The Wakeup Call for British Defence
This doesn’t sound like a vote-getter, but it makes perfect military sense. If elected, likely it will be British Conservatives who bring down exquisite Cold War type weapons programs, that have little justification other than a job’s program. Here is the Times Online:
George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, said in a speech on the economy that he would hold a Budget within weeks of a victory. Afterwards, he was asked to identify specific savings that an incoming Conservative government might make.
In comments that surprised and dismayed his own colleagues, he cited the £20billion Eurofighter/Typhoon project, the £4billion project to build two aircraft carriers and the £2.7billion order for 25 A400 transport aircraft as areas ripe for cuts. Later, however, he admitted that he did not know what penalties might have to be paid out under break clauses if the contracts were scrapped.
£20billion is quite alot for a warplane originally intended to dogfight over the Central Front in a standoff with the Soviet Union. With not a single peer adversary daring to take the West on in the air in decades, we can see the rationality behind the Typhoon cuts.
As for the A400 transports we have little to say other than there has been numerous delays, technical troubles, and cost overruns, which might justify the Tories into saying “enough is enough”. Especially since there are so many cheaper alternatives like the C-17 and the C-130J which the RAF already operates.
Earlier we had thoughts on scrapping the Tridents altogether:
Savings here would amount to £21bn (US $31bn). In its place, the RN could equip Tomahawk missiles for the nuclear role, as her excellent sub fleet is already so armed with conventional cruise missiles. By spreading the deterrent around in more numerous attack submarines, they would also be more survivable and effective.
That said, I would hate to see it happen, but the Tomahawk alternative would be better than nothing.
Needless to say we are extremely pleased on the notion of canceling the RN supercarriers, as it has been a terrific drain on the essential operating forces of the fleet. Labour has sold the giant ships as a jobs program, and very successfully to the public, so it will be a tough fight to part with them. Mistakenly the Navy has also maintained these as the center of British seapower and its future, when it is nothing of the kind, as essential frigates like the Iron Duke prove on a consistent basis.
The future of the UK Military is more than Big Decks or superfighters, but decades of military tradition and the cooperation of the services, not a particular weapons program geared to fight some mythical future conflict but that is more about past wars. It is also about spending realities, as we warned back in July:
Rich Western militaries so used to proposing extremely sophisticated and costly weapons programs, almost assuring they will get passed through legislatures hungry for the jobs and votes which coincides with grandiose projects, might be in a for a shock very soon. In this new era where moneys are tight and political leaders are more concerned with propping up tottering economies, the funds are just no longer there for future spending sprees by our spoiled service folk. So instead of a rise in defense spending on just any new project the generals and admirals conjure up, look for weapons and strategies to be increasingly prioritized.