back to article Libya fighting shows just how idiotic the Defence Review was

Recent combat operations by British and allied forces in Libya are beginning to tell us a lot: not so much about the future of Libya, which remains up for grabs, but about the tools one actually needs for fighting real-world wars against real-world enemy armed forces. The vast bulk of our own armed forces are set up, equipped …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Storm Shadow is, like Lewis, a tool.

    >Point three: there was no point at all in mounting the Tornado Storm Shadow missions, which made a negligible contribution to the suppression of Libyan air defences

    Speaking as the voice of authority there, any evidence to back that up?

    Were Lewis to do a little more digging I suspect he may find that the purpose of Storm Shadow is to hit targets without the sort of collateral damage that the American systems enjoy. You'd only use it in cases where the Tomahawk is too blunt an instrument because it costs more and requires more man hours to configure. But ultimately, when used correctly it's the best piece of kit in the world for it's role.

    1. ArmanX

      this is a title

      I believe Lewis was simply trying to say... it wasn't being used properly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Lewis is in complete ignorance of the operational details of their use. So he doesn't really have grounds to say that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down

          He's completly ignorant about defense issues in general

          But thats now the point. its shit stiring for entertainment.

          His selective fabrications and falsification of numbers actually points to the probability that the whole defense industry and users alike are incompetent fools who should be sacked and replace with nuclear missiles. We don't need a Army or Navy, just a means of nuking anybody who comes within range.

          However, I await his tearing apart of the 5 year late, massively over budget F-35 that he has touted in the past as a shining example US goodness that the Canadians are now projecting will cost at least $450million over its life time. If it doesn't get binned for being crap.

          1. Gareth Mottram

            Five years?

            Well the f-35 might well be 5 years late, particularly because of the B variant VTOL version. However even if it were to be 10 years late it would be positively early by comparison to the Eurofighter. Lewis might over step the mark on some item's but the crapness of defence procurement in the MoD and the generally poor judgement of politicos is not often one of them.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Not the onl point I'd disagree with

      Unfortunately I don't have the time or inclination to pull apart the vast amount of things Lewis got wrong point by point. Even taking one or two points apart would take too long.

      But there is clearly a vast difference between having a strong opinion on something and actually knowing what you're talking about and I sometime doubt Lewis appreciates the difference.

      Now back to some real work, here in the sunny south of Italy...

      1. Dave Bell

        Where's the substance?

        I don't expect Lewis to be right about everything. But even if when he's wrong, they're smart questions.

        I think he under-rates light armour. He's Navy, so maybe he doesn't get the advantages of being able to use ground vehicles that are armoured enough to protect against machineguns. Artillery firebases scattered across a country don't look so good idea, but the Royal Artillery are the military equivalent of a certain parcels delivery company: if you really want the high-explosive nastiness now, they can deliver, before the RAF can even scramble a jet. The logistic weight comes from providing that ability.

        I don't think I'd go to British industry for a new battle tank. The numbers we would need, it would be crazy to design our own. If Challenger II were to need a replacement, I'd be inclined to look to Germany, but feel free to put that opinion down to one too many TV documentaries.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Lewis is a tool

      "Speaking as the voice of authority there, any evidence to back that up?"

      Well, he presented evidence that at most 4 such missiles were actually used, compared to several hundred other devices. If you want to challenge either figure, feel free, but please don't accuse him of *failing to offer* evidence. It just makes you look illiterate.

  2. Hnk0


    buy F18s when the French would be delighted to sell more-modern, also carrier-ready Rafales?


    1. IanPotter

      RE Why

      They'd only want to replace the engines with Rolls Royce ones and have BAe Systems "upgrade" the avionics to spread some pork around until the thing cost 5 times the original price (see Apache)

      1. Anonymous Coward

        "upgrade the avionics"

        The reason we upgrade the avionics when we buy American kit is because the Americans won't sell us the latest avionics. And in many cases British avionics are actually better anyway. Let me recommend something to you. Buy a copy of Jane's. Go to any American aircraft that has been sold to an ally. Look at the version list in Jane's. You will see that the US has special export variants of all its aircraft. Sensible to be honest, we've fought our own technology repeatedly many times in recent history. The General Belgrano was originally an American ship for example. If you want capable aircraft (ones at least as capable as the British made ones they are supposed to replace), then you need to rip out all the avionics. This is why the "purchase price" Lewis often quotes is invalid.

        Incidentally, when I was in the RAF, I watched an exercise where a bunch of Tornado F3s slaughtered a bunch of F18s from the USMC in air to air, primarily because of the far better avionics fit. The Tornado F3 would lose everything in 1 on 1 dogfights, but would win virtually everything in 2 on 2 or above fights. This was simply because of improved situational awareness in the F3 resulting from 2 crew instead of 1 and a better avionics fit. Anyone who has any connection with combat aircraft will tell you that the more players you have in a dogfight, the more important avionics and situational awareness in general becomes. This is rather obvious when you think about it. In a 2 vs 2 dogfight, adversaries tend to break off into pairs. Greater situational awareness enables you to switch who you are paired against when it is a distinct advantage to do so.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Re: "upgrade the avionics"

          "...we've fought our own technology repeatedly many times in recent history. The General Belgrano was originally an American ship for example."

          There are loads of better examples of Argentina having British kit, of course. Like Argentina having various missile systems and thus being able to formulate strategies to avoid getting shot down by the very same kit, although it didn't necessarily do them much good, forcing them to fly dangerously low and not have their bombs work properly.

          Great post, though. Doesn't help Lewis ram home his point, of course, but still very informative.

        2. IanPotter

          RE Upgrade the avionics

          Ooh touchy, and I'm sure I was being satirical about the Rafale not the Hornet, I'm not sure even the American export people could stop the French exporting whatever electronics they like. Though having read my contract with a certain American Corporation I wouldn't put it past them to try.

          Still if you want to argue situational awareness why is the Typhoon a single seater? If we're going to have to rip out and replace the avionics on the F35 once we buy it then I imagine we'll be only able to afford one or two, I imagine that'll make the carriers only slightly less of a laughing stock.

        3. arkhangelsk

          They have export versions

          and yes they no doubt have inferior electronics compared to the original. However, that's far from demonstrating that

          A) The best alternative Britain can produce will actually be superior even on a theoretical basis.

          If A can be demonstrated, then

          B) Alternative will actually be superior once you factor in reliability. Reliability is the bane of many recent British weapons. The SA80 is famous. Sea Dart and Sea Wolf weren't exactly hugely reliable in the Falklands. If the Tornado ADV suite is superior, we may also remember how much trouble it took to get it to a minimally acceptable standard. I've seen at least one 90s article in the Naval Review of British officers lamenting that NATO (i.e. mostly US) kit, regardless of its theoretical merits or demerits versus British, work more reliably...

          and then

          C) Repeat B, factor in massive developmental cost. Even the fact that part of the money may be circulated into the British economy (which will be more a bump in the recorded GDP count rather than a real improvement in the People's lives) will likely not compensate for the massive cost gap.

    2. The Original Ash

      Fnar fnar!


      A jab at the French?

    3. Conrad Longmore
      Thumb Up


      Well.. yes. And at the end of this thing we'll have a good idea if the things actually work in combat too.

      Of course, a pocket aircraft carrier and some Harriers would also be pretty useful as well. We basically lack any serious force projection capabilities. Sure, the Harrier was ancient and incredibly slow in the air.. but if you're bombing things on the ground or conducting air defence (where the enemy comes to you as in the Falklands) then they would have been useful.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Rafales good, but vectored thrust Typhoons maybe better

      Eurofighter are now developing a navalised Typhoon using Vectored thrust to overcome the angle of attack issue (can't see the flight deck on approach). This may well work out as a far cheaper and better option to the F-35's, commonality with the land based aircraft would make it viable.

      1. Gareth Mottram

        history of navalising land based aircraft

        There isn't a single good marine aircraft that has been a navalisation of a land based type. They can't deal with the addition of weight and landing impacts. All of the good dual service machines have been navy first and then used by land based forces. If you start trying to navalise the Eurofighter it'll loose it's commonality with the land based version very quickily in order to beef it up for carrier landing, it'll also take another 15 years to get it built as the existing production lines will need to be modified to deal with the heavier parts for the undercarriage and fuselage/wingroots.

        (for bad navalisations sea things like the SeaFire too fragile broke on landing all the time, Sea Hurricane too heavy and slow as a result of being beefed up enough, F-111k never got built since they realised what it would cost). The only exception to this is the SeaHarrier, which had the advantage of having exactly the same landing profile as it's land based stable mate, but it still needed new engines to not get rotted by the salt spray.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Yes, but then you'd end up with the french military policy!

      You know, don't invade iraq, do buy the same machine guns for all the branches of the military, do use the same airplane for the air force and the marine, do have an navy with polyvalent helicopter carriers, etc.. Much better to blindly copy the americans and introduce excessive competition and outsourcing to slow everythig down and leak money for no observable advantage...

  3. Adrian Challinor

    Sounds about right

    The only thing Lewis got wrong was initially think that the defence review was about the military. He corrects this later when he concludes that the defence review was really to defend the military contractors. And where do ex-politicians find their lucrative non-exec directorships? Go on, guess.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It seems to me. . .

    You know, The Register is one of the few places where I, here in the USA, get any insight into British politics and policies, and I have to say that, it seems to me, your government is *much* worse than ours.

    1. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: It seems to me...

      >>your government is *much* worse than ours

      The current US government is much better than the last three, the current UK government is just creating policy which is popular, we're in a mess because of climate of house ownership and over stretching credit given out by greedy people (for the last 25 years), neither government have much to work with but at least Obama is thinking ahead, as much as it shames me, the current US government is better than the current UK one.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Please don't judge our country by Lewis' ranty opinion-pieces.

      1. Azimuth07

        El Reg Alternative

        Ok, I will form an opinion about your country you by reading this, instead:

  5. andy gibson

    point one: buying the Eurofighter remains a stupid idea on our part

    Yes, against an enemy like Libya. But the world has lots of countries, and many of them *aren't* like Libya.

    What should we do, design our defence strategy and budget against our easiest enemy?

    I'll reserve judgement on the Eurofighter when its used against a more technologically advanced enemy, thanks.

    1. No, I will not fix your computer


      Kinda think the same thing, after all if the reason why the Eurofighter is pointless is because it's so much better than Libyan jets, two generations ahead, what if it was one generation ahead, is that still pointless? how about if it was the same generation? if a jet pointless unless it's a fair fight? surely the point of war weaponry is two fold, both as a response to agression, but also (perhaps more importantly) a deterrent.

      I completely accept that it's overpriced and (volume wise) under-delivered, but if it wasn't there would we be thinking that the libyan jets were more of a threat.

      1. IanPotter

        RE @Andy

        I think the real problem here is that it is over specialised being a pure air superiority fighter. Which is fine if all you care about is air defence or have sufficient funds to be able to support multiple types of specialised types. However with ever increasing costs and tightening funds operating a single multirole type is more efficient. Giving Typhoon multirole capability makes theoretical sense here but is going to take a long time and inflate the costs even more.

        Note that the US Navy have taken the same view and retired their F14 air superiority and A6 attack aircraft in favour of the F18. Hornet or Rafael would be a good choice for the UK as both are designed for carrier operations so pilot training and posting could be further streamlined and both are designed for long over water operations which is important for UK air defence. Ultimately it is all about how many capabilities you are getting for your money.

    2. nichomach
      Thumb Up

      Quite right

      We may end up with an enemy equipped with something like Flankers or similar; a lack of a combat capable fighter'd look a little...well...short-sighted. And no, 1970s vintage F-18s wouldn't do.

      1. IanPotter

        RE Quite right

        The F-18E first flew in 1995 so not really 1970s vintage and really should have been given a new designation as it is a hugely upgraded design rather an upgrade to the existing airframe.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    This article doesn't add up.

    So your arguement for keeping Harriers and Carriers, is that the Tornado's have to fly from Italy and back?

    So keeping these two fleets is cheaper than flying a few sorties from a few hundred miles away? Get real.

    So we have troops polshing tanks? Well then lets sack them as they clearly have no use. Ahh but you'd complain about that as well no doubt.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Read the article

      The point is that you don't just pop down to the petrol station when the Tornadoes fly to Libya, you have to buy and staff and maintain the refueling fleet. This is not free. In fact, it's bloody expensive. Keeping a ship that you've *already paid for* floating is pretty easy in comparison.

    2. smylar


      Ever heard of operational flexibility?!

      Only Harriers on Libya's doorstep could make time critical interdictions, or react quickly to unfolding events, can run many more sorties etc. Hell they could construct a forward base in Libya for the Harriers if the wanted to.

      Whilst the Tornados are spending most of their time in transit as there is no nearby friendly base.

      As for troops polishing tanks, if there were no tanks, they would be given a rifle and thrown into the front line, and not having to pay for the tank means money for an extra helicopter or more troops - that's the argument here; whether the tanks should be scrapped is a matter of opinion. They certainly get munched by air power and it's the troops holding the line - tanks or not.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At the risk of universal obloquy...

    ... could I ask why the UK felt the need to launch an unprovoked aggressive war against a nation that is doing us no harm, and probably has never done us any harm? (Since the Lockerbie bombing was most likely carried out at the instigation of Iran in retaliation for the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655).

    We are suddenly being told that Qadafi is a monster who is "killing his own people" - but actually you will find that most governments do that when those people launch an armed rebellion intended to overthrow the government. (Even the sainted Abraham Lincoln started an extremely damaging and bloody war when the southern states tried to secede from the USA). Try overthrowing the British government by force and see how long it takes before you encounter armed police, then the Army, and finally (if you last that long) air strikes.

    And of course there are inconvenient facts such as that when Qadafi took over, Libya was one of the poorest countries in Africa - whereas now it is one of the richest (and by that I mean measured by its average standard of living).

    Perhaps you believe that it is time the Libyans had a democratic government, so they could determine their own fate? Well, we have a democratic government, yet it ignored the will of the people when it went to war on Iraq; and indeed it attacked Libya the day before asking the House of Commons how it felt about the matter. I think that speaks for itself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fair points

      But two wrongs don't make a right, and doing something good for the wrong reasons doesn't make it bad either.

    2. bolccg


      "Well, we have a democratic government, yet it ignored the will of the people when it went to war on Iraq; and indeed it attacked Libya the day before asking the House of Commons how it felt about the matter. I think that speaks for itself."

      You've not really understood representative government or the split between the executive and the legislative, have you?

      Look, I marched against the attack on Iraq, not because I disagreed with removing a lunatic dictator but because I believe in international law (as a concept, anyway) and anyway I thought the idea of lots of american soldiers waging aggresive war in the middle east wasn't terribly bright (if I'd known they'd seriously half ass it I'd have shouted that bit louder).

      But from what I've seen so far the events in Libya are remarkable first and foremost for the fact that, in the face of Gaddafi's open threat to kill one million people for having the temerity to maybe want to have a say in who rules them, the countries of the world actually got themselves sufficiently sorted out to go through the correct channels under international law to take solid steps to defend these people. Your argument seems to suggest that there is no legitimate way to replace a dictatorship by force - I suggest you might have a different opinion if you had lived through one (or had a tiny iota of empathy).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "...Gaddafi's open threat to kill one million people..."

        Oh, were you thinking of this?

        "Gaddafi's army will kill half a million, warn Libyan rebels"

        Half a million, and actually it was his enemies who said that. I think you'll agree that's slightly different. If I said you wanted to eat all the babies in England, would that justify other people in killing you to prevent it happening? If you are really interested in the facts, try starting with these short and digestible pieces:

        In particular, let me commend to your attention this undisputed fact:

        "In April 1986 US warplanes struck Tripoli at 2 am. They bombed the Gaddafi family residence, wounding several of his family members and killing his 15 month old daughter".

        Killing innocent civilians, eh? She would have been 26 now.

        "Your argument seems to suggest that there is no legitimate way to replace a dictatorship by force - I suggest you might have a different opinion if you had lived through one (or had a tiny iota of empathy)".

        You're right: I do think there is no legitimate way to overthrow a government. It can only be done by violence, usually, and violence is intrinsically illegitimate. Of course you will disagree if you live in a Hollywood universe where the white hats always triumph and the black hats bite the dust. Trust me, reality isn't like that at all. Even the USA, with its cherished and inspiring Declaration of Independence, had to admit that the principle of self-determination didn't apply when citizens of the USA itself wanted to break away and set up their own nation. It crushed them ruthlessly at the cost of at least 620,000 lives.

        Dictators vary dramatically. I have in fact lived under Juan Peron, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, Marcelo Caetano, and Habib Bourguiba. My parents spent quite a lot of time in Germany in the 1930s, and told me what it was like living under the Nazi regime. So yes, I have lived under dictators - and the news is that it's a lot like living under a democracy. Only sometimes, as in the case of Salazar, there is a bit more sensible and consistent long-term planning.

        1. Cihatari

          Dictators vary dramatically...

          One common problem tends to be that without a ballot-box option to chuck them out, they hang around for way too long after their sell-by-date and go a little bit stale and curling around the edges, mentally speaking. Ghadaffi being an extreme version of this.

          And out of genuine curiosity, what was Salazar's sensible and consistent planning, apart from "Try to hang on to the Portuguese Empire for as long as unfeasibly possible?"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            'And out of genuine curiosity, what was Salazar's sensible and consistent planning, apart from "Try to hang on to the Portuguese Empire for as long as unfeasibly possible?"'

            For a start, Portugal was almost untouched by the Spanish Civil War and World War 2. It enjoyed many decades of almost uninterrupted peace, apart from its (very peripheral) colonial wars. According to Wikipedia, "Salazar's program was opposed to communism, socialism, and liberalism". Right in line with US government policy then!

            Salazar oversaw steady and above-average economic growth, without the constant stop/go characteristic of democracies like Britain in which Labour would pull out the throttle and overheat the economy, forcing the following Conservative government to retrench in an attempt to pay off the debts incurred by Labour. (As, of course, is happening today on an even greater scale).

            It is safe to say that if, by some miracle, Salazar wre still in power today, Portugal would not be in the dreadful economic mess it is in (and near-bankrupt).

            "In 1960, at the initiation of Salazar's more outward-looking economic policy, Portugal's per capita GDP was only 38 percent of the EC-12 average; by the end of the Salazar period, in 1968, it had risen to 48 percent; and in 1973, on the eve of the revolution, Portugal's per capita GDP had reached 56.4 percent of the EC-12 average. In 1975, the year of maximum revolutionary turmoil, Portugal's per capita GDP declined to 52.3 percent of the EC-12 average".


            1. Magnus_Pym

              Governments are all shit.

              I think it's quite clear that a benign and educated dictatorship is the most efficient form of government. Good decision making, in it for the long term , no costly and wasteful state legislature, no professional (read: in for what they can get) politicians. They are, in the real world, a bit thin on the ground though. Also those that start off good all turn bad in the end.

              I propose a new for of government. One in which the political but inept do not rise above the principled. One in which flip-flopping from one opposing view to the other does not make strategic planning all about the next election. One in which the will of the people is tested on more than just the colour of a rosette every five years. This new system will be based on the principles of jury selection.

              Everybody would be eligible to be called to high office. Selection is via a lottery of some kind. Once called to office the new MP would attend a course in basic politics and world events. Then enter a virtual parliament, able to work from home or a local base without the need for high rent drinking club in the centre of London. The MP's would be subject to random deselection at the start of each political year.

            2. Cihatari

              Salazar was definitely swimming against the tide of history here..

              And he was swimming up a poo-covered creek, which was shark-infested.

              From my admittedly limited reading, the economic impact of the colonial wars are a lively area of debate and different sides of the fence are on display. The social and political effect appears to have been more negative to the health and cohesion of Portuguese society as the war dragged on. Salazar was also operating against the vested interests of both superpowers, and in an era of international opinion that was strongly anti-colonialist. The whole whether the 'winds of change' decolonization process was the right thing to do or not debate might need to wait for another time, but history was against him.

              I almost (and this is heavily qualified) feel sorry for the guy, but he really didn't have a Plan B or any concept of a graceful planned withdrawal, the loss of the Indian territories was a striking example, the 'no surrender' order being wisely ignored by the commander on the spot.

              On the other hand, in the interests of fairness, it is fair to say that the hasty abandonment after the 1974 coup was a prime example of decolonization done asshat style and leaving the territories concerned swimming under the poo-covered creek.

              This does not take away from the central point that dictatorship as a model for good government, even with a relatively sane practitioner, fails in the end as the personal is too often made political, a ruling ideology is made law from the whims and passions of one individual, blind stubbornness substitutes for policy and without any of the checks or balances of the despised democracy, it goes on for rather far too long and gets totally out of hand.

              1. Cihatari

                Really wish there was an edit function for the original post...

                This might come under "and another thing.."

                I've written the last paragraph of the previous post on the basis that I am sympathetic to some notion of 'good governance' and sensible long-term altruistic planning, rather than the shallow posturing, show-boating, myopic crowd-pleasing and flip-flopping that has been all too typical of the governmental conduct over the last half-century or so. There must be a happy place where democracy and decent government can co-exist somewhere?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Then you're surely...

        ... duty bound to object to this inerventionist folly into Libyan affairs.

        After all the UN Charter makes interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation illegal.

        Or does the "international law" argument only count when it suits you ?

    3. Chris_999

      Excuse me?

      "a nation that is doing us no harm, and probably has never done us any harm?"

      Gadhafi has been a nut-job of the highest order for decades. Where do you think the IRA got it's weapons from? Where were their training camps? He was the laughing stock of the Arab world for years, banging on about Arab unity and a single Arab state (With him in charge, naturally), until he finally got bored of that and started banging on about African unity instead, where his oil-wealth could buy him some more attention. If the Western world operated to a consistent standard of morality, we'd have done something about him years ago, instead of appeasing him to get access to Libya's oil and reduce our dependance on the Gulf region and Russia , following the debacle that was Iraq.

      He is hated and feared by the vast majority of his own people and has stayed in power for years as a result his expertise in playing off one tribe against another and keeping his regular army so depleted that it could never launch a coup like the one that brought him to power. He has funded terrorist groups and civil wars all over Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

      We in the West might have an appalling double-standard about which dictatorial regimes we overthrow and which we do business with, but don't delude yourself that he was in any way a good thing for Libya.


      1. Anonymous Coward

        And of course

        These IRA weapons were often funded by the USA.....

    4. mark 63 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      good points tom

      "could I ask why the UK felt the need to launch an unprovoked aggressive war against a nation that is doing us no harm?"

      Good points , but was it the UK or the UN or both that felt the need?

      I know the USA are in there as well chucking missiles about, as usual. Is this a vouluntry thing or are all UN nations obliged to contribute?

    5. 100113.1537

      A continuation of "moral" wars.....

      You have a good point, but this is only a continuation of the past 20 (or so) years of "moral intervention". This argument has been used to justify both Iraq wars and Serbia/Kosovo since none of these had much chance of "threatening" the UK, however a decision was taken that the rest of the world should step in to prevent dictators being really really nasty to their people.

      Of course, determination of who is a "dictator" and what "being really really nasty" means are up for grabs, but let's remember that this kind of thing does happen and - at some point - there is a moral imperative to intervene as human beings.

      I read a good article the other day (I'll post an update if I can find it again) discussing this point and the hazard you can run in giving disaffected groups an incentive to provoke violence just so you can get the international community to intervene. It is not a simple issue at at all and while we can all sit on the sidelines and criticize, governments have to make relatively simple decisions - intervene or not.

      And you can bet that whatever they decide (and whatever the outcome), these governments will be pilloried for whatever decision they come to. As an interesting exercise, think what we would be saying now if we hadn't intervened in Libya? Or Iraq, or Serbia/Kosovo? Would the world be all sweetness and light? What about Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo and Zimbabwe - should we (the rest of the world) have intervened there?


      Ignoring inconvenient facts...

      > ... could I ask why the UK felt the need

      > to launch an unprovoked aggressive

      > war against a nation

      You might want to ask the Arab League about that since they actually asked for it. You are overlooking the UN resolution too. At the very least, the other major powers gave their implicit approval for this.

      This is not the usual unilateral nonsense.

      Your moral indignation would come off better if you weren't a liar.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "You might want to ask the Arab League about that since they actually asked for it. You are overlooking the UN resolution too. At the very least, the other major powers gave their implicit approval for this".

        It doesn't matter how many national governments support an illegal war. It is still illegal, under principles laid down at Nuremberg in 1945. As a matter of fact most of the Arab League dislikes Qadafi, which is a point in his favour. They ostracised him because he told the truth too often. By the way, do you know how many of the Arab League nations have democratic governments today? I suggest you find out.

        I would point out that the Arab League stressed that even they wanted only a no-fly zone: they did not support any other violent intervention such as destroying government buildings, tanks, or personnel. They specifically ruled out the occupation by foreign troops of a single inch of Libyan soil.

        "Your moral indignation would come off better if you weren't a liar".

        That is an offensive personal remark, which you have not justified in any way. Please state clearly what part of my previous post you consider a lie, and give some evidence for your statement. Otherwise I shall assume you are merely engaging in empty abuse. It does not make a favourable impression that you choose to hide behind a nickname while doing so.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @JEDIDIAH

          "As a matter of fact most of the Arab League dislikes Qadafi, which is a point in his favour."

          The enemy of your enemy, eh? The reason why various powers are so interested in "meddling" is that Gaddafi (or however you choose to do the transliteration of his name) has rubbed virtually everyone up the wrong way, and he isn't really a nice bloke in an objective sense, either.

          As it stands, the UN signed off on this excursion, and the very fact that China and Russia have gone along with it, despite the inevitable fears of those nations that the US will somehow undermine their business interests in Libya, says quite a bit about how little time they have for the Libyan regime.

          Is it right to intervene in another nation's internal affairs? Ask Kofi Annan or Bill Clinton about Rwanda some time.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      I think that you should probably do a bit of background reading on Mr. Gadaffi. I'm certainly glad that the son-of-a-bitch whose cheerfully supplied weapons and funds to pretty much every terrorist organisation going is getting a bit of payback.

  8. PlacidCasual

    Nice write up.

    I can't disagree about the carriers and the F-18's we should commit to buying some from the Yanks and stick them on our new carriers as soon as they're ready. The balance of our forces no longer meets our strategic aspirations. We're not going to fight massed ground battles any time soon and we're not going to attack a first World neighbour so we need lightweight forces that we can deploy from the sea anywhere in the World. I feel our politicians and Generals have done the tax payer a disservice let alone the poor troops they command.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Help me out here

    I can't be arsed rifling through the barely-concealed vitriol so just give me the general gist - you are criticising getting shot of planes and carriers, used in "this type of mission" when there is also "the hugely more common one of battling guerillas and insurgents". My take on this would be that this sort of thing comes up so few and far between we would be best leaving it to the mary queens to sort out. Massive oversimplification, of course, although I don't expect those four pages of waffle to be much more than wordy criticism with little thought give to facts and figures.

    Yeh, yeh, I should read the whole thing, yeh, yeh...

  10. trarch
    IT Angle

    Re: At the risk of universal obloquy...

    Probably due to the extensive coverage in the media, one would assume.

    If they just sat back idly and watched the events unfold, I'm sure people would have a thing or two (more) to say about our government.

    One thing I didn't quite understand in this analysis was the remark about using so few Tornadoes in Libya. Surely this is a good thing as, as pointed out by the author, their payloads, running costs etc. are expensive.

    Not that I know anything about military stuff though.

    1. Gareth Mottram

      re: Re: At the risk of universal obloquy... → #

      the point is that the tornado has a serviceability rate of less than 10% which is why we can only have 4 involved! that and the tanker fleet needed to get more of them on target would be impossible to maintain in italy.

  11. Individual #6/42

    But who would have got those old Tornados?

    If the Libyan government had offered to take them off our hands we might have been looking down the wrong end of a technological disparity.

  12. paulc
    Thumb Down

    Bzzzt wrong

    "In other words the RAF is contending that it requires more than 11 Tornados to keep one in the field."

    The whole point of only sending so few out is to retain the majority back at home for Defence of the Realm... which after all is the entire point of having an air force at all...

    1. smylar


      So the French are about to launch a sneaky invasion are they?!

      Anyway, firstline defence is supposed to be the Typhoons' job

    2. Demosthenese

      bzzt to you too

      Tornadoes are deep penetration strike aircraft - not so good for 'defence of the realm'. So no, that is no reason to have them sitting at home.

      1. Conrad Longmore


        The Tornado was designed for World War III where all hell has broken loose and you haven't got air superiority, but you still need to drop bombs or a tactical nuke on those Soviet armoured columns moving across the North German Plain. In that kind of ultra-low-level operation, heavy casualties are inevitable, so coming in close enough to get hit by small arms fire isn't a big deal.

        They are pretty much the wrong type of aircraft for every mission they have actually been on, but at least then can drop ordnance in the general vicinity of the enemy which is something that the Typhoon can't do.

  13. DT

    Defense budget = attack budget?

    Defence ain't what this is about.

    This isn't about the UK's ability to defend itself (which with nukes and eurofighters it's quite capable of doing already)...this is about the ability to "project power" or rather; to cut the BS- wage war on multiple fronts.

    Given recent history, I'd say the UK hasn't a mandate for any action without the UN or NATO involvement, so where's the problem?

    Isn't the problem that "our boys" aren't getting enough action to keep some journo's stiffy up?


    So our boys are brave patriots for fighting countries with tech two generations out of date, yet the enemy are "suicidal" for attempting to repel them? I'd hasten that many of those under a dictatorship have less choice than our soldiers did in WW1.

  14. Paul Shirley

    who stole the real Lewis Page?

    The real Lewis wouldn't be frittering away time on Libya while yesterday New Scientist posts scaremongering headlines like "Fukushima radioactive fallout nears Chernobyl levels".

    Come on Lewis, you've had a day, where's the soothing snowjob?

    1. Hermes Conran

      Too right..

      I need someone to tell me why the water that managed to give radiation burns to workers near the reactor is safe and healthful.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The water is perfectly safe

        It's just ever so slightly less perfectly safe than it was yesterday.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too right..

        You're not claiming Lewis is into homeopathy, are you?

  15. ColinP

    "This is how you suppress enemy air-defence networks"

    There is one very simple and compelling why a jet, whether it is a Tornado, Harrier or F18 is better than a cruise missile in a situation like Libya: It's that a fighter/bomber crew can make a real time decision to not fire on a target and thereby save innocent civilian lives. For that reason alone, it'd be better to have more Tornados and support aircraft in the air, not fewer.


      Go to Trafalgar Square. Look up.

      It seems like the problem here was that the equipment doesn't exist in sufficient numbers in the right locations with the appropriate level of tech. As an island nation, it seems a bit obvious (as it always has) that sea power should be the key. Yes you want to project force outward so that you take the fight to the enemy and keep it away from the home territory. In that respect, carrier focused air power seems to make a lot more sense.

      It also has the advantage of being mobile.

      Lack of mobility in large numbers seems to be the real problem. That's something that a plenty of helicopters and mobile airfields help with.

      Heavy tanks? Defense? Is someone really expecting the next great tank battle to be in Britain?

    2. Neil Hoskins


      I tend to favour cruise missiles for exactly the same reasons. The Mk 1 eyeball isn't much use when NATO shoots up convoys of tractors carrying refugees, is it? And don't even start on the Yanks, notorious for mistaking recognition signs for missiles, and cameras for RPGs.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Real time decisions

      "It's that a fighter/bomber crew can make a real time decision to not fire on a target..."

      Apparently, the Stormshadow missile also does this during a bunt over the target - if it decides it cannot destroy the target without undue collateral damage, it flies itself to a designated secondary location (somewhere in a desert, for example) and destroys itself. This along with stealth capabilities may have been deciding factors in selecting these in place of the simpler Tomahawks for certain missions.

    4. Andydaws


      the Tornados were launching subsonic cruise missiles at 200 miles range, which rather kills the "real time" argument.

  16. dansan

    when are we attacking Syria and India and ....

    so we attack any country that tries to stop rebels that are a threat to it.

    when will we be seing action in syria where the government snipers have been killing people ?

    what about india which has hundreds of thousand of army in the tiny region kashmir and killed thousands of innocent people ??

    so come on cameron , sarkozy, obama, lets serve justice and attack these countries as well

    1. Demosthenese


      God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

      Courage to change the things I can,

      And wisdom to know the difference.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        If you are praying to a man in the sky. You have no wisdom.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...

        Courage to change the things I can,

        And wisdom to know the difference."

        Britain helps start a devastating civil war in North Africa...

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Quick summary

    As long as we only choose to fight poorly equipped countries, we don't need all this equipment.

    Corollary: If we scrap a lot of this equipment, we will only be able to fight third world countries.

    Corollary^2: If we scrap this equipment, we will become a viable target for other nations who have hardware that's inferior to what we have at the moment.

    Our military hardware isn't just for offence - it's also for defence and (more importantly) deterrence.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      deterrence my arse

      what nation has the firepower and political will to attack our motherland? they'd need a serious air force, maybe some carriers too (=> serious navy) and possibly icbms. the only nations capable of waging war on that scale are russia, china and the usa. and maybe india one day. why the fuck would any of them want to attack us? what's in it for them?

      1. IglooDude


        North sea oilfields and whiskey, are the two resources that readily come to mind.

        Perhaps if it was earlier in the week I'd be able to come up with a longer list...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know where they are

    "The USMC also supplied Cobra gunship escorts – evidently no British Apaches were available"

    That's because they've been busy flying over my house in Suffolk at all hours at low level. There are miles and miles of fields round where I live, but they decide to hover of the dozen or so houses in the area.

    If I weren't scared of being blown to bits I'd be lighting them up with the laser sight on my air rifle just to annoy them as much as they annoy me.

  19. Joe Cooper

    Don't get it

    I can clearly see the point that the Eurofighters aren't filling a need right now, but since they have to be bought so far ahead - development cycles are like ten years now, ownership for three to four decades - how can you possibly look that far ahead?

    The fact is that jets do exist which are competitive with Eurofighters, and those jets are up for sale.

    To say you can see so far ahead and know a country owning those jets will never get in a spat with you is kinda presumptuous, isn't it?

    I know you feel that it's "fighting the last war", but if you realize that dictator swatting IS the last few wars, and that you're 100% focused on fighting it to the point of ignoring any other possibilities, it becomes a little funny.

    Still love reading you though.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    2 reasons

    "could I ask why the UK felt the need to launch an unprovoked aggressive war against a nation that is doing us no harm, and probably has never done us any harm?"

    2 reasons -

    1. It makes the money spent on defence/aircraft appear justified. Imagine what people might say if tax was spent on planes that were never used (shock!).

    2. By doing the above, there is a false assumption that all other countries will fear you. After all if you've not been involved in some sort of war situation for a few years then you're seen as a "soft" target.

    Of course I'm being sarcastic with the above but sadly there are enough people in positions of authority who genuinley believe things along those lines.

    1. The Original Ash

      Allow me to retort

      1. This just means that they are an effective deterrant, and they should be updated regularly (at multiple billions of taxpayer money) in order to remain effective. Nobody cares if you never fire a missile, as long as you keep buying more of them.

      2. A display of force is obviously effective in proving that you aren't to be trifled with. However, what we have here is three countries plus NATO launching missiles from the sea into a country with jets and defences two generations out of date. This would be like William Wallace and his men standing their ground while muskets fired at them.

  21. Andrew Norton

    If we cut back on the tanks...

    Does that mean the likes of Cpl. McLintoch will have to cook chips full time?

  22. LPF

    @Tom Welsh

    The IRA got most if not all it semtex from Libya and let us not for WPC Fletcher , WE OWE THEM BIGTIME!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Libyan semtex bought with US dollars.

      The Libyan government would just give some crap excuse that they can't be held accountable for how the weapons are used. Y'know, the same excuse our government trots out.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Perhaps you need a History Lesson?

    After reading this august journal for many years, I believe that the register has finally lost the plot with your inputs Lewis.

    Go away and read some history. For instance, Tanks, why not get rid of them, useless things. Of course we tried that in the 30's and ended up fighting a certain dictator with 50mm guns on his tanks using Matilda I's with machine guns.....

    The same issue can be made against every bit of "fact" that you have placed in this so called article. Go and find out some real information, and perhaps your conclusions wouldn't be a pile of cr*p.

    Air support does NOT win battles. It helps to have control, but by no means is it the be all and end all as you depict it. Battles are won by all arms combinations, not light troops alone.

    Idiot. Not a f clue.

    1. Demosthenese


      Yeh, and we need armoured foot knights and longbows just in case we need to give the French another kicking.

      Tanks have gone the way of the battleship.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        air support

        can't hold ground. need boots on the ground, they need mobile armour. not every enemy has air support

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Air support does NOT win battles.."

      True. As every American sent to Vietnam will no doubt testify.

  24. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Bring back the spitfire

    Since the only plane actually downed so far by the collective air superiority of the great and the good was a single engined trainer, taxiing on the runway, blown up by a missile from a French fighter might I suggest that a fairer match would be for the UK to use Spitfires (or possibly Hurricanes) - not only would it be a great saving over buying F22s but it would give the whole affair a much better public image - plucky chaps in mustaches and scarfs etc.

  25. Craig Vaughton

    Happiness is Vectored Thrust

    Not being able to field a carrier in a fairly limited action like this should be a very stark warning of what's liable to come. I'll give it a couple of years at most, by which time the Harriers will have been scrapped (they won't be sold, too much US kit on them) and by which time someone will have found decent reserves of oil around the Falklands. You can guess the rest.

    As for buying Rafale, if we hadn't been so pig headed way back when both Rafale and Eurofighter were still paper planes, we'd have had Rafale in service already, which would have saved us and the French a lot of money.

    1. Yag

      Don't forget that French only made the Rafale...

      ... after quitting EF2000 consortium due to disagreements on the requirements.

      Oh, the irony.

  26. TRT Silver badge


    The decision to scrap the carriers, harriers and choppers is simply nuts.

    The UK Army is sold all over as a force that, in times when the defence of the realm role is purely deterrent, operates as a means of humanitarian relief. Where was our floating airport with a fleet of troop carrying 'copters when our citizens wanted out of Egypt, Bahrain, Syria? What air support could we spare to retrieve the stranded and deliver tents, food, shelter to flood-stricken Pakistan?

    The defence review has shown the world that the politics of this country is the politics of warmongers, not humanists.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      our citizens?

      The ones who went abroad, happily complicit with whatever globalcorp and totalitarian regime were in the region, being paid a boatload whilst avoiding paying pesky revenue to the UK?

      I'm sure they were just working there for the good of the local population, after all some of the money (might not end up going as director's profits, or as arms, or resting in some dictator's Swiss bank account).

      Yes, our brave, expatriated, tax avoiding, citizens, in their secure compound being paid danger money. Why on earth shouldn't we risk our expensive hardware (and cheaply paid soldiers) to get them out of there when the risk/reward calculation starts to go negative?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        As an ex-pat...

        ... I agree. If I'm not paying UK taxes, I don't expect the government to send in choppers and the SAS to bail me out if the hell-hole I've elected to work in goes to pieces.

        And what use are a bunch of choppers on their own anyway? You think that they'd have magically teleported to Bahrain to whisk people away. You don't think they'd need to be transported there? Or that local air defences might have objected to them zooming down from the skies?

  27. John 62

    Desert Strike

    That taught us you only need one helicopter to topple a mad dictator.

    Great game. Fond memories.

    Or Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: you need a few tanks, planes, ships and artillery, but I found the best units were helicopters and troops with parachute or orbital insertion capability.

    Also, I thought the last hundred or so pages of Clancy's the Bear and the Dragon were almost worth the pain of the preceding 800 pages. The US managed to destroy most of the Chinese 3rd Army with a couple of their biggest sub-nuclear bombs. After the F-15s with AWACS support cleared the skies of the PLAAF for the bombers. And I think most of the fighting was done by the time the US armor had rolled across from Germany by train. And the Rainbow team + the Russians they were training was sent as far as the Chinese ICBM sites by helicopter(!) Naturally the ICBM that took off before they could sabotage it burned up the Russians and not the Rainbow team.

    1. Thomas 4

      Not necessarily

      The problem with Apaches is that as soon as one goes down from lack of fuel in the final campaign, you have to invade the whole country all over again.

  28. Graham Bartlett

    @Joe Cooper

    The problem isn't so much "fighting the last war". The problem is that the RAF and army are locked into a mindset of fighting a war which never actually took place (land war with the Sovs in Europe). And as a kicker, the strategies they would have used in this non-existent war have been proven (in Iraq I and II) to be ineffective. Plus the navy played political chicken with their carrier fleet, never thinking anyone would actually swing that axe, and lost big-time.

    Thing is, you need to think about who you're likely to fight. You're not going to fight China or Russia, or anyone with serious weapons, bcos they've got nukes and we've got nukes. So we go for diplomatic sanctions with them instead. No, you're only *EVER* going to be actually fighting the tinpot dictators and random nutjobs - the whole "global policeman" thing. So plan for that, yeah?

  29. Dave 88

    Err, no...

    'The Harrier could even carry Storm Shadow, assuming you actually wanted to do that for some reason.'

    Err, no it couldn't -

    'The Harrier fleet actually had more aircraft modernised to drop the latest smart weaponry'

    Apparently not Brimstone (main anti-armour air-to-ground missile) though (see above).

    Plus with less than half the combat radius of a Tornado GR4, a Harrier taking off from the coast of Libya (never mind a safe distance out to sea) wouldn't get half way across the country without refueling putting targets in the south out of range entirely.

    1. smylar

      Nothing There

      Except all there is in the South is sand! - If you really want to bomb that far south you can let the Cruise Missiles do it (range is over 1000 miles), and you can still refuel a Harrier

      As far as I'm aware GR9 spec Harriers should have Storm Shadow and Brimstone integration, as to whether they actually ever carried them is another matter (probably all provisioned for Tornados), but they certainly should be able to use them. A quick look at would seem to confirm this

    2. nichomach
      Thumb Up


      ...and yet another example of Lewis not having a clue; the last variant of the MD/BAe Harrier II was the GR9 and that was not qualified for most of the newer smart weapons.

    3. smylar


      Actually if you read that government report properly, it is about STANDARD operational loadouts, you'll also see that the Harriers were carrying Maverick missiles, which are anti-tank missiles.

      So no need to introduce Brimstone until the Maverick stock is depleted (Harriers carried these from GR7 onwards)

      Oh at it is indeed cleared to carry paveway IV - the latest smart bomb.

      The GR9 spec calls for these weapons, the only one cancelled was ASRAAM carriage - not cleared for use just means they haven't been arsed to clear it for general use, usually for reasons of money, e.g. We need to use up the Mavericks, so no point testing or training crews for Brimstone (yet), or are we really going to stick a Storm Shadow on a Harrier. It doesn't mean they cannot use them

      1. nichomach

        You fail at reading comprehension

        The Hansard reply lists, not "standard operational loadouts", which phrase is only used at all when stating that there is no negative effect on the standard load of either Harrier or Tornado of higher (exceeding 25 degrees celsius) temperatures while operating in Afghanistan, while noting that the GR9's capabilities are less by comparison, but a table of all "targeting and reconnaissance pods, air to ground weapons and air to air weapons that have been cleared to be carried by Tornado GR4 or Harrier GR9". It is readily apparent that Tornado can not only carry a vastly greater array of these, but that even on a like for like basis the Tornado can carry more of the same weapons than the Harrier; or as the answer states "Comparatively, the Tornado is more capable. Its standard load carries more weapons enabling greater flexibility whilst on missions.". Brimstone is already being used effectively by Tornado, as is Storm Shadow, and even if the Harrier had ever completed certification to carry either operationally, Tornado can carry more of them, faster and further. They can carry more Paveway IVs, too.

        1. smylar

          Not the whole picture

          Sorry but this completely neglects some other Harrier advantages:

          They were cheaper to run

          They had a greater availability rate

          Ability to be delivered by sea (This is the big one)

          Ability to undertake martime operations (we are an Island after all)

          Use of rough and ready airfields - Tornados couldn't be deployed to Afganistan for years due to this.

          Yes they can carry more but battlefield interdiction in Afganistan rarely requires a full loadout.

          You are still neglecting the that Harrier had Air to Ground anti-Tank capability in Maverick - without considering the fact there are no Tanks in Afganistan - Therefore those missiles are overkill

          And, Typhoons can just about do everything a Tornado can and better, especially over the next couple of years - Therefore we've removed a useful asset - and then replicated what we have left in another airframe.

          We could have kept Harrier for Battlefield Interdiction/Martime/Fast Response and replaced Tornado with Typhoon taking over Strike and Air Defence

          1. nichomach
            Thumb Down


            As the Hansard answer shows, Tornado cost £35,000 per hour to operate, Harrier £37,000. The ability to deliver by sea was going by 2014 anyway, well before the QE class enters service, since the remaining pseudo-carriers were being retired. This also removes maritime operations, except those launched either from friendly countries if overseas or from the mainland if you're talking about home waters - and in both cases, Tornado could carry more, farther and faster.

            Battlefield interdiction in Afghanistan may rarely require a full loadout, but, and one hesitates to point out that which ought to be staggeringly bloody obvious, Afghanistan is not the only part of the world where we might need strike aircraft or the only battlefield environment in which we might be operating. Bluntly, this seems a constant with all the Page-ites; Harriers would work in Afghanistan, therefore they would work everywhere for everything. They may not be using those anti-tank missiles in Afghanistan, by the way, but what have they been firing Brimstones at in Libya? Why, tanks, I believe :-).

            Regarding Typhoon, yes, it will have a robust air-to-mud-capability, true, but not in the next couple of years; we'll only have something like 8 pilots certified in the strike role in that time in Typhoon. We have a shitload more qualified on Tornado RIGHT NOW.

        2. arkhangelsk

          What seems obvious to me is in that link...

          ... that the RAF is more interested in getting things cleared for Tornado than Harrier. This has little to do with what each can carry with equal effort, just what the RAF decided to spend money on.

          I suppose from the viewpoint of the *Air Force*, the Tornado may be a superior bombing craft - the calculation is correct as long as you force the Harriers to use the same airbases as the Tornadoes, thus making them fly the same distances.

          However, once you add the Navy and its ability to get a airbase (carrier) very close to the target, the Tornado's advantages are neutralized as they get farther from Britain or farther from the closest convenient airbase. As an all-around power projection tool, the Harrier is superior.

          1. nichomach

            And what you don't seem to want...

   acknowledge is that even if Ark Royal wasn't being scrapped now, it would have been in 2-3 years along with Illustrious, so there would be NO CARRIERS for your vaunted Harriers to fly off; they would have had no option but to use land bases in 2-3 years anyway. There will be no carriers until the QE class comes in, along with F35 (and we'll be flying those off a French bird farm initially, which is capable of flying conventional carrier aircraft anyway), which means that the most capable plane that can be flown from a land base is the one we should keep, and that's Tornado. Arguments about what could fly off carriers that we've been planning on scrapping anyway are moot.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Simple error by the author?

    "The Tornadoes had flown 3,000 miles from Kent to do so,"

    News to me. Given the ones involved were flying from Norfolk which is some 120 miles from Kent. Or has the MoD been engaged in some complex coverup - not enough fuel to get them the full 3,000 from Marham?

    Assuming not, have any other howlers slipped past during editing?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tanks for nothing, Lewis


    You're at it again, Lewis, ensuring your many sensible opinions are tainted with way too much raving over hobby horses. Please explain to Register readers how the 5 (shortly to be 3) tank regiments and 8 armoured infantry battalions, equipped with kit bought 20 years ago, supposedly suck up all the money from the other 32 non-armoured battalions when the biggest expense in the Army is personnel?

    You could try familiarising yourself with British operations in Basra, Al-Amarah, and Afghanistan, where tanks from the British and Danish armies remarkably proved and are proving remarkably useful, despite their opponents not having any. Indeed, the US Army has upgraded hundreds of tanks for fighting in built up areas against insurgents precisely because of long experience in Iraq (see TUSK).

    It's strange how our "light infantry" war in Afghanistan seems to rely on infantry riding large, heavily armoured vehicles, that are hard to transport. Of course, they are called Mastiff's and Ridgebacks, so they are, like, so totally different, and much better. Until, of course, the Taliban accquire Kornet missles, whereupon those tanks will be seen in a different light; if there are any left

  32. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Do you really need an airforce to get rid of a dictator?

    Or would one, well aimed, bullet be enough?

    ISTM we're still playing war by the gentleman's rules of the eighteenth century. Mustn't shoot the leaders old chap, that wouldn't be sporting. Better that thousands of ordinary soldiers get killed or mained than "one of us" should suffer.

    We know that western democracies (I nearly said "civilisations") are not above assassination - just look at the drone attacks in Iran/Afghanistan not to mention other countries long, if not glorious, history of killing enemies of the state remotely. Even the history of special forces ops going back to whenever they were invented. Sure, there may be some difficulty in finding suitable targets, once they are given the chance to go to ground - which may just be a good reason for doing the job sooner, rather than later (maybe just after they attain office?: "Do you enter name swear to uphold ... <bang> <thud> ... next please!")

    If you really want to save lives, then addressing the seat of the problem is the fastest, cheapest and most effective way of proceeding. You never know, a few high profile examples may even make prospective baddies think twice.

    1. Psyx


      The CIA is happily murdering people as fast as it can in Pakistan, A'stan, and anywhere else it can find targets. British SF are also involved in such operations. And Mossad is cheerfully slapping limpet-mines to the sides of people's cars in Iran and strangling people in Dubai. We've already proved that we're morally 'ok' with such acts, so that's clearly not what is holding us back.

      Gadaffi hasn't remained the despotic ruler of a nation and sponsored terrorism on and off for 40 years by being slack. He's mobile, well protected (and no: I don't mean just by his 'Amazonian Guard'), and used to having his life threatened. He's got sense to keep a low profile at the moment; much as Saddam did.

      I think that if we knew where he was, and the strike could have been made without causing a lot of other deaths, he'd already be dead by now.

      1. perlcat


        "Gadaffi hasn't remained the despotic ruler of a nation and sponsored terrorism on and off for 40 years by being slack"

        Here and I thought he got there by virtue of his good looks and his Michael Jackson-inspired fashion sense.

        Anybody that ugly has to be mean. I'd like to use him to make gargoyle biscuits. Spread out the batter on a marble counter, place your hand on the back of his head, and slam firmly into the batter repeatedly. Batter is entirely optional.

        Grenade's for Gadafi to use as a suppository.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Assassination?!? - Yeah that should work.

      Lockerbie was another form of assassination in retaliation for a civilian mid east aircarft downed by by the US. Not quite as acceptable now, is it.

      The west seems to be hellbent on trying to MAKE more enemies than it actually defeats.

  33. Dave 88

    And more...

    'We can be pretty sure what the unspecified number of Storm Shadows was, as the Tornado can carry only one Storm Shadow into combat '

    Four hardpoints on a GR4 are capable of carrying Storm Shadow, however with drop tanks on the wing pylons it's quite possible they carried two each, for example:-

  34. David Webb


    You want to replace the Eurofighter with the F/18? Are you nuts? The Eurofighter is a proven capable warmachine, easily able to despatch F15's with impudence, so I'm going to guess it'd be able to take down the F/18 quite easily also. (Spain Typhoon vs US F15, 7 dead F15's out of 8, 0 dead Typhoons out of 2).

    I know you loath and detest BAE systems, the CEO must have run over your favourite cat or something, but go back and look at history, look at what happens to the UK when we allow our arms industry or any industry to flounder. From producing 80% of the worlds ships after WW2 to producing about 5%, the loss of skills needed to produce arms, such a narrow vision because of a deep seated hatred for anything BAE, how can you consider yourself an unbiased journalist when your bias is plain for anyone to see.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Might be a stupid idea but... can't be worse than those the MoD come up with. How about a nice big double hulled cargo ship with lots of flat deck space (like a container ship). Fit it with LOTS of vertical launch tubes for Tomahawks, some anti missile defended and lots of fire fighting ability. Then cruise up and down the Gulf of Sidra lobbing missiles as needed.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I haven't ready the article...

    ...but let me guess.

    The general gist of it will be.

    1. The UK armed forces kit is rubbish and expensive

    2. We should have just bought US kit instead which is simply super

    How did I do?

    It's how every Lewis Page article goes innit?

    Of course no mention of the fact that the British or French have not managed to shoot friendly children while rescuing a pilot who crashed thanks to mechanical failure of his jet.

  37. Jim 59


    The article is tendentious and selective. It proposes all our armed forces should be designed around a couple of recent encounters. No. Forces must be prepared to fight any enemy in any geography. I might as well say: "Oh. we didn't use rifles in Libya, so we are stupid for having rifles". Or "Our last 2 wars were in hot countries. Chuck out all the big coats".

    Get rid of all tanks, yeah ? Weren't tanks the whole basis of the Gulf War 1 and the liberation of Kuwait ?

    The next battle could be anything. Fighting in the jungle, blitz kreig in the dessert, boarding pirate vessels at sea, urban house-to-house. The enemy faces the same difficulties, and all military leaders wish their arrangements could be better.

    1. Alfred

      The title is not required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      " Weren't tanks the whole basis of the Gulf War 1 and the liberation of Kuwait ?"

      It turned out that there wasn't actually anything for them to do once they got there. The airpower that went ahead cleared the table.

  38. Gianni Straniero
    Black Helicopters


    Our lack of helicopter lift is frequently cited as a contributing factor to our casualties in Afghanistan.

    But if Our Brave Boys are in big, fat Chinooks, won't the Taliban switch from IEDs to shoulder-launched SAMs instead, as the Mujahideen did when they gave the Soviet Union a thrashing?

    Or do they lack a Charlie Wilson-style benefactor to supply such kit?

    1. Alfred

      Join the dots, buddy

      How many shoulder-launched SAMs do they use to take out the current range of helicopters (not just the ones carrying Brits)? So why would us putting a few more in the air to carry our soldiers suddenly cause that to change?

      1. Gianni Straniero
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Join the dots, buddy

        "How many shoulder-launched SAMs do they use to take out the current range of helicopters"

        I don't know. That's why I asked. Care to enlighten me?

  39. Archie The Albatross

    Procurement or Procuring?

    Defence procurement in the UK has been an unspeakable mess for as long as anyone cares to remember, with feather-bedded contracts given to produce badly designed, barely usable equipment. For example the SA80 idea had been around since since the late 1940s but only finally entered service in the mid '80s. A 40 year development for something that was much worse than the weapon it replaced! (Although the optical is sight quite good).

    On the other hand, TSR2 was killed early in development even though it was streets ahead of anything else at the time.

    Royal Navy carriers (remember those?) had 3D RADAR systems in 1968 but not in 1982 and probably still don't.

    Buying suitable kit at a bargain price from a willing overseas supplier isn't a new idea. In 1855 the War Office purchased a job-lot of cavalry sabres (made in 1796) from Germany to equip heavy dragoons for the Crimean War. Admittedly, the technology didn't go out of date quite so quickly in those days but you take my point.

    Just in case you were wondering, no, I don't think Lewis Page is always 100% right but he's usually 94% right and that's good enough.

    I speak as one who, like Lewis, (same service but a generation earlier) has been there, done that and have the scars & medals to prove it.

    Our service personnel deserve better but continue to deliver, despite the efforts of politicians, civil servants and Very Senior Officers (who should know better).

    1. Colin Brett

      RE: Archie the Albatross

      "Just in case you were wondering, no, I don't think Lewis Page is always 100% right but he's usually 94% right and that's good enough.

      I speak as one who, like Lewis, (same service but a generation earlier) has been there, done that and have the scars & medals to prove it.

      Our service personnel deserve better but continue to deliver, despite the efforts of politicians, civil servants and Very Senior Officers (who should know better)."

      Good for you! I agree wholeheartedly, even though I lacked the guts to wear a uniform.

      I think some of some of Mr Page's more emotive articles come from just these sorts of experiences. He's been there, done it and is now watching some of his brothers (and sisters) in arms fighting and dying; their overpriced substandard kit; the outrageous business dealings of BAE; the senior MoD officers who are scheming to preserve their little empires. And he's thinking "there but for the grace of God go I".

      I think the only problem he has is getting someone who signs the cheques for the procurement deals to listen! Keep it up, Lewis.


    2. nichomach

      Regarding SA80...

      ...while the idea of a bullpup rifle certainly had been around since the forties, the weapon originally proposed and adopted, the partially Czech-designed EM2 was completely different to the SA80. The Enfield EM2 was reliable, accurate and used a highly effective .280 intermediate cartridge whose recoil, unlike that of the subsequently adopted 7.62x51mm was controllable in automatic fire. It was killed off at the insistence of the US who forced all of NATO to adopt the latter cartridge, which they had adopted in the M14. Which they then shitcanned, adopting the M16 in 5.56mm instead. Thanks, guys. SA80 grew out of a bullpup version of the AR-18, a cheap and nasty stamped-metal alternative to the M16 which was popular with the IRA among others.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Good Strories In Strange Places

        On the subject of defence procurement I was surprised by a programme on the telly a couple of weeks back. It was a cooking programme featuring Heston Blumenthal catering on a submarine. What surprised me was that the sub which was intended to be on operations for 90 days did not have the capacity desgined in to carry 90 days worth of food for the crew.

        Did the spec for that sub mention the need for storage 90 days worth of food? Why did somebody in the MOD sign off the design? Did the designers read the spec? And why had nobody in the navy shouted about it until that bald feller came along?

        1. nichomach
          Thumb Up

          True enough, and well-noticed...

          ...mind you, in the Libyan thing the Trafalgar class in the area appears to have spunked more than half its total ammunition in one firing, so I doubt a 90 day patrol's a realistic likelihood!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Real Point

    There are places where the (unelected) government does worse to it's population every day and the "international community" does nothing. As soon as oil is involved they're straight in on "humanitarian" grounds. How many countries have had brutal civil wars in the last fifty years with no intervention from the UN?

    Last I heard Libyan oil amounted to less than 2% of the world's oil supply. So the question I have is how does the cost of this operation compare with the cost incurred by the increase in oil prices?

  41. Brian Miller 1

    It's ALL about business

    In my opinion the whole affair is just an excuse to go blow up the Libyans hardware so that when the new democratically elected gov. come in the y have to buy some nice shiny new hardware.

    From their saviours of course.

    " no cash???"

    "Don't worry we take black gold. I knows your good for it."

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I guess highly opinionated defence articles are a change from highly opinionated nuclear ones...

    You make some good points, but once again, it's rather ruined by distortions half-truths and outright fibs made in order to inflict your opinions on us.

    "France and the USA both have carriers operating off the Libyan coast right now, but our foolish decisions in the recent review have left us on the sidelines." - Good job, too. Looks like ditching the carrier has saved us millions. The article is written from the standpoint of someone who wants to be involved in every conflict going. Maybe our government are seeking to reduce the conflicts that we can waste money on. Maybe we shouldn't be projecting slivers of force half-way around the globe and our military should remain a deterrent force against more serious conflicts.

    I'm also shocked by the gall of calling Tornadoes 'slow' in comparison to Harriers. That's flat-out deception.

    The idea of calling artillery 'extremely expensive' and 'requiring enormous logistical support' is ludicrous when you then wave the flag for air-power, which has FAR more logistical requirements and is far more expensive. Artillery is dirt cheap in comparison, can put far more munitions on target than a 'plane can, exposes no aircrew to risk, is not restricted in loiter time above the target, and is always there ready to respond. I know that the green bits between the sea aren't really your area of expertise, but artillery is Queen of the Battlefield for a good reason.

  43. Gordon861


    I did wonder if this was also a chance for the Arab League to see the Typhoons up close in the hope that they might buy some from us, as they are probably the target market for them and the only people with money to spend on them.

  44. milosevic999

    Oh God....

    I like the register, with the exception of articles written by Lewis, I wish you'd get a new job.

  45. nichomach

    Something I wanted to pick up on...

    ...aside from the nonsense about Harrier being able to launch Storm Shadow (which it couldn't; nor Brimstone, nor ASRAAM, nor could it carry Litening 3 or RAPTOR, nor Enhanced Paveway, nor ALARM...) was Lewis's apparent joy that we're being saddled with (leased) Rivet Joint RC135s with (leased) crews to fly them. Lewis, can't we have a few cracks about them being 1954 vintage airliners, belonging in a museum, perhaps call their crews a vintage aircraft enthusiasts club? Or do we only do that when we're vilifying much superior British aircraft and crowing over their being scrapped?

    1. smylar

      Tools for the job

      Did someone just pull that list from Wikipedia without thinking about it?!

      Admittedly, storm shadow is stupid on Harrier, but it is provisioned for it, but not cleared.

      Brimstone was in the process of being cleared, but they were dragging their feet possibly because Maverick was operational and filling the role, why spend money while they are still in stock

      ASRAAM was cancelled for Harrier, seeing as it is a bomber and sidewinders are still pretty capable, it's fair enough - if you need air cover, bring Typhoons.

      Litening 3 does the same job as the Sniper pods carried by Harrier

      RAPTOR is a recon pod carried by dedicated Tornado platforms (GR4A) with very limited strike capability - These could possibly be kept on like we did the recon Canberras in the event of ditching Tornados.

      Enhanced paveway III, so what, Harrier carried Paveway IV.

      ALARM - Gulf War 1 era anti radar missile, well Harrier never was a SEAD aircraft, Typhoons more suited to this, early-ish Tranche 2 aircraft should be able to carry it.

      And the whole point about the RC-135 aircraft - There are hundreds of them out there, that means they are going to be cheap to run and maintain with greater availablity, instead of having to custom make each part like they did with the Nimrod, when parts fail

      1. nichomach
        Thumb Down

        Hansard, actually...

        ...and your point seems to be that some of the weapons capabilities of Tornado can be replicated to some extent by Harrier. No-one would dispute that, but a couple of points; firstly, you're relying upon previous generation weapons in several of those cases - there's a reason Maverick and Sidewinder are being replaced, and given that Tornado can carry SNIPER as well, I'd suggest that there are probably good reasons why they're going with Litening III. Secondly, all you've shown is that Tornado can do everything Harrier can and more besides. Incidentally, keeping on "recon only" Tornados while ditching the remainder of the fleet and going with Harrier still leaves us with multiple fast jet types with the attendant logistical and maintenance headaches that type reduction was supposed to get rid of.

        As regards the RC135, your argument sounds rather like that made for the Sherman as being a good tank - easy to produce, easy to service and cheap. Shame that it was a crap weapons system with a useless gun and armour made of tinfoil and spitwads (nicknamed Ronsons, because they lit first strike, every time); and the analogous situation is true; Rivet Joint can't match the capabilities of the R1, never mind the intended R2 (and the last government's decision to cancel the R2 was criminal, IMO). MRA4 was over-budget, massively, but we had already spent that money, and the result was a massively capable aircraft not just for maritime but also land reconaissance and attack, with superior ELINT capabilities. Lewis keeps calling them "sub-hunters" to belittle their capabilities, but they would have been, indeed were, way, way more than that. As regards custom parts, the MRA4 had a massive degree of parts commonality with commercial Airbus aircraft (glass cockpit, avionics, engines etc.) which would have reduced that necessity massively. We should have kept R2 and MRA4.

  46. earlyjester

    The really important thing here is

    So how do you spell his name?

    1. nichomach


      Ghad...Gadh...Khadd...Kadh...oh, bollocks, I give up...

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One reason to keep the Storm Shadow

    It is a brilliant name for a weapon - very Captain Scarlet. By comparison Tomahawk isn't nearly as whooshy sounding.

    1. TeraTelnet

      Captain Scarlet?

      More like Action Force - Storm Shadow was Cobra's answer to Snake Eyes!

  48. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    War isn't what it used to be, is it.

    Is there any difference between a rebel and a terrorist and a dissident? And is the masterplan to sell expensive weapons to Arab states but not equip them with arms and defensive measures which are effective against any foe and spill the beans on capabilities and weaknesses? Is that why they are not deployed and/or flying peace-keeping sorties?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The difference my friend

      between a rebel and a dissident is whether we like the regime they are standing against.

      The difference between a rebel and a terrorist is whether they eventually win or not.

      As per the first point, a dissident could never be a terrorist.

    2. amanfromearth


      Why would a martian be interested in our simple earthly pleasures?

  49. Roger Mew

    out of step

    With modern systems and techy stuff a drone and camera, a mobile phone and some missiles, targets wiped out. Why tanks they are obsolete. The frigates, basically obsolete, the carriers and harriers are the way to go, what happened? they were scrapped. We need AWACS, choppers, drones, and of course bulk transport for above, yes, carriers.

    The note is the same old same old, we had foisted on us the German gun and the British motor, both crap and the Germans, oh yes the British gun and the German motor. What transpired to be real crap, Mmmm the British army lump. Its been the same all along the line, the Champ, they KNEW it was crap, There were many other useless bits of kit from guns to generators, we had a generator controlled by radio valves, why, we did not need that sort of sophistication, they fell to bits when taken off road.

    The recovery vehicle to replace the Scammel, stupid.

    The persons controlling the services should be shot.

  50. Roger Mew

    Old planes

    I have to laugh at the old planes comments and the slow. The US uses KC135's these were mostly built in the 1950's and have since had new fans fitted. They are so old they had a hole in the roof so the navigator could use a sextant.

    They were operational like that til about 9 years ago and they are still flying. Sure they go back to Colorado for a check and to redo all the anti corrosion stuff in the airframe but they are still the old planes.

    Is it not a good idea to re fan the harriers and re-use them, certainly the way that we seem to be going means that we have to keep having a war.

    Be generous, give Gaddafi a nuclear bomb, It could be delivered in a container with a GPS on it and when it gets to its destination tell him if he attempts to move it it will go off.

    Delivery costs, very cheap possibly in the hundreds of £'s. The unit an obsolete Tomahawk head. The dearest thing, the container, you may even have some illegal immigrants in it as a bonus.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    Strange - I tought we were bankrupt

    Yet the bucket with loadsa' wonger to kill Johnny Foreigner never seems to empty.

  52. S Larti
    Thumb Up

    Frakkin' brilliant article Lewis

    Although as a taxpayer I'm pretty pissed off.

  53. Jaybus

    Err..Defense Review, not Offense Review

    If taken literally, then a "Defense Review" would be reviewing defensive capabilities, not offensive capabilities. Indeed, if military budget cuts are to be made, then it seems sensible to cut offensive capabilities to a greater extent than defensive capabilities. Of course, much depends on the distinction between defense and offense. An aircraft carrier is probably much more an offensive weapon, whereas a land-based air superiority fighter could be considered a defensive weapon.

    As an American, when it was reported that the UK had fired 3 or 4 (nobody seems to be quite sure of the numbers) missiles, and that the US had apparently fired more than 100, my first thought was not that the Brits couldn't manage more. Rather, I thought that, once again, the US had been snookered into covering the lion's share of the cost of this operation, its necessity notwithstanding.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lewis, keep it up

    A great counter to the media legal political bollo ks I normally end up having read.

  55. Interceptor


    This is an interesting debate, and to lob another hand grenade into it:

    The F/A-18-E/F models that the author and other posters are asking about aren't "1970s technology" or "1970s era fighters". The F18, which began life as the P38 (back when we used the "P" designation) as an extension of the Northrup F5E/T38 (which was later extended into the unloved F20 Tigershark) and placed as a competitor to the Light Fighter Competition as the YF17. The F16 won and soldiers on to this day. The USN and USMC asked for an improved F17 in the late 70s and it was redesigned around carrier operations and began production and flying in the early-to-mid 80s.

    That's what most of you are thinking of.

    The F/A-18-E/F started as an entirely new fighter for the USN and USMC to replace the F4 series, the A6 series and so on. Despite it being shaped like a 1970s F18, it is larger, has different engines, different electronics, a different power envelope and on and on. They feature variable-geometry inlets, for example. It is more akin to a step between the F15 and the F22 than merely a modified F18-C/D. The "oldest" F/A-18-E/Fs are 10 years along. That's practically brand new in 5th generation fighter aircraft terms. They're commonly referred to as "Super Hornets".

    If the author was suggesting going back to F-18C/Ds, then yeah, that'd be dumb. But honestly? The Brits could do a hell of a lot worse than to buy the Plastic Bug. It's here, it's now, it was designed, tested, flown and approved and made operational inside the timefram that the Typhoon was still having design issues worked out, it's carrier proven, it can drop bombs, fire precision missiles, defend itself in a dogfight, and we can stamp 'em out for the UK all afternoon.

  56. Jean-Luc
    Thumb Up

    useful Tornados, for sure.

    Now, I may be totally off on this one, but wasn't the original intent of the Tornado program to be more of a fighter/interceptor? Then it got switched into the fighter-bomber role when it couldn't cut the mustard as a fighter?

    Not saying it ever got produced as a fighter, just that I wonder if it wasn't one of those programs that got re-purposed early on.

    But, yes, overall, pretty good article. I think what many people fail to realize is how much military procurement is driven by tradition, rather than sound analysis of combat value and applicability to contemporary warfare. Lookup Mitchell, US Navy, 30s (carriers), De Gaulle, French Army, 30s (tanks), Doenitz,30s (U-boats).

    I think this is exactly what we will be seeing in the coming decades as heavy kit becomes more and more replaceable with remote and/or computerized drone equipment. At some point I expect tension between high-cost/high-capability manned fighter aircraft and medium-cost/high-capability drone fighter jets which will have the huge advantage of pulling as many Gs as they can. When that comes to pass, expect the manned jets to triumph up to, but not including, the battlefront.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "I may be totally off on this one, but wasn't the original intent of the Tornado program to be more of a fighter/interceptor?"

      Yes, you are correct, you are completely off on that one.

      The MRCA (Multi Role Combat Aircraft) was designed from scratch to cover several different roles for several different air forces. Have a read on Wikipedia.

    2. nichomach

      The original idea of the MRCA

      was that the same airframe could do the strike and fighter jobs; they found fairly early on that in fact the requirements for both were so different that quite radically different airframes were required. Tornado wasn't repurposed so much as built for the original purpose(s) but extensively redesigned to meet it/them. The Tornado was in service as a fighter until quite recently when it was replaced by Typhoon (which IS a plane that's being repurposed - originally designed as a pure air superiority fighter, now being extensively remodelled to add air-to-ground capability).

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: useful Tornados, for sure

      "Now, I may be totally off on this one, but wasn't the original intent of the Tornado program to be more of a fighter/interceptor....." Correct, you are completely off on that one.. The PANAVIA Tornado program was a multi-national program between the UK, Germany and Italy, to develop a common, long-range, multi-role bomber to replace the mix of '60s and '70s jets they all had. The Fwench tried to mess it up as it looked like killing their Mirage sales, but were edged out of the project. What resulted was probably the best interdiction aircraft of the day, far superior to the F-4 Phantom II, F-16 and even the F-15 Strike Eagle. The Tornado is still one of the fastest aircraft in the World at low level, reputedly fast enough to give even the F-22 a serious interception problem.

      The UK also had a requirement for a long-range interceptor for Atlantic patrols, mainly to defend against Soviet long-range patrol bombers. The role was being filled by RAF Lightning F6s and Phantom IIs but neither of these fighters was ideal. The eventual requirements list included very low fuel useage, endurance, and combat persistance by carrying as many medium-range AAMs as possible. The only off-the-shelf aircraft that came close was the F-14 Tomcat, and even that couldn't hit all the requirements. But by lengthening the Tornado (which allowed more fuel to be carried) and developing it into the ADV model BAe met all the criertia. Early ones did have a problem in that their radar wasn't ready (look up "Blue Circle Airline" for a laugh), but the later F3 is still an excellent long-range interceptor, and very effective for UN "no-fly" zone operations. For example, in the operations in the former Yugoslavia, the Torando was much more successful at catching the Serbian MiL choppers that the Serbs operated at night and on the deck in an attempt to get round the NATO air blockade, more so than any other fighter fielded by NATO in the theatre.

      Indeed, the Tornado ADV was so good at the interceptor role that the Italians, whom originally only intended taking the bomber version, decided to lease RAF Tornado F3s whilst they waited for Eurofighters.

  57. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. What is the odd one out?

    Afghanistan of course.

    It has *no* oil.

    Or does it?

    1. Spyware


      The West was happy with Qaddafi before the "Arab Spring". The oil flowed and investments abounded so there was no need to "steal" Libya's oil.

      The Libyan Rebels clearly said that they would remember which "Friendly Countries" helped them during their struggle against Qaddafi.

      I think the West took a gamble that Qaddafi would fall sooner or later and it was better to back the rebellion if they wanted to keep their investments in Libya. On the other hand, Germany, China, Brazil, India and Russia bet on Qaddafi and will not be rewarded by the new Libya.

  58. Alan Firminger

    Right and wrong

    I agree with Lewis, this war demonstrates what we all knew : the Defence Review is an illogical, and dangerous basis for the UK armed forces.

    But surely the reality is that we don't need to do any of this.

    Israel v Egypt, Mujahadeen v Russia, Serbia v NATO all demonstrated that infantry armed with modern weapons beat ground armour and aircraft up to 15000 feet. I bet modern modern shoulder launched anti aircraft weapons go higher.

    So there is a problem with long range artillery shelling a city or high flying bombers. These could be stopped by UN authorized action, but would not require the substantial war that we are now fighting.

    We have seen Libyan rebels touting the traditional RPG, and not many of them. We could supply essentially defensive infantry weapons and the conflict would be virtually over. Anything else and we are fighting a war for them. I know, the UN Security Council passed a different resolution, I blame the advocates.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: Right and wrong

      Oh boy, it's Duncan Sandys' love child! Every time you get someone saying "this or that tech makes that old tech obsolete" you have to point out there are very few truly grounbreaking developments that totally eliminate a previous class of weapon. As an example, before the tank, trenches, the machine-gun and artillery dominated the WW1 battlefield. The tank changed the balance and allowed the infantry to come forward and take the ground, but no-one stopped using machine-guns, no-one stopped using artillery, and even modern soldiers spend plenty of time digging foxholes.

      ".....all demonstrated that infantry armed with modern weapons beat ground armour...." No. For example, during the initial assault of the 1973 war, the Egyptian infantry used Sagger AT missiles and scored many kills against Israel's tanks operating without infantry support. The juh-nah-lists of the day immediately wrote off the tank as a spent force, just as Sandys had insisted we didn't need manned aircraft due to the ability of "robot planes" (missiles). The Israellis had a think, rebalanced their forces to mix armour and infantry again, and trounced the Egyptians.

      "...... and aircraft up to 15000 feet...." More of the "killer-SAM" faith? As far back as the run up to the 1973 war that was shown to be a fallacy. The Egyptians put their faith in Soviet SAMs, and they did shoot down a lot of IAF jets, but the Israellis found tactics and technology (jammers) to redress the balance. And MANPADS may shoot vertically 15,000 feet, but then that's the very unlikely ideal where the target is obligingly right in the correct spot. More likely is it's a crossing target, or going away, which reduces the launch envelope down to a few thousand feet at best. A jet like the Torando can be through that smalelr envelope in literally seconds, which doesn't give your MANPADS-toting footslogger much of a chance to get a missile off (or even arm his system if he's not pre-warned). That means you'd have to have a MANPADS-armed soldier, with some form of early warning, spread out about a mile apart over your entire front, just to protect that front line, let alone your rear areas. And the majority of even the most modern MANPADS can be duped with '60's tech - chaff and flares. Back in 2003, the Iraqis had plenty of MANPADS, SAMs, early warning systems and C3 for co-ordianation, and the Coallition had no problem destroying it all.

      So, you still need tanks to help infantry take and hold ground (which is the only way to resolve a war), and you still need aircraft both to kill the other guy's tanks and to stop his aircraft doing the same to yours.

  59. SharkNose

    Usual BS again

    Astonishing...I saw this article's tagline, guessed it would be by Lewis and thought, now what anti RAF drivel will this contain. Mr Page you didn't disappoint, more opinion masquerading as fact as ever, and even more fun, give the crabs a kicking!!

    Now when will the government realise that all this country needs to defend itself is a bunch of minesweepers, maybe manned by ex-navy opinionated hacks who simply recycle the same stuff all the time.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Could only bear the first page, but...

    I could only bear to read the first page, but that was all which was needed to tell that this "nah nah nah nah, I told you so" article is a bit like someone arguing that you don't need to bother with car insurance, and then when it comes to the end of the year and you've not claimed on it, laughing at you because it was such a waste of money.

  61. SDCowley

    Down with Britain and it's British industry with British products. I hate Britian

    Apologies for the title, I think Lewis took over my brain for a second.

    Re: the article - yet another bileous rant about how dreadfully awful the British forces are because the British Government (he thinks) cares more about keeping British Industry alive than the security of the country.

    Only a few mentions of how we should buy US equipment and how the US forces are infinitely better than the UK for far too many reasons - I'm quite impressed. Normally every other paragraph has a pro-us comment.

    How many times must I read the "down with BAE" articles? I'd like to say that i'm bored to death with them but I find the passionate hatred for them so amusing, I can't help but read them.

    If you would like to discuss the British Defense Industry please give me a call; I'd love to give you a proper education. Anytime. Anywhere

    Fail, as always because that's what I want to shout at the top of my voice when I read this utter drivel

  62. Dimitris Andrakakis

    What about the French ?

    Thank you for the very informative article, even if a lot of your readers seem to disagree :-)

    Meanwhile, we the readers of your column who are not English (and maybe some who are) would like to see a similar analysis on the French, if you have the time and the data.

    If the media are to be believed (I know; that's a VERY big if, especially here in Greece) the Armée de l'Air has delivered some serious pounding on Gaddafi's forces.

  63. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    What a complete and total load of cobblers.

    Love the "rah-rah-go-Navy" routine, but it's getting very old. Sure, sub-launched Tomahawks are the way to go to strike static air defences, but after that the subs are totally useless at enforcing a no-fly zone. IIRC, the RN subs only have short-range SAMs and can't project any form of no-fly more than a mile off their decks. Oh, and to operate in the relatively shallow waters of the Med it's a really good idea to have air cover, so the RN subs actually need the Eurofighters so the subs can stick around and launch any Tomahawks after the first night. So, we actually need jets over Libya to enforce a no-fly zone, and subs with Tomahawks just play a supporting role, not the actual enforcement one.

    Oh, and please explain how a sub sitting off the Libyan coast is going to find and hit Gaddafiduck's moving tanks or artillery units miles inland? Last I heard, we didn't have a recce-Tomahawk with Reaper drone capabilities. Are you suggesting we try hitting individual tanks with Tomahawks? Makes the Tornado-Brimstone combo look a very cheap option!

    Then we get to the even more ludicrous point that we don't need Eurofighters because Gadaffiduck only has "old MiGs" - that's a bit like saying we shouldn't give our airmen the best advantage we can so they can all come home safely, we should give them just "adequate" kit so they only have a 50-50 chance. If Gadaffiduck does send his fighters up it would likley be in a grand gesture, a Bodenplatte-style mass attack. In those type of confrontations we want our small number of fighters to have the biggest advantage possible, and the F-18 just wouldn't give that. The Eurofighter has far greater combat persistance (more missiles) and far superior systems to even the latest F-18s. It's also a better dogfighter than the F-18, which would be very handy as a lot of those "old MiGs" are very good at tight-turning dogfights, especially at low level. We know this from the early USN experiences over Viet Nam, where the MiG-17 and MiG-19 toasted the F-4 until the Yanks relearned some dogfighting skills.

    And then more anti-Tornado gumph. How would the Harrier be better operating from Italy, it would need even more air-to-air refueling and carry less of a bombload? Whilst the Harrier FS2 would be very good for dogfighting even MiG-23s, the Harrier GRs would not as they don't even carry the radar the bomber Tornados have. And then the old pocket carriers would still have needed air cover from Eurofighters as this is not the Falklands, the enemy are not having to flying hundreds of miles over the South Atlantic to get to the target area.

    Lewis, whilst i guess your heart is in the right place, your anti-RAF schpiel is getting very tired and desperate.

  64. Anonymous Coward

    Keep Harrier rather than Tornado for long range ops?

    "There can be little doubt that the Harrier would also have been better for Libya."

    A plane with a combat range of 300 miles would be better for operating over a country that large, rather than one with a combat range of over 700 miles?

    What do you propose if you need to put assets over Sabha, fly the tankers imediately above Tripoli?

    Also one should point out that spreading the work load over the 2 man crew makes long duration ops more likely to be a success, than one over worked pilot

    I think this is a sevre case of remaining Navy brain washing from when Lewis did his time.

    Physical limits for the non-propeller heads out there are;

    Harrier = Short Range Close Support with light weapons load (3500 kg, if you're lucky)

    Tornado = Long Range Strike Aircraft with moderate weapons load (9,000 Kg)

  65. Anonymous Coward

    Long Range Flights vs Sub Ops

    Whilst the article mentions how long it takes for an aircraft to get from the UK to Southern Med, it forgets to mention one of the great limitations of subs.

    You fire all your (limited number of) missles, you have to go back to port at 40 mph, rather than head for the nearest secure runway at 600 mph.

    I would suggest that the sub was used because the Navy wanted to justify keeping nuclear Attack Subs, and the RAF's lack of presence is because it's pilots* are over commited else where

    (*) - please stop being deliberately misleading by saying how many Airframes the airforce has, everybody know air ops is about how many pilots you have, or in our case just made redundant

    1. nichomach

      I notice, incidentally...

      ...that Lewis counts only the weapons dropped by RAF Tornados as the limit of air power (lowballing the number as he does so), but then takes every single cruise missile fired by every single allied warship (of which the RN contingent was a vanishingly small minority) and attributes that as an indication of seapower; a feat of accounting legerdemain that ought to have garnered him a directorship at pre-crash Northern Rock. So let's get it right, shall we? 4 GR4s that we know of, typical load, two drop-tanks, two Storm Shadows each for 8 missiles total. We know that one Trafalgar class sub fired Tomahawks, but so far as I am aware, no other RN vessel did. Trafalgar class subs can carry up to 25 missiles or torpedoes, all fired through the torpedo tubes. I understand that the actual Trafalgar class in question is HMS Triumph, and that she might have been carrying as many as 20 Tomahawks and fired up to 12. That ratio starts to sound a little less impressive, doesn't it? Plus the Tornados can reload and return a lot faster.

  66. Anonymous Coward

    When all you have is a hammer...

    ...Everything starts to look like nails...

    As has been said previously Gaddafi is and has always been several circuit boards short of a ZX spectrum.. but just imagine how you would feel looking at the remains of a 15 month old child who's only fit for soylent colonel...

    The article is about our military services - and it makes good points. The war in libya would be much better suited to ground attack aircraft such as the A10 thunderbolt.. which we dont have, but the americans do. The PANAVIA Tornado does have a good avionics suite, but its not the most reliable, and never has been, and the thing is not exactly young.

    Second point, there is little point moving every single plane you have into one theater when you are in the unpleasant position of being operational in at least 3 theaters in all and there is a likelyhood that there is going to be a few more 'police operations' to deal with at the same time. 10-15 out of around 150 is 10% or so, which allows for attrition, accidents (witness F-15 going splat) and terminatory faults in one or more aircraft.

    The UK (and to be fair, the US) doesnt have the money to field multiple types for each requirement - for example, in WWII the British fielded no less than 5 different fighters, the americans at least 7 if you include the carrier fighters - all of which had different strengths and weaknesses. Now, if we're lucky we have one of each of everything, so there is no balance - the weaknesses are the forces weaknesses.

    But to my point - our airforces are set up to fight the cold war - with, if you are generous, the ability to do other things tacked on. A Rafale (which to be fair is a very capable fighter) or a Typhoon or even to an extent the Tornado are not designed to do ground attack - their design as interceptors makes them unsuitable against even a reasonable AAA defensive system (a fact already seen with the tornado). Its alot like sending JU-87 Stukas up on a fighter sweep against La-5 and Yak-9DD's - bad things will happen. Of course that is not a totally fair comparison, but it makes the point. Use a military aircraft for something that its not designed for... and there will be losses.

    But all in all people are entirely missing the point - the reason why we are in this situation is for years the west has sniped at and badmouthed the people of the far/middle/near east - secure in the knowledge that its all secret - all the backstabbing and denigration of what are very proud peoples (and for good reason if you bothered to read your history) - thanks to wikileaks - has come home to roost, its no accident that this is all happening now.

    There is a christian epithet "do unto others as you would do unto yourselves" and the US and UK government forwent it - safe in the knowledge that their insulting and abusing of foreign governments would remain secret (up until the point someone made the connection between pieces of paper and the fax machine in the corner).

    What has happened as a result is very simple - out that way you are the great leader up and until someone else proves you to be an idiot, or guilty of attacking your own people, or guilty of buying loads of second grade military crap from the US.. at that point its replacement time, and this is what is happening.

    If the west had been honest in their dealings with foreign countries - and not thought it a good laugh to be abusive to them in "secret" we might not be in this position in the first place.

  67. Spyware

    Tanks are still useful in some situations

    A decade ago the Canadian Armed Forces decided to phase out all Tanks and replace them by Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs like the Stryker). But after 10 years in Afghanistan, they decided to scrap that plan. Turns out LAVs can't handle the Afghan terrain very well and are getting stuck in the sand and ditches quite often (and need to be pulled out by tanks).

    Canada and Denmark have deployed tanks to Afghanista­n over 3 years ago and their success in helping American operations recently is what has convinced US forces to bring their own.

    Only tanks can handle the Panjwai district’s mud-brick compounds and its irrigation ditches. They can crumble low-lying brick walls by using dozer blades. This clears a path for other forces, and allows the tanks to continue moving forward and providing fire support. they also provide advanced optics that can be used to observe Taliban fighters from more than four miles away as they plant improvised explosive devices. Tanks also support troops under fire almost instantly, calling in air support or artillery takes several minutes which is a long time when you're getting shot at.

    And a lonely tank manning a road block is much more intimidating to insurgents than a LAV.

  68. Azimuth07

    Why do you have The Rock...

    If you aren't going to use the bloody thing? It has an airstrip!

    "The Tornadoes had flown 3,000 miles from Kent Norfolk to do so, requiring the aid of repeated air-to-air refuelling assistance both on the way out and on the way back."

    1. Yag

      UK geography is not my strong point...

      But the rock don't really seems closer to lybia than mainland UK.

  69. goggyturk


    I thought about coming back to this site for news, as I had done for many years, when I was sent a link to a different (very good) story. Then I clicked on a link to this one. Oh dear.

    The phrase 'same shit, different day' comes to mind, the shit in question being the usual wide-eyed, tub-thumping near-monomania accompanied by selective twisting of facts to suit one's agenda.

    I won't be back.

  70. El Sid

    Storm Shadow is £1.09m, Tomahawk £1.02m

    We bought 900 Storm Shadow not 500 (see eg Friedman ) for £981m, so the total headline cost is just under £1.1m. Throw in the fact that 80% of that money stays in the UK, and the net cost to HMG is about £750k per Storm Shadow.

    See page 24 of this PDF for Tomahawk costs :

    Up to 2009 US Navy has spent US$10.594bn on acquiring 6,482 Tomahawks at an average cost of US$1.634m/missile (£1.019m). The FY11 unit cost is US$1.532m (£955k).

    A submarine capsule for Tomahawk costs $496k (£303k).

    The F/A-18 often seems to get mentioned as some kind of cheap option for the new carriers. The best guide to what the UK might pay for Hornets is the Aussie purchase from the USN in May 2007 at USN prices, 24 F/A-18F for “approximately” A$2.9bn, and a total programme cost of $A6bn over 10 years.

    The Aussie (and Canuck) dollars are currently both around parity with the US$, but in May 2007 it was about A$1.2/US$ and that “approximately” makes me think it was transacted in US$, so an acquisition cost of about US$100m/aircraft and a 10-year cost of US$205m. That’s for an airforce that is already flying F/A-18C’s, and has no requirement for carrier training.

    So in broad terms the Aussies bought F/A-18's for the same price as the Saudis bought their Typhoons from us (about $100m flyaway, $275m _lifetime_ (not 10-year) cost). Those are historical datapoints. Cost of the F-35 is inevitably less certain, but given historical discounts of full-rate production to low-rate initial production, it looks like it too will come in at around $90-100m flyaway cost, and it looks like it will be a bit more expensive to maintain. (stealth coatings are infamously fussy). So $100m just seems to be the going rate for this kind of plane, there are no real "cheap options" except for the Gripen perhaps. Unless you get a bit more creative.

    If we wanted to bulk out the CVF airwing on the cheap, we could take the Goshawk (version of the Hawk that the USN carrier-enabled for training purposes), throw in the glass cockpit from the Hawk 128, the radar from the Hawk 200, hang an Elta EL/L-8222 ECM pod off the wing and integrate AMRAAM/Meteor and Link-16. You'd get 2-3 Super Goshawks for the price of one F/A-18 or F-35, there would be no problems with qualifying pilots for them as they'd be our carrier training aircraft anyway, you'd be building them pretty much out of the parts bin and they'd be mostly British. They'd be perfect for low-cost Libya-type operations, and they'd still be useful in a hot war, particularly if you integrated Storm Shadow or Brimstone onto them.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      RE: Storm Shadow is £1.09m, Tomahawk £1.02m

      I have been poitning out the suitability of either a navallised Hawk 200 fighter or even just buying Hawk 200s for the RAF to Lewis for years, he never replies as he simply wants NO aircraft bought for the RAF at all.

  71. Wibble257


    This has to be the worst article Lewis has written, and that is saying something.

    He has been saying for years that the Typhoon will never get to do its job and now it is doing what it is good at he is saying it could be done by something cheaper!! No aircraft can live up to ever changing goal posts like this.

    He says that the long range missions flown by the Tornado were wrong and expensive because you could use a carrier + harriers but then you have to have the carrier in the correct place at the correct time!! The Tornado was able to provide an immediate affect; the carrier could take weeks to arrive and of course still costs money (which he always forgets).

    The Harrier can not carry RAPTOR or Storm Shadow.

    The Harrier can not carry max payload and still take off from a carrier without reducing fuel meaning it will still need the tanker!! Even then it can’t land back on the carrier if still has all it’s weapons.

    His knowledge of Stormshadow is way off.

    To launch tomahawks you have to have a submarine which costs money!!

    Too many errors, lies etc to comment on in this article.

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