The Perils of Becoming a ‘Mini USA”
Back in May I mentioned how Britain was struggling to maintain a military force which was like the US Military only in miniature. This was in a post titled “Great Britain’s Defense Options“:
The United Kingdom, much like most Western militaries, is shaped in the image of the United States superpower except in miniature. Her fine Army is built around heavy Challenger II tanks, and swift Warrior armored infantry carriers. Her historic Royal Air Force is well equipped with new Typhoon air superiority fighters, older Tornado fighter bombers, and Harrier V/STOL close support fighters. The Royal Navy’s composition makes it still one of the world’s mightiest, with soon-to-be-built Queen Elizabeth supercarriers, ballistic missile and nuclear attack submarines, new Daring anti-missile destroyers, Duke anti-sub frigates, and large Ocean and Albion class amphibious ships.
Not surprisingly and much like in America, the British have found the cost of sustaining an all-high tech military with such exquisite platforms nearly untenable, as she fights a different kind of war in the Third World that requires different sorts of weaponry.
Here is David Sapsted, at the National with the same sort of argument:
Britain should stop trying to be “a mini-United States” and give up maintaining armed forces capable of policing world trouble spots, a report from an influential think tank said yesterday. After a two-year review, the high-powered panel of experts said the UK simply could not afford its international role and recommended slashing £24 billion (Dh146bn) from proposed defence spending.
The report, prepared by a panel brought together by the London-based Institute for Public Policy Research, is being seen as the most fundamental challenge to the UK defence strategy in 50 years.
Out of a list of 10, I also proposed scrapping Trident, the aircraft carriers, and the Air Force’s Typhoon fighter. Here are the IPPR’s proposals:
Planned spending on new aircraft carriers, an Anglo-American strike fighter project and on new destroyers and submarines should be cut, the report stated flatly. Lord Ashdown said he personally favoured scrapping the Trident programme and replacing it with some other, cheaper and more flexible nuclear missile programme.
We also penned the same advice for Canada a while back, with the intent that medium/small powers should seek their own identity rather than attempt to build a force like the USA. Different economies and powers have different needs, and considering the enhanced capabilities which can be gained from low cost precision weapons, the minor power should take advantage of new technologies to replace aging and shrinking industrial type weapons and strategies. Here is an exert of “From Minor Power to the Major Leagues“:
Like most small powers, Canada is a mirror of the US armed forces in miniature. It maintains the three standard arms: air force, navy, and army. By clinging to this industrial age establishment, she finds it increasingly difficult to replace Cold War era weaponry, including aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, and ships. She is also failing to take advantage of the New Warfare of the Digital Age .
A case in point is her navy. Canada currently maintains a destroyer/frigate force, a handful of submarines, and a few logistics ships, while planning to build an amphibious type warship in the near future. Perhaps by focusing on maintaining the most potent of these, her submarines, she could carry out the bulk of her maritime missions at far less expense and with less procurement headaches. More…
My friend Alex at the excellent Naval Requirements blog has a rebuttal to the IPPR report.