Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Centre For Strategic And International Studies:The UK Strategic Defence And Security Review

General Sir Nicholas Houghton has been speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (C.S.I.S.).

It is worth taking the time to listen to what he had to say.

Unfortunately the embed feature on the C.S.I.S. site is not working but you can see the general speak by clicking on this link,or see below.

The general gives a coherent explanation of decisions taken during the defence review.

There was clearly a substantial focus on current operations in Afghanistan.

That is entirely appropriate.

One of the most interesting subjects raised was that of the scale of future operations.

It is planned that the British Army will in future be able to sustain a brigade or surge a division.

We would question whether that is an adequate size for an independent British expeditionary force.

The division we surged in to Iraq in 2003 was not of an adequate size to establish ground control and in future we are planning to surge a division which is smaller than that.

The sustained deployment of a brigade was inadequate in Iraq and Afghanistan and would have been equally inadequate in Northern Ireland.

An army which could sustain a division and surge a corps would have been adequate in all of the above operations.

With 9 armoured regiments and 36 infantry battalions the British Army should have been able to generate such forces.

With some changes to overseas garrisons and training such force generation becomes practical without undue burdens on units.

Future plans clearly suggest that the British Army will be reduced substantially in the near future.

An army which can only sustain a brigade is an army which is only useful for coalition operations.

It will in future be difficult to justify expenditure on an army which will be of little benefit to the taxpayer.

The general says that the F35C will be bought instead of the F35B because it is cheaper,more capable and interoperable with our allies.

The general says the Nimrod was cancelled because there were too many anti-submarine systems.

This is also a good reason,rationalisation of the anti-submarine aircraft fleet is another idea which has long been promoted here.

However,there are three major question marks in relation to that decision.

Firstly,was this decision in any way influenced by "Europeanisation" both of the armed forces and defence industries?

Thirdly,why was the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (F.S.T.A. which costs £600 Million per year of full service and provides far more capacity than is needed) retained in full in place of the potentially far more useful Nimrod?

Those last two questions must be considered together and in the context of aircraft for the carriers.

General Houghton also addressed the subject of the Aircraft carriers and naval forces.

The only question which needs to be addressed here is the subject of the Harrier's premature withdrawal.

Again this is a question closely intertwined with the future of the Tornado and Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft.

Carrier capable Harriers would generally require far less tanker support than Tornado.

How much would have been saved by keeping Harrier instead of Tornado and cutting surplus F.S.T.A. capacity?

If the general mentioned Future Rapid Effects System (F.R.E.S.) then I missed it.

That project is another of the great mysteries of the defence review.

Offensive,high intensity expeditionary warfare is dominated by light forces "hitting 'em where they ain't" and heavy forces "hitting 'em where they is".

Medium armour plays only a supporting role which does not require an expensive cannon armed vehicle.

That role exposes the "medium" vehicle to significant mine and anti-tank guided weapon threats.

Consequently the medium infantry's vehicle must have the mobility to avoid such threats and the protection to survive them.

A simple,modern,tracked,armoured personnel carrier with first rate mine and anti-tank missile protection can meet this combination of requirements.

Wheeled vehicles cannot.

It is difficult to see a place on the battlefield for F.R.E.S. Scout and Utility.

It is easy to see their place in the Europeanisation of the armed forces and defence industries.

In summary,general Houghton has given us an interesting insight into the thinking behind the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

However there remain many unanswered questions.

These relate primarily to the question of European defence integration.

There is also the question of whether Tornado was really the most suitable airframe for Afghanistan.


steve said...

The British have never done AAW. If WW3 had come about BAOR would have a had drumming from the air before Third Shock Army had cleared the East German border. And look at the Falklands for the RN.

Considering we were the country that first decided that air power needed its own armed service it is an odd state of affairs.

Then again probably the first memo out of RAF HQ on April 1, 1918 said do worry we have got it covered. And they have been lying to us ever since.

steve said...

I should have said don't worry.

Serves me right for being small minded. :)

Could you edit it please GL?

GrandLogistics said...

Hello steve,

unfortunately Blogger doesn't allow editting of comments though it does allow their deletion,which is rather odd.

The Royal Air Force has always seemed to have something of an obsession with long range bombing in particular.
Perhaps that is the result of an independent air force trying to demonstrate the need for it's independence.

If only Jan Smuts had recommended the creation of an air defence force rather than an air force,the Second World War might have turned out far better than it did.