Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Think Tank thinks we should cut... well everything

A think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has reported on the UK military and says the UK can no longer afford it's major defence projects and should cut £24 billion of them. The report says, because of the financial situation, Britain can no longer afford to play a world role any more and should cut various projects like the Type 45 destroyers, new carriers, JSF, Astute SSNs and of course Trident.

Lets go through each of these in turn shall we :
  • Type 45 - either built or in building. Their predecessors are now over 30 years old and expensive to maintain. Why would you cut T45? Save a few billion, and what would provide air cover for your naval assets then?
  • Carriers - there may be a issue with building 2 carriers of this size but there is a lot of pork at stake here.
  • JSF - without JSF your carriers are meaningless, unless you plan to operate Lynx with Amraam or something like that. BAE are heavily involved in building these = jobs.
  • Astute SSN - as with the T45 they are replacing ageing submarines. SSNs are probably the most cost effective and reliable method of first phase power projection, especially when fitted with Tomahawk or similar missile.
  • Trident - the argument goes on. I don't really like Trident but there isn't a cheaper alternative that guarantees nuclear deterrent like SLBMs. Cruise missiles are an option but much more vulnerable to defences.
I am sure these very knowledgeable people who wrote the report like Lord Robertson, Paddy Pantsdown... sorry Ashdown know what they are talking about. Where they are right is in the need for enhanced special forces to handle terrorist attacks at home, to lessen the reliance on US help and a general defence review (and especially one that actually followed).

However the defence budget needs to be increased not cut. If you want to make savings then reduce the social security budget. The first responsibility of the UK government is the defence of the UK.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Carriers over budget

The RN's flagship project, the 2 CVF aircraft carriers, is under threat again after it was disclosed the project is running £1 billion over budget. The cost of the project is now estimated at £5 billion, the increase said to be due to inflation, accounting adjustments and direct costs. Maybe they should have costed it correctly in the first place. These cost increases put the programme under pressure it has been said in a memo by the contractors.

Personally i'd ditch Prince Of Wales and build a new ship along the lines of Ocean or Ark Royal to serve as an LPH/Reserve carrier. Wouldn't it be nice for once if a military project came in on budget?

Friday, June 26, 2009

MOD blocks Wikileaks after ...er... leaks

The MOD has blocked access to Wikileaks from 1000s of it's own computers after the website was found to be used to put on military manuals used by troops in the field. Items placed on the website include a 2007 manual for tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan and a handbook on Istar.

The manuals leaked so far are at the low-level of "restricted" but the MOD fears other materials getting onto the site though blocking access would be difficult (and in any event there would be many ways to easily circumvent any blocking such as simply e-mailing the document to someone on a non-MOD computer to upload to Wikileaks for you).

Office of Cyber Security (OCS) to be formed

After much speculation it is now official, the UK will form a cyber-security agency the Office of Cyber Security (OCS). The OCS will draw together what is already being done in the area of cyber-security and info-warfare by the MOD, intelligence agencies and police meanwhile GCHQ will be the base for the Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) which will protect critical IT systems. The OCS will look to developing the capabilities for offensive cyber warfare too, including DDoS attacks and spying on "enemy" computer systems.

However offensive cyber warfare will be retained as an option but not used as a first response an unnamed official said.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fleet Air Arm bomb Sweden

HMS Illustrious has taken part in the Loyal Arrow war games in the Baltic. Harriers from the Naval Strike Wing bombed targets in Sweden including using Paveway IVs.

Loyal Arrow ran from June 8th to the 18th and involved 10 NATO and non-NATO countries.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Taurus 09 ends in Brunei

We have been following the RN's big Taurus 09 deployment as it travelled across the world. The deployment has now ended following a final exercise, Exercise Commando Rajah at Brunei. The exercise was a major amphibious operation involving Australian and US warships as well as the RN contingent led by HMS Bulwark and HMS Ocean. Land forces deployed included 40 Commando Royal Marines, Gurkhas and ground forces from Brunei, the US and New Zealand operating in the tough jungle and river areas of Brunei.

Michael Yon recently wrote of training with the Gurkhas in the jungles of Brunei and is well worth a read.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

UK looks to cyber defence

The UK is to develop a "national cyber security centre" to combat the growing threat of state sponsored hacking (and presumably non-state too) of UK government computer systems. The centre will also look at taking the offensive to enable attacks on foreign IT systems. The UK is believed to be working in conjunction with the USA and Canada on cyber defence.

Gordon Brown is expected to announce the UK's plans to combat "e-crime" later this month. Of course with the usual level of investment by New Labour in the military the cyber security centre is likely to be 2 hairy geeks and a ZX Spectrum.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vanguard returns

HMS Vanguard has returned to service following repairs to damage sustained when it collided with a French SSBN Le Triomphant 4 months ago. The damage Vanguard sustained was said to be minor though some eyewitnesses say the submarine looked rather more than minorly damaged when it limped back to Faslane naval base after the collision.

Your country needs your dog!

The armed forces in the UK suffer from many shortages but one shortage they are now trying to solve is in... dogs. The MOD is looking for dogs for patrol work and sniffer duties. German Shepherds, Spaniels, Labradors and other breeds are being sought to "defend our nation in an increasingly restless world", no really. The MOD have set up a website calling for doggie volunteers. My dear old Spaniel George has passed away now but he would probably be ideal for the MOD, not so much as a sniffer dog though but just make sure the enemy combatant was near his bowl of food and the enemy would be finished!

"Get your 'air cut you 'orrible little man!"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

MOD refuse to commit to Astute delivery on time

The MOD in the form of Quentin Davies, Minister for Defence Equipment, has refused to answer a question about whether the Astute nuclear attack submarines would be delivered on time or not. Four are on order with three more planned. The Astute programme has been dogged with delays, setbacks and cost overruns. Astute is due to enter service this year which is still on track despite recent fire damage. It now looks like the development programme will be "re-baselined" with a slight delay put into the programme to ensure the gap between finishing Astute and begining the Vanguard SSBN replacement is miminal.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

RAF combat operations over Iraq end

RAF combat operations over Iraq have ended after 18 years when the last Tornado GR4 and VC-10s in the region returned to the UK. The RAF has been operating over Iraq in various roles since 1990 and the first Gulf War when Iraq invaded Kuwait. After the first Gulf War the RAF patrolled the no-fly zones and of course participated in the 2nd Gulf War which toppled Saddam Hussein and have supported coalition troops in their occupation ever since. Some support units will remain in the region for now but all combat units have now been withdrawn.

Monday, June 8, 2009

UK drops to 4th in defence spending

The UK has dropped to 4th in the world defence spending league behind France spending a mere $65.3 billion. This drop has been attributed to recent defence cuts and the fall of the pound against the dollar and euro. Still a top 5 placing is still very good for jolly old Blighty but top of the hit parade is the US of course with $607 billion just shading China in second place with -er- $84.9 billion.

A tiny defence budget means the US can only afford cheapo weapons like the F-22

Nimrod ready for return

The RAF Nimrod MR2 fleet is ready to return to service in Afghanistan after urgent modifications to help the aging aircraft cope with hot conditions. Seven aircraft have now received new hot air ducts and fuel seals after the type was withdrawn from the Middle East in March. The modifications were called for to avoid a repetition of the tragic loss of a Nimrod over Afghanistan in 2006 after a fire. The replacement Nimrod MR4A is coming though, the training of personnel on the new type begins later this month. The RAF is disappointed though that defence cuts mean only 9 will be procured.

Friday, June 5, 2009

First future UK tanker has first take off

The first Airbus A330-200 which will form the UK's next generation air tanker has had it's maiden flight from Airbus' Toulouse base. The Airbus will now be militarised and turned into a tanker at an Airbus factory in Spain. 14 A330-200s in total will be procured in the end.

Army, Navy war of words over the carriers

The heads of the British Army and Royal Navy have engaged in a war of words over the forthcoming CVF aircraft carriers. The head of the Army General Sir Richard Dannatt said the carriers were irrelevant to modern warfare (which must be news to the US Navy and the Indian and Chinese navies who are going flat out to build carriers). Admiral Sir Jonathon Band replied that Britain would need high end capabilities in the future. There was some analogy involving golf as well which i won't repeat here!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

MOD axes new spy plane and battlefield intelligence projects

In an effort to save £1.5 billion the MOD has cancelled or postponed a number of spy plane and battlefield intelligence projects which could leave troops on the ground in places like Afghanistan exposed. 20% of the Defence Intelligence Staff will also be cut along with a cut in 3 new Nimrod MRA4s, postponing the Nimrod R1 replacement, cancelling Soothsayer listening in devices and postponing an upgrade to the Sentry AWACS fleet.

Puma, Sea King life extension programme may be cut

A life extension programme for Puma and Sea King helicopters may be cut by the MOD as it looks at whether it would be best to accelerate the planned buy of new helicopters instead of refurbishing already old machines. At the moment the helicopters that need life extending are due to start leaving service in 2012 and new helicopters won't arrive until 2017 at the earliest (and knowing UK defence procurement probably more like 2027). The MOD may lease or buy "off the shelf" to plug the gap. More Hips then?