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Outstanding Quote

January 19, 2010
tags: ,

In a speech  before the International Institute for Strategic Studies, British Army Chief General Sir David Richards becomes the best spokesman for the Navy than any Admiral on either side of the Atlantic I have heard in recent years:

Operating among, understanding and effectively influencing people requires mass – numbers – whether this is ‘boots on the ground’, riverine and high speed littoral warships, or UAVs, transport aircraft and helicopters.

And also this:

This re-balancing could result in more ships, armoured vehicles and aircraft not less. But they will not necessarily be those we currently plan on.

Amazing to hear someone from the rival service advocating a Bigger, Better Navy! Guess if you live long enough…

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2010 2:41 pm

    Hello Jed,

    Challenger Is and Challenger IIs were used extensively in both Bosnia and Kosovo.
    Centurions were used in Northern Ireland during Operation Motorman.
    The British Army also used Comets in Palestine.
    When your enemy doesn’t have tanks,a tank is an assymetric threat.

    I did try posting a reply with lots of pictures of these tanks in the above theatres but for some reason it has not come up.
    I am sure you will be able to find the same pictures via a search engine.


  2. Jed permalink
    January 20, 2010 8:37 pm


    Yeah well I was supposed to be working :-) So not surprising my rather long posting missed a few things…… !

    I don’ recall us (British Army) deploying Challenger in the Balkans ? And I am pretty damn sure it was not deployed in NI – what else do you characterize as heavy armour ? OK – actually we definately did have Warrior IFV in Balkans – its ‘medium’ but I won’t quibble.

    Mike – your mischaracterising some of my comments. Why should Typhoon not be in Afghanistan (it is not yet, by the way) – its perfectly capable dropping bombs on Taliban, and now it can even strafe with the belated addition of the 27mm cannon – but please tell me how a COIN Super Tucano can be multi-mission ? What else is it going to be used for ? How quickly is it going to be withdrawn after one gets shot down by a black market smuggled SA18 ??

    And Korea, Gulf wars 1 and 2 may have been in ‘third world’ countries, but they were full on “peer adversary” type ‘wars’. I don’t entirely disagree with your comments about propping up a corrupt military industrial complex.

    When it comes down to it, has the General asked any of his squaddies in the Helmand green zone if they would like the direct fire support that the Danes get from their Leopard II’s – of course he has not, because we can not afford to ship them there, or support them – don’t confuse lack of cash with actual military utility !

  3. January 20, 2010 3:28 pm

    Hello Jed,

    you missed a few from your list,most notably the Suez Campaign and lots of more minor conflicts,the invasion of Tanganyika for example.

    There was also plenty of heavy armour in the Balkans and even some in Northern Ireland.


  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 20, 2010 11:36 am

    Jed, you are right in your crystal ball analysis but note that every single conflict you detailed was in the Third World, with the possible exception of the Balkans that is certainly as close as you can get there in Europe. Realize also that such powers alternate between conventional and insurgent tactics when it suited them. The West hasn’t been so lucky because our refusal to think beyond our WW 2, 3rd Generation mindset of set piece battles and heavy equipment.

    With the list you have provided, I’d say it is a sure bet that the next conflict will again be in the Third World. But no one is saying get rid of all equipment for First World, peer conflict, as general David Richards points out:

    I emphasize again that I am not proposing that we get rid of all our more traditional military capability – it is required, with allies, not only to deter a war fought by such means from becoming an asymmetric attraction to an enemy but also because at the lower tactical level the requirement to fight and win hard battles will not disappear.

    It is the traditionalists who have been obstinate in refusing to prepare for our most likely type of conflict, which is Hybrid Wars that describes every conflict you have listed–F-22s which have no place in Iraq or Afghanistan, Typhoons which probably shouldn’t be there, supercarriers that drain funds from essential equipment like helicopters, and frigates.

    But I think the calls for fighting conventional conflicts are more about fighting past wars and propping up aging and obsolete Cold War industries, and less about the future threats they insist they are for. It won’t be up to them, if you follow the numbers, concerning funds and equipment, the old way of war they claim is new is no longer sustainable.

  5. Jed permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:49 am

    Mike look at the UK context, non of us have crystal balls, but look at where the UK has fought and where it planned to:

    1. Korea – not a COIN battle ! Tanks (my dad was in one) and air power, seaborne logistics, maneuver (amphib assault by US) and strike (naval airpower and NGS)

    2. Malaysia – COIN (!) and generally accepted as well done and successful – no big tanks or armour, infantry battle, use of helicopters.

    3. Yemen – COIN (?) – line infantry again….

    4. Oman – COIN (!) – more SAS than line infantry I think – but generally accepted as successful (ask the Sultan !!)

    5. Northern Ireland – anti-terrorism, support to the civil power NOT COIN or big battle tanks, more use of helicopters as things progressed and COIN-like use of road side bombs against lightly armoured (or un-armoured) vehicles.

    6. Cold war NATO role – the big stuff ! Don’t think we need to go over it.

    7. Iran-Iraq war. Use of cold war developed naval power in the Gulf – from frigates escorting tanker convoys to deployed us of lots of MCM assets.

    8. Falkands – no one saw this one one coming ! Well actually, they did, but did nothing about it. Tory Government were on the verge of gutting the armed forces with massive cuts just before the invasion. If they had gone ahead then the population of the “Malvinas” would still be under Argentinian jurisdiction today. No big armoured battles, but otherwise a ‘conventional’ war

    9. Gulf War 1 – liberation of Kuwait – all the heavy stuff exactly as bought and planned for the cold war, from the kit itself to the way it was used, totally vindicated cold war purchasing, just a massive tank battle in the desert instead of on the German plains……

    10. The Balkans – COIN ??? The shape of things to come ? UK actually purchased MRAP’s for this theatre. Some use of light armour, helicopters etc. Cold War error fighter bombers used in the ‘air campaign’

    11. Sierra Leone – limited intervention bush war – not COIN but not ‘conventional’ warfare either, mostly an infantry affair, but large use of naval logistics.

    12. Afghanistan – originally ‘conventional’ warfare ‘invasion’ against the state government and their terrorist allies. That state had tanks and technically(?) an air force and air defences. Turned into a COIN war according to many, an anti-terrorist campaign according to some, and a western interference in a centuries old civil-war according to others. Much ‘cold war’ / conventional war kit has been and continues to be used by both Britain and other western nations, including heavy tube artillery, MLRS rocket artillery, heavy IFV’s and MBT’s. RAF use of Harriers and Tornados, plus Nimrod in ISR and of course the heavy use of the airlift fleet.

    13. Gulf War 2 – massive role for the RN / RM in taking the Al Faw peninsula, and the Army in taking Basra – lots of armour and cold war / conventional weapons. RAF providing full gamut of fast jet and transport ops. OK, things went a little badly later, but I don’t think that had much to do with the kit, except for not spending enough on Psyops !

    So, if the Chief of the General Staff would like to get out his crystal ball and prove that we are only ever going to fight COIN battles in future thats fine. Otherwise what he should be doing is getting together with the chiefs of the other forces and challenging his political masters. He does not need to stray into whether continued attempts at ‘nation building’ in Afghanistan are the right thing to do, his is a soldier, he will take his orders and fight the battles he is told to. He should however remind the government that constant serious cuts to the defence budget do not match the rhetoric of a nation that is “at war”, that the government is approach moral as well as financial bankruptcy in its conduct of operations, and that if budgets drop below a certain level, then the politicians need to stop committing the UK armed forces to new tasking (OH at last they have, we are providing not aid or assistance to Haiti….!!)

    Instead, all 3 service chiefs continue to snipe at each other, the Treasury policy of divide and command continues successfully and no one has the balls to discuss subjects like giving up the seat on the UN Security Council because we can’t afford it, and the amount of aid given to India each year – a country which has more tanks, planes, ships etc and has even more ambitious procurement programs.

    So, in summary, the Generals call for a ‘balanced’ fleet, although reasonable on the surface, in context is all for the wrong budgetary reasons and is thus just more BS. ;-(

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 20, 2010 5:24 am

    You have to have balance in capabilities. I think the norm since the Cold War has “buy only heavy weapons” “plan only for conventional conflict”. Proponents for traditional warfare aren’t looking for balance, but a dominance of the defense budget. Conventional weapons like planes, ships, and heavy tanks are more capable than ever, so you can make do with far less, and still field a substantial unconventional arsenal. Otherwise, numbers in the armed forces will dissipate and I think as soon as this coming decade.

    If we have balance, then any potential foes will be kept off-balance because we can respond to a multitude of threats. But large conventional structures plays in the hands of impoverished rogue states and insurgent groups, because the least irregular response on their part can affect our smaller, over-stretched high tech military.

  7. Matt permalink
    January 19, 2010 8:49 pm

    On a strategic note, I agree with a lot of what the general has states. It is definitely time to ruffle some feathers in the MOD. However, I think he is overly dismissive of the future risks of a conventional state-on-state conflict. As an American, it strikes me that the UK may soon adapt European free-riderism when it comes to keeping the balance of power.

    On an operational note, I’m disturbed by the constant cry of “UAVs! UAVs!” as a panacea for nearly everything. A UAV is a method to a accomplish a mission, not a mission in and of themselves. In some cases (e.g persisent ISR) pushing a mission to unmanned makes sense. In other cases (e.g. CAS) manned solutions are likely to remain the best solution, terms of both cost and effectivness, for some time.


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