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RAF in Denial

June 8, 2009

The head of the British Royal Air Force is taking a desperate  bid to stave on any future cuts to the historic service, by seeking to absorb the Royal Navy’s own air arm. From the UK Telegraph:

The Chief of the Air Staff told The Sunday Telegraph that rationalisation in the armed forces would lead to the RAF running all combat jet operations.
The move would effectively neuter the Royal Navy’s maritime air force, the Fleet Air Arm, leaving the service with just a small complement of helicopters. 
Air Chief Marshal Sir Neil WheelerThe Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), a former Tornado pilot, accepted that the decision would be controversial but said that such consolidation of air power was “inevitable” and added: “We have got to kill some scared cows to make ourselves more efficient”.
His comments were made amid increasing signs of friction between the service chiefs.
Last week, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, the head of the Royal Navy, attacked his British Army counterpart, General Sir Richard Dannatt, for suggesting that the military’s two new aircraft carriers were Cold War relics.

typhoonI hate to break it to the Air Marshal, but the Age of Airpower is swiftly in decline, unless you count unmanned airpower, belonging instead to the last century. No one can afford these new superfighters anymore, which aren’t even being used in the wars we are fighting today.  Here he is making the same mistake of naval strategists of 100 years ago, who had no idea that the primitive airplanes of the era would lay ruin to their seemingly invincible dreadnought fleets. So it is with today, which is about “People” or Land Power, traditionally where its been through most of human history.

MoreStrategypage makes the key point here:

Army commander General Sir Richard Dannatt has pointed out that only ten percent of spending on new equipment goes to the army (based on actual and planned spending between 2003-18). This, despite the fact that it’s the army that is doing most of the fighting during this period.

The air forces and to an extent the navies just aren’t getting it that the times and changes in warfare are against them, and they must adapt or die.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 10, 2009 6:47 am

    Its the same over here with the USAF Alex. Both services have done some wonderful things and with the RAF who saved civilization in 1940 you almost feel like your speaking blasphemy, but we have to face reality here. Strategic bombing has never really lived up to all the promises, despite the vast funds poured into it in the last century. Often, you have to have a Presidential or Prime Minister to intervene to get the air generals to cooperate with the other services.

    Now its all about the air superiority mission with hot superfighters. The problem here is potential peer enemies have already lost this race and are turning to older but still useful legacy planes for their needs, which can be built in far greater numbers than a 5th or 6th Gen fighter. The cost of such platforms are why only 100-200 are built every decade now where once many thousands were bought on an annual basis. Then there is the unmanned aerial vehicles slowly creeping into the manned fighters domain, and at far less expense as well.

    Today everything is about joint operations, and really have been all along but now its more so. Any service wishing to go its own way is just so much of a luxury that not even rich Western countries can afford.

  2. Alex. permalink
    June 10, 2009 5:59 am

    This is what can be expected of the RAF. In the UK with a dwindling defence budget(now at the 2% mark i beleive) the neccesity of maintaining an independent air force has been called into question, RAF was formed for strategic bombing into Germany IIRC (how on earth RAF wasn’t absorbed by the NAS/FAA in the interwar period can be nothing but shear luck). After the 2nd world war the RAF Naturaly took on the role of strategic and nuclear bombing, however in the late 90’s when the last air launched nuclear weapons were decommisioned with them went the Raison d’être for the RAF(Last strategic bomber was Vulcan which went in the early 80’s). the FAA could easily absorb the RAF’s A2A, Strike/mudmoving and MPA (Nimrod MRA.4) with the Army Air Corps taking on the RAF’s CAS and airlifting Assets and obviously what little remains of RAF’s helicopter force will be devided between AAC and FAA with FAA taking on CSAR and the AAC taking on the Cargo/Utility Rotaries.

    The beginning of the end for the RAF was spelt out in the 50’s and 60’s, the high speed high altitude strategic nuclear strike/recce projects cancelled (of note Avro 730[Mach 3 5000nm range 8×10,000lbf engines in 2×2 pods mid wing cancelled in the 1957 white paper] and BAC TSR-2[Tactical Strike/Recce Mach-2, supercruise strike/recce platform with a 1000nm range including a 150nm M1.7 dash]) and the Navy taking over the main nuclear deterrant with Resolution class submarines and Polaris missiles, Canberra, Victor and Vulcan bombers were becomming obsolete with nothing to replace their strategic capabilities.


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