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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Defence review - watching the little spinning wheel

My own military experience was a brief and very junior period back in the era of the Leander-class frigate and the L1A1 rifle and my only distinction a haunting suspicion that I may have been responsible for the sinking of a submarine - a British one. No lives were lost. So my comments on the latest defence review are not those of the experienced soldier, sailor or airman but rather of an historian. 

I feel comfortable with an army of 100,000 and a Navy of 50 surface ships. For the Navy, the ability to 'be there' is in most cases more important than having a necessary whole fleet of warships with a carrier at its heart moving nervously around great waters, fearful of attack and vulnerable, with more time and effort given to self-defence than offensive capacity. So frigates for the oceans and corvettes for fisheries protection (after the 'leave' vote) and the RFA to evacuate Europeans from whatever third-world shithole in which the Islamists are currently slaughtering foreigners. 

Using Typhoons for ground attack seems to me like using an Aston Martin to pull a plough. Why not cheap and cheerful Tucanos and Hawks? That is, if we need piloted aircraft at all for combat zones - drones are cheap, cheerful and ubiquitous. Watching Russian aircraft ineffectively tackling 4km long lines of fuel tankers last week with guided bombs one longed for a genuine WWII Typhoon with cannon blazing moving along the column - it would have made a glorious mission. 

And as for army battle units based around our new IT-smart armoured scout vehicles ... I recall when the RNLI began equipping lifeboats with PC-based navigation systems. The hardware was rugged, the charting software well proven. The only problem was that it ran under MS Windows which rumour said took so long to boot-up that the lifeboat was often at the scene of a 'shout' before the chart had loaded, and then crashed on the way back to the boathouse. The vision of lads inside these scout vehicles trying desperately to send a picture of an enemy emplacement to a distant 105mm via bespoke army software and Bowman doesn't bear thinking about; and I predict it will take about five minutes before they start using Twitter and Instagram instead to communicate targets rather than endlessly watch a little spinning wheel on their MoD screen.  


Prawn Sandwich said...

Problem with our military strategy these days is that we don't want deaths. Even 2/3 old T28's would decimate the column in 15 mins.

Cuffleyburgers said...

Radders - I suspect you have been following this more closely than I but what you say makes absolute sense - I shudder to think of the resources wasted on hi tech kit which will never be used to anything like its full potential, since fortunately general war with the warsaw pact is no longer a major risk.

Not for nothing is the Ak47 the most popular weapon in the world - cheap and sufficiently reliable, does the job.

Nick Drew said...

@ bespoke army software

back in the early '90s I attended a demo of a 'revolutionary new system' commissioned (at great expense, natch) by the MoD

it was Ok but underlying it was a pretty simple database which you could have been purchased even then for a couple of hundred quid at PC World, or maybe even just adapted the early versions of MS Access (R) which came up with the rations in 'professional' releases of Office about that time

even scarier, ten years before that the Hon Sec of a voluntary body I served on was a civil servant, and was mandated by t'Committee to acquire a word processor for our modest office. This individual (Whitehall-based, white-collar 'executive' grade) went out and bought an old cast-iron Gestetner jobby, clearly having absolutely no idea what a word processor was

(for younger readers, wp started in the late 1970s)

they live in a different world

Anonymous said...

The most pressing issue, is not how we protect ourselves from external threat, it is how we protect ourselves from the excesses of our own civil service!

This "industry" should have been the lame duck that Margaret Thatcher should have spent her time rationalising, since it was clear back in the days before, during and after… Heath, Wilson and “sunny” Jim what the real problem was.

For instance, subsidising the deep mining of coal and continuing to do so, would have been far less expensive in the long run, than closing the mines and standing up to Scargill… A policy that was pursued heartily by both Thatcher and Blair, and saved the nation mere chicken feed.

Instead, closing down most of Whitehall, and disposing of the services of all those hangers on, in the various departments that it “manages” would have reduced the tax bill by a massive sum.

As you wrote a couple of days back Raedwald, with a list of the largely superfluous jobs that have been created in the Metropolitan Police “force”, all of which garner salaries of £70,000+, and repeated in every department across the nation.

Alarm bells should have been ringing continuously and deafeningly in the ears of MP’s that claim to represent the interests of Britain and by extension... us.

Remember that these people cost 100% of their wages (not forgetting their pensions, holidays and sick leave), and they do not generate anything.

I saw in another excellent blog called “Snouts in the Trough” last week, a comparison between what the Russians (the second largest land mass that is also a single nation… on the earth) can achieve in terms of armaments with their annual defence bill of just £1 billion more than ours… href= …the difference is of course, the unproductive overhead.

Our government(s) have spent all of the money that we can afford, some that we can’t afford, and still it makes further demands…

Then when it can’t easily get away with that strategy any more, it steals from us, our children and our grandchildren, by printing money and defacing the currency, until it is worthless paper… This money is NOT THEIRS, they have stolen it…

Osborne shouldn’t be chancellor…

He should be in gaol, with the rest of our “leaders”.

Government claims to be the arbiter of our human morality, by telling us to love the immigrants, to love the environment, and to worry endlessly about the unemployed.

Let me tell you, that without those useless, unproductive overheads, there would be very little unemployment, we wouldn’t worry about the cost of digging up coal, or making steel, and we would still be prosperous… and we wouldn't be worried about the dribble of immigrants that a proper defence of the realm would engender.

If other nations outside of the even less productive EU, can prosper, why can’t we?

One of the best ways to begin the necessary cull, would be to trust Bitcoin, rather than “Sterling”… Take their money away, and starve them out of their citadel.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, apparently I am incapable of entering a URL correctly... See above..

Wildgoose said...

The link on the (excellent) comment above was mangled, but it's worth visiting, so here it is:

Or, in plain text:

Anonymous said...

I stand to be corrected, and if I'm not accurate-ish then feel free and please enlighten me gents but I've heard rumours that, the Israeli 'MOD' equivalent employs only ~ 4000 civil servants in admin and procurement etc. Whereas, here in dear old paper clip lalaland, our MOD is weighed down, held back, shackled etc by upwards of 100,000. Lest we forget this £484K for a sore thumb...


On the other stuff Radders, what we don't know...... are we going to have two carrier groups? We can't afford one! Plus, as you say, carriers needs big protection, is it worth it? Jolly nice though it maybe, for politicians to project that sort of mwahhh - old fashioned power, I bet it gets Dave all pumped up...[think Robert Duvall and aviator sunglasses]....... "Libya yesterday, Syria tomorrow.............then Russia!"

I would prefer sleek, fast frigates, corvettes.....but then aren't these also susceptible themselves to drone attack?. Though, fast ships are far better protection for our shoreline which to say the least if the latest sub shenanigans with Russia - are true, we've virtually no protection.

The army should be able to put out roughly 100k troops, that means 120k strong force.
RAF - yes a home defence capability permanently manned but overseas it should disappear into a split, Fly Navy and Army airborne/support ops.

And also we should laugh off the cries, "cuts we're down to the bone" when quangos mirror government departments and how many wildlife committees [English nation trust, environment agency et bloody cetera] do we fucking need, when we have scroll to page 6+7......Defra?
Though this is why....... jobs for all these fuqwits

"No money" - indeed. and then there's £12 billion catapulted into the ether for no good reason other than boosting Dave's International 'cred' - and African despots pockets + Bill Clinton's Swiss embezzling government monies Corp, aka - UK foreign aid.

FFS - get those two carriers launched, better to waste it with something tangible.

Dean Ditchbank said...

I think the real weapon we need is a chemical cosh freely administered to the more enriched of our own banlieus. Ecstasy or sedation for the rabid. Let our disobedient servants keep the change.

Like any other serf getting used to the new feudalism, I tug my forelock whenever I meet a civil servant or any officer of HMG, particularly the police. You have got to tickle them under the chin and tell them how important they are - they are impregnable to sarcasm

G. Tingey said...

It's a small start
We are now, presumably at the equal stage to the tentative Chamberlain (When Cof Excheq) small defence increases of 1934/5.
It's pretty crap, but it's better than nothing.
Expect more to come, especially for the Navy, which is horribly under-strength.
Whether it will be enough is a n other question, when shit hits fan

Budgie said...

I will go and wash my mouth out after this comment. What about some Harriers for ground attack? Eerrrkkkkkkk ...........

Dave_G said...

The present improvement ot our national security are scheduled for delivery 10 years hence.

Do you think the world would mind 'stopping' whilst we catch up?

Too little, far too late.

The only option left is nuclear.

Poisonedchalice said...

WWII Typhoon eh? My uncle Norman used to fly them and they are particularly good at strafing up convoys but more with rockets than Canon fire. All you gotta watch out for is the notoriously unreliable Napier Sabre H24 engine. Other than that it would have made a wonderful sight and sound as it wasted an oil convoy!

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