Counting Cats in Zanzibar Rotating Header Image

Dr Fox wields the axe.

Britain could be forced to “borrow” American warplanes for its new aircraft carriers as the Armed Forces’ core capabilities are eroded by budget cuts.

That means lease them. So I’m a bit vague as to the saving here exactly. It’s more that we’ll have to do something to save the embarrassment of having the ultimate floating white elephant (white whale?) an aircraft carrier without aircraft. If F-35B slips further or is cancelled by the US entirely. There are just two customers for F-35B – RN/RAF and USMC. I could seriously see Gates saving quite a few simoleons by scrapping the USMC fixed wing aircraft such as the AV-8Bs we’d be leasing or rather in this scenario buying – basically the same aircraft as the Harrier GR7/9 we’d be scrapping. These new carriers have not been thought out at all.

Furthermore, the Navy may lose its ability to put troops ashore in an amphibious assault.

Right… OK, so what precisely is the point of the Navy then? I mean that is surely one of their absolute key roles. Surely.

Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has said that, instead of “salami-slicing”, where pain is shared equally across the department, the cuts must be allocated strategically.

Within the context of defence cuts that makes sense. And I have previously argued that Trident might be the one big thing to go.

Defence sources have suggested this will result in the Forces giving up entire capabilities, like aerial surveillance and amphibious landing.

Those are two we can’t let go. Aerial surveillance is the oldest use of aircraft and still answers the fundamental question that has plagued commanders since time immemorial, “What is over that hill?” Now what I suspect they mean by aerial surveillance is Nimrod MRA-4 which at enormous expense and grossly late is just entering service.

Britain would have to rely on allies until the defence budget recovered, when these operations could be resumed.

Wishful thinking. Some of these are “use it or lose it”. It’s about skills not just kit and amphibious operations are by their very nature tricky things. Anyway, rely on allies! Like our EU “chums”? Like Obama’s USA? You know he might help out and send a boxed set or Region 1 DVDs from the Blockbuster bargain bin.

The cuts could also have serious implications for the Navy’s two new aircraft carriers, which will cost £5 billion and are due to enter service in 2014 and 2016.

Defence sources said at least one of the carriers was almost certain to be completed, but questions hang over the second.

We need at least two – what happens when our sole carrier is being re-fitted?

If the second carrier is built, it could be adapted to carry helicopters instead of jets.

Why if we are losing the amphibious assault role would we need such a thing? Moreover the carriers that the navy are desperate to retain in order to at least keep the pretence of being a blue water navy are about power projection and that very frequently is in support of amphibious landings.

A more radical option would see the second carrier shared with another country, most likely France.

There is a reason you only have one captain on a ship you know. That is madness! It is also of course a route to Euromil. They are bound to call it something dreadful like that. Forget single currencies and Schengen and all that jazz because once you lose control of your own armed forces you are a vassal.

The Treasury is understood to be budgeting for the cost of the carriers as empty hulls [I'd like to know exactly what they mean by that], and balking at the additional cost of planes to fly from them. A military source said: “The Treasury seems to think it’s quite normal to budget for aircraft carriers with no aircraft to carry. It’s rather bizarre.”

Just bloody typical.

To ensure both carriers are built, Navy chiefs are considering making several sacrifices. These include retiring Britain’s 45 Harrier jump jets ahead of schedule.

The Harriers, operated by both the Navy’s Fleet Air Arm and the RAF, are due to retire in 2018 and be replaced with new Joint Strike Fighters. But the jets could be retired earlier, saving more than £1 billion. That in turn could mean that the first carrier enters service in 2014 with no British aircraft to carry.

Or the “pub with no beer option” as I call it. Let’s go the whole hog and issue the army with guns but no bullets. We can just train them to shout “Bang!” very loudly at the enemy.

This is the permanent and complete evisceration of the British military. I might argue that the ministers and civil servants responsible ought to be lined up against a wall and then… er… do we still have the capability to shoot them?


  1. Will Jones says:

    And of course you can guarantee that Argentina is watching these developments (well, erosion) in British force projection with great interest. When (not if) they launch another attempt at the Falklands, does the government honestly think that the EU and US will be there in support with half a carrier or some aircraft? Not bloody likely. ’82 was a near run thing; Britain will very shortly not have the capability to repeat the performance.

    The Falklanders may as well start learning Spanish (along with the Gibraltans) seeing as the Government doesn’t give a damn about it’s ‘inconvenient’ citizens.

  2. Furor Teutonicus says:

    XX Britain would have to rely on allies until the defence budget recovered, when these operations could be resumed. XX

    NO! NO! NO!

    We are not bloody stupid, we KNOW these “budgets NEVER “recover”. We just get used to less. Which will end up being cut yet again.

    The idea of not letting the Parachute Regiment train to….PARACHUTE (Doohhh!) was only meant to be tempory as well.

    As to the Aircraft Carriers and the F35s, when these were first announced, the U.S was telling everyone that the F-35s were “not for foreign consumption”. So they are bloody lucky the U.S changed it’s mind THERE then, and someone in MOD Planning needs hanging by the balls until dead with the last piece of barbed wire to be issued to the last soldier in Britain.

  3. Angry Exile says:

    Will Jones raises a good point. Wasn’t the RN reducing strength prior to the Falklands? Wasn’t the last proper carrier the RN had, Hermes, had either been sold or was going to be scrapped? Wasn’t the MoD being a bit stingy about even patrolling the S. Atlantic? I don’t think Argentina’s internal situation is the same as in 1982 but Britain’s ability to respond the same way looks awfully similar.

    And if kit, planes and ships can be leased, what then? I’ve no idea what the Ts & Cs in that situation would be. Would they say words to the effect of if you break it you buy it? If so I’d half expect British politicians to be wary of putting Uncle Sam’s expensive kit in harm’s way for fear of being invoiced for anything that gets shot up. That’s actually worse than not having it – paying through the nose to have something you don’t actually own and being afraid to use it.

    On the other hand it gave me an excuse for a bit of Photoshop fun:

  4. John B says:

    “Forget single currencies and Schengen and all that jazz because once you lose control of your own armed forces you are a vassal.”

    That is about the sum of it.
    It is truly amazing that Mr Cameron can just carry on down the road of merging Britain into the EU without any effective protest from himself regarding this.
    When politicians make all sorts of ineffectual noises and excuses about why they are doing something they sort-of said they would not do, you know they never had any intention of not doing it in the first place.
    The Establishment purpose of converging the UK with the EU (and the rest of the world?) seems to be in place and on course.

    PS: Shengen and single currencies help!

  5. Sam Duncan says:

    The episode of Yes, Minister about the hospital with no patients was on Radio 7 yesterday. Nothing ever changes.

  6. NickM says:

    A couple of years ago there actually was a hospital with no patients.

  7. Sam Duncan says:

    Told you.

  8. JuliaM says:

    Fox has bigger fish to fry than the ready state of our armed forces. He’s too busy ensuring that you can never, ever take up arms against them…

    …in a computer game.

  9. Paul Marks says:

    “We need a government to defend the nation”.

    And when the government does not defend the nation?

  10. P says:

    Of course, this debate is actually rather artificial anyway. It is a political decision to spend less than 2.5 percent of government revenues on our defence and to patch up the army ad-hoc as it has large holes blown into it in small wars while totally neglecting the navy.

    The Americans choose to spend more than 6 percent and for that they have worldwide power projection capabilities. If we opted to spend a similar proportion of our revenues on defence and managed procurement appropriately we could have 4 full aircraft carriers and two helicopter carriers available. This would make sense for Britain which has wide-flung interests and sovreign bases at strategic locations. The argument that there is no money is nonsense. The government continues to subsidise the existence of mediocrity, including in defence procurement.

    New Zealand has gone in completely the opposite direction to the USA and have trimmed down their forces to tokenism with no fighters and only two frigates for their defence. That’s fine, because the NZers arn’t issuing communiques to the Russians advising them to change their constitution.

    Britain however has a major problem with the number of naval hulls available. In essence, the six type 45s to be built can’t be in enough places at once and I’m sceptical that they are so good that some of them couldn’t be sunk by the latest generation of missiles/torpedos.

    Similarly, a few weeks back I heard that the RAF was increasing the number of warplanes in Afghanistan. Good. Then I learned that the increase was two Tornados to be addes to the existing six. This is smaller than the number of DIVISIONS of troops available to us in the third Anglo-Afghan war.

    Essentially the UK is now finished as a military power and these cuts spell the decent into nonentity. However, it is a political choice. There is plenty of money available for our national defence that is being spent on vanity projects or misallocated.

    Finally, the idea of using foreign-sourced equipment is a non-starter. In basic, nations only sell on their high tech equipment to another nation once they think that that nation could replicate their system capabilities autonomously or that a competitor can provide an alternative product. This is an inherently dangerous thing since the choices are political and if we don’t retain certain capabilities other countries won’t supply us. Defence sales matter to the UK: Al Yammama brings in 600,000 barrels of oil per day to the UKgov. We’d be better to invest in defence at a sustainable level, thus allowing for smooth exports via industrialisation. No-one’s going to buy one-offs like the t-45 until the production inefficiencies are ironed out: this will not happen if we only build six before shutting down the facilities to do so.

  11. NickM says:

    Yes on all points.

    I suspect one of the huge misunderstandings people tend to have is that defence budgets are huge. They are compared to what you or I might chuck in the weekly shopping cart but compared to other government expenditure they are hardly worth cutting. The cuts are tokenism.

  12. NickM says:

    Just before the Falklands there had been a defence review which had massive RN cuts. It hadn’t been put into place yet but the Argentinians saw the writing on the wall and figured that if that was British strategic policy then… Yes, we had also withdrawn a oceanographic vessel from the area. Hermes was going to be sold to India and whilst built as a CATOBAR had been converted to STOVL (Harriers).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: