Skip to content

Why the British Army Wins

June 29, 2009
British Gurkhas in exercise with US Marines.

British Gurkhas in exercise with US Marines.

As the high-tech centric Royal Navy and Royal Air Force snipe at one another for a bigger slice of the Budget pie, the Army might be the spoiler. The following editorial in the UK Telegraph by Christopher Booker criticizes outgoing Army Chief  General Sir Richard Dannatt for belatedly ending that service’s very costly new armored vehicles, but in fact the General may have picked the perfect moment:

Last week, at a conference on land warfare, he slipped out in coded form that the Army’s £16 billion Future Rapid Effects System (FRES), planned as the centrepiece of Britain’s contribution to the European Army (aka the European Rapid Reaction Force) is a dead duck.
Sir Richard used to be a big fan of FRES, but he has now belatedly realised that one reason why our interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan turned out to be such abject failures was the Ministry of Defence’s obsession with spending billions on projects like FRES to fight imaginary wars of the future, rather than properly equipping our forces for the wars they were actually having to fight.

By asking for less, then, the Army might just win all. There is a prevailing spirit within the British public that something must be done to redress the failures of the Army as seen in the less than stellar performance in Iraq recently, followed by a humiliating withdrawal. The new head of the Army is already calling for a renewal of the service’s fighting spirit. Again from the Telegraph here is Gen Sir David Richards:

“We cannot go back to the fighting that we might have done 10 years ago when it was still tanks, fast jets, fleet escorts that dominated the doctrine of the three Services,” he told the Royal United Services Institute in a keynote address.
“Our Armed Forces will try with inadequate resources to be all things in all conflicts and perhaps fail to succeed properly in any. The risk is such that it’s too serious any longer to be accepted.”
More solders were needed on the ground to retain security “without which the population will not turn away from insurgency”.

A sensible strategy, a reasonably priced one, without the promised miracles from high tech wonder weapons. Traditional large warships, planes, and tanks are becoming more expensive and fewer in number. While the more costly proposals of the Navy and Air Force promise to defend against future, imaginary wars which we never seem to fight, the Generals propose to contend with wars we are fighting today, and do so cost-effectively. We see the Army winning this fight, with rationale on its side.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex. permalink
    July 2, 2009 3:57 pm

    the RN has lost too much not go get the CVFs built, while (slightly) ambitious [and i dont mean as an industry project, it’s ambitious to think that we can fill the bloody things!]

    2 CVF’s is about 80% of the cost of 3 Vincy sized carriers… remember that.

    onto FRES, this has been dead since Piranha was selected, however the scout variant of FRES is still VERY much alive, this seems to be the spiritual sucessor to the Scorpion that was retired in the mid 90’s due to toxic fumes not being extracted well enough (although the scorpion esque armoured vehicle died 20 years ago when medium calibre low velocity weapons were no longer of interest[despite the fact they are a war proven infantry support weapon and bloody good ones at that] and the school of thought moved to tanks should fight tanks and IFV’s should support infantry and “ne’er the twain shall meet” means that you can either have 105/120mm guns which is overkill to say the least or 40mm CTA which isn’t going to cut the cake. anyway cut a long story short CV90120 is odds on favourite for FRES scout

    a matter that is probably more important than the bulk of the FRES project is rotary wings! AAC (teeny weeny airways!) use lynxs, Gazelles and Apaches (to what extent is anyones guess, and wether or not they are in afghan is another question; however with the AAC’s new..ish apaches there is no longer the need for lynx and gazelle to be used as attack platforms (well the gazelles AT approach has been dead since the end of the cold war) and anyway as such FLynx/Wildcat numbers are minescule or will be minescule when they are produced so once again in british defence projects something has been cut short, however, i digress; the bulk of the matter is the RAF’s aging puma’s they need to be replaced sooner rather than later. as i see it the best proposal is AW149; a twin 2k shp engined medium utility helicopter with roughly an 8ton MTOW and 160kt cruise speed (which would indicate top speed is on the order of 190kts? Blisteringly fast in anyones books), obviously this is much larger than lynx, comparible power and payload to a blackhawk (blackhawk can carry more but 8ton MTOW from a 4,000 shp seems to be selling it short); anyway, room in the back for 15 and its fast, roughly the size and similar mission to blackhawk.. why not string some armament from it? and use a utility variant to replace RAF pumas and a 2 tier solution composing of wildcats and a more battlefield friendly AW149? Either way if the forces are going to be subject to current conditions then they need more rotary wings and the penny will drop eventually, whether or not something is done about it or not is the question though?

    -An entirely different Alex

  2. Scott B. permalink
    June 30, 2009 4:31 pm

    CVF is far too ambitious for the RN, from both a technical and a financial POV.

    I don’t see UK building more than one, if any at all…

  3. June 30, 2009 11:26 am


    the plan is already, the steel is being cut, the reason they are not being built is it was thought it would be cheaper to delay them…because of the recession, but actually it is turning out to be more expensive.

    yours sincerly


  4. B.Smitty permalink
    June 30, 2009 10:40 am


    How about replacing the LHA/LHDs with CATOBAR carriers based on the CVF? Additional berthing may be needed to house Marines, and lost vehicle square and cargo cube would have to be recovered, but then we could have up to 10 additional real carriers.

  5. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 30, 2009 10:03 am

    Sad but true Smitty. Why not help the Brits build their carriers, and we prepare for the littorals and ASW! Sort of turning around our Cold War partnership when the RN concentrated on the small ships!

  6. Mike Burleson permalink
    June 30, 2009 9:53 am

    Now they are delaying them, because the planes won’t be ready until late in the next decade. Hence the price increase.

  7. B.Smitty permalink
    June 30, 2009 8:54 am

    Scott B,

    Still seems like a relative bargain compared to the $10 billion per Ford class, or $4 billion per LHA-6.

  8. Scott B. permalink
    June 30, 2009 7:04 am

    Latest news on the British Carrier program @ BBC :

    Navy carriers ‘£1bn over budget’

    Projected cost is now £5bn for two CVs, i.e. over $4 billion per ship based on current exchange rates.

  9. June 29, 2009 1:37 pm

    FRES was never a wonder weapon

    All the services are fighting this one; and whilst the army might be singling out the navy’s escorts and carriers, along with the RAF’s aircraft, some comentators..including yours truly are pointing to another possible area of funding reduction

    yours sincerly


  10. B.Smitty permalink
    June 29, 2009 1:21 pm

    FRES is a wonder weapon? The utility version is just a Piranha V with fancy gizmos – essentially a souped up Stryker.


  1. Diverting Defense Dollars « New Wars

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: