back to article Can Liam Fox break the power of British Army, Navy, RAF chiefs?

Last week, the Defence Secretary announced the publication of the Levene report into the way the UK Ministry of Defence is run: and Dr Fox stated that he agrees with all the recommendations it makes. The MoD has formally announced that it "will publish a blueprint setting out all the major changes the Department is embarked on …


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  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Promising start.

    But note both those words.

    "Promising" as in not delivered anything yet.

    "start" as in beginning of a *long* process.

    Now let's see if he can cut off access to the PM of the CEO of BAe.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Cut off access to the PM of the CEO of BAe?

      No - there’s very little written in the British Constitution but the City Of London do have legally enforced access to Parliament and the Queen should they wish it.

      We don’t seem to have any righs as voters but business can click its fingers and our democracy must bow to them.

  2. Paul_Murphy

    I would like to think..

    That getting rid of Ark Royal and then starting a flying war with Libya has demonstrated that the RAF are not the most useful service, to the detriment of the others, and things need to change.

    I wonder, indeed, how long it might be before the RAF gets transferred into the navy, I personally can't see any reason why this couldn't happen - after all the militarys' primary purpose is the defence of the UK, and then the extension of our political will overseas - and the RAF cannot do that on it's own.

    Silly politicians, and sillier forces chiefs inter-bickering allowing the politicians to ruin our defensive and offensive abilities.


    1. Bumpy Cat


      I often look at the machinations of the senior brass and MoD and think that the way they act verges on fraud and treason. They squander the lives of soldiers and millions of pounds on service rivalry and personal power - how else should it be described?

      The RAF as a separate service seems redundant. Fold fast jets into the Fleet Air Arm, transport aircraft into the Royal Logistics Corps, and helicopters into the Army Air Corps.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Indeed that would be foolish?

        "The RAF as a separate service seems redundant. Fold fast jets into the Fleet Air Arm, transport aircraft into the Royal Logistics Corps, and helicopters into the Army Air Corps."


        Then you could fold tankers and AWACS into a Royal Flying Corps for air superiority, put bombers and another set of fighters to defend those bombers into a Independent Air Force, and you'd have faithfully recreated all of the problems that existed before the RAF was created to remedy those issues.

        It's little wonder that with people calling for the effective destruction of one or more services all three services are constantly trying to throw one of the others under a bus in self defense.

        I'd agree the numbers of brass playing office politics should be run down, but destroying one or more of the forces is not the solution.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Nice point

          And it serves to illustrate that the best way to understand the current setup is to read the history of everything that goes before.

          as a result of such a marathon session, a reader should pick up that:

          The Royal Navy through its Air Service operated a large number of fighter units over the trenches during the First World War - all well away from large bodies of water let alone enemy ships.

          That the RAF was in charge of naval aviation until about 1939, and only then did the Navy get to decide what it wanted to do.

          The RN operated its own fighters in defence of its naval bases.

          RAF Coastal Command and Bomber Command operated the majority of the aircraft engaged in the war against German warships and U-boats.

          The Army provided the glider pilots during the Second World War for airborne landings.

          That the navy initially provided the helicopters for transport and support during the Korean War.

          And when it's done you might understand why everything is like it is, though not necessarily how to make it better.

    2. Mark 65

      I can see a need for the RAF

      In fact just a very small need for it - air defence of the UK. The rest can be subsumed into the Army and Navy as required. That way those that need air support of whatever kind are ultimately in control of their own destiny and not left swinging in the wind when some Whitehall Biggles decides to piss the budget up the wall on kit that cannot be effectively used whilst important needs go unfulfilled.

      As for the defence industry, the minister should tell the lot of them to fuck off and get a banking license if they're after a persistent bailout.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Gotta agree

        The RAF Should be for the Air Defence of the UK and possible enforcing UN no-fly zones, jobs where they can operate solo basically.

        Apart from those two roles everything they do is in support of another service so it makes sense for that service to have direct control over the resources.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

          1. SkippyBing

            Crossing Pakistan

            The US Navy don't seem to have any problems putting more aircraft over Afghanistan than the RAF have their and they're happily floating around the Indian Ocean.

            I grant you it's not ideal but there isn't actually that much space in Afghanistan to park fast jets etc. so it's the only way to get the airpower there in sufficient numbers.

            And the Royal Navy was providing crews and maintainers for the Harriers when they were there and is still operating helicopters there now.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Navy on the Afghan coast

              You're quite right, much of the fast jet support in Afghanistan was from RN Harriers. Having a single service is a no brainer, but unfortunately theres too many servicemen past and present, who would cry about the loss of the pretty uniforms.

              Theres far too much tradition, pomp and old boys club mentality in the armed forces, and we all pay for it. If you complain about it, then you're a cunt "because they risk their lives for you sonny jim!"

    3. breakfast

      Why services plural at all?

      Why do we even need two services? Could we not have a single defence force with a single leadership role that provides an umbrella for sea, land and air endeavours?

      1. Anonymous Coward 101

        Just the one service

        The question is: is it more efficient to have three independent services or one bigger service with a unified command structure. Ultimately, the three services are doing the same thing - blowing up people overseas, or supporting those who blow people up overseas. Given that the services fight against one another for resources, I think merging the services would improve efficiency. However, the word 'tradition' will raise it's ugly head and prevent this from happening.

      2. Glenn Amspaugh

        Tittles matter!

        There wouldn't be as many cool titles and positions if there was only 1 unified military force. Besides, you can't have Calvary and Infantry fraternizing. Won't someone think of the children?

    4. Anonymous Coward

      To be honest

      There is a very strong argument to fold both the Navy and RAF into the Army. Think of the Warsaw pact command structures where naval and aerial forces all reported to relevant theatre army commanders. At the end of the day every conflict that has ever been won ever has been decided on the ground. As an ex-RAF Officer I'll happily agree to the RAF folding into the Army when the Navy do likewise. The navy as an independent force is a joke. At sea they have in most recent times been used to support land forces (including the Falklands, Gulf War 1 and 2 and Afghanistan). In a really big shooting war their prime role would be keeping sea lanes open so the ground forces can get the supplies they need.

      Of course, the Senior Service would never agree to that, but that is probably what should happen.

      To argue some counter points though. A great Churchill quote is this: "There is no more sound principle in war than you should be master of your own air". In other air forces worldwide where control lies with the navy or army then strategic thought goes out the window. The same happens with navies when they get controlled by ground pounders. All the services have great white elephants that they insist on keeping. For example, the army is quite happy to spend a fortune maintaining a big fleet of Challenger 2 tanks, when a smaller fleet and some proper armoured vehicles would be much more useful. The Navy wastes its money by having more admirals than ships, and big white elephants like anti-aircraft ships to defend carriers it doesn't have. Similarly the RAF wastes money on aircraft that aren't needed.

      The reality is, most of what the Navy and RAF do could be replaced by UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). If you replaced aircraft on aircraft carriers with UAVs the carriers themselves would cost a tiny fraction of what they currently do. Similarly much of the armoured forces of the army could be replaced by robots as well, leaving soldiers on the ground as the main bulk of the armed forces. It would be way cheaper and allow those forces to be extremely well equipped and supported. The reason it won't happen though is simple. The armed forces are run by people protecting their turf. The RAF for example is run solely by aircrew. That is why they won't replace the entire fleet with UAVs because they wouldn't then get to continue flying (which most senior air officers do still do). The Navy is run by people who used to command ships, and much of the Army is run by people who sat in tanks and enjoyed it.

      Nice article by Lewis until he got onto his usual hobby horse of buying US kit!

      1. arkhangelsk

        The WP command structure has its merits

        but in the long run the Ground Forces dominance probably made the Soviet Armed Forces less efficient and flexible than it otherwise might have been. The worst offender being the B and C divisions, which consume resources and manpower (which was running low in the USSR, especially in the 80s), yet were so undermanned useful unit training is a joke. In practice, their military potential as mobilizable units is at best an inch over just making new divisions from scratch. As political tools they are a net negative because they give NATO an excuse to bleat and justify their clearly much more offensive Navy and Air Force!

        If the Navy & Air Force had more power in the USSR, it is hard to believe that such wastage would have been allowed to continue.


        If anything, the USSR experience says that it might be OK in the modern era to let the Army eat the Air Force, but not the Navy. Generals these days understand they need some air. If they don't buy enough Air their ground divisions would be wiped.

        The Navy's role in national defense or even as support for the Army (except for carrier bombers) is a less familiar subject to them, so it'll be a very poor relationship - as the Soviet experience proved.

        1. SkippyBing

          Single Unified Service Malarky

          The Canadians went down this route in the 1960s, and technically still have one Armed Forces. However it now has Air, Sea and Land commands with distinctive uniforms as it was found to be more operationally effective to have expertise in those areas, strangely. It is possible for individuals to transfer from one command to another, but it appears to be no more common than it is in the UK armed forces.

          The problem is if you unify the services you save very little in overheads if you do it properly as each element has its own unique requirements that need to be taken into consideration. Whereas if you have, say, the Army in charge they’ll occasionally come out with helpful comments such as ‘If you had Bowman on all your ships you’d know which one was where without radar’. Which makes it not quite as good as Link 11 which has existed for decades and also lets you know what those other ships have on their sensors. Similarly someone in the Navy probably wouldn’t be the best to consult on infantry tactics.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      of course

      Of course the RAF is not as useful as it once was. This is part of the limitations of "single type" aircraft selections. Look at how many types the RAF operated in the 1960's and 70's compared to today.

  3. Breaking_News

    Who gets their corner offices?

    It seems to me this is not really solving the problem. I agree the idea of getting the services to work closer together is long overdue (and a lesson to learn all over Whitehall), but putting the operational command under a single 4-star officer, will lead to the same self-serving they currently have. Not to mention an RAF officer commanding an amphibious landing, or RN chap telling the army how to run a land operation. Who's going to tell them to play nice?

    The only winner in this is the mandarin with the cheshire cat grin, who gets the big office they've been eyeing up for ages!

    Coat - for the chiefs long walk!

  4. PaulK

    And the answer is...

    ...Semper fi.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    So in short...

    ...too many 'haven't-seen-a-field-never-mind-served-in-one' chiefs in whitehall, not enough indians or equipment in the field.

    Maybe this outbreak of common sense can extend to the fatcats sitting at the top of the Civil Service as well? I'll happily trade 3-4 midwifes (+ equipment) for a Humphrey Appleby any day of the week.

    Nuke...because trident is another waste of money

    1. nyelvmark

      3-4 midwifes

      Are midwives needed much in military operations?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        @ Nyelvmark

        Perhaps you wanna go back and read that again?

        I imply the midwifes are paid out of savings in the civil service budget, not the military one.

      2. Richard Taylor 2

        all of those

        over 9 months in duration

    2. streaky

      RE: Never seen battle.

      "too many 'haven't-seen-a-field-never-mind-served-in-one' chiefs in whitehall"

      The main guys they're on about cutting.. I suggest you go read their military careers before you mouth off about never having seen battle. Most these guys have got some serious experience fighting in real wars on the ground (or air/water) with real jobs and have been doing it since the 60's/70's so maybe know a thing or two about warfighting which is precisely why cutting them out is a bad idea.

      As for having a single chief. I think the two major tory mistakes of the last few decades have proven exactly why you need to listen to all branches advice rather than just one - the current issues are mostly caused by exclusively listening to Dannatt and *gutting* the other two branches so we're totally incapable of projecting air power which is pretty much realistically the only thing you need your military to do. Boots on ground is /completely optional/.

      Not very smart people will say oh but look at Iraq and Afghanistan, proof-positive you need ground forces. I say they're actually proof-positive that having the option got us in a mess we never needed to be in - problems that could have been resolved with air and naval power alone.

  6. Dog@86G

    With the best will in the world

    It was all going so, well until the bottom of page 2, then the deep seated service rivallry of the author, then UK Kit bashing crept in and it was back to normal.

    And as for Bumpy Cat, how about we strip all the aircraft from the FAA/AAC and give them to the RAF, but but but I can hear it now.

    The RAF can fly off Carriers/assault carrier/destroyers/frigates, and out of Mud/concrete, so why is it that the RN and Army need their own air arms? Oh thats right, empire building

    1. Bumpy Cat


      The reason I suggest folding the RAF into the other two services is to get rid of an entire third of the top brass, by reducing the number of services from three to two. Hell, it would be even better if we went the way of the US Marine Corps and had a single service with all the capabilities. There's far too much idle dead wood at the top of the services and MoD, and reducing that would be very good.

      And yes, I do have a beef with the RAF - their priority is themselves (naturally). There's plenty of cases to show that their decisions have left us short in actual conflict, while ensuring employment for Biggles.

      I spent two hours standing in the desert at night in an Afghan winter waiting for an RAF C-17, with no daysack (loaded on pallets). Meanwhile the US Marines were waiting in a warm hangar, and marched straight past us onto their C-17.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        You will save nothing

        Do you not understand that folding the RAF will not save manpower? You will still need people to run/organise the air elements of the Army and Navy!! These people will need to be air specialists and not the same people providing HQs for tanks, soldiers etc.

        What is more sacking all the RAF people then hiring lots of new Army and Navy people to fly, fix, supply and operate all the aircraft will costs billions and you will also loose loads of experience and corporate knowledge.

        Yes of course it was the RAF who left you all cold without your bag!! Its no wonder you are in the army with a brain that tells you to let go of your day sack.

        1. arkhangelsk

          Actually you would

          Probably, if the RAF gets eaten into the Army or Navy, its people just shed their RAF uniforms and put on BA or RN ones, so they don't have to "hire new Army and Navy" people.

          However, since it is now a subordinate Arm w/i a Service, the Air Component (since it is expensive) will have to justify their spending much more carefully and the parent Service would use every means possible to press for economies, and in a more expert way than the civilian politicians. Thus the Air Component would be streamlined and some savings would come out of it.

          1. Wibble257


            People who join the RAF want to be in the RAF. If they wanted to join the Army or Navy they would have joined them in the first place.. Yes some would transfer over but I image it would be less than 50% and perhaps as low as 20-30%.

            1. arkhangelsk

              What's so special about the RAF

              ... except that you can fly or maintain planes there?

              Sure, some people may have started out joining due to the old stories of RAF valor or similar, but there are probably at least as many cadets who joined without thinking too much about history. Once they are actually in, I just don't see most of them resigning (those that were going to make a career rather than getting out to fly for the airlines) just because they have to change uniforms.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They don't want to

    "The RAF can fly off Carriers/assault carrier/destroyers/frigates"

    They can indeed. But they don't anymore. Because they don't want to. Which is why they killed Harrier. If you want a carrier air force, best put it under the control of a service that want's said force to exist.

  8. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    I thought the tories were back in?

    Why not privatise it all?

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    RE The US Marines

    IIRC This force *alone* fields more *fighting* personnel than *all* the UK fighting staff combined?

    Of course the UK can field 20 000 staff in MoD procurement, which does make up the numbers.

    1. Bumpy Cat


      That's exactly it! The USMC is about 200 000 strong, compared to about 180 000 for the RN, Army and RAF. If we ditched the redundant chair-warmers in the MoD and upper echelons of the services, we might be able to match the US Marines in numbers of deployable troops.

  10. NoneSuch Silver badge

    So from what I read...

    Mrs. Thatcher was going to gut the navy when the Argies invaded South Georgia. So can we expect another small world conflict in a distant part of the globe in the near future?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Next stop

    A good start.

    Next stop, ACPO.

  12. Sokolik

    Your cousins wage war through combined-arms commands

    If I understand this correctly (no guarantee there!), this seems to be a step toward the major reorganization of the U.S. military in 1947. It seems to this day the best way to force the services to cooperate for victory and not for service prestige.

    Over here, warfighting authority belongs not to the Chiefs of the uniformed services. Rather, warfighting authority belongs to the CinCs of "specified commands" and "unified commands". Each of these commands has access to resources from each uniformed service. By the way, for what it may or may not be worth, these commands, if I understand correctly, usually are geographic in orientation.

    For example, authority for the two current unpleasantnesses belongs to CinC Central Command.

    By the way, in my day, there also were "Major Commands" within a given service which, as I recall, also had warfighting authority. However, I doubt this any longer is the case.

    On the other hand, our uniformed services exist only to recruit, train, equip, and organize force-units, and to make these force-units available to the unified and specified commands. The service Chiefs' only war-fighting role is strictly limited to their advisory capacity in committee discussions as members of the JCS.

    In addition to the Warfighting authority of the above-mentioned CinCs of the unified and specified commands, warfighting authority belongs only to the President. SecDoD,of course, has major, and direct (depending upon the preferences of the President and White House CoS!) advisory access to the Oval Office. Chairman JCS, of course, also has major if not direct (again, depending upon the preferences of the President and White House CoS) advisory access to the Oval Office. But neither SecDoD nor Chairman JCS has warfighting authority.

    This is why, for professional combat-arms officers over here, the Holy-Grail career goal is not the office of service chief, but, rather, the office of CinC of one of the unified or specified commands.

    Put another way, over here, war is waged by combined-arms commands and not the services.

    Even few Americans know this.

    Your respectful cousin,

    junior-grade officer

    active-duty 1980 to 1984

    Strategic Air Command (a Major Command as mentioned above)


  13. Paranoid Infosec Guy

    "Could a..."

    “Could a well- trained, well-equipped mercenary force succeed?

  14. Alan Gregory 1

    too many brass

    Once upon a time the RN had more ships than captains, and the RAF had more squadrons than squadron leaders.

    Now we have more admirals than ships and more wing commanders than squadrons.

    Are these people really needed?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Are these people really needed?

      Clearly not, and keeping them employed probably costs a whole lot more than simply allowing them to retire early. Even better, these are (presumably) intelligent and resourceful people, so if they *were* persuaded to retire early they would surely find something socially useful to do with their time.

      1. Alan Gregory 1

        why not makr

        Better use of the volunteer reserve in place of the TA?

        then you have somewhere for the experienced former services personnel to go, limited costs compared to the main services and a more capable force.

        BTW not trying to diss the TA as many of those people are top notch, but they aren't full time and don't get the prolonged intensity of training that the regulars get.

  15. Mips

    Tornado? Harrier?

    Of course if we still had Vulcan or even Canberra we could fly the attacks from the UK. And Vulcan was pretty stealthy as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE Tornado? Harrier?

      Maybe the guberment should make a big donation to and ask them to make a flypast over Tripoli...

  16. Mips

    Testing times

    Do you believe that the single services will equip so as to be able to mount joint service operations? There has been no sign of this in the recent past with all the top brass looking out for their own careers.

    However if you sack the single service apparatchiks it might get the rest stirred up enough to operate as a single fighting force. So much the better. Sack anyone who shows leaning to their own service. Wonderful.

    1. SkippyBing


      You mean like all the amphibious shipping and landing craft the RN has bought so they can deliver the Army to the nearest beach head. Or designing T45 so it can operate Chinooks for the RAF to deliver the Army/Marines ashore.

      Or do you have some examples to back up your statement?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    On the other hand...

    A bit of overstaffing of non-combat likely officers, located near a political power base with history of competitiveness over co-operation coupled with £6 billion of hard stock sort of -ahem- difficult to locate might indicate a pressure pot situation in which too many are involved in too much policy and not enough action?

    Deskbound warriors in policy insights maybe even?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    i wonder then, is it the Military that actually sort out what gear to buy and by who or is it politicians? im just wondering, because, yes, there may be a lot of wasted money with in fighting between the services and losing gear along the way, but is it not civilians (within the MoD) that have ultimate say in negotiating deals for things that always end up 3 or 4 times over budget and time?

    i dunno, just seems like the three services are constantly fighting each other over the scraps that are left for them but there would be a damn site lot more money around if someone didnt waste it all...

  19. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    In my experience of building kit for the people in green to drag through the mud.

    You talk to the soldiers, build the nearest thing to what they want, demo it to them, they are happy.

    Then you talk to the MoD - after a few years they will consider inviting you to apply for permission to approach them.

    After the MoD decide they like the kit - they will give you the go-ahead as long as you also form a partnership with BAe, Thales, Lockhheed, the French and a small tribe in the Amazon unknown to science. They will also require that your equipment meets the technical requirements of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Swiss submarine service and the Klingon girl guides.

    At this point you either give up or sell it to the Isrealis.

    Then the special forces people find out about it and approach you to buy it unofficially.

    Then everybody else sees it and asks why they can't have one. At which point the entire cycle repeats.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why service rivalries exist

    From reading many of the comments here it is plain that most have forgotten service history.

    Service rivalries exist in part because they are fighting for funding. Each service trying to esnure they get the biggest slice of the available but ever shrinking pie. It is very clear the RAF succeeded in emasculating the FAA by declaring the Harrier force redundant and so repeating the emasculation they imposed on that service in the 1920's, 30's and 40's. Don't forget that while the RAF had Spitfires and Hurricanes (although in insuffcient numbers) while the FAA was stuck with Skua's and Fulmar's.

    Folding assets into one service or another does not recognise the difference between how the assets are used. In the australian context, helicopters in the RAAF were rolled over into Army because the RAAF were highly unwilling to risk the assets in Ground Support - which is what they were directly tasked with. As such - that is an appropriate response to have those assets primarily managed by the service that needs that support. However, I would offer the view that if Fighters were rolled into Army they would spend all their time bombing ground targets and ignoring the "bigger picture" of control of airspace. I have also noticed the arguments here that UAV's have made pilots obsolete. This might be the case for strike and recon but i have my doubts when it comes to air to air combat. Finally, I have been amazed about the arguments here arguing the obsolesence of armour and artillery. Both the Falklands and Vietnam show the benefits of armour even in environments that might not be friendly to those vehicles. And artillery is still critical to support infantry in the field. The cuts to the Challenger and AS90 forces in particular in the MOD cutbacks are pretty indefensible.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      How could the RAF declare the Harrier redundant when it was Joint owned? The Harrier was made redundant because there was not enough of them (total numbers plus fleets within fleets) to provide both carrier ops and the commitment to Afghanistan. It was simple mathematics and nothing to do with the RAF “emasculating” the FAA. As for WW2 the proof is in the History, the RAF won the Battle of Britain so unless you arguing that giving the FAA more of the fighters would have allowed that battle to be won quicker you don’t really have much to argue about.

      PS The navy and army did excellent work in WW2 just in case you think I am bias.

      For all those in favour of scrapping 1 or 2 of the services you should perhaps read the Levene report:

      “There are around 80 organisations currently in existence that could variously be described

      as ‘joint’. They differ significantly in nature and purpose. Some manage input functions

      (such as training schools) on a collective basis to ensure effectiveness and efficiency.

      Others deliver an operational output (such as deployable units) on a collective basis.

      Many sit perfectly effectively in their current management and budgetary structure.

      Others are, in effect, orphaned, lack clear ownership (for example those currently lodged

      in the Central TLB) and, as a result, do not receive the priority that their importance to

      overall outputs would suggest.”

      When things are joint they can lack clear leadership/ownership. Scrapping the RAF would lead to a lack of leadership and ownership of airpower and the wider concept. Funny old thing that is one of the reasons te RAF, and many other Air Forces were created in the first place!

      1. SkippyBing

        Joint Force Harrier

        Was originally part of, I think, 3 Group along with other maritime aviation assets, e.g. Nimrod, SAR, under the command of an RN aviator. After a pause of two marching paces the RAF decided it'd be much more sensible to put the fast jet element (the Harriers) under 1 Group with the other fast jets under the command of the RAF. Then whenever cuts had to be made to the fast jet fleet they'd sacrifice something from the maritime element, first the Sea Harriers and then the Harriers. This is not to say it was part of an intentional plan by the RAF but their priority is not carrier aviation so if they have to cut something that's first in line. As Harrier wasn't in Afghanistan when it was cut the numbers argument doesn't stack up, there were more than enough to fill both carriers and when they were in Afghanistan they cut back on carrier operations. At the same time Tornado may have enough numbers to send to Afghanistan but they can't land on a ship so their basing options are a bit more limited.

        Reference the pre-WW2 emasculation, prior to 1938 the RAF was in charge of Maritime Aviation, as they had no real interest in it (again not their priority) the Fleet Air Arm entered WW2 with one monoplane type which was already woefully inadequate and a range of bi-planes some of which were too slow to be shot down by modern AA guns as they didn't have a low enough speed setting. If the Admiralty had been in charge of the Fleet Air Arm during the inter-war period it's highly likely they'd have procured some more modern fleet fighters to protect their ships from land attack. Maybe a naval version of the Spitfire say, these would then have been available for the defence of the UK during the Battle of Britain, as the aircraft of 804 and 808 Naval Air Squadrons were (the RN provided two squadrons and 56 additional pilots to fighter command during the BoB).

        Although the RAF provide leadership and strategic air power thinking, they do so in the area of airpower for airpowers sake, not in itself a bad thing, but it means their priorities do not necessarily match the needs of the other two services. Consequently the desire of the other two services to control some of their own air assets as they've learnt through bitter experience that you can't always rely on the RAF's priorities to match your own.

        1. Wibble257

          Selective Context

          Skippy, you are changing context to suite your argument. Pre WW2 the government and all 3 services were not thinking very far ahead at all. To blame the issues of the FAA on the RAF is absurd when all 3 services plus government lacked aim and organisation. The army still wanted to go to battle on horses for f##ks sake!

          Just because RAF Harriers fell under 3 Gp and then 1 Gp does not mean that the RAF had the power to chop them. Right now the Chinooks and Merlins fall under RAF 1 Gp but they are managed by Joint Helicopter Command and are paid for my HQ Land. Its complicated hence why we just had the Levene report to try and sort it out.

          There is no such thing a airpower for airpower's sake. Of course all 3 services have different priorities and different needs and that is why we have joint HQs to control operations. Air, Land and Sea are all vital parts of the war hence why you need specialists pushing each area. This is exactly why the RAF was created!!!!! Without that the Navy would just want carriers and the army would just want helicopters.

          1. SkippyBing

            To Blame the Problems of the pre-war FAA on the RAF

            Makes perfect sense as they owned it. In fact the RAF were still providing some maintainers during the early part of WW2 as the transition to RN control wasn't complete which caused no end of problems as they had different leave entitlements etc. They still do incidentally, not to mention different harmony periods which means they have to go home half way through a carrier's six month deployment. I'm not alone in making this point either, every history of British Naval aviation makes the same point, namely that it had been neglected interwar by the RAF which had different priorities.

            To the second point, I'm not saying the RAF had the final say in chopping the Harriers, however when their list of priorities were being drawn up naval air power was at the bottom and all the bits that were under the RAF's control have now gone. Hence the lack of Maritime Patrol Aircraft post SDSR.

            Your last sentence doesn't make a lot of sense, you appear to be saying without the RAF the RN would just want carriers, well no, they want aircraft to fly off them as well which is something the RAF don't seem to keen to provide since the fixed wing element was transferred to them in 2000 and now doesn't exist. The RAF top brass incidentally seem to just want fighters, flying helicopters to them is 'like having the clap' to quote one Chinook pilot I've met.

            In terms of aircraft flying off the carriers the RN has generally had a greater balance than the RAF in terms of capability, before the last Ark Royal was retired her Gannet Airborne Early Warning aircraft were also providing the AEW capability for the UK. Once they were gone the radars were taken out and put in Shackletons as they RAF realised they might have to do something about it themselves.

            The RAF may be specialists pushing air power, but only the bits they're interested in, which is mostly the ones that look good at airshows, not the bits that are important to the other services. You'll notice the RAF didn't seem to fight particularly hard to keep the Chinook order at 20 airframes as that might affect the number of Tornadoes they kept.

            1. Wibble257

              Tell CAS

              Skippy I did not know that the RAF has so much power over the MOD/government. You say that all the CAS has to do is click his fingers and MOD will chop whatever aircraft the RAF wants even if the RAF dont own them. Its am amazing story but it is just a story.

              How well did the FAA do at AEW in 1982? Dont tell me that was the RAFs fault.

              The RAF do not own and fricking Chinooks!!! They are paid for by land, the army!!!!

              You really do not have a clue about how the services run, are funded etc etc.

              1. SkippyBing

                You tell him

                Did I say MoD will chop whatever CAS says? No what happens at a defence review is that the services draw up a list of their priorities to fit the requirement and the MoD choose a point down the list which meets the funding they have. The RAF put the Harrier near the bottom of the list, whereas if the RN had control of it they'd have put it further up. Possibly, the RN having a history of overestimating how much the people who make these decisions know about defence, I mean no one would get rid of conventional submarines would they...

                Was the FAA's lack of AEW the RAF's fault? Well as they'd claimed they could provide air defence of the fleet negating the need for carriers and fixed wing naval aviation, and then couldn't, to a certain extent yes. But that wasn't the point I was making, which was that the RAF don't necessarily take the broad view in terms of airpower, concentrating on the pointy noisy stuff at the expense of the less glamorous bits, such as AEW which they didn't have until the RN ran down its fleet of Gannets due to the demise of the carrier force.

                As to the Chinooks, they say Royal Air Force on the side, they're flown by members of the RAF, they're maintained by the RAF, they operate from an RAF base so it looks to me like they're part of the RAF. They may fall under JHC which is part of Land but that's OpCon not ownership, operationally they may be funded via the land budget but the personnel are paid by the RAF and all the support facilities come out of their budget.

                1. Wibble257


                  As the FAA expert here please explain how many harriers and crew you would need to sustain a 24 hrs cap plus limited offensive role using a carrier for a 45 day period?

                  Selective context again, the entire MOD neglected AEW due to the cold war fixed bases mentality. Im also pretty sure that the E3Ds were not cut during the resent review either so was it the navy the decided that as the RAF only ever want fast noisy things?

                  What part of Land own the Chinook (and Merlin) dont you understand? They pay for Benson and Odiham including wages, infrastructure and so on. If you dont believe me put an FOI into JHC. Here is the address which may give you a clue to who owns it:

                  Joint Helicopter Command Headquarters

                  Headquarters Land Command

                  Ramillies Building

                  Marlborough Lines



                  SP11 8HT

                  Why dont you understand that it is the MOD and ultimately MPs that decide where the money goes? Even Lewis Page seems to understand that!

                  1. SkippyBing

                    Errr why?

                    To prove what? It's always been acknowledged that the CVS weren't large enough to carry enough Harriers to conduct a 24 hour cap and even in the Falklands there was only a minimal CAP overnight, generally relying on aircraft on deck alert, it was still more effective then relying on the RAF to provide a CAP because they were actually there rather than Ascension Island. This doesn't take away from the utility of naval air power, even the country the RAF are basing themselves in for operations over Libya is using AV-8Bs based on its carrier. Nor does it detract from the difficulties of the RAF providing air cover for a task group.

                    No the RAF didn't lose the E3D during the SDSR, I'd imagine because the requirement they had to fulfil included air defence of the UK and AEW is quite handy for that. Again priorities, also you seem to be taking flippant remarks as serious argument, obviously the RAF isn't only about the fast and pointy stuff, but it's higher up their list of priorities than say maritime patrol aircraft of even overland surveillance if the fate of Sentinel is anything to go by.

                    What part of Land own Chinook don't I understand, well I understand the concept but as even the RAF refer to it as the RAF Chinook force part of JHC I think that's all most people get. It's also spurious to my main point which is that the RAF's priority is not maritime air power so they won't make sacrifices to keep it.

                    Obviously the MoD decide where the money goes, but who do you think they ask for advice on what to spend it on, Mystic Meg?

      2. SkippyBing

        The Battle of Britain bit

        It may surprise you to know that there were other battles during WW2 and the RAF's success is no proof that they hadn't crippled the Fleet Air Arm. The point is that prior to WW2 the effectiveness of the Fleet Air Arm had been limited due to the desultory range of aircraft that were available to it due to the RAF's lack of concern for maritime aviation. This left the Fleet poorly equipped to wage a war against a modern opponent, hence the convoys that were defended by open cockpit bi-planes and fighter aircraft generally a good 100kts slower than the opposition. This directly led to the loss of a number of ships, including aircraft carriers.

        The RAF (with the assistance of others) won the Battle of Britain in part because they were well equipped, it would have been nice if they'd extended that to the Fleet Air Arm. As they didn't it's understandable that the Admiralty wanted control of Naval Aviation, and as soon as they got it started purchasing high performance carrier aircraft from the USA along with some better home grown equipment.

  21. SDCowley

    I can't believe that ...

    the first two comments, unsurprisingly jump to the BAE Systems (Note: not BAe!) connection yet again. Can people please stop commenting on things they don't understand.

    Secondly, the MoD no longer house themselves in Whitehall :o)

    Sherlock because I think he would be able to find the facts in this case

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "the first two comments, unsurprisingly jump to the BAE Systems (Note: not BAe!) connection yet again. Can people please stop commenting on things they don't understand."

      Then perhaps you would care to explain the connection.

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