back to article MoD does everything right for once in Xmas shocker

It doesn't happen often, but just for once there's good news out of the Ministry of Defence - good news for British troops in combat overseas, and good news for British taxpayers too. But it's bad news for the UK arms biz, and bad news for certain regional communities who rely on the MoD to bring them government money they …


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  1. Graeme 5
    Thumb Up

    No Nimrod = vulnrable sub based nukes

    Long ranged maratime patrol is vital to the UK's Trident sub fleet, we need to know where other Subs are esp as they leave/enter Faslane, there's not that many ways in or out Merlin alone just doesn't cut it

    its also vital to Search and rescue operations, bollox bob's plan is to use c130's, not like their busy or anything

    Agree about the chinooks though (RAF never wanted Merlin HC3 in the first place) romour is Wildcat was agreed to mainly to keep westlands busy

    Whats really stupid though is moving Harrier down the road at vast expense only to chop it a few years later it should have been chopped now, it won't be deployed again its only being kept to keep the carriers busy

    overall a thumbs up

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @No Nimrod = vulnrable sub based nukes

      What, just in case those cheeky russkies change their mind and attack us after all?

      So, we can guard our un-used nuc deterrents with man-killing nimrods, or spend the money on helping the boys and girls in today's combat scenarios. I know how I want my tax defense £s spent....

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Long range maritime patrol may well be "vital to the UK's Trident sub fleet", but the Cold War has been over for twenty years and the continued necessity for Trident is questionable. The necessity for forking out several billion extra to upgrade the thing, I believe because the current subs don't have a connection for the admiral's iPod, is even more questionable.

      1. PirateSlayer

        Good plan!

        You're all right. Since the threat of the Cold War has gone away, we need to put all of our guns and nukes in the bin and arm our soldiers with flowers. Forward thinking and planning at its best!

  2. Isendel Steel
    Black Helicopters

    They'll still have to wait...

    2 years to take not much help now (jam tomorrow)

    1. Peter 6

      For "off the shelf American kit"...

      ...its going to take an awful long time for it to arrive.

      Also, was Lewis aware that one of the reasons why the Apache took such a long time to arrive was also down to painfully slow training of pilots? To the point that Westland had built most of the Apaches (damn them! *shakes fist*) only for them to sit around in storage because there was no pilots to fly them and so on?

      Don't let slow training schedules get in the way of promoting the equally blood sucking parasites that is the US Defence industry, eh Lewis?

  3. Nigel Callaghan
    Thumb Down

    Right-ish, but years too late.

    But the first batch won't be delivered until 2013 - and British forces are due to start pulling out in 2010 or 2011, so how many troops will still be there when the first Chinooks arrive. And the rest won't arrive for years after that - so how exactly will this improve the situation in Helmand over the next couple of years? Why do I think of stable doors and bolting horses in this context?

    And let's face it - the elephant in the room of defence spending is a certain WMD called Trident - axe that and every squadie in Helmand can have his own private Chinook (with en-suite bathroom and gold taps)!

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Graeme 5

      Chinook vs Merlin

      "The Merlin can take a good few direct hits, but the chinook is about as durable as a paper plane in comparison."

      that quite frankly is rubbish chinook has taken and continues to take plenty of hits

      yes 2 were shot down recently but

      1. they kept going for long enough to ensure no-one got hurt

      2. chinook has been shot at and hit plenty of times

      Next time you meet a soldier back from afghanistan buy him/her a pint and ask what their favorite helicopter is

      you'll only get one reply and it won't be made in yeovil

    2. SkippyBing

      Component cost

      To get the component cost of the Merlin down to that of the Chinook we'd need to order about 700 of the them. It's all very well saying it keeps money in the UK, but then so would have buying Rover cars and not many people seemed to like that idea.

      Not sure about the Merlin being able to take direct hits, having a lot of composites in it's construction there are all kinds of problems with it even getting knocked about by Squaddies getting on and off. There was even talk of it needing extra armour before it could deploy to Afghanistan due to the higher threat level there. The Chinook on the other hand is mostly made of metal enabling repairs to be carried out with a hammer, plus with its extra lift capability it can carry bolt on armour which the Merlin would have snags with somewhere as hot and high as we're currently operating.

      By the by, don't confuse the military Chinook with the civilian one, that had a particularly weak gearbox that wasn't really up to the job, the military one on the other hand can take the strain of someone trying to take off without remembering to untie it from the aircraft carrier.

  5. Bassey

    Sounds good

    One question. If Kinloss is effectively closed, where will the UK's only northerly Air/Sea rescue capability move to? My understanding is that the whole of the UK is currently covered by Kinloss, Anglesey and another in East Anglia (can't remember the name). I understand these are being put out to PPP to allow them to retire the Sea King. Where will the Kinloss station move to? It currently covers a huge area (including the North Sea gas fields). This service is already hugely stretched and is one of the few services offered by the armed forces to get regular "live" activity.

    1. SkippyBing

      More than three

      The RN operates SAR from Prestwick (Scotland) and Culdrose (Cornwall) with the Coast Guard providing Stornoway, Portland and Portsmouth off the top of my head. The RAF also have Chivenor and probably another one I've forgotten of.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    I like to think...

    ...Lewis is currently skipping round, swinging his arms in glee whistling Jingle Bells. Ahhhh, bless!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nimrod or MoD?

    Today's parliament announcement makes it clear that it was shoddy MoD cost cutting that caused the loss of life on the Nimrod crash in Afghanistan. The operational shortcomings of Nimrod may be as described, but that doesn't mean any other aircraft would not have been subject to the same neglectful management.

    Pity about the Tornadoes - they are lovely to look at.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'd replace them all with Lightnings (English Electric that is).

  8. blackworx
    Dead Vulture

    Scots Wha Hae

    Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't Trident only up in Scotland for convenience and to keep a big fat and dangerous target out of harm's way in a safely controllable zone away from major population centres? Whether that's true or not (but especially if it is) as far as I'm concerned if Scotland ever does become independent then the English will be more than welcome to take it back.

    I'm no chip-on-the-shoulder Scottish Nationalist, quite frankly I couldn't give a toss whether we're in the union or not, Scotland and indeed the rest of the UK has far far bigger problems (mostly of the social kind) than some jingoistic loudmouths on both sides of the border would have us believe.

    Besides, if you're going to get into the whole pointless "what Scotland puts in vs what it gets out" argument, perhaps you might want to consider the frankly immense tradition of service put in to the british armed forces by Scots over the centuries. I know you didn't bring the subject up, but next time Lewis just ignore the SNP twats and stick to what you do best.

    Other than that, great article, and like you it gives me a warm glow to hear that the blood-sucking arms biz and their DSC mouthpiece are spitting teeth.

    Finally, to the inevitable army of brainless gloating Jock-bashing commentards: shut up, you're embarrassing yourself.

    1. Gaius

      Thrifty with your courage too eh,

      Groundskeeper Willie?

      1. blackworx

        Thriftiness next to Englishness?

        Gaius, surely you're not resorting to false national stereotypes to try and score a point?

  9. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

    Oh so very predictable

    You hardly need to read Lewis Page's posts anymore. They can be summed up simply: if its is British and designed for British requirements then it is rubbish. If it is American then it is all-designing, all dancing and to be applauded.

    It doesn't matter that British requirements usually differ significantly from US ones. British equipment needs to be vastly more flexible since there are not the resources for a dazzling array of one-trick ponies. This matters not to Page. Nor does the fact that much modern US kit has significant deficiencies - try finding a next-generation US fighter with a decent weapons laod for instance.

    If page is incapable of writing remotely balanced articles isn't it time to find someone else who can?

    1. SkippyBing

      If only it was more flexible

      'British equipment needs to be vastly more flexible since there are not the resources for a dazzling array of one-trick ponies.'

      Yes but generally it isn't vastly more flexible as it ends up being too expensive and all the capability gets sacrificed and the numbers cut. E.g. 6 Type 45 destroyers armed with one big and two small guns, vs the 12 originally required for the price you could have got a dockyard's worth of Arleigh Burkes, with more firepower than you can shake a big stick at. Sure the radar isn't as good but I'd rather be able to shoot at something a bit later than see it coming for miles and be able to do bugger all about it.

      Next Gen US Fighter with a decent weapons load? F/A-18E/F? Ok not next-next gen, but certainly more advanced in many ways than Typhoon (AESA radar for starters) and it's being operationally employed in Afghan now. The F-35 will also be able to carry a decent weapons load if you use the external stations and don't but the V/STOL version.

      Ultimately lots of cheap functional kit is what's needed, not a few bespoke uber capable items. Quantity has a quality of its own as they say.

    2. Trygve

      Oh really?

      "British equipment needs to be vastly more flexible since there are not the resources for a dazzling array of one-trick ponies."

      No, British equipment needs to be CHEAP since there are not the resources for anything other than a very basic set of kit for all three services. End Of. There isn't the money to develop anything fancy or to kit the armed forces out any better than the US National Guard.

      When will people get it through their heads that Britain doesn't have the budget to shop anywhere classier than Lidl? Every single attempt to come up with a Better British Alternative in the last 30 years or so has turned into an expensive gold-plated turd with less capability than whatever cut-price second-hand junk was on offer from the US or wherever else.

      Buy cheap simple guns that go BANG reliably.

      Buy cheap simple planes that fly reliably.

      Buy cheap simple ships with radars and weapons that work reliably.

      Pay people a bit better.

      Whenever theres any cash left over spend it on radios, night-vision gear and other bits and bobs to help use the cheap reliable kit more effectively.

      Then you might actually have some armed forces that aren't perpetually on the verge of complete disintegration.

    3. arkhangelsk

      Your view of LP is one thing...

      ... certainly there is much to complain about. I'll agree that British equipment SHOULD be vastly more flexible for indeed there is less for one trick ponies.

      But Type 45 vs Aegis?

      Tornado ADV vs F-15?

      SA80 vs M16?

      Type 23 vs say, a Perry?

      Whatever the advantages of the Brit version is, surely it ain't in flexibility!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure they are doing right

    I would prefer to see a militia in place than a poncey little military.

    Warrior caste is so marginalised in this nation, and used for such ridiculous things, by the corrupt Labour political masters, it's a shambles.

  11. Martin Usher

    I've got an even better cost-saving measure

    All the UK forces resign and sign up for the US army. Same mission, better kit, zero cost to the UK taxpayer.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Brit built kit

    I always liken the Brit built kit of recent to Rover: Yes, it's built here costing a fair whack, but no one buys it apart from Brits (and the older gents too).

    If we are SERIOUSLY going to look at building our own kit, it will HAVE to be marketable and cheap enough for other countries to buy too. That, coupled with expensive (Yes, we are bloody expensive) labourers and designers, basically rules us out.

    It does pain me that we are not able to build our own kit.. but then, just look at some of our organisations that are struggling: BA is being ground into the dirt by their own staff!


  13. Shaun Winfield
    Black Helicopters

    Merlin V Chinook

    If it's any help in the Merlin V Chinook debate my brother is a Air Engineer Tech' in the Commando Helicopter Force out in Afghan.

    He's on the Sea Kings at the moment, but they're not looking forward to having the Merlins due to all the composite materials. A lot of their time with the Sea Kings is spent patching up the bullet holes with sheet metal as they tend to attract a lot of small arms fire, won't be able to do that with the fancy pants composite skinned Merlins. Expect to see a hell of a lot of helicopters taken out of the field to have some expensive panel work done! That's got to push the running costs up a fair bit?

  14. Peter Hood
    Thumb Down


    You say the Tornado force in Iraq WI was subjected to "decimation"; I'd like to see some data please. So far I have found out that a total of 7 British aircraft of all types were downed in the first Iraq war, so this claim would appear to be misinformation. One of the major points about cuts to already substantially damaged defence defence forces is that we are now wading deep into Chamberlain territory. Cutting back forces (particularly airfields) at the critical level already reached will be hard to offset when we need them in the future, and war is inevitable. Defence is not like exotic food that can be cut back in hard times, it is an investment. Without proper investment in the most vital of core state functions a nation can fall. It only needs an unexpected war, and we are caught in a difficult situation. It will happen again, just not as any of us think that it will and we therefore need a wide spread of preparedness, or investment.

    1. Tim Hughes

      Re: Decimated

      What's the problem?

      "Decimate" means, amongst other things, "to lose/destroy 10% of something"

      "During the 1990 Gulf War, Tornado GR1s were amongst the first aircraft in action from 17 January 1991. During the war, the Tornado GR1 force flew 1,500 operational sorties divided almost equally between offensive counter air targets such as airfields and air defence sites, and interdiction targets such as bridges. The RAF deployed 48 x GR1 in the area during hostilities. A total of six GR1s was lost in action, five of which were involved in low-or medium- level attacks with 1,000 pound bombs and one that was flying a low-level JP233 mission."

      6 >= 10% of 48.

    2. James O'Shea
      Thumb Down

      worse, actually

      Yes, a total of 7 attack Tornadoes were lost... out of 46 deployed. Literal decimation would have been 4 or 5. IIRC, 3 of the loses were directly combat-related, two of the three on very low level anti-airfield attacks. 3 more were 'operational' losses... problems while going to or getting back from an attack. IIRC one was due to flying into an obstacle at very low level en route to a target, and one was lost on the way home as a result of battle damage sustained over the target. Depending on how you count it, that's 4 to 5 lost out of the 46 available due to the type of mission they flew right there: literal decimation. The last of the 7 was shot down by a US Army Patriot missile battery.

      IIRC 0 out of the 18 interceptor Tornadoes were lost. But then interceptors don't fly very low level very high speed attack missions.

      Also, IIRC, the loss rate incurred during the very low level strike missions was sufficient to convince the RAF that perhaps they shouldn't fly any more of those missions any more... However, this goes back to vaguely remembered articles in Flight International dating from the time of the Gulf War, so I may be mis-remembering. i kinda doubt it, though.

    3. Neil Stansbury


      Yep decimated they were, the Americans were stunned (and not in a good way) by what the Tornado pilots were expected and trying to do.

      Our losses were staggering and unsustainable and the reason they went for high altitude/precision guided/standoff weapons to deal with the Iraqi air defenses in the end.

  15. Throatwobbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    a title is required

    "You're missing the fact that if they're built here the money goes to British corporations and British workers who must pay income and corporation tax meaning we get a massive cut of the money back."

    Sorry - this is protectionist nonsense that would take us back to the 1970s. You'd never suggest that the government should only buy computers, defibrilators, or oil from the UK only, so why arms?

    The UK arms industry is already a massive subsidy junkie ( - the last thing that will do taxpayers and the military any favours will be to launch a deadbeat "Buy British" campaign. Local production does nothing (the UK would still be dependant on foreign suppliers) at great expense (see price differential mentioned in original article).

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The case for home-built armaments is important

    1) they provide employment and revenue

    2) retains a skill base in manufacturing (as opposed to "Financial services")

    3) the companies are beholden to our government and not another country's with its own agendas

    The revenue question alone should be considered in any question of purchase.

    If you spend, in the course of a purchase, £1 million on the labour force in this country the taxman should get around £250,000 back. If its pays the wages of a US or Israeli* arms company, then you see SFA.


    *What will they do if they do get peace in the region. They won't be testing the kit at home anymore and unlike us and the US they're not much into fighting wars in far off countries.


    I know Mr Page is a naval man but he comes across as having a particular antipathy for the RAF.

    1. arkhangelsk

      He ain't warm about the RN either

      Read his book.

      I'm generally very warm about home built armaments. Politics aside, I have every sympathy for Russia's continued attempt to maintain its armed industry, and feel like lynching every stupid institunik that point to problems and recommend giving up and just buying foreign weaponry. I also generously applaud successful home built armaments even if they use some American components, such as Gripen.

      Still, Page has a point that when you do not have a "complete" military-industrial complex (IMO only the US, Russia, China & maybe France qualifies) capable of producing the full range of weapons and support systems (leaving aside tech level for now), the advantage of being able to act independently is gone. A skill base, similarly, is nice, but unless it is "Full" the strategic value is ultimately limited.

      That doesn't make it completely useless, but the advantage must now be evaluated more economically, rather than as a goal in itself. Your example only is valid if the cost, capability and delay are similar, which is a tough combination for a indigenous industry. Even the cost might be tolerated, but if the capability is inferior or unrealiable and/or the delay is great, one must be ready to put down one's pride.

  17. Desk Jockey

    Political trafficking

    Aha, a rare but decent article from Lewis without too many holes. The last paragraph was particularly good.

    Sensible as these decisions are, there are some major things to think about with it. For starters, this is a decision that should have been made YEARS ago and it is now too late to be anything other than political spin. The Chinooks will take ages to enter service and Mr Ainsworth failed to mention anything about training the people to operate them. It is all very well doubling the Chinook fleet, but that is pointless if we don't have enough engineers or pilots to use them. It only takes a few months to build the damn thing, but it takes close to 4 years to have a decent pilot or enginner to keep the things flying.

    The other thing only some people realise is that this decision actually represents a significant strategic shift in the UK's defence outlook. In short, it means for the next few years our troops (and the RAF/Navy as part of that) will become peacekeepers and armed policemen and maybe disaster rescue workers, not soldiers in the traditional sense of the term. In other words, we are no longer capable of fighting wars because with the exception of Trident, our entire defence infrastructure is completely focussed on Afghanistan. You may say this is a good thing, that is a political question, but it is a hugely significant change. It is a good job Argentina are not in the mood to take the Falklands Islands because we are not in a position to defend them properly any more. It was close enough back then!

    Something to chew on...

  18. Reg Sim

    "SNP voters will get a taste of the independence they asked for - in the form of an airbase closure"

    Umm, I am an SNP voter, and I don't really understand what your trying to say?

    Am I supposed to say "yea, see how our recruitment rates are down, and lots of regiments have been merged to geather whilst on active duty, yea that will teach non-snp voters what the union give us!!".

    I am not sure I want the Reg to become a political bull pit, and for this you smell like a bit of a troll Lewis.

    I am sad to see the Harriers go, I have a fond place in my heart for them, but if there not needed away with them. Shame they never got developed.

    As for Tornados, o/ bye bye and not a tear I will shed. I remeber all the issues and costs over runs, and the rather good planes they replaced.

    As for the rest, so long as its what the armed forces want I have no problem with it. - and by that, what people on the ground want not what the percurment department think.

    There is I am sad to say some advantages Lewis failed to mention with regards to buying US equipment. We can slip the Yanks some Scotch, distracting them whilst we steal the parts we need to keep our ship flying as well as grabing the odd grenade and ammo.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ reg sim

      In the event of Scotland becoming itgs own independant country I am sure all Uk forces and bases would be withdrawn. Thats what lewis means.

      personally I would be sorry to see the union split. but to paraphrase the only thing that has united us is our hatred of the french :)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    title here

    The loss of UK aircraft in DS1 was due to the extreme hazard of the mission.

    plying at 60-100' down a runway dropping special cluster munitions. it is a credit to the quality of the aircraft and crew that more were not lost.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      It still might be better

      to take out runways in a different way.

      No discredit to the design of the aircraft or the skill of the pilots *GIVEN* the tactic chosen. It is the tactic itself which is the problem

      1. arkhangelsk

        To be fair

        It was a well-selected tactic, for another situation with different assumptions: Fighting against a more or less intact IADS that is assumed to not have low level capable SAMs. In that scenario, the risk of being closer to AAA and portable SAMs with limited kinematics and tiny warheads sounds like a great alternative than staying at medium altitude and being engaged by high-kinematics SAMs, PGM or not.

        The problem was when the IADS got peeled off, thus leaving the low level stuff as the only threat.... add that to how the Gulf War completely rewrote the West's sensibilities as to what are acceptable casualties...

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Stupid SNP

    I'm always amused to see the SNP bleat about defence cuts. They claim that an independent Scotland will save money through reduced defence spending but as soon as the government threatens to take away a pork-barrel project they start bleating. This is politically stupid as many Labour MPs have Scottish constituencies and a lot of projects in Scotland (e.g. the naval dockyards in Rosyth) are only there to keep Labour MPs in Westminster, so cutting defence spending will harm Labour and only benefit the SNP.

    From which you might deduce that the SNP is complaining loudly about something it knows it has no control over or influence on, defence being a matter for Westminster not the present Scottish Parliament. It was the same when Labour cut the size of the Scottish army and the SNP went wailing about tradition, even though most of the well-known Scottish regiments were originally formed to defend the English against the Scots, and the SNP aren't keen on Scottish soldiers fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. I can only assume the SNP wants an immense ceremonial army for tourists, or maybe to repress the population.

    On the other hand, per head of population Scotland contributes about twice as many people to the British armed forces as England does. So Scotland might be missed a little down south for purposes other than as a handy yet out-of-the-way nuclear weapons dump.

    1. blackworx
      Thumb Up


      "They claim that an independent Scotland will save money through reduced defence spending but as soon as the government threatens to take away a pork-barrel project they start bleating."

      You're talking about the party of Alex Salmond, never one to miss an opportunity to cry foul no matter what the truth of the matter or how much of a hypocrite it shows him to be, as long as he thinks it will get him votes. Not that he's alone in that pursuit - after all he's only a politician, albeit a particularly odious one. Perhaps if he hadn't been born with that unfortunate permanently smug-looking face he'd be a lot more effective?

  21. Arkasha

    The Tornado was a superb aircraft

    While I agree with most of what was said, I have to take umbrage with the comments on the Tornado.

    The RAF lost 8 fixed wing aircraft in the first Gulf war - mostly to anti-aircraft fire. Not surprising really since the most important role of the Tornado was to take out Iraqi air-fields to ensure air superiority.

    The Tornado was the only aircraft that could carry the JP233 ordnance capable of effectively taking out a runway in one pass.

    In the first 24 hours of the air operation the Tornado flew more missions on a pro rata basis than any other type of aircraft. And of course, bombing an airfield is inherently dangerous as they tend to be pretty well defended with anti-air.

    For a US-led bombing mission, 1 "bomber" would need 10 or more support aircraft to go with it at high altitude. The Tornado would go in at low level in pairs. If you've ever seen a Tornado do such a bombing run you'd know that they were overhead before you'd even hear them coming.

    All-in-all, I'd say that was a *highly* effective aircraft. In today's theatre of course, it's not that useful, but calling it ineffective is right off. The only time a Tornado crew entered the LeMay Trophy they wiped the floor with the Americans - but that may have been down to the superior RAF training of course

    1. blackworx
      Thumb Up

      Not once but twice

      "the only time a Tornado crew entered the LeMay Trophy they wiped the floor with the Americans"

      two years in a row apparently

  22. Anonymous Coward

    This is about affordable defense, not speculative 'investment'!

    Better, but could do a lot better!

    Quite frankly, we have no lawful place in Iraq or Afghanistan, it is purely to support the corrupt UN, US, Corporations, and black market drug dealers, at little or no obvious benefit to us; it is a gross waste of our scare resources, which would be better spent preparing properly for the coming resource and territory wars, and cutting government debt.

    Before anyone raises the terrorist card, the main reason terrorists are a threat here is because we let them, their agitators, and the parents of their future recruits, into this country in the first place, and continue to do so, even as 'Asylum seekers'. The government has even been negligent enough to fund radicals, including radical schools, both here and abroad. We already know that UK based Islamists are supporting and taking part in attacks on UK troops in Afghanistan; WTF, are we suicidal!?

    As for supporting UK manufacturers, yes but only if they provide value for money, including reclaimed tax. We can ill afford white elephants and an ill equipped UK military just to support UK arms manufacturers. UK, and EU, manufacturers and workers must face losing contracts and jobs, to other manufacturers offering better overall value for money, or they will never be forced to improve.

  23. PirateSlayer

    To quote

    "at the hands of quite feeble Iraqi point defences"

    To qutote a master:

    "They're still fucking guns and they still fire fucking bullets"

    1. SkippyBing

      Tactical genius

      Of course the problem with the Tornado's attack profile at the time was that all the Iraqis had to do was train their guns at 0 elevation, hold the trigger down and wait for an aircraft to fly through the trace.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Punching waaaaay above our weight

    I think that our politicians need to learn that we are not a large colonial power any more, and cannot draw on the resources of an empire to fund our part in armed conflicts.

    In terms of overall GDP and percentage spent on the military, compared to what we do in the World arena, I believe that we are seriously over-stretched. We do more than our European peers, and probably second only to America, but that doesn't mean that it is right.

    We may have highly dedicated and trained people in all the armed forces, which allows us to attempt the types of operations we are current engaged in with some degree of success, but we can't sustain these operations for any length of time before exhausting the dedication of the people at the sharp end, our financial resources, or the will of the UK population.

    The answer may be to retreat into our national borders, abrogate our international commitments and make the armed forces a national defense force, with some limited distance capability. This is one possible way we could balance cost vs. responsibility.

    The downside of this, of course, is that the Americans (and possibly the Chinese, should they choose to step up to the mark), become world-police force(s) (Yay, Team America). This is obviously not desirable, given the way the 'mercans choose to justify too themselves why they should ignore the opinions of the rest of the world.

    What is happening is that the world is moving into the next phase of disorder. After the colonial period, we had a post-colonial world where much of the governance from the colonial world persisted, and a lot of internal conflict was suppressed by the residual momentum of the system. The next phase was fledgling independent governments, who felt their way into the world arena slowly and quietly. We are now in the era of outspoken small countries of no influence, with governments that have shrugged of the trappings of the colonial powers (and much of their internal governance). They are often unaccountable to their people, leading to petty dictatorships (personal or institutional). This will lead to internal unrest in countries around the globe. Examples would be Zimbabwe, Indonesia, and to a certain extent Iran and Pakistan. There are others I could quote.

    It is NOT possible to impose western style democracy on these countries. Many of their populations don't understand it, and often prevailing local/tribal and religious beliefs do not allow for democracy. It's just foreign to them, and any enforcement by outside powers (as is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq) will just be seen by the people as occupation followed by instantiation of puppet governments. It will not stick, and will result in either repression or conflict.

    Saying that you can 'stabilize' a country to allow it to elect democratic governments just results in a sham government that will not be accepted by the people. Even if you are fortunate enough to get general acceptance, there will still be enough dissidents to re-start the conflict later once your stabilizing influence has left (just look at what is happening in Northern Ireland at the moment!)

    What's the answer to world peace then? I'm sorry, I'm as baffled as the rest of you. I'm constantly surprised that we have had 50 years of relative (and I am aware people will argue with me on this) stability.

    All I know is that I believe that the current attempts to civilize countries by force are more likely to polarize the world into opposing factions along petty divides (religious, ethnic or tribal probably, but natural resources may also be an influence). I proposing climbing into a hole, pulling a rock across the opening, and seeing how the world goes on without us.

    What I hope is that it doesn't kick off until after I am too senile for it to matter. I feel sorry for my kids and future grandchildren, though.

  25. No, I will not fix your computer

    Buy British...

    The UK pretty much makes nothing that is sold abroad and those things that are, are massively outnumbered by things bought in. Money which flows around the UK wll go round and round, money that goes abroad is gone for good.

    The UK is not self sufficient and this will get worse and worse as more things are bought from abroad, as we send more money abroad the pound will weaken (as we magic new money out of the air) making exports even harder, the only way to stop this is to invest locally, make things locally, this will be very painful in the short-term (25 years) but if the UK is going to have any longevity (and it's inhabitants want any decent level of employment) this has to happen.

    Ok, for the hard of thinking, here's a couple of analogies.....

    Your partner got two MP3 players for Christmas, you want one, you can either buy one from them for £100 or an identical one from the shop for £20, given you share a bank account which is the most cost effective solution?

    Would you prefer to pay an offspring £10 pocket money to wash your car or use a £5 car wash?

  26. Campbeltonian

    You're doing it wrong.

    "Scots contribute ... around £3bn of annual defence expenditure on a pro rata basis. The UK's nuclear deterrent - almost all situated in Scotland - would account for most of this sum on its own."

    This, plus the scare stories about every single military base in Scotland closing, is a ridiculous way of looking at it.

    First of all, Scotland will still need armed forces, so the prospect of everything closing and heading south is ludicrous.

    Second, it's the stated goal of the SNP to get rid of nuclear weapons, so according to your figures that frees up about £3bn annually to be spent on other aspects of defence. There's even talk of an independent Scotland being paid to look after the UK's nuclear weapons because nowhere else in the UK is suitable (although that's not a policy that I necessarily agree with).

  27. Peter 6
    Dead Vulture

    Does this actually change anything though?

    I'm not actually all that sure we should be applauding this really and not because we're buying American, British or Taiwanese.

    Its more because this does nothing to solve the ultra short term view that the MOD takes towards spending which results in wildly fluctuating spending priorities which leave the constant (i.e. the chaps on the front line) woefully underfunded and equipped as the MOD swings sharply between big projects and short term emergency purchases such as these Chinooks.

    The bottom line is (and Mr Page hasn't pointed this out) is that if there was a defence review every two or three years and if the findings of those reviews were carried out in full then we wouldn't have the need to canabalise large parts of the budget in some short sighted rush to buy "off the shelf" American kit that won't be ready until 2012/13 at the very earliest by which time the entire game may well have changed to a completely different part of the planet or may have ended (in ignominy, humiliation or "withdrawal with honour" I don't know) and we'll be sitting there wondering why we have 22 new Chinooks when we could have had more Destroyers and Frigates and less Trident nukes for example instead.

    So in short this:

    - Doesn't change anything.

    - hasn't stopped short term fluctuations in spending.

    - Hasn't killed off any silly cash black holes/big projects.

    - Doesn't answer the question of how exactly are we meant to honour our existing commitments in the Caribbean, the Gulf, East Africa, South Atlantic AND defend two large carriers with 6 Destroyers and barely 13 or 14 frigates by 2018.

    - Doesn't herald the start of much needed and regular defence reviews.

    MOD doing "everything right for once"? Give me a break!

    Tombstone because I sit on my own in a log cabin with a revolver awaiting the Lewis Page fanclub to come and kill me or neg-rep me at the very least...

  28. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Where to start!?!?

    Whilst Lewis's rants are getting ever more amusing, it's due to their faint grasp of reality rather than any amazing prose.

    Tornado ADV was designed for one RAF role - long-range interception of Ruskie bombers over the Icelandic Gap, with less use of mid-air refuelling. At the time, the yardsticks were the F-4M Phantom II and the very fast but short-ranged BAe (originally English Electric) Lightning F6, both used by the RAF for the air-def role. There was only one aircraft that had proven it could meet the criteria at the time - the eye-wateringly expensive F-14 Tomcat. Even the F-15 Eagle couldn't put a tick in all the boxes, despite being probably the best air superiority fighter of the day (Lightning aficiandos would like to remind the Septics that the Lightning F6 won most mock dogfights against USAF F-15s when the F-15 couldn't stand off and use Sparrows). Whilst Tornado knockers like Lewis like to bleat on about how the Torando F3 is not the best dogfighter, they never like to admit there are precious few aircraft even toady that can fulfill the role the ADV was designed for as well as Tornado. It combines supersonic dash with extreme range due to the compact, frugal and yet powerful engines; combat persistance with four medium-range and two short-range AAMs and a cannon, whilst still being able to carry droptanks; lower load on the pilot due to also having a "fightergator" in the rear seat, which means the pilot can spend more time looking out and manouvering; and is actually quite handy in a dogfight, being small (smaller than the F-15) and with the automatic sweeping wing giving good agility. As one RAF pilot put it, he can also simply keep turning and burning long after the F-16 pilot will have to break off from lack of fuel.

    And still going on about Tornado bomber losses from the Gulf? Puh-lease! The RAF has long-since reviewed tactics and moved to mid-level guided bombs for such attacks, delivering them as well as any other NATO jets. But before we get too carried away, maybe we should consider that the Israelis still use low-level and long-range penetration tactics such as when they hit the Syrian "not-a-military-nuke-factory" the other year. If NATO needs to mount such an operation in the future (such as when we bomb the Iranian or Nork nuke facilities), Tornado will still be the best RAF option.

    The there's Trident. Ever ask yourself why countries such as Iran and North Korea are so desperate to get nukes? Because it gives you a certain level of invulnerability against invasion. Do you think Ryahd or Ankara would have hosted the allied invasion of Iraq if Saddam had a proven nuke capability? Which begs the question, do we really want to give up our nukes just when such unappealling regimes as the Ayatollahs and Kim are so close ot getting them (thanks, UN, another great job!). So we still need the MAD option.

    Which means we will stick with Trident as it's the only option that allows us to strike anywhere in the World. Which means we will need to protect the sub bases and the subs, which in turn means we need the anti-sub aircraft, though maybe the Nimrod is not the best answer.

    Either way, this is just more political posturing meant to head off bad news before the coming snap election. And it's pointless news as more helicopters will not solve the problem in the Afghan just as it did not in Vietnam. If you simply get in the air to get from A to B then you lose control of the ground between A and B. This is the lesson the Septics didn't learnt in Vietnam, despite the amazing record of units like the Air Cav. We need to actually take and hold ground, especially villages, so we can start to influence the people. Otherwise they will belong to the Taliban, we will control nothing but the cities until the peaceniks manage to get our troops withdrawn, and then we will have to go back in ten years to root out Bin Laden's replacement.

    1. SkippyBing

      'being small (smaller than the F-15) and with the automatic sweeping wing giving good agility.'

      RAF Tornadoes don't and never did have automatic wing sweep, although Saudi ones do because they paid for them. Automatic wing sweep doesn't give particularly good agility either, that's down to wing loading which for a low level penetration aircraft should be high to give good stability and for a fighter should be low. What do you think happens if you make a fighter out of a bomber?

      A Tornado may be able to fly circles longer than an F-16, but the F-16 can turn inside the Tornado and kill it before it runs out of fuel so not really a problem. The F-16, most airliners, gliders and vaguely modern fighters also have a higher ceiling than the Tornado (it's that low level bomber thing again), when the first MiG-29s turned up for Farnborough in '88 the escorting F-3s had to wait for the MiGs to descend before they could form up on them.

      Incidentally if you want to hold the ground in Afghanistan we might need to reintroduce conscription what with it being a really big bit of real estate. However unlike Vietnam there's a lot of sparsely populated terrain which makes helicopters useful for moving people rapidly to where they need to be, enabling a rapid concentration of effort when needed. Oh plus medevacing casualties, always a bonus....

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Logistics Win Wars

    One thing most air forces around the world are notoriously bad at is airlift capability. This is one area the USAF excels at is its large fleet of C-5, C-17, and C-130 cargo aircraft. The UK would be well-advised to purchase more C-17s and fewer attack planes.

  30. This post has been deleted by its author

  31. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Better idea yet

    Scrap the whole UK mil, it's not terribly efficient yet hugely expensive. Just hire a couple BlackWater-like grunts from the US in times of need, should save billions per year.

  32. Domster
    Thumb Down

    More Tornado stuff

    The RAF Lost 6 Tornados during the first Gulf War. Five were during low level attacks and one at medium altitude. Of the 5 that lost during low level attacks 2 were definitely shot down, 2 were probably shot down and one got blow up by its own bomb. So not a bad record. The Tornado was designed to drop bombs in all weathers at low level to achieve the maximum accuracy. If the Russians ever invaded western Europe, they would surely pick a cloudy day, when the American aircraft fleet would be unable to drop their laser guided bombs through the cloud, fog rain or snow showers. This is what happened in Kosovo and spurred the development of GPS guided weapons, which are unaffected by bad weather. So for Page to dismiss this brilliant aircraft so flippantly makes me wonder at the accuracy of the rest of his diatribe.

    In the early 80s the RAF needed an anti-radar missile, the choice was the American HARM or the more expensive British ALARM, the RAF went for the ALARM missile. In Kosovo the Americans fired 100 HARMs against one missile site but didn't destroy it. The RAF fired one ALARM which due to its unique abilities, destroyed the site. So we can build good kit given half a chance.

  33. JoeW88
    Thumb Up

    Defence plan

    This is an excellent article, better than articles in the papers and many news outlets on UK defence. I have been reading defence news from many souces, and am very pleased with this article. I am enormously frustrated by our government (incl. all MPs, Lords, etc.. everyone responsible) with defence government. There is currently and historically abundant criticism of defence government in this country, much stating of blatantly big cock-ups. Thank you and well-done to the author of this article, The Register, and the community involved with this article.

  34. Mr Ian

    There are some problems with your post.

    This doesn't affect me one bit as I'm not a pom, but as someone who likes to whinge about my own government's spending decisions I feel it's important to give credit where it's due. Good spending plans, and good writing as usual. Cheers!

  35. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: SkippyBing

    ".....Automatic wing sweep doesn't give particularly good agility either...." Really? So how come the RAF F3s still managed to do better than break even with USAF F-16s in NATO fighter meets? Even ignoring the fact that Tornado has much better long-range systems to knock the F-16s down (F-16 jocks like to rpetend that AMRAAM now makes them even), even in the close-range arena the figures show that the F-16 is not getting the certain kill you assume it must. Oh, could that be because adjustable wingsweep allows you to modify your profile to different speeds to gain better turn rates and roll rates whilst a fixed planform (like the F-16) is optimal for only a small speed range in one altitude level and a compromise for all others? There's a lovely story about USMC F-4 jocks who were incensed by a publicity shot for the then new F-16, where an F-16 and an F-4 were shown turning at low speed and medium altitude and trailing smoke, with the predicatable result that the F-16 looked like it was turning well inside the "lumbering" F-4. USAF pilots transferring to the F-16 soon started complaining that they were being bounced on training flights by aggressive USMC F-4s that were very eager to put the F-16 drivers in their place. The USAF was also upset to hear the experienced Rhino drivers were getting the best of such encounters and very happy to talk about it. Orders came down from on high to the USMC - do not emabarass the USAF's new F-16!

    ".....wing loading which for a low level penetration aircraft should be high to give good stability and for a fighter should be low....A Tornado may be able to fly circles longer than an F-16, but the F-16 can turn inside the Tornado and kill it before it runs out of fuel so not really a problem....." Low wingloading was the prime requirement in maybe 1918. Try a little reading - check out the kill ratios even from WW2 for higher-loaded Corsairs against low-loaded Zeros. A modern example with jets? The Mirage III had a higher wing-loading than any of the 60's MiGs, but the Israelis still completely dominated the air over the Middle East with Mirages against those same MiGs even when flown by Soviet instructors. And the majority of the IAF Mirage kills were with guns, not missiles, and in turning dogfights. The Phantom II also had a much higher wingloading than the same MiGs when they met over Vietnam, but rediscovery of air-tactics (well, they actually borrowed some training from the RAF, a well-kept Septic secret), allowed the USAF and USN F-4 jocks to dominate the more agile MiGs. Wingloading is just one factor, and is also very dependent on the speed. Variable wingsweep gives Torando actually better high-speed (including supersonic) manouverability, especially when it comes to quick changes of direction due to higher roll-rates, than the F-16, which means the Tornado can get a kill before we get down to the low-speed, banked turns where the F-16 has an advantage. Even then, the Tornado doesn't have to tamely sit in the nice, flat turn and let the F-16 get to a guns solution, as air-combat is not a 2d affair and the Tornado can manouvere well in all three planes. It can keep even take the fight downstairs to the low-level where it excels and simply run away from the F-16 whilst the F-16 won't be able to get radar lock even with the new AMRAAM, and the F-16 will have to break off after fifteen minutes on full afterburner whilst the Tornado can still keep going. At which point the Tornado turns round and picks up the an easy kill on the F-16 as it crawls for home.

    "...The F-16, most airliners, gliders and vaguely modern fighters also have a higher ceiling than the Tornado...." And like that matters. Because even the old Skyflash missile would climb higher and faster than the MiG-29, the F-16, the F-15, or the Su-29, or any other fighter of that day or today. AMRAAM is supposedly even better. And flying very high means leaving ground-cover and showing yourself to every radar and IR detector for miles - not smart, bit like your argument.

    ".....Incidentally if you want to hold the ground in Afghanistan we might need to reintroduce conscription what with it being a really big bit of real estate...." Actually, all McCrystal is doing is repeating the Vietnamisation mantra that failed in Vietnam. It worked in Iraq only because the foreign jihadis managed to alienate the more modernised locals - in the Afghan, the Taliban ARE the locals, and they are happy living about a century behind how people in Iraq live. Add some history reading to your list. At the moment, the Afghan Army and Police are largely on par with the ARVN, with only a few units trusted and capable of really doing the job, and the rest so suspect as to be untrusted with loaded weapons in NATO choppers. The problem is those reliable units are not local to areas to Helmand, where the tribal structure means any outsider, even Afghan, is a foreigner. Unless we get the local Afghans on our side so they hold ground, simply dropping more troops in won't do the job because no Western politician will want to end their careers by underwriting the massive numbers that would be required. The Soviets tried the "win-it-from-the-air" approach with a lot more choppers, more jets and many, many more troops, and failed. And then the new choppers for UK forces won't arrive until 2012 - long after we're supposed to have left the area. What a sick joke!

    1. SkippyBing

      Corsairs vs Zeros

      Read about HOW the Corsairs killed the Zeros, they couldn't turn with the Zero because of their wing loading. They used boom and zoom tactics and their superior speed to make single pass attacks on the Zeros, there's a quote from a WW2 fighter pilot along the lines of 'turning doesn't win wars'.

      There was also a classic documentary about an F-3 squadron attending Maple Flag about a decade ago now, they failed to get a single kill, so I guess the wing sweep isn't the automatic advantage you think it is. Turning with an F-16 for hours is great, as long as there's only one, if there're two the other one just opens out and engages from another direction. I also liked your claim that there were few aircraft around that could compare with the F-3's 4 long range, 2 short range missiles, gun, drop tanks and Navigator. So the F-4 it was replacing with 4 long range, 4 short range missiles, gun, drop tanks and Navigator then....

      Incidentally I wouldn't say the US F-4s dominated the skies over Vietnam, the statistics were to some extent cooked. If a US aircraft crashed on it's way home due to battle damage it didn't count as being shot down. For instance Cunningham and Driscol after becoming aces had to eject but because they weren't shot down as such it didn't count.

      As for air defence fighters not flying high, odd all the ones I've seen on exercise have been, makes it easier to get a look down kill on the ground pounders, still I guess they hadn't asked you what to do. For starters you need to protect the AWACS, then you can cover more ground per aircraft (high flying aircraft can transit faster and are more fuel efficient), the fighter's own radar can cover more ground and pick up the low flying strike aircraft it needs to take out etc. etc.

      Ultimately as your example with the Israelis proves, training is more important than the actual equipment. Is the Tornado F-3 a particularly good fighter? No, I know people who've flown it and they admit it's a bit of a dog close in, but with superior training you can overcome those disadvantage, hence the Top Gun Programme, Air Warfare Instructors course, whatever the Israelis do etc. A good pilot in a bad plane will generally beat a bad one in a good plane, hence the Lightnings beating F-15s, they knew to keep to the vertical plane where they had an advantage and not get sucked into a turning fight. The question is, would we be better off buying off the shelf aircraft and spend the savings on training?

      I'd agree more troops on the ground is the way to really win in Afghanistan, but as we don't seem to have any an effective way of moving the ones we have around might be an idea, and as I don't seriously expect us to have left by then Chinooks are a pretty good idea.

    2. SkippyBing

      Forgot to add

      How many kills did the F-3 get in the first Gulf War?

  36. Andy Enderby 1


    The Tornado F3 is not an air superiority fighter, it's an interceptor. If it slows down and tangles with other fighters, then get's clobbered by Mig 29/Sukhoi 37 I doubt it would be that much of a surprise. They were designed to stooge around, loitering at low speed until called into action by AWACS or similar command assets, if I remember correctly, then go supersonic and fly to an intercept, tackling their targets at a distance with missiles. Close range ACM wasn't uppermost in the specification.

    Lightning v Eagle - With a thrust to weight ratio of above unity for a lightly loaded F15 I strongly suspect that the Lightning would be better off sticking to turning in the horizontal plane. Besides - about seven minutes of full burner with the lightning and it's going to be time to head home. It was another interceptor, but minus the loiter capability. It did have a ferocious turn rate, but was limited in roll rate at high airspeeds because of structural issues in the empennage. Ligntning sensors ? very basic, the whole concept was one of ground controlled intercepts flown to very precise profiles in order to make the most of limited endurance. The design of the lightnings wings and main undercarriage also meant a limit of two air to air missiles.

    Both designs suffer in comparison because of assumptions made about the role of the cold war RAF - the main one being that if they were called to action it would be to face an incoming horde of Warsaw Pact bombers, and that those bombers would end up being nuclear armed in fairly short order. Scramble, take down as many as possible, land, rearm/fuel, wash, rinse repeat.

    The US and Russian manufacturers designs of that era in many cases made the same assumptions - check out the F102, F104, F106, even the Mig 25 and Sukhoi 15 and the way they were intended to be used, compare that with the Lightning.

    The Tornado F3 appears to have been conceived to make use of an existing airframe (much modified) and make a current equivalent for the era of those (mostly) semi automatic ground environment interceptors, with some dogfighting capability almost as an afterthought. The missions it's likely to get tasked with now are miles away from when the beast was on some engineers drawing board, and even as the spec was issued, political changes were undermining it's position - it's first flight was in '85, the design choices made to accomodate 70's nightmares. Four years later. 1989 and the threat of waking up to hundreds of Warsaw Pact strategic bombers heading west seemed unlikely.

    Comparing apples and pears gents, though valid points appear in both Skippy and Matts posts.

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