude from a chair in Arizona is one thing, but please try that with the Russians or the Chinese.

      You are going to find that their EW capabilities are sufficient to jam the satellite downlinks, jam HF, jam Microwave. Even Iran manages to jam communication satellites pretty effectively.

      Also, they might launch one of these nasty S-300 missiles against your crappy little drone. Look at the youtube videos if you want to see what S-300 does. The acceleration alone is truely impressive. And don't forget it has a range of 200miles.

      The easy way to work around that is to put the extremely powerful MK1 Neural Net Processor (MK1NNP) into the cockpit and let that Neural Net making autonomous decisions. No electronic emanations needed whatsoever. Just brief MK1NNP, load the targeting data into silicon computers and launch the stealthy fighter.

      Basically the F-22.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Two Elephants Are Doing Quite Well

      1.) EFA

      2.) A400M

      And even the Challenger was a huge success - the only total loss was due to another Challenger accidently shooting the first one. And this time it was not a merkin cowboy A10 driver. Only the British had Challengers in the Iraq conflict. Say what you want, but Maggie left Britain in a better state than Nulube. She won two wars in months (!) - now three consecutive PMs are having troops in Crackistan with defeat around the corner.

      Maggie gave BAe/Vickers *personally* the rap on Challenger reliability. I guess she will be remembered in the same class as Chruchill in 100 years time. This woman had a real education (chemistry degree) as opposed to the MickeyMouse Business Apes (MBAs) of today.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear Deterrence

    First, it is patently untrue that the Russian Baddies were making fun of NATO. Rather, "Slimy Dick" Nixon was doing "dummy runs" with fully armed B52s towards the Soviet Union "in order to pressure them". The merkins were totally mad at that time, in my opinion.

    Also, if you read my post, you will see that I call for joint design, procurement, maintenance and logistics. Operational control would still be in London and Paris.

    But indeed, a European General Staff is the right thing on the long run. The EU parliament already has made it very clear they don't yield to arbitrary american demands. That's a very good start.

    Also, with SLBMs, you *can* wait, see and play the grim revenge. No need to make a decision in five minutes. "You take out London, we will now evaporate Moscow".

    But there is no need to have "british" SLBMs (which are in fact american). You can make them Airbus-style in a single factory and save a ton of money.

    Want a proper a/c with proper fighters ? Fly to Paris and negotiate a little with Nicola and use their carriers and Rafale. All working. Now improve the Electronic Warfare systems instead of wasting money on fumbling with a jumpjet.

    I bet the french would be willing to buy something from Britain. Maybe the reactors for their next generation subs.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facts of nuclear deterrence

    "First, it is patently untrue that the Russian Baddies were making fun of NATO"

    Great, I'll never say any such thing then.

    What I do say is that is not in question that a nuclear power would respond to a superior conventional force arriving at its border (which is what an incursion into West Germany would be treated as by France) with unconventional force.

    What would the U.S. do if a conventional force arrived on a different continent separated by an ocean? Go nuclear? More doubtful. Possibly. Maybe. Maybe not. Not immediately. And it is doubt which kills.

    And therein lies a problem for those intent on dissuading irresponsible powers from involving themselves in a situation which would end very badly for them, whether they realised it or not at the outset.

  40. elderlybloke

    It's strange about Afganistan.

    The Taliban mobile troops use small motor-cycles to advance and retreat.

    This tactic has managed to keep them fighting the combined might of USA and Europe for nearly

    9 years,

    Seems that high tech does not always win as predicted by the Strategic Planners.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Not forgetting their *heavy* transport

      The Toyota pickup truck.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It would be stranger still to view Afghanistan as strategic

    Strategic planners are tasked with maintaining political control, possession of the territory (i.e. not having to concede London, Paris, etc. to an enemy) and the safety of the population.

    There isn't a strategic planner in the world who deploys heavy armour in a mountain fastness (see WWII Yugoslavia) against partisan forces with an idea of ready advantage (see Soviet-era Afghanistan).

    Or who predicts victory based on a sub-Vietnam troop-native ratio.

    American Presidents don't order the evacuation of troops in under ELEVEN months from a country, take nine months to dispatch the requested reinforcements, and fire two generals and demote a third (without evidence that any of them are actually falling below expectations) in the belief that Afghanistan is a proper subject for strategic planners, no matter what was said during the campaign (which was just cribbing from confidential Senate briefings and hewing to unannounced Bush White House policy shifts as a safety play for the length of the campaign). Basically, he wanted a Third World country which didn't matter to call for being bombed to excuse the fact that he had called for withdrawal from a country that did matter as a strategic counter-weight to Iran. Just for looking tough in the election. And again crib from Bush - escalate pre-withdrawal - with a heavy publicity twist on deaths and casualties (these casualties need to be severe and remorseless - hence dropping the media ban on filming the body-bags of fallen soldiers and dropping the discreet night-flights for the dead and wounded) That way withdrawal is politically safer. The President, it would seem then, has two objectives:

    (1) break the US public will for the Afghan war (to limit the credibility damage and political risk of conceding a war to the Taliban that hosted al-Qaeda training camps and, in fact, recognising their government of the country).

    (2) follow a Carter-era policy of proxy warfare, assassination, and shadow armies, prosecuted by one of the men from those Carter days.

    So it all sounds grubby and cynical and prone to failure. Unless, of course, the President, behind all the manoeuvres, actually has in mind a few object facts:

    There are plenty of people who would prefer a southern-oriented Taliban reaching out from a Pakistani border to a Russian-oriented "Northern Alliance" reaching down from ex-Soviet Republic and Chinese borders.

    On two conditions:

    (1) Pakistani stability and security (inclusive of its arsenal)

    (2) the Taliban understand that governments installed in luxury and power can be flattened by strategic forces in a way that tent-dwelling guerilla leaders may not.

    As an aside, the sort of heroin production volumes coming out of Afghanistan must be absolutely killing the Golden Triangle and Bekka Valley types. That must take the floor out of supplier prices. Try funding Middle East mayhem now, fellas.

    Basically, the plan is to create an Afghan government. Then take it hostage. And ten years is a nice round number for a punitive expedition that wouldn't have looked out of place in the Salisbury-era Hindu Kush.

    And the next time we're around: we'll have helis that operate in thin air, hypersonics that can operate from forward bases well away from the ring of Soviet and Chinese territory, communications and observation platforms that can operate well clear of sat-killers, troops that have been bumped out of expecting McDonald's on-base and treating a volunteer army as a sinecure, and politicians who understand what an air bridge is for and just why the Army stacks millions of things "it doesn't need" over and over in locations far and wide (saves on logistics and production and delivery lead-times, chaps).

    Expensive boon-doggles are dead. Troop run-downs are over. Instead, we will ramp up on mass-producing classics with silently upgraded internals, have an expeditionary air-force that, yes, includes jump-jets (ideal for ground-support and fluid front-lines) and superiority fighters.

    With ground troops that can launch artillery and planes out-of-their-pocket (or very close to it)even if central command is down or over-stretched.

    All you have to do is forget the dead people and the screaming children.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "Expensive boon-doggles are dead. "

      Don't be silly. This is the DoD. There's *always* room for an expensive boon doggle or 10.

      A military aircraft development programme DARPA and the AF *rejected*, funded *solely* by Senate and Congress "earmarks" for nearly 20 years.

  42. No, I will not fix your computer
    Big Brother

    The Government is Fiscally Incompetent

    If the Governement spend £100 million in the the UK, that's money that will go towards paying UK citizens, who then pay that money back into buildings, shops, good and services in the UK which then pays UK citizens, and so on, and so on, that money is re-used over and over again to keep people employed and the economy churning round and round, and a good degree of that comes back in taxes;

    £1 salary to a UK citizen (30p back as NI/Tax etc.)

    Of the remaining 70p let's say 65p is spent on goods (15% tax, about 10p)

    Of the 55p that goes to the shop or service provider they pay salaries and taxes.

    So on the first round of spending half comes back as taxes, the remaining half is spent again (and again half comes back as taxes, and so on etc.)

    When you pay £1 to a UK citizen the money will be recycled over and over and over again.

    £1 salary to a foreign citizen (all gone)

    It's irrelivent if the government is paying 10 or 100 times more for something UK based, pay someone in the UK and that money goes round many, many times, pay for something from abroad and that money is lost forever.

    Why do you think China is so cheap fro goods? why do you think other countries are demanding that China revalue their currency? why do you think that the Yuan will become the new global reserve capital? it's because China isn't stupid (but our Government is).

    The outgoing goverenment paid (and planned to pay) lots of money that we didn't have on UK projects, given that 50% would come back via tax and keep UK people employed that's not such a bad thing, the incomming government is going to "save" money by buying abroad and canning UK projects, it will look good for four or five years and then implode.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @No, I will not fix your computer

      "It's irrelevant if the government is paying 10 or 100 times more for something UK based, pay someone in the UK and that money goes round many, many times, pay for something from abroad and that money is lost forever."

      Excuse me but I'd think *most* UK taxpayers would be pretty p&*ded off if they had to pay 10x or 100x the price of a UK version of *any* existing product. BTW in the arms biz (screw this "defense" b*&&cks) part of the deal is often part (maybe all) the work is done in the client country. Case in point the recent AFV contract lost to part of BAe (vickers?) in the UK but won by (IIRC) General Dynamics. What happened. GD mfg product in *same* UK factory (probably with *same* staff) as looser. I doubt the work force was outraged by this "loss" of UK capability and the "threat" to the loss of UK jobs (always a popular defense biz tactic. "Think of the innocent workers." Why? They never did for any other major UK industry).

      BTW your argument can be made about *any* product that is mfg (or was mfg) in the UK. Why should defense *really* be *any* different? Does *any* other UK govt dept do this?

      Why do UK defense products seem to have *such* a poor foreign sales record. The UK *is* in the top 5 of arms mfg countries but I bet it make nowhere near the foreign *sales* revenue that others do. does that mean HMG is willing to pay through the *nose* that the fact the UK arms biz sales team is poor does *not* matter, as HMG will pick up the tab?

      Historically a *lot* of UK industry has been dependent on government contracts. Commercial engineering is *tough* and competitive. There has certainly been a perception that UK defense work (once you knew the right people) was high margin, low volume easy money.

      Put bluntly perhaps HMG should consider *what* parts of the UK defense industry are really needed. The UK *seems* to do some subsystems *very* well. Torpedoes are *highly* specialized and a sub is useless without a supply of them. Their are about 3 major standards in torpedo tube design (most set IIRC prior to WWI).

      Seriously *how* independent (or "local") does your defense mfg capability *have* to be. In the Cold War what good was having a nuclear hunter killer submarine mfg capability if the build takes 7 *years* and WWIII is likely to take 7 days (6 1/2 for the final tank battle on the North German plain then 11 1/2 hours to decide to go nuclear and 1/2 hr for the all out nuclear exchange). The UK *has* retained that capability. The Astute class are huge, take 7 years to build (all those lovingly hand welded joints) and were 4 years overdue and several £100m over budget. If the "threat" is now more likely to be sub national groups of terrorists why would they give a s^&t if you can detect another ship 1000 miles away. SFW. Their weapon of choice is 10Kg of fetiliser and a liberal mixing of fuel oil to add color

      One *key* lesson drawn from areas such as satellite and defense mfg is that the 2nd copy of something is a *lot* cheaper than a 1 off and that systems with *very* long lives (like the B52) are *not* ultra ultra specialized to 1 job (seen any B58 Hustlers in service lately?). This suggests 1) Get as big a first order as possible 2) Make it as standardised as possible in the *structural* design. 3) Make *specific* provision for variability. The Danish "multi mission " ship with a whole *deck* plumbed for various services which can convert from an armed vessel loaded with missiles to a hospital ship by loading different modules in roughly 30 minutes. The equivalent for aircraft would be bays and carriage points plumbed and cabled for everything from fuel (drop tanks) to weapons (missile guidance update) to sensor or comms packages.

      That way there is 1 *core* design. Every buyer knows what spaces and services *their* bits have to fit in. If they can't get their latest super duper Rader/IR/mutispectral scanner/SigInt/Whatever in the earmarked bays they just have to dump some of the planned fuel or weapons.

      1. No, I will not fix your computer


        >>Excuse me but I'd think *most* UK taxpayers would be pretty p&*ded off if they had to pay 10x or 100x the price of a UK version of *any* existing product.

        Yes, that's because *most* UK taxpayers don't understand economics, if they understood that keeping money within the UK is critical to the economy maybe they wouldn't be so p&*ded off, they complain about tax and then complain about fortnightly rubbish collections, complain about going to war and then complain about petrol costing £1.20 a litre, they complain about the welfare state and then complain that jobs are scarce, all these things are related *most* UK taxpayers want their tax free cake and want a subsidy to eat it.

        >>BTW your argument can be made about *any* product that is mfg (or was mfg) in the UK. Why should defense *really* be *any* different?

        Yes! the whole "buy british" thing was here for a reason, however there's a big difference between the man in the street buying something from abroad and the government doing the same, the government should *always* buy british (assuming it's a similar product).

        Lets be sensible about this 10x or 100x the cost may seem hard to understand, so lets start small (I'm generalsing, so don't be too picky), imagine a destroyer built in the UK at a cost of £500m compared with the same built outside the UK for £250m, it seems a no-brainer to go for the non UK one, but given that £500m staying in the UK (and half coming back in taxes, corporate and personal) means it only costs £250m, those that get the £250m will keep UK people employed (more jobs) and be able to support other services, they have money to spend on other UK "things" like shops, houses etc. the money is going round, back into the UK, suddenly £500m spent in the UK is the far more sensible option, an that's at twice the price.

        So how about 10x or 100x the price?, works exactly the same way, the more you keep the money in the UK the more that the money is "worth", the more you send abroad, the less it's worth, at 2x the price the knee-jerk reaction is to say it's too expensive, but in reality it costs the same, and that's if the money only goes round once, if it goes round five times then it actually costs a 10th of the original price, in the destroyer example, a healthy UK economy where money doesn't go abroad means we can build destroyers for £500m which work out cheaper (for the taxpayer) than a £50m one from abroad.

        You may not understand this, but as I said before, the Chinese do.

        btw, I agree with much of what you said, I'm not arguing for buying (or not buying) anything in particular, however if we (the UK government) do buy something then we should buy it locally.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          I think you're operating under a misunderstanding.

          "Lets be sensible about this 10x or 100x the cost may seem hard to understand, so lets start small (I'm generalsing, so don't be too picky), imagine a destroyer built in the UK at a cost of £500m"

          That I don't understand your argument. I understand it *very* well. What I don't actually understand are 2 other things.

          Why the arms biz *should* be treated in such a very special fashion. Why should it have its own cozy, protected niche environment?

          Your argument applies to pretty much *any* other areas of manufacturing. BTW From memory defense equipment has one of the lowest ratios of direct to secondary employment ratios. You spend a hell of a lot of cash to create (or sustain) a *very*small number (relatively speaking) number of jobs, hence the not infrequent comments that you could shut down Westland Yeoville, hand *every* employee £500k (more than 1/2 their *lifetime* salary in many cases) and the government would *still* come out ahead of the deal.

          Why can't the companies that make it up (or rather the bits of BAe Systems as they mostly are now) deliver it at a price anywhere *near* foreign suppliers. If these companies *really* are "world class" manufacturers (as they *never* tire of telling journalist and politicians) WTF can't they make it at prices at least as competitive as USA, France, Germany or for all I know Japan. None of these are exactly "low wage" economies. If they are *so* good why doesn't anyone else buy them *but* the UK government?

          If you've followed my postings you'll know I doubt deeply that buy American is the correct answer. My objection to these companies is most of them seem to do *only* defense work. With no UK government orders they would *die*. they have *no* civilian work. That's stuff *real* people buy to other use for their own enjoyment or make money from. They appear to exist in a symbiotic/parasitic (depending on the cynicism of your POV) relationship to the MoD.

          "healthy UK economy where money doesn't go abroad means we can build destroyers for £500m which work out cheaper (for the taxpayer) than a £50m one from abroad."

          I think you have an Economics degree from Alan Johnson U. The money for your 10 (or 100x) over priced bit of defense hardware comes *from* taxpayers. The *cheapest* destroyer the UK government could get would also be the lowest ID card running costs.

          IE Don't get one at all. A Navy which has more Admirals than ships. The MoD having more staff than the Army. This sounds like an institution with as many staff issues as Leyland in the 1970's and 80''s, with *less* incentive to sort them out.

          The question you have to ask is what are you *protecting*? British defense manufacturing jobs? British defense design skills?The British defense industry supply chain? Either these are good enough to appeal to customers abroad as well or they are not. If they are not perhaps those staff and those skill might make a better living designing or making other more useful things.

          One idea you *might* like to consider. Split the businesses into 2 parts, Design and Mfg. Accept they will *not* always be prime contractors but see if they can get to mfg large parts of the winning companies design in the UK (all major arms biz companies seem to know *plenty* of politicians and the sort of senior civil servants who whisper in their ears) . Alternatively the design side enters foreign competitions for foreign projects that will be *made* in those countries.

          If they succeed great. If not perhaps it is time for their staff to look for a less precarious line of employment.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    fine, but did he *really* say as if we've left the tank behind?


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