Thursday, 20 January 2011

More British Defence Cuts Coming Soon?

Various media outlets have recently been reporting that the British Ministry Of Defence will have to make significant additional cuts in the near future.

These cuts will be on top of the significant reductions announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review in October 2010.

The Financial Times reports that there is a shortfall of at least £1,000 Million a year in the defence budget.

It is difficult to know whether these reports are correct given the media's history of inaccuracy on defence matters.

However,if they are correct,there will need to be substantial cuts.

David Cameron personally took the decision to eliminate the United Kingdom's ability to independently conduct combat operations when he chose to cut the Harrier fleet and retain the Tornados.

"In terms of cost, if we remove the Tornado force, we would be looking at (saving) about £7.5 billion by 2018.
With the Harriers, we are looking at less than £1 billion."

That additional saving of £6,500 Million over the 7 years to 2018 equates to an average saving of £928 Million a year.
David Cameron's personal decision to retain the Tornado fleet appears to be the direct cause of the latest financial crisis at the Ministry Of Defence.

At least,if there is another financial crisis.
Reversing that decision is still possible.
Not only would that save a great deal of money but it would also restore the United Kingdom's ability to independently conduct war fighting operations.
Without that ability the British armed forces cannot serve the interests of the British taxpayer.
Making them little more than an expensive vanity project.

Another of the Strategic Defence and Security Review's strange omissions was the decision not to cut the obvious overcapacity in the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft project.
These aircraft will cost a minimum of £441 Million a year over the contract's 27 year life from 2008 to 2035,over £497 Million for each of the 24 years the new tankers will be in service from 2011 to 2035 or £627 Million for each of the 19 years of full operating capability from 2016 to 2035.
It is difficult to see any need for more than half of the 14 A330 aircraft provided under this contract.
Had Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft been cut to an appropriate size in October hundreds of millions of pounds a year would have been saved.

Another obvious saving would be to cancel the badly thought out Future Rapid Effects System (F.R.E.S.),or what remains of it.
Not only would this save the British Army from being lumbered with an unsuitable vehicle for the next 50 years but it would also eliminate the damage to the economy caused by buying thousands of millions of pounds worth of foreign made ASCOD armoured vehicles.
A far cheaper option is upgrading the very similar and already in service Warrior vehicles (a direct equivalent of ASCOD).
The British Army could then get a more suitable,less economically damaging and more exportable,domestically designed and built modern armoured personnel carrier at a later date.
A type of vehicle which would be in high demand on the export market but which is not currently available anywhere.
The alternative is being stuck with a sexed up 1990s era infantry fighting vehicle with a flat bottom and hull penetrating torsion bar suspension until 2060.
A new armoured personnel carrier design with shallow vee hull and non hull penetrating suspension,capable of carrying 2 pallets or 8 infantrymen in addition to it's 2 man crew,would allow the British Army to reduce it's frontline vehicle fleet to just 3 major types (light,medium and heavy) in the medium term.
Most importantly,cancelling F.R.E.S. Scout/ASCOD would eliminate the threat to the British Army's security of supply caused by a reliance on foreign countries which are often opposed to British military operations.
Armed forces without security of supply cannot serve the interests of the people who pay for them.
There is no reason for the taxpayer to pay for armed forces which can not serve his best interests.
The Americans had the good sense to kill off the Future Combat Systems vehicles.
Perhaps the current financial situation will save the British Army from Future Rapid Effects System.


S O said...

"Without that ability the British armed forces cannot serve the interests of the British taxpayer."

I have several objections here:

a) Warfare should never be about money, it's thus not a good idea to refer to "taxpayer" instead of "citizens".

b) The assertion is flat-out wrong.
The British armed forces can of course do a lot without Harriers. The only thing that goes away without them is the ability to conduct expeditionary warfare against capable threats without being able to use at least an auxiliary airfield.

Tornados can operate from roads, so this is overall next to no restriction.

The quote (and the blog post) had too much hyperbole imo.

c) The Harriers AND the Tornados will be gone in ten, fifteen years anyway. They are obsolete and this will only become worse. The sooner and more go, the better the prospects for a replacement (son of FOAS).

steve said...

@ s o

Last time I looked I wasn't a citizen but a crown subject. :)

@ T6 et al

There will be hidden cuts like cutting back on ship movements, steaming speeds, putting off biggish minor repairs (stuff like repairing Ocean's ramp,) extra un-paid shore leave, postponing a programme by a month or two etc. etc.

What the army and the RAF I don't know..

Why? Politically untenable to launch another review after the last one was just put to bed.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Sven Ortmann,

with respect to point a:

I prefer to use the term taxpayers as some in the armed forces seem to forget who it is that pays for them and most importantly,why they do so.

Demographically,aside from those too young to pay taxes or immigrants,taxpayers and citizens or subjects are largely the same people.

With respect to point b:

It was stated that the United Kingdom cannot independently conduct war fighting operations without Harriers.

That is certainly not wrong.

Harriers can operate independently from British aircraft carriers.

Tornados cannot.

1.Tornados require a host nation to provide air basing.

2.Tornados also require a host nation to provide the logistical infrastructure to support that basing - ports,roads,railways and pipelines.

3.The British army will in future be able to sustain a brigade sized force,almost certainly too small a force to protect those Tornado bases and their logistical infrastructure.
Tornados will then require an other allied nation to provide ground troops to protect that basing and logistical infrastructure.

4.British ground based air defences include just 4 batteries of short ranged Rapiers,1 of those is permanently based in the Falklands.
These have no anti-ballistic missile capability and are out ranged by many stand off weapons as well as being few in number.
Tornados will then require another allied nation to supply ground based air defences to protect the basing and logistical infrastructure they rely on.

5.The United Kingdom has just 3 Typhoon fighter squadrons which are tasked with air defence of British territories.
All remaining deployable Tornado squadrons are ground attack types which cannot contribute to the defence of their air bases and logistical infrastructure.
Tornados will then require another allied nation to provide air defence fighters.

6.Tornados are not capable of defending themselves in the air and hence will require another allied nation to provide fighter escorts (see 5 above).

The carrier based Harrier suffers only the last of these problems,even that would largely mitigated if the spare Sea Vixen radars were fitted to them,at least against most potential opponents over the next 7 years.

With respect to point c:

Official documents have suggested that retaining the Tornado will cost about 8 times more than retaining the Harrier.
That is about £6,500 Million which will not be available to fund any "son of Future Offensive Air System" if Tornado is retained.

Retaining the smaller Harrier fleet would have left Britain with a combat aircraft fleet sized to meet it's historic requirements.

The current plan is for 96 upgraded Tornados and 160 Typhoons,total 256 aircraft.
It is difficult to see any justification for much more than about 200 of these.


GrandLogistics said...

Hello steve,

it would be nice if you were right,but if the newspapers are correct,£2,000 Million a year is a very big chunk of the defence budget.


steve said...

There are two things to consider perhaps,

A cut in International Development Aid, unpopular with the LibDems, but might actually be popular with the electorate. If sold on a "yet again with have revisited one of ours decisions since the election and found it to be flawed." In some quarters the still new HMG admitting they were wrong (eg. books for kids) has proved popular. For me we shouldn't be giving India money for civil relief while they are busy building aircraft carriers and buying C17s that we ourselves could do with. The Tories admitting they are wrong is change after Labour never being wrong........

And then there is the upcoming fines for EU overspends which come to more than 2billion.

There is plenty of money in the pot. It just gets wasted supporting other states........

GrandLogistics said...

Hello steve,

the problem with cutting aid is that as long as Britain is part of the European Union,it has to spend what Europe says it has to spend on aid.

Ditto the European fines.

If Britain had a democratic government it would be spending money in the interests of it's people as they saw fit.

Post Lisbon Treaty that is no longer the case.


steve said...

Yes I know about our treaty obligations.

I was an IR student.

It would be nice to think that one day say soon we will have a PM who when pressured by the EU e-mails then a picture of a Vanguard with a Foxtrot Oscar on top.

TheRagingTory said...

the obvious contender for foas was nimrod, which has just been shit canned,

GrandLogistics said...

Hello TheRaging Tory,

the Royal Air Force would probably have wanted a medium range bomber which would have spent most of it's life doing very little of any use.

Nimrod on the other hand would have been a strategic range cruise missile carrier.
When she wasn't needed for that she could do counter insurgency better and more cost effectively than Tornados.
When she wasn't needed for that she could do search and rescue.
When she wasn't doing search and rescue there was always the day job,maritime patrol.

There was a lot wrong with the Nimrod project but there was also a lot right with it.

In a list of things to be binned,Nimrod should have been well below Tornado and Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft.