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Max Hastings on British Defense Cuts

June 30, 2009

Some interesting quotes from the celebrated author and historian Max Hastings via the Daily Mail:

Something big must be sacrificed, to make the sums even begin to add up. Many soldiers, as well as defence gurus, believe upgrading the Trident nuclear deterrent, at a cost of around £20 billion, is simply unaffordable in Britain’s newly impoverished state.

It is highly doubtful that we can pay £15-20 billion for American built F35 planes to fly off the Navy’s new aircraft-carriers.

This means the carriers themselves become pointless.

Only by sacrificing other commitments can we hope to give the Army the men and kit it needs to remain a serious force. American strategists whom I meet in Washington almost all agree that Britain must make tough defence choices, and that we should focus squarely on giving ourselves a truly world class army.

The RAF should be reconfigured to give far more effective battlefield support than it provides today. It must sacrifice many of the fast jets to which it clings, against a fantasy scenario that it might fight the Battle of Britain all over again.We need lots of helicopters and ground-attack planes, not Typhoon fighters.

Focusing on the war we have now should be the watchword. Good advice for America too!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Gerard Short permalink
    August 10, 2009 11:12 am

    Absolute rubbish. Defence spending has fallen dramatically as a portion of GDP. This is the only way of reliably measuring defence spending over time. Ours has fallen dramatically, make no mistake.
    Petulant generals on TV whinging that the Air Force and Navy should be curtailed to support the Army is quite simply purile and insulting. One wonders how the generals expect to arrive in Afghanistan, or where they would like their airstrikes called in from when they can barely hold an airport outside of Basra.
    And as far as Trident goes, one of Britains top diplomats summed it up quite succinctly

    “Its all very well having diplomatic skills but frankly who notices if you dont have the big stick”

  2. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 1, 2009 6:24 am

    I agree that scrapping Britain’s deterrence is probably a bad idea. If nothing else, keep the boats you have for as long as possible. Always the possibility of friendlier budgets in the future.

    Anyone recall that great British TV show from the 1980’s “Yes Prime Minister“? Back then the question was about the Polaris replacement. The fictional Prime Minister decided to keep Polaris for a few years more and spend the money to beef up the UK forces in NATO. Sounded very sensible to me back then, and still does today!

  3. July 1, 2009 5:25 am

    Actually they don’t want to cut the nuclear capability – for some even more insane reason they want to put cruise missiles (the french made ones with a range of 400miles) aboard eurofighters…notice a theme here anyone? in other words they want to go back to air basing…a really sensible concept! we all remember why we stopped it; but the RAF want it back

    more of this is on my post

    yours sincerly


  4. Distiller permalink
    July 1, 2009 3:49 am

    I don’t agree. All around the world people go to great length to acquire a nuclear capability. To cut the intercontinental nuclear delivery capability would be a grave mistake. Let’s be realistic! It’s the only thing that safes Britain from military and political obscurity!

    I see a principal and unsolved conflict regional vs expeditionary. Or one could say Eurofighter vs carrier. One of them has to go, because it doesn’t fit policy. Eurofighter embodies the territoral defense angle, the carrier the expeditionary angle. There is money only for one. It’s a political choice.

    My basic strategic opinion is known: Let’s play the game on the European level. Only then both angles can be covered.

  5. solomon permalink
    June 30, 2009 5:09 pm

    Amazing! How does a nation with as proud a naval history as the British suddenly forget the importance of their Navy? They will tie themselves to the French and lose their role as a major player in the EU. Their role in that body will be even less than that of Italy (no offense to the Italians). Instead of the UK being a counter to the French with the Germans having a “tie breaker” role, it’ll be Germany and France in essence calling the shots. Germany being the economic powerhouse and France being the military power. Funny thing is I read a military Techno thriller with that very scenario played out. AMAZING!

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