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Outstanding Quote

March 12, 2010

The following likely sums up everything I do here at New Wars. Why the Navy shrinks, according to British former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Guthrie at the BBC:

“…We can’t just go for things which are nice to have. We actually need a larger fleet. But one way you won’t get a large fleet is if you have aircraft carriers. What we need are smaller, faster ships, ships to keep the sea lanes open.”

It’s what I’ve been saying all along. Large carriers are nice to have, if you can afford them, but even the USA is having trouble deploying the world’s largest, most expensive warships meant for fighting big wars in an era of many small asymmetrical threats. India, Russia, Britain, and as far as we know, China are all struggling to deploy Big Decks, whose sole purpose seems to be last century status symbols.

Again, you have the Army calling for a larger Navy, for the sister service to keep the oceans clear so the troops can do their job on land. That is just astounding when you don’t hear the same coming from the Navy, who instead ask for fewer exquisite ships designed to keep the fleet smaller, stretched, and over-deployed.

The bottom line has come down to, do you want a navy to protect the sea from current threats and large enough to handle the uncertain future? Or do you want aircraft carriers to fight last century battles, but which might have the seas closed to them for lack of small warships?

Hear the interview for yourself at the link.

Lord Guthrie’s Speech at the Centre for Policy Studies. (pdf)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Jed permalink
    March 15, 2010 9:59 am

    x: “And spend more time digging holes than shooting rifles!!!! :)”

    Well in Af-stan a properly dug hole can literally be a life saver !

    In my last exercise before leaving the TA (and emigrating) on a UK exercise area, we got told off for digging a hole, apparently the farmers who are allowed to use said area for grazing would complain when sheep fell into holes which were not properly back filled………

    We never had such problems at Portland when the ‘green foulie brigade’ (the staff of Flag Officer Sea Training) would go all out for gritty realism during exercises, lack tossing CS grenades onto the bridge in atrocious weather – watching someone vomit in their gas mask is both hilarious and deeply disturbing at the same time :-)

    To be honest someone should remind Lord Guthrie that for most of its existence the British Army has been a weapon to pointed and fired by the Royal Navy (and retrieved too, if all went well).

  2. March 13, 2010 4:31 pm

    Guthrie has been getting up NuLabour’s nose just lately. In one sense he is right; 120,000 tons of shipping equals a lot of escorts (if lean manned.)

    But the other way to look at it is to view the aircraft as force multiplier protecting simpler ships (STUFT, naval ships without AAW capability, etc) by controling a vast swathe of ocean.

    Gutherie is a soldier. They can’t get very far without help. And spend more time digging holes than shooting rifles!!!! :)

  3. James Daly permalink
    March 12, 2010 8:29 pm

    I think Guthrie’s comments fit into a theme that we will hear a lot more from admirals/generals/air marshals in the next few months. They’re all going to be fighting their own corner, and trying to stitch each other up. I’m not convinced that the squabbling is the best way to build policy. The sad thing is there are grains of truth in what most of these top brass say, and we shouldnt be in a position where we have to contemplate such big sacrifices. As Jed has pointed out on my blog – and yes, it has shaped my opinion – the UK Govt went for expditionary warfare in the 1998 Review, but hasnt funded it properly, and issues such as the Carriers and Eurofighter are a hangover from then. Unless theres some kind of consensus about what exactly we want our forces to do and it is stuck to this time, then things will stay messy.

  4. Chuck Hill permalink
    March 12, 2010 4:02 pm

    The call for “smaller, faster ships, ships to keep the sea lanes open” is a red flag. The ships he is talking about don’t need to be fast (unless he is talking about LCS). For the foreseeable future, the sea lanes will be open for a CV, maybe not for a sloop.

  5. Jed permalink
    March 12, 2010 3:21 pm

    Its not up to Lord Guthrie though is it ? If the government wants to do expeditionary warfare there is a reason to build carriers, as per the last Strategic Defence Review.

    If the Governement wants the RN to be a souped-up Coast Guard chasing pirates around the world as per the 15th to 18th centuries, then the Governments strategy must be review and published accordingly.

    Either way the Government must fund appropriately as per its published strategy – and this is the sad part, that is just not going to happen whatever the strategy is. Lord Guthrie knows that, he knows that calling for a larger fleet makes him seem to be taking a sensible balanced approach, but he damn well knows that if the carriers are canceled the money will NOT be channeled into a larger fleet of destroyers and frigates.

    He is just being disingenuous :-(


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