Why have 3 services in the modern world? We should have a single military. Apart from the carriers, the navy should just be off the shelf ships with weapon systems & radar bolted on.
Blighty's top general - hotly tipped as the next head of the armed forces - has hinted strongly that the British defence industry can no longer expect to rely on sweetheart deals from the Ministry of Defence (MoD). He adds that modern warfare has now left the tank behind as surely as it has the horse. General Sir David …
Sixty-five thousand plus members of the Canadian Forces, as well tens of thousands of other Canadian citizens who are intimately familiar with the level of excellence, training and most importantly field-leading specialisation of the men and women who make up our military would beg to differ with you, sir.
Not only does Canada have a military, but they are both a unified service, and widely recognised by other professional soldiers as being among the, (if not the) best trained in their various fields.
We spank the Americans regularly at Naval war games. The PPCLI and Lord Strahcona’s Horse regiments are among the best Mechanised and Armoured companies in existence. Our special forces, (especially the JTF-2) are a group of terrifying bad-ass sorts I would put up against any opposition and be confident of their victory.
Any soldier who has had the honour of working with our fine fighting men and women will recognise that a unified service does not mean a loss of troop quality, training, nor specialisation.
As for those who’ve never served alongside members of militaries from other countries, there is no possible basis for comparison. Armchair military analysis and attempting to understand the lifestyle, motivation and overall world of military personnel is flat out completely impossible for anyone who wasn’t at the very least raised on a base.
It’s easy for a civilian to look at the military as a whole and say “we need more boats, or soldiers, or choppers.” Those aren’t military decisions, but rather the decisions of politicians and how they choose to allocate funds.
The quality, professionalism and specialisation of your troops has everything to do with the culture the military retains both in combat and in peacetime. That culture, and it’s implications for producing different class of military personnel ARE the thing civilians can’t understand. As much as I believe in external accountability, and that an outside view to any profession is a good thing…
…I have to maintain that you have to have served before you could truly pass judgement on whether a unified service is a detriment or not. Preferably have served along side the Canadian Forces, as they prove every single day that it can be done.
Not only does Canada have a military, but, like Britain, it also once had a innovative aircraft industry that produced ground breaking designs like the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow, however nowadays the Canadian air force files McDonnell-Douglas F-18s.
Britain‘s aerospace industry also produced the innovative (for its time) Saunders-Roe SR.177; however the project failed when Germany instead “decided” to buy Lockheed F-104s, helped by some ‘sales incentives’ from Lockheed.
Other examples come to mind, such as the advanced high performing TSR-2 that was controversially cancelled in favour of the General Dynamics F-111
I’m beginning to see a pattern….
More alarmingly, do you want military electronics supplied by the cheapest bidder who may be the enemy in the future? Did nobody watch Battlestar Galactica?
Gunner: Commander we’re been laser designated, bearing 062…
Tank Commander: Roger, enemy tank, bearing 062, moving left to right, ENGAGE!!!
Gunner: Sorry Sir, everything’s stopped worki..... hisssssss <transmission ends>
Why didn't you ask the good man what the next war might look like. Say, three different possible war scenarios, what the forces would look like, what gear you'd need.
Most peace time militaries spend endlessly preparing for the previous war. It's probably better to find a couple possible scenarios and prepare on a best-effort basis for all of them. I'd like to hear his views on that, too.
There was a chap on the radio yesterday saying exactly this. In fact he was arguing that we don't really need an armed forces at all. Maybe keep some special forces and suchlike, but he was asking why do we need a huge army, navy and air force? Who are we actually defending ourselves against with this stuff? A tank or an aircraft carrier is pretty useless against a suicide bomber! And a suicide bomber is much more likely to be an issue than being invaded by France, or even Russia or China. It's just not a realistic scenario and we are spending billions preparing for a conflict that will never be, largely to do nothing more than keep our domestic defence industry in work.
Once I analysed the situation, I found it quite difficult to argue against.
In the 1930's, people were saying exactly this. After the "war to end all wars" everybody "knew" there would never be another major war again. As a result, the Royal Navy was left with it's last major ships being relics that were outmatched in the first world war, the army was left with an obselete collection of junk and the RAF was still messing around with byplanes.
By the time it became clear that Nazi Germany actually wanted a fight, the navy and army ended up getting screwed to fund an airforce that gave the RAF a fighting chance against the Luftwaffe. The reason we won the battle of Britain was more due to Hitler's stupidity than our preparedness.
We ended up buying overpriced crap from the US, a lot of which ended up on the bottom of the ocean rather than in our hands. We eventually won the war, but the cost of american help (all of which was bought and paid for) bankrupted the empire and left Britain with debts that it took us 50 years to pay off.
We need tanks, aircraft etc. even if they are just sitting in air conditioned hangers as a classic "force in being" to prevent attacking us with tanks or aircraft worthwhile as an asymmetrical measure. We don't need local industries pumping out vastly overpriced and under-performing equipment we can buy from somewhere else for half the price.
All too true.
The UK forces in the 30's were as prepared as the French ones or most of Europe's, ie not at all.
German warfare equipemnt was way ahead. The reason the UK got a chance to fight was:
1) The army was able to leave Dunkirk (protected at high mortality cost by the French and Belgian forces).
2) The bit of water between the 2 pieces of land,
3) Hitler's will not to ruffle Roosevelt's feathers
Had the UK been connected to the continent, German forces would have had to pick between marching to London or to Paris, with equal ease. Probably both.
Like as now you mean. But we have not had a war as such.
The truth is that the army always want more men, the Navy more submarines and the RAF more spiffy jets to fly around in. It is more about bragging rights than getting the job done.
"We need tanks... ...to prevent attacking us with tanks"
Isn't it hard to attack an island with tanks? You have to transport them by ship, so surely anti-ship systems (aircraft and submarines) are the correct equipment for defence?
Tanks are only useful in supporting an invasion by land; modern air-ground systems (helicopters, fighter-bombers and armed drones) will utterly destroy tanks and other armoured vehicles. Read the article, the point about Gulf War 1 and the associated tank actions (i.e. Saddam's forces destroyed by air-power and our tanks just rolling in unopposed) show that tanks can't defend against anything.
That chap on the radio is apparently assuming the next war will be exactly like the current war. That gets the same objection from me as the one against preparing for the previous one. Besides, you can't very well fight suicide bombers with suicide bombers, or at least the security forces can't. The secret services are another matter. What they're doing over there is protecting the large juicy target called "the populace" against asymmetric warfare, which if you're not the guerillas, takes quite a large force, and even then is tricky because they're using your strengths against you. Though perhaps it doesn't take tanks or even sophisticated rocketry very much, indubitably to the disappointment of the Americans, who by the way make up the bulk of the forces fighting over there. As they should because they basically started it, perhaps not very wisely. But I digress.
One reason the military costs a lot (next to all the other reasons, some of which are in desperate need of fixing) is that they have to ``maintain capability'', and choosing which capabilities to maintain is by very nature a speculative business, especially if you can't afford to just buy the entire shop. Preparing for the last war is, of course, locking the barndoor for a bolted horse, but easily explainable (there's terrists in them thar towers!) and therefore politically much more palatable than hard to understand military tea leave gazing. It's not all the politicians' fault; the military brass often tends to the same for perhaps different reasons. The effect is the same though: Maximum chance of getting caught red-faced in the next war, very expensively. Doing nothing would have much the same effect and be cheaper to boot, but won't get you any brownie points for trying. Thing is, you don't spend on your military for them to fail.
Now, I'm not a military strategist, but from someone shortlisted for the top spot I'd expect at least moderate vision, analysis, and educated guessing ability. So that's why I'd like to hear from the fellow. Before explaining what he'd do, he might explain what he's defending against.
>As they should because they basically started it, perhaps not very wisely.
The US made a very conscious decision to fight this war abroad, and to maintain a state of low-intensity warfare in central Asia, among other places on this planet. This is a continuation of a policy started after WWII.
War abroad means (some) peace at home, huge money for armament industry insiders, but much more importantly a reason to be permanently deployed all over this planet. Destabilising other countries also adds to the domination. All good stuff! Kyrgyzstan is next.
This was the inter-war argument that Churchill was opposed to (and he was proved correct).
Irrespective of our views and opinions about the likelihood of war, the old adage keeps proving to be true: 'The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.' As in 1939, we ignore it at our peril.
Simply, our security depends on this very large military overhead and all the connotations that go with it whether we like it or not.
If we are intending to fight another war (and some would say we are in another type of war already) we need to know what force configurations might be appropriate. At one time English Bowmen ruled battle fields, then came the musket, followed by ships with cannons and marines, then Tanks then planes, then nuclear weapons and 'Smart' bombs. Spying and Information technology has been a continuing element. A clever General once said something along the the lines of "a battle is only fought after it has been won". Will 3 separate, and in some ways competitive armed forces, give us a better chance of wining the battle? Why isn't GCHQ part of the MoD if it's purpose is to help avoid the fighting of internal and external wars?
So, which of these is it that raises matters above the vulgar brawl level? I thought it was artillery (blame Civilisation 4!) and Google supports this (214k hits for 'artillery "what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl"' vs 22k for 'cavalry "what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl"'. Does anyone happen to know the real story?
The fact that incorrect statements on google outnumber the correct ones shouldn't come as a surprise (if it does, I've a nasty shock for you about Wikipedia). You may want to check a bit on the type of sources --- like amount of detail about the alleged punch cartoon etc, not just the (alleged) verbatim phrase (with a word replaced or not).
Simply think about cavalry, and their history, then compare to artillery --- it was rich knights running around on their own horses, and later running around with horses was still a more aristocratic pursuit than any other. At no point the aristocracy started buying huge cannons and play around with them on the battlefield. Gallantry etc can easily be associated with a charging horse brigade, but impossible for the workman-like loading & firing from a distance of a gross object, where your victim has no chance to get back at you.
If you actually look for it (google "cartoon punch brawl cavalry tone") you immediately find Roman Jarymowycz "CAVALRY from hoof to track --- war, technology, and history": << The british cavalry was very much the embodiment of the clever cartoon that appeared in Punch circa 1892; a young monocled /cavalwy/ officer lounging with gin and tonic is accosted by a Gilbert and Sullivan major general: "Mr. De Bridoon, what is the general use of Cavalry in modern warfare?", the classic reply "Well I suppose to give Tone to what would otherwise be a Vulgar Brawl!" >> The seriousness, plus detail, plus source given ("14. Reginald Cleaver, "Military Education", in Punch, or the London Charivari (10 dec 1892)") should convince you.
Fourth step if you still don't believe, download the raw page scans free from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20759 (it's page 274) and see for yourself. Unless somebody there changed the text, and changed an artillery officer into a cavalry one --- if you choose to believe that it's the end of the line I guess, unless you spend money in at an antiquarian's for an original copy.
"He adds that modern warfare has now left the tank behind as surely as it has the horse."
I lol'd at that. What are all those UK and US special forces doing riding round on... err... horses in Afghanistan then?
I would be a bit wary of basing our *future* army on what's going on now as well. The reason we were ill equipped for Afghanistan was because we didn't anticipate the kind of fighting we're involved in now 20 years ago. We did the same thing before the Korean war. And before WWII, and WWI.
Unless we come up with abundant, reliable, renewable energy sources in the near future then "The Next Big Thing" is very likely to be when Russia and China start turning the screws. You really want to go up against them - even in a cold war - with a bunch of foot soldiers, unmanned aircraft and no heavy armour?
Quite. I've seen the tank's imminent death predicted for as long and as frequently as I've seen Unix described as obsolete and on its way out. I've no doubt people have their reasons for believing it, but it's not going to happen - or if it does, they'll find out the hard way that it still had a job to do, if not today then tomorrow.
other types of AFV (Armoured Fighting Vehicles). I don't believe we have any MBTs in Afghanistan.
When the term 'Tank' is used in the context of defence reviews, it means "Main Battle Tank" like the Challenger 2. This is what they are referring to when they talk about the Tank division.
Other tank-like (to the uninformed) vehicles ate things like the Scimitar, which is an Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle or the Saracen, which is an Armoured Personnel Carrier, or the Warrior which is an Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Someone has written a useful page describing them all on Wikipedia.
You may regard this as pedantic, but to the soldier in the field and the command structure, it makes a huge difference.
In fact, once we start getting flooded from the effects of climate change, we won't be going to war to get oil, but to stop greedy bastards using it too quickly. So we would need to be able to attack places with lots of air-conditioning and gas-guzzling cars, like Florida or Midland, Texas. This is the environmental argument for a truly independent nuclear deterrent. It won't be Russia we need to defeat.
By the end of WW1, there wasn't a big difference between cavalry and mounted infantry. And the tank hadn't quite escaped the siege warfare of the Western Front. Armoured cars were the AFV of choice for mobile warfare.
A century later, a modern cavalry/mounted-infantry could be a viable armoured force, more a reconnaisance regiment than a tank regiment. Something more like the Armored Cavalry of the US Army, more flexible than an armoured division.
And there was a Guards Armoured Division during WW2, The tank units of the 5th Guards Armoured Brigade were all manned by infantry.
The problem with pretty much all defence suppliers is that the stuff they make is stupidly overpriced. No other industry gets away with taking a relatively simple piece of equipment, spending several years and millions (it's never thousands or even hundreds of thousands) of pounds to develop it and THEN charge the end user (the armed forces) stupid amounts of money to supply it. And then charging even more (and taking years) to fix the problems that should have been fixed in the first place! It simply could never happen in the "real" world to the extent that it does in the defence industry. And defence companies have got away with this for decades, mostly (traditionally) because of the old boy network, but in these more modern times, it's more likely to be simply because "that's the way it is".
The armed forces themselves don't help the situation - can someone explain why the RAF need twice as many (at least!) personnel to maintain and fly a helicopter than the army does? We're talking about the SAME helicopter in the SAME circumstances. The reason? Tradition! I kid you not. The RAF flies with two pilots (and won’t fly if two pilots are not available!). The army flies with one. Now pilots are not cheap to train, so you can work the rest out for yourself. The same goes for other personnel.
The armed forces have also traditionally been completely obsessed about obsolescence and "tried and trusted" technology. This is why they have kit which is effectively based on technology that is 10 or 20 years old. This costs (often significantly) more than something based on newer cheaper technology would be. They could buy twice as much of the new technology for half the price, and have half of it sitting on a shelf if they were that worried about spares, and STILL be quids in.
And the MoD procurement itself operates at a pace that makes plate tectonics seem like a speeding train. And the people in the MoD and the armed forces who make procurement decisions (and lets not forget the onerous contracts that they seem to land themselves with) are largely, quite frankly, not competent to do so, and have their heads stuck in the 1970s somewhere. And this whole shower is fed by an industry that knows this and is happy to suck whatever money it can from them, and ultimately, us the taxpayer.
"The armed forces have also traditionally been completely obsessed about obsolescence and "tried and trusted" technology. This is why they have kit which is effectively based on technology that is 10 or 20 years old. This costs (often significantly) more than something based on newer cheaper technology would be."
Sometimes change is not for the better but for change's sake. Let me illustrate different approaches to the deployment of military equipment with a few examples:
1. The Lee-Enfield rifle was first introduced before the Boer War in 1895 and lasted in service for about 70 years, even now some are still in use 115 years later. Many of these rifles have seen three major conflicts WWI, WWII and Korea and were still in serviceable order thereafter. I was issued one in the 1960s which was date stamped 1914; although then nearly 50 years old and having been through two, possibly three, major conflicts when I was issued it, it was still in perfect working order. The Enfield was truly 'tried and trusted' in the military sense.
The Enfield was eventually obsoleted not through it having ceased work or because it was outclassed by another single-shot rifle but because it was outgunned by a different class of weapon altogether, the self-loading automatics, FN/FAL, SA80/L85, M16, AK-47 etc. Phasing out the Enfield was a slow and considered process which may have been much more expensive had the process been rushed.
2. However, the military doesn't always get it right. Only a week or so ago an article appeared in USA Today under the heading 'Sand drives Army to ditch Velcro on pants'*. Desert sand is clogging up the Velcro and it's not adhering as it should so there's a plan to return to good old buttons. Here's the problem straight from the horse's mouth:
"Get rid of the pocket flap Velcro and give us back our buttons," Hatten wrote. "Buttons are silent, easy to replace in the field, work just fine in the mud, do not clog up with dirt and do not fray and disintegrate with repeated laundering."
Beautifully summed up in a nutshell. Being anti Velcro on clothes, that's music to my ears. My biases aside, how the fuck did such a stuff-up ever occur in the first place? You don't have to be Einstein to know that buttons are much better than Velcro in most circumstances--even the average male who avoids the domestic washing machine like the plague knows that lint and all sorts of junk accumulates on those little hooks and renders the Velcro useless in pretty short order. Thus, you’d reckon that even the most stupid bureaucrat could mentally extrapolate that Velcro would be nigh on useless on a sand swept desert battlefield, even before any testing had commenced.
There are similar problems with zippers. Whilst not as bad as Velcro, zippers come close. The damned things are forever jamming up or failing on me and I'm in civvy street so why would anyone risk them in the harsh environment of a battlefield? You'd think that rigorous military testing programs would have quickly eliminated them from military uniforms. I can only assume that soldiers who upon relieving themselves wanted the quick closure that zippers offer so, irrespective of serviceability issues, the military switched to them to placate whingers. Anyone have a better idea?
Sure, this is a trite example of where the military updated too fast and or failed to adequately research the matter. Nevertheless, the outcome is the same no matter the scale: leave well enough alone unless there is a truly compelling reason to change it, otherwise it will be expensive and may fail in operation.
3. State of the art electronics, military guidance systems, avionics, communications systems and encryption etc. are different. These systems are often cutting-edge technology and are usually implemented early--often whilst still in the prototype stage--to keep ahead of the enemy.
Advanced weaponry is an expensive and risky business where things can and do go wrong. Failures can be expensive but if they're of high strategic importance then money is no object. The Manhattan Project and the development and deployment of nuclear submarines by both the US and USSR during the Cold War are but good examples. Both sides suffered tragic losses when submarines failed during non-combat operations, Thresher, Scorpion, K-8 and Komsomolets for instance.
The failure of comparatively so many nuclear submarines under non-combat conditions clearly illustrates the risky nature of cutting edge military technology. It seems it's the nature of such projects irrespective of budget.
These are two other industries that, all too often, serve up badly re-heated solutions to non-problems.
I'm not a squaddie but I know some. BOWMAN - the 'New' radio system for the Army actually stands for "Better of with Nokia and a map". The first SA80 was appalling. Amongst the last things a soldier needs is a weapon that is 90% reliable when you're firing at an enemy. It may choose that moment to let you down!
If MoD designer and commissioners actually had to serve in the field with the shit they create they might be a little more sensitive, aware and speedy in creating suitable tools and resolving issues.
@Anonymous coward We already do arm India to an extent, when we're competitive. India is quite likely to buy the Eurofighter - there isn't much other kit that we could offer them that they would be interested in!
@Yet Another Anonymous coward
Why would we be going to war in Asia against India or China? Its us that tend to be the aggressors in the modern world. If we decided to attack countries like India or China, then we would deserve to be annihilated.
We don't need our massive armed forces. Merge the AIr Force with the Army Air Corps, and massively cut the size of our forces, so that they're actually for defence rather than "expeditionary warfare".
Some of what he said makes sense, the British arms industry has gotten so used to being able to demand obscene prices for sub par goods, delivered over cost, and over schedule, (how late is Nimrod now?). So some Thatcherite free market competition is not a bad thing in that respect.
However, the position w don't want to be in, is as a previous commenter has advised, being reliant on Russia or China when they decide to turn the screws.
For example, the new Multi$cam copy uniform being issued to British troops in Afghan now is made in China, simply as they can supply on time, to the right quality, and to the right price.
Just so long as we don't go as far as buying the Type 97 to replace the L85a2...
One of the reasons we buy British, which we all forget so quickly, is that the US is not guaranteed to provide us with what we need, especially when it comes to software. A large component of many modern systems is actually computer code, and lots of it in really complex systems like Eurofighter. Challlenger 2 has lots of smart gubbins like ballistic computers and passive night vision scopes and a laser rangefinder, all of which needs to be integrated to work together to allow it to see and accurately shoot in the dark, through smoke or rain. It's not like they just buy several hundred iPhones and download a ballistic program off the app store, because there actually isn't an iPhone app for everything. And when the Septics say we can't see the source code, we end up with bodge jobs like the farce with the special forces Chinooks.
And we need to see the source code because we don't trust the Yanks not to put a kill command in there, so they can switch our kit off if they ever disagree with us politically. Or if they leave a backdoor in there so they can access our kit without us knowing. Of course, either then presents the risk that an enemy could learn how to exploit a backdoor or kill switch and leave us with very expensive junk. Of course, the Yanks aren't too keen on us learning all their code secrets either. So, buying cheap is only a good option if we get full access to code and full control, and that will probably mean building in Britain (or as part of expensive European ventures) still.
So, if we have doubts and trust issues with the Septics, do you really think we're going to have any faith at all in software crafted in Russia? Any arms company buying a factory in Russia and employing local staff would have to spend massively on screening staff and counter-intel if it even wanted to get on the short-list for consideration for supplying the UK, and then run the risk that the Russians would simply decided to nationalise the factory at any point if they don't bribe the right bod at the Kremlin. And then they'd have the problem of getting the Soviet desings up to Western standards - not easy. It would make our UK arms indusrty look cheap.
> lol'd at that. What are all those UK and US special forces doing riding round on... err... horses in Afghanistan then?
Jeeps, armoured personnel carriers etc - although horses would probably be better.
But not 70-80ton main battle tanks that are too large to airfreight into a landlocked mountainous countries with no autobahns to drive your tank transporters on
>You really want to go up against them - even in a cold war - with a bunch of foot soldiers, >unmanned aircraft and no heavy armour?
You want to fight a land war in asia with only a division strength army?
Perhaps BAe should develop a powerful aphrodisiac to allow us to get the UK's population upto to the sort of size we would need to conscript an army to fight India/China on the ground?
MoD is the problem and always has been.
As anyone who has ever designed kit for the MoD knows, it takes perhaps 10% of the time and less of the budget to design anything. The remaining 90% is paperwork. Endless bloody paperwork.
Eg - C3I system for a 1990s-era destroyer took less than 6 months to design - and design-prove. It took longer than that (and cost nearly as much) to win the bloody contract, never mind build it - suffice it to say that EOL components became a significant factor before the first system was even installed.
The UK "Defence" industry is a complete pile of shit now - and has been for decades really. The ongoing reason for it being a pile of shit is the MoD. The reason for that is simple - jobsworths. Nearly 100,000 of the useless fuckers, all trying to justify their existance with more paperwork.
Making weapons/support systems that work is pretty simple. Making weapons/support systems that work effectively for the UK forces is bloody impossible because from tender to delivery is measured in DECADES and is controlled by morons.
So what do you all reckon, UK engineers (the poor sods that are left) are that bad? Or could it perhaps be that England treats engineering like some sort of dirty subject. Far better to listen to the "chaps" eh?
You get what you deserve and when the mismanagement is endemic from the highest levels of govt then what the fuck do you expect?
and then got the feeling that it was written by Lewis, the clue is the hyper critical bent towards the UK defence industry and the gushing nature with which he speaks about the US defence industry.
All defence contractors are in the business of pumping as much cash out of their respective clients (governments) as possible to think that our public coffers would be better served buying different equipment from a foreign power is as ridiculous as it is naive.
I am by no means defending the British procurement process, it sucks and we do tend to get ripped off, but the US have had their fair share of procurement cock ups. Including the Space Shuttle so please try some balance.
In the US, it's the US government that pays the extortionate rates their beltway bandits charge for overpriced bodges. Others buying a ``tried and tested'', mass produced, and therefore lots cheaper product. Thing is, almost everyone else is on a much tighter budget. So if you're going to have to shop, do get their second rate stuff, as it'll outperform the third rate stuff you'd produce yourself, and you'll pay less.
The secret is in the sauce: You don't actually need American Brand First Rate stuff to win. The Americans, too, have their blamages and cockups, just look at their frantic efforts to armour their supply lorries or even their personnel.
If you look at the gulf war, some of the Iraqis held out surprisingly long despite all the coalition forces could throw at them. So why was the war won so easily? Well, that one's still being debated. Morale? Better gear?
I like the argument saying ``not either, but both together'' best. It shows where the cracks in the Fair First World's armour are. We need to know our own faults to defend against people exploiting them. Which is the core business of the people waging asymmetrical warfare. And that's the scary brown people over there going ``boo'' in grainy videos causing entire war campaigns. This is the argument I'm talking about:
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