Thursday, 4 November 2010

Independently And In Our National Interest

During the recent Anglo French summit in London,British Prime Minister David Cameron said the following:

"Britain and France are,and will always remain,sovereign nations,able to deploy our armed forces independently and in our national interest when we choose to do so."

We must question whether this statement is true.

As recent operations in Afghanistan have demonstrated,the British Army is dependent on air support even when fighting third World peasants.

As operations in the Falklands demonstrated,the Royal Navy is dependent on air support even when fighting a poorly equipped developing nation.

Without an independent means to deliver air power,British land and sea forces are not capable of conducting independent war fighting operations in the interests of a sovereign United Kingdom.

Air power can be delivered from a land base by the Royal Air Force or from the deck of an aircraft carrier by the Royal Navy.

Unfortunately the Royal Air Force lost it's ability to conduct independent warfighting operations in the national interest when Britain lost it's global network of air bases generations ago.

Since then it has been dependent on foreign countries to provide it with air bases and logistical infrastructure (the ports,roads,refineries and pipelines which supply the fuel,ordnance and other items to the air base).

In recent years the Royal Air Force has also become dependent on allies for fighter protection and ground based air defence.

With just 3 frontline fighter squadrons,at least 2 of which are dedicated to domestic defence,the Royal Air Force is not capable of defending the bases it operates from during expeditionary warfighting.

It can only conduct expeditionary combat operations with the support of an ally whose fighters are needed to protect the air bases and supporting infrastructure which the Royal Air Force is reliant on.

Nor is the Royal Air Force capable of providing fighter cover to it's overly large fleet of ground attack aircraft.

In addition,Britain now has just 24 frontline  Rapier fire units,all operated by 4 batteries of 16 Regiment Royal Artillery.

With one battery permanently stationed in the Falkland Islands there are unlikely to be enough deployable short ranged Rapier fire units to protect even a single expeditionary air base and the infrastructure which it depends on let alone to protect the British Army's assets as well.

The Royal Air Force usually requires several air bases for even small scale expeditionary war fighting operations.

Even those Rapiers which are available are considerably out ranged by common precision ground attack weapons such as AGM65 Maverick.

Most second tier air forces are capable of destroying Rapier fire units without even entering Rapier's engagement envelope.

Consequently the Royal Air Force is also dependent on allies to provide ground based air defence for the air bases and infrastructure which it relies on for expeditionary warfighting operations.

There is also a need for ground forces to defend this air power infrastructure.

Even in a low threat environment like Afghanistan the ground forces required for this task may far exceed the brigade sized force which the British Army will be able to sustain in future.

A force which can do no more than defend it's self is "a self licking lollipop".

It is of great expense but no military use.

Clearly Britain cannot conduct independent war fighting operations as a sovereign nation if it's land and sea forces are dependent on air support from the land based Royal Air Force.

The alternative means of providing air support to British land and sea forces is from the deck of a Royal Navy aircraft carrier.

British aircraft carriers have freedom of navigation across most of the World's surface without the need for "Host Nation Support" (H.N.S.).

Unlike land bases the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers have little need for local logistical infrastructure as they can stay at sea for 6 months at a time supported by at sea replinshment from Royal Fleet Auxiliaries.

Sea based logistics have the additional benefit of being far cheaper than land based logistics.

The Royal Navy is also capable of defending it's aircraft carriers from land sea and air threats without needing help from allies.

It also requires no ground forces to defend it,allowing the British Army to concentrate on doing useful things rather than defending air power infrastructure.

Britain can independently deploy air power from it's aircraft carriers.

Only with carrier based aircraft can the United Kingdom independently conduct combat operations as a sovereign nation.

Prime Minister David Cameron personally took the decision to eliminate that capability.

David Cameron's claim that Britain will be "able to deploy our armed forces independently and in our national interest" is simply not credible.

David Cameron eliminated Britain's ability to conduct independent combat operations when he decided to eliminate British carrier capable combat aircraft.

David Cameron personally ensured that Britain will never again be able to conduct independent combat operations when he decided that the Royal Navy would have only one aircraft carrier. 

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