Tackling Britain’s 20% Defence Cut
“Cleaning house” this weekend, with a few posts I couldn’t fit in elsewhere. Enjoy!
The Scotsman newspaper seems to consider a 20% cut in UK military spending a likelihood, despite campaign promises to the contrary and whoever gets elected. Specifically here is the prediction according to the editorial staff:
A radical proposition to merge the three forces looks unlikely to succeed, but cuts in troop numbers by 30,000 to 142,000 over four years are being seriously mooted, as is folding the Royal Marines into the depleted Army, while the Tories are already flirting with the idea of bringing the 25,000 troops based in Germany back to Britain. Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron have said that they will update Trident and go ahead with two 64,000-tonne aircraft carriers at a cost of £4 billion, but the carriers in particular will still be hotly contested. So too will the £16bn project to buy a new generation of armoured vehicles, as will the pan-European A400M military transporter aircraft, the Typhoon and Joint Strike fighters. All but a couple of dozen of the Army’s 345 Challenger Two tanks could be mothballed, as could the AS90 artillery gun and Multiple-Launch Rocket System, a sophisticated weapon that is not useful in a counter-insurgency. The Army, which has borne the brunt of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, has privately lobbied for the aircraft-carriers project to be scrapped on the basis that it is a hangover from the Cold War, but a projection of power has long been a central tenet of the government’s defence policy. The Green Paper published almost two months ago as a precursor to the SDR suggested that both Trident and the carriers would go ahead, that the armed forces could play a greater role in combating domestic terrorism, and that ever greater military co-operation with allies such as France and the US would be crucial. The next government will also be constrained by contracts that can’t be altered. One area which will receive extra money, says former SAS commander and counter-insurgency expert Clive Fairweather, is Britain’s special forces, which have been particularly active in Iraq and Afghanistan and which are recognized worldwide as the best in existence.
Also the paper doubts the viability of the Trident replacement, and with reductions in funding this substantial, I’d have to agree with them. Naturally New Wars is against massive increases in defense spending for any nation until military procurement practices get with the times. I have made no secret what a shocking burden I think the Royal Navy has placed on the budget as a whole by building 2 last-century supercarriers. Their usefulness in regions of only benign threats has sadly distracted the admirals from what is important in warfare, a large fleet geared to tackle many threats, and they seem further out of place when compared to the abilities of the thread-bare pirates of Somalia currently running rings around the world’s great navies in speedboats and converted freighters. The logic of placing so many eggs in a few vulnerable baskets when China is deploying numerous carrier-killing missiles in a variety of platforms, should be questioned and often. But as we always insist it is cost that will be the ultimate end of large deck carrier airpower, and will certainly prove the case if cuts happen of this magnitude.
- RAF-Keep only about 125 of the extremely capable Eurofighter Typhoons. Back these up with many close support planes, about 300 such as the Super Tucano plus UAVs as these are available. Replace Nimrod with long-range UAV’s such as Global Hawk. Perhaps some 100 C-130 Hercules could be afforded in place of the very costly C-17s?
- Royal Navy–Capital vessels:
6 Darings destroyers
8 Astute submarines
2 Ocean class amphibious ships
12 guided missile corvettes
38 offshore patrol vessels
50 fast attack craft
25 RFA Motherships (Wave class?)
17 med. range conventional subs
- Army-Concerning structure, the Army strength of 150,ooo should be maintained at the expense of everything else and if possible increased to 200,000. Some savings could be found in decreasing Cold War style equipment such as Challenger tanks, Warrior armored vehicles, Apache helos, perhaps sending them to the Reserves (?). RAF attack planes might replace the attack helos in the close support role. Think the restructuring of the regiments should be scrapped, and traditional names restored, but their equipment changed as required. Concerning equipment and tactics, think less “heavy or light” and instead mostly medium for Hybrid War.
More-Think Defence also posts “FDR – Wish Lists“, on this same subject. Interesting proposals!