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‘Global Britain’ is in for a rude awakening Post-Brexit, the UK will be a second-rate military power with no place on the world stage

We need a few million more of these guys. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

We need a few million more of these guys. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)


July 13, 2020   7 mins

The Government’s long-anticipated Strategic Defence and Security Review, or SDSR, comes at a pivotal time for the UK.  Our political relationships with our closest allies, in Europe and with the United States, are fraying, and the global system of rapidly evolving great power competition presents challenges we do not yet fully understand and are ill-prepared to meet.

“Attempts over the past four years to articulate a coherent, post-Brexit foreign policy,” the thinktank RUSI cautions, “have largely been unsatisfactory,” and the Government’s grand-sounding but content-free Global Britain rhetoric does “not provide sufficient guidance for those charged with determining how to prioritise the use of scarce national resources.”

With our foreign policy establishment “at a loss about what to do next,” the SDSR is tasked with reshaping the Armed Forces to support a grand strategy in flux, and defend us from this newly dangerous world. It is unfortunate, then, that previous SDSRs, focussed on incorporating the hard-won lessons of the near past, have had a poor record of predicting the challenges of the near future. 

The 2010 SDSR assumed that the future of conflict would be interventions within failed states rather than against powerful adversaries, and cut the Army’s numbers drastically, only to see Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine prove that war between states remained a serious threat even on our own continent.

The 2015 SDSR arrested cuts to the Army’s capabilities to meet the new  Russian challenge, and placed greater focus on a terrorist threat made newly-salient by the rise of the Islamic State, yet it also explicitly aimed to “build a deeper partnership with China, working more closely together to address global challenges,” an assumption that now looks dangerously naive. The challenge for this year’s SDSR will be how to prepare our armed forces to defend Britain’s interests in an era of multipolar competition, where COVID has simultaneously heightened the risk of great power confrontation and ravaged the domestic tax base on which our defence budget depends.  

In this context, the details published in the Times of the proposed cuts to the armed forces the SDSR is expected to unveil are alarming. According to the leaks, the Army will lose a quarter of its personnel, shrinking from its current size of 74,000 down to 55,000 soldiers; the Royal Marines will lose their capacity to deploy as an amphibious brigade, losing their landing craft, artillery and engineering assets; and the RAF will lose its Hercules transport planes, diminishing its strategic airlift capacity, as well as its fleet of Puma helicopters.

Instead, the UK will commit a greater share of the defence budget to managing threats to cyber-security and in space, essentially leapfrogging the known and rapidly increasing risks of war between states to face the nebulous hybrid threats of the future. 

Of course, alarming leaks like this are a traditional feature of defence reviews, designed to either make the actual cuts seem less disastrous when revealed, or, as part of the internecine warfare within Whitehall, to make the political pressure on the MOD so great that planned cuts are quietly reversed. We can expect and hope, then, that the actual cuts will be less severe than the early leaks make them seem, and it’s reassuring that the defence secretary Ben Wallace has come out with a strong denial that the Army in particular will face such a brutal pruning.

The crucial question from which all these decisions spring is one of grand strategy: what are our armed forces actually for? How will they be deployed, against which threats, and to what ends? Looking at our newly unstable world, the most pressing threats are of a great power conflict with China in the Pacific, of a need to defend NATO’s eastern frontiers in the Baltic against actual or threatened Russian encroachment, and of a need to intervene in failing states in Europe’s “near abroad” of the Middle East and North Africa.

At the heart of the problem, as recent analysis argues, is the question of whether “post-Brexit, the UK wishes to be a European or global actor
 the more European security dominates, the greater the case for Army size and investment in recapitalising land equipment, while a more global Britain places greater emphasis on the rapid projection of UK forces, which tends to favour the maritime capabilities.”

But with the limited budget at our disposal meaning we are unable to adequately prepare for all these threats simultaneously, we are left to either gamble the nation’s security on which will be the most likely, or spread our bets evenly to meet all these challenges with insufficient resources, guaranteeing failure from the start. 

Of the three likely conflict scenarios facing us — a land confrontation with Russia in Eastern Europe, a naval one with China in the Pacific and stabilisation operations in the greater Middle East — the first two are beyond our current capacity to sustain, and the third has been a disaster almost every time we have attempted it. Even the significant armoured forces we deployed in Germany throughout the Cold War would have had a lifespan of days in the event of war, and we have long lost the ability to assemble such a force, let alone sustain it in the field.

The extravagantly expensive new aircraft carriers that have soaked up so much of our defence budgets were sold as enhancing Britain’s global reach and standing, but seeing them sent to the bottom of the South China Sea in the first hours of a major conflict would have the opposite effect. The prospect of stabilisation missions in failing states have long since lost whatever savour they once held for British politicians seeking glory on the world stage. Of the options available to us, then, none of them are enviable with our current capabilities.

A recent RUSI paper on the forthcoming SDSR is instructive on the debates within the foreign policy establishment on how we should plan for the future. Regarding intervention in failed states, it notes with brutal frankness that the SDSR should start “with an honest examination of the lessons that need to be learnt from the failure of recent interventions. The track record of recent discretionary state-building interventions has been so poor, and so consistent, that it no longer makes sense to use the possibility of future such operations (such as those in Basra and Helmand for the UK) as planning assumptions for force design.” 

Regarding the Pacific theatre, where China’s sudden assertiveness has rudely awoken British politicians from their Global Britain dreams, the RUSI paper notes that “the UK should operate on the assumption that it would only deploy forces on significant operations in these regions in a supporting role to the US, and then only with a small part of the UK’s available force.” Instead, it argues, “the UK’s expeditionary capabilities should be optimised for their contribution to NATO forces for the defence of Europe,” leaving the role of garrisoning NATO’s eastern borders to our European allies, particularly a Germany that has long shirked its defence responsibilities.

Instead of amassing our dwindling armoured forces on the plains of Eastern Europe , Britain should “optimise its ground forces (British Army and Royal Marines) for responding rapidly against a wide range of hybrid and limited threats across Europe’s periphery.” 

The strategy proposed here is that our area of focus should be “the defence of the UK homeland and its immediate neighbourhood” on Europe’s outer borders, working alongside NATO allies, but only in pursuit of limited goals, providing strategic capabilities our European partners lack, but leaving them with the responsibility of supplying the critical mass of troops we can no longer field.

Yet cutting the Royal Marines’ capacity to deploy by sea or the Army’s ability to deploy by RAF Hercules would seem to be the exact opposite of planning for limited interventions even in our near abroad. Focussed on the expensive big-ticket purchases that allow us to project air power on a global stage in support of our American patron, we may be distractedly cutting our ability to defend ourselves from the threats closer to home with which the US, distracted by China and by its own domestic instability, may have limited interest in engaging. 

Indeed, given our total strategic dependence on the United States, it’s worth following American discussions on how they see the role of their allies in future wars. To this end, a fascinating recent paper from West Point’s Modern War Institute ought to give our planners pause for thought. It argues that, given China’s inbuilt advantage in a Pacific war, and the extreme vulnerability of US carrier fleets, let alone those of weaker allies like ourselves, to withstand Chinese missile barrages,“the United States has little use of mid-sized nations that pay a premium for expeditionary, high-tech capabilities” — a succinct description of the UK’s current defence posture — but should “encourage its allies to build forces that can withstand war in their area instead.”

This plan to rebalance America’s assets to cope with the stresses of a multipolar world explicitly cites the British Empire’s policy of complementing naval hegemony through alliances with European powers willing to take up the unwanted burden of land warfare, and tallies well with the developing consensus in British think tanks that we should do much the same on a far smaller scale. 

Yet even this is only a stopgap solution. As for the pivot to a low-cost, high-tech future, the hope that investing in technology can fill the gap between our growing needs and our dwindling resources must be seen for the wishful thinking it is.

The rebalancing of our armed forces to focus on the hybrid threats of cyber-warfare, allegedly Dominic Cummings’ pet project, threatens to make an undoubtedly necessary additional capability our main effort, and RUSI is right to warn that “pretending that future war will be bloodless, limited to creating virtual or cyber casualties, makes the carnage of real war more likely,” and that ultimately, “the use of hard power to inflict pain on an adversary in pursuit of national political objectives remains at the heart of a state’s power.”

While Cummings’ drive to reform the MoD’s grotesquely mismanaged procurement strategy is urgently necessary, there is, unfortunately for the government, no other way out of addressing the strategic threats facing us over the coming decades than taxing voters more and spending more money on defence, whatever the political costs in doing so. Doing more with less was shortsighted even when the times were good, and with the international situation deteriorating so rapidly, underinvestment is a luxury we can no longer afford.

The risk of major conventional warfare between states is greater than it has been in any of our lifetimes, and Britain needs to maintain the ability to deploy hard power quickly enough and with sufficient threat of force behind it to deter our adversaries from escalating threats to a level we are unable to match.

Given that “the UK’s relationship with the US is now less reliable than at any time over the last half-century,” it is in our interest to maintain our ability to defend ourselves from as many of the rapidly accumulating risks on our own doorstep as possible, while rebuilding alliances with our estranged European partners and enhancing military ties with likeminded powers further afield.

In the meantime, our defence aspirations should be focused on the regional threats we still — just — retain the capacity to manage, leaving the more ambitious global challenges to our American patron. For too long, there has been a striking mismatch between the government’s “global Britain” aspirations and the more homely reality of our capabilities, and we are perhaps fortunate that by accelerating global trends that may otherwise have taken decades to play out, COVID has helped reveal our meagre hand before we have committed ourselves to playing it. 


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
4 years ago

While agreeing with you on the global irrelevance of small armed forces that are set to get smaller still, Britain will not be any less irrelevant than the EU. Other than France, which is in no better state than the UK, there is no other EU country with the capability or will to do anything beyond its own borders. Germany is happy to remain as a defence freeloader. Its naked mercantilism helps bankroll Putin with the NordStrom2 gas pipeline project that exposes Eastern European countries to Russian blackmail and Germany will do everything short of anything to confront increasing Chinese assertiveness and aggression.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
4 years ago
Reply to  Howard Gleave

This.

Despite the doom mongers’ best wishes, cuts after cuts from Labour and the Conservatives and the MoD’s own best internal efforts to consistently and effectively undermine our armed forces from within – it’s actually remarkable that we still have the semblance of a force that stands apart to a certain degree.

I say that not out of jingoistic fervour but more as an indictment of the state of the rest of Europe and the West’s (bar the US, of course) forces.

However we shouldn’t be complacent. The inter-military currency that we built up in the past 20 years through joint (mostly US but wider NATO also) operations is being whittled away by yet more planning incompetence* and in our current craven politicians lack of will to maintain a coherent and proactive foreign policy across the diplomatic/political/military spectrum.

We can moan all we like, but the UK still currently punches above its weight and is the go to partner for US forces. Allied to the 5-eyes community it’s not insignificant.

*outsourced recruitment failures with C[r]apita, focusing on the 10% of minorities and female recruits instead of building on strengths of getting people, whatever their backgrounds, of competence and willing. Spending £££s on new infantry kit that is not fit for purpose – the list is endless.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago

A rather long, confused essay, no doubt influenced by RUSI dogma, but you got there in the end.

GB plc is a Client State of the US and has been since at least 1940.True,we have occasionally been allowed out of the playground to do our own ‘thing’, Aden, Ulster etc, but in reality, always under supervision. Even the Ulster Peace Treaty was dictated by the American Emperor.

Frankly the US doesn’t need us, but for some unfathomable reason indulges us. Sadly, this has only encouraged our sense of self delusion, that we are still a Great Power. We are not, that ended at Dunkirk or even before. Suez was perhaps our last real attempt to get out of the pram/kennel.

The most manifest, recent, example of this hubris was the construction of the two Aircraft Carriers, the largest ships ever completed for the (Royal) Navy. Completely unaffordable, strategically dubious, they have plundered the Defence Budget on a unprecedented scale, and much to the detriment of other projects. All that can be said for them is that they provided major employment for wee little Scotland, principally at Govan, and Rosyth.

Currently there are thought to be about one hundred and twenty thousand Chinese students ‘studying’ in this country. Is an Army of say, fifty five thousand adequate to deal with that ? That is the question that must be asked.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

We need to get the Empire back then if we are to actually punch as we dream. Otherwise, vassalage is all we’re good for.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

Too late I’m afraid. A titanic blunder in 1914, compounded by another in 1939, put pay to the Empire.
Vae victis!

D Glover
D Glover
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

All is clear if you look at the proximity of Rosyth Dockyard to Gordon Brown’s constituency.
We are unable to undertake big wars, and when we try small ones we make everything worse. We just get refugees.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Yes, the Kirkcaldy Factor you might say; An utter disgrace.

Then why is the Navy not patrolling the English Channel instead of this pathetic Quango, “The Border Force”?

I have no idea how many illegal
migrants are paddling across every day, have you?

D Glover
D Glover
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

It would be easy to disrupt this trade.
The inflatables are sold through dealers, who must be known to the French police.
The outboard motors have serial nos. and are traceable from manufacture to point-of-sale.
The boats are transported to a beach near Calais, which must involve trucks or trailers. Obviously visible to the police, who do nothing.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Yes indeed. Why on Earth would the French want to help us?

Additionally, they understandably want rid of them from France and who can blame them?

The Goddess Fortuna put twenty one miles of cold, salty water between us and the Continent for a reason. It has served us well for centuries, but now we see fit to abuse ‘her’, for what may I ask?
.

M00n H0wl
M00n H0wl
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The French might want to help us because we provide their strategic mobility element in the Sahel.

There’s no point having cards if you’re not prepared to play them.

David Probert
David Probert
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

“Defence Review” – ‘Newspeak’ for yet more cuts.

If £7 billion spread over a decade on the Carriers is “plundering the defence budget on an unprecedented scale” that merely illustrates how pathetically small it is. Having said that, the Carriers were obviously a prestige only project, built for showing off rather than combat . They are the wrong Carriers with the wrong Aircraft and the wrong propulsion system for such large vessels – the new Japanese through deck cruisers make more sense and are obviously much better values

We now have a ridiculous “Gilbert and Sullivan” Navy where the job of what little is left of the entire fleet its to protect the vulnerable carriers and their few over-priced Aircraft

There is no problem faced by the Armed Service that could not be solved by cutting Overseas Aid and raising Defence spending to 3.5% of GDP. Then try sacking the entire MoD staff for serial incompetence and replacing them with people actually interested in co-ordinating a cohesive integrated defence strategy rather than trimming bloated ill -judged pork barrel projects while constantly looking for more cuts as soon as contracts are signed.

Any more cuts and we might as well give up pretending that we have a Military capable of anything but marching ( in very small numbers) on a parade ground once a year ( Covid permitting). Oh…. and building Nightingale hospitals that nobody used.

The story of Britain’s MoD is a case study in pitiful mismanagement of public funds and vertical national decline. They should move the pen-pushers to a pre-fab and sell the grandiose pretentious building designed for a time when we actually had Armed Services that merited it.

Better still the could all work from home and plan their next round of cuts from there !

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

In Mr Cummings we trust, is that not so?

dansmith1763
dansmith1763
4 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

For any public service let’s double what we spend allows you to make choices go away.

Overseas Aid is 0.7% yes some is wasteful and cutting a bit is not unreasonable, but no one is going to support total elimination and that only gets you to 2.7%.

The idea that the British public cares in the slightest if the Chinese sink some Filipino fishing boats or start drilling for oil in what Vietnam sees as their territory, is a joke.

Basra was a failure.
Helmand was a failure.

If you are only going to the Far East to back up the US to wave a flag and say look we are here too, I’m sorry but you are not needed and will just get in the way. If you are seriously planning to take on China without the Americans I have a bridge to the moon to steel you.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I think there’s a real debate going on but the failures in the Middle East shouldn’t automatically mean that somehow similar types of intervention won’t be needed, or assesed as being needed in the future.

The European theatre does include major under spenders like Germany etc who are NATO allies, so the idea they somehow beco,me estranged from us militarily is foot-stampingly, self-harming on their part surely.

If not estranged then all those countries need also to be spending extra and working on strengthening NATO as well.

It is true that Britain isn’t a global power in any military hard power sense below nuclear, but it’s also true that it isn’t nothing either. In Europe it is the major military power, alongside France.

Finally, while it’s obvious that carrier fleets would be hopeless just sailing around on the ocean with bullseye targets on their flight decks, that doesn’t mean (given the actual distances jets can fly and realistically fight) that carrier fleets are necessarily utterly defunct.

I sometimes think that the strawman argument that a few isolated individuals still trumpet a kind of John Bull BRitish image hides the bigger problem of a lot of commentators basically just throwing their hands up in the air and saying it’s all too much, the Chinese are too powerful and numerous we may as well give up.

And as for Russia..the economy smaller than Italy with it’s over sized, unbalanced military, over dependent on volatile commodity prices…is likely to become more unstable but it’s major strategic problem is resource hungry China simply re-populating Siberia and it’s far East and one day announcing it’s greater China.

Russia is no more capable of being a global power than Britain, France or Germany and it will be just a question of balancing off (and in that trying to influence) Washington and Beijing to more moderate paths.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

Russia does seem to be behaving as idiotically now, as it did in 1914. Its obviously in China’s sights, particularly after its 19th century “acquisitions “.

The EU is ‘dead in the water’ as any form of Global military power, and nobody would surely countenance the Germans having the “Bomb”. Thus we, the French and Russians should offer our meagre resources to the USA without delay.

There is absolutely no possible “moderate path”, as you put it, for dealing with China. Their ambition exceeds their capability, and their pragmatism is negated by hatred. It is too late for compromise, we must be ready for the inevitable.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
4 years ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

Ted, you are partly right. I agree that there is a real danger of Russia losing its Far East to China. In fact, the Chinese are already there. There has been a considerable immigration of Chinese into those parts, which were once under Chinese control. It’s why the NATO strategy of treating Russia as the number one threat and trying to weaken and undermine it in every way is so dimwitted. It’s like NATO wants to see a Greater China.
Regarding Russia’s economic ranking you are ever so wrong, making the common error of using nominal GDP estimates with exchange rate adjustment as the yardstick. UnHerd columnist Mary Harrington knows better and in a recent column noted, correctly, that the UK accounted for 2.2% of world GDP, apparently basing the number on the IMF estimates of real GDP on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis. The same year Italy accounted for 1.7% of world GDP and Russia for 3.0%. Russia had the largest economy in Europe after Germany, at 3.2%. Nevertheless, your main point, that Russia is a middle power, iike Germany or the UK, not a great power like the US and China is valid. And even a correct evaluation of its economic size shows how clueless the fears are that Russia might want to take over all of Ukraine or Poland. As you say, people should worry more about China (19.2% of world GDP in 2019) taking over the Russian Far East.

andrea bertolini
andrea bertolini
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I may be slightly exaggerating, but one hundred and twenty thousands Chinese students in the UK (multiply by x in the US) seem a huge threat to me. I’m sure they’re not “studying” psychology, social sciences or English lit. They do scare me a lot more than a forgotten little war on the Eastern border of the Ukraine.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago

Yes indeed, a touch of Fu Manchu I think.

David Lonsdale
David Lonsdale
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I spoke to a senior member of the US defence establishment, who said that the US wanted the UK in the game so that the US cannot be accused of acting alone. He said there were three things that we had that they wanted to align with. They didn’t need our regiments or our tank squadrons, but they did value working alongside our special forces, which they are doing right now in Syria. They also place a premium on the Five Eyes, since we are the only two nations with the capability of NSA and GCHQ. Finally they value our nuclear deterrent, not because they need our bombs but because they don’t want to be alone in threatening to use the ultimate deterrent. France, the other nuclear power, doesn’t count in US military or security thinking

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
4 years ago
Reply to  David Lonsdale

spot on

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  David Lonsdale

How very interesting. I have had similar discussions with the same result.

The Special Forces (SF) argument is a good one, particularly given the current deployment. However SF have a limited role in larger Ops. You may recall, I happen think it may have been Frank Kitson, somewhat disparagingly described the SAS as “Dustbin men who think they are Brain Surgeons”.

The generosity of the US over the Five Eyes has always astonished me, after our frankly appalling record, Philby, Blunt, Burgess, Blake, Norwood and so on, ad infinitum.

Is it really ‘our’ Nuclear Deterrent?
Most of the ‘software’ is US, put in by US technicians in Barrow-in-Furness. It is said “it wouldn’t work”, unless or until the USN authorised it.

Finally, as you so appositely say, nether of us trust the French, with very, very good reason.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

I think the carriers come in for a lot of stick – not all of it warranted.

Not just to play devil’s advocate, and notwithstanding the design/technical shortcomings of them, but they are a clear statement of intent and long term investment which is actually rare to see in government and shouldn’t be criticised too casually based on the “now”

Furthermore, they cannot be built in a quick fashion. Should the UK have a need to scale up defence in the near future, the most expensive and difficult pieces of equipment are here and ready to be used fully.

Right now, with dwindling other resources they might seem extravagant – but anyone would be lying if they said that will always be the case over the 30+ year lifespan of these carriers.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

How long before we sell off one of the carriers?
As DG intimated above, the main reason they were built was to pour shed loads of public money into wee little Scotland and Gordon Brown’s constituency in particular!

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Not disputing that there are lots of facets to it

But if we sell one, it’s because of other factors as much as a poor decision at the time to buy them. Such is the nature of long term investments – they’re risky. Perhaps they might get sold.

Perhaps also the dynamic might change and we’re forced to use these in the next few years where we will instantly have been worth it. Don’t forget that both carriers that took part in the Falklands were in the process of being sold when Argentina invaded (in fact I think Invincible had actually been sold).

But your argument is having its cake and eating it a bit. You criticise the existence of the carriers but also that they will be sold (as yet to happen).

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Perhaps, I think we should have spent elsewhere, the Carriers just consumed too much of the available funds.

We were lucky in the Falklands as you say, but even more so as our really
‘big beast’ HMS Ark Royal had just been scrapped, thus depriving the Task Force of that truly indispensable AWAC capability provided by her Fairey Gannets.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

No that’s a fair argument – I would not dispute that the money could have gone to as good use elsewhere, if not perhaps better.

I guess I come down on the side that I’d rather have the capability to stage offshore of a trouble spot. To get nerdy, personally a more multi-role ship like the USMC have which is both VTOL capable and an assault ship might have been better – rather than a stumpy undermanned and underpowered pair of super carriers.

We have not needed it so much recently – because the more recent hotspots have been logistically within easy reach of Cyprus. Although even Libya and the following migrant crisis required Ocean as was in the ‘wrong’ part of the med. When it’s not near an existing base, having any say in events is virtually impossible without this capability.

Yes good point on Ark Royal

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

In total agreement, we would much better off with something like one of the USN Wasp class (LHD) Carriers. Perhaps the USN could still sell us the USS Bonhomme Richard when she cools down?

The ‘ski-jump’ Carriers represent a poor strategic decision and hopeless financial choice. Even their names are anodyne. Why not something apposite such HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney?

M00n H0wl
M00n H0wl
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Surely Del Boy and Rodney?

Oliver M
Oliver M
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

.,

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
4 years ago

This article is confused. You say we cannot defend ourselves at all…. then you call for more CANZUK.

(I’m wary of the assertions that missiles can kills carriers like people say…. won’t we have F35 CAPs specifically to defeat this kind of thing?)
Naval power is naturally global- the small-power Dutch had their light cruisers out in the Pacific with us in WW2 even as their homeland was being overrun. We even tried to set up a (short-lived) joint command with them. HMS Warspite was in the North Sea, Medditterranean, and the Indian Ocean at times.

Oh, and the US put alot of work in to helping us regenerate our carrier capability. It is the same with empires and vassals all the time- eventually the empire will want its vassal to do more, which leads to that vassal building up its forces and sending them all over the world. Travancore lost much of its army in the 1790s…. then built it up in the 1890s as part of the Imperial Service Troops program. They were sent all over the world on WW1 and WW2, despite the fact that it had never been able to defend itself as well as its rulers desired.

Oh, and the Chinese are building carriers. Guess they aren’t as vulnerable as we might think.

Like it or not, Britain is going global again. Our vassal fleet carriers will be the backbone of some American imperial force. I am proud of that.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago

I agree, the vulnerability of Carriers, or as the navy now likes to call them Platforms, is greatly exaggerated.
They certainly have their uses in a limited war, and they also provide a very visible demonstration of power, (rather like the late, and much lamented HMS Hood) and hence the current Chinese interest in them.

However, let’s face it, in the ‘great game’, it’s Nuclear Ballistic Submarines that really count, and by their very nature are never seen or heard. Fortunately the USN Ohio class are the gold standard, and the Chinese lag far behind…………for now!

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
4 years ago

Yet another contradictory & prejudiced paper from this writer. Can he ever tell us something that is new & objective, rather than a mish-mash of his highly subjective opinions? We all know the UK is not a top global military power, and most of us suspect two huge aircraft carriers will be a liability rather than an asset. And we know why America wants us to make military investments, and why the EU wants us to be within their sphere of influence. But many of us are content to be a middling power and to have more control over our own destiny. We don’t need a wannabe Greek journalist to make up our narrative which suits his own predilections. Think I’ll unsubscribe for a few weeks and hope he has disappeared by the time I return. My time is too valuable to waste on him.

Robert Flack
Robert Flack
4 years ago

The two aircraft carriers were ordered by Gordon Brown specifically to keep ship building jobs in Scotland. They have no strategic value. We are no longer a great power and need to stop thinking we are. The defence of the UK plus a few remnants of our Empire is our priority not Europe or anywhere else. As a nation we need to press the reset button and begin building unity of purpose. First start with the woke brigade, shut them up or kick them out. Then the traitorous civil servants and boards of quangos. Clean house. Then when we are economically stronger we can think about rebuilding our armed forces.

naillik48
naillik48
4 years ago
Reply to  Robert Flack

Couldn’t agree more and would also like to add that your sister’s version of ” first time ever I called your name ” is one of my most favourite songs.

Greg C.
Greg C.
4 years ago

A good start would be a navy which defended British waters. Then, if there is any money left, a perusal of the list of 21st century terrorist attacks perpetrated on British citizens should shape the thinking of MoD on where and how it should be spent.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
4 years ago

There are many of us who wondered about the wisdom of those aircraft carriers. They make awfully big targets. I suspect also they make awfully big ego boosts for the politicians who order them.

Our foreign policy has long degenerated into something which enables UK prime ministers to willy-wave at the top table. Our so-called nuclear deterrent is another: those wonderful subs will be useless against the underwater drones even now being developed.

Like most Brits, I want a decent life. I don’t really care if we have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (a main reason for keeping large forces) to stroke the egos of our illustrious leaders. In fact, I don’t think anyone should have a permanent seat.

Ironically, Brexit or no Brexit, our future lies with Europe. Practically speaking, in military terms, it’s all we can manage. That’s why we lost the Empire: keeping it it was unsustainable. Geographic proximity is the principal rule, as it always has been.

Brian Hurst
Brian Hurst
4 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

I guess that whilst the carriers make awfully good targets they also have decent defence systems so if we had to park one on Russias’s front doorstep it would enable quite a show of air an, and military strength. Germany avoids having any armed forms which is to be understood but it saves a small fortune and relies on France and yes the UK to provide troops and military might, times are a changing.

dansmith1763
dansmith1763
4 years ago
Reply to  Robert Forde

The original agreement was Blair in 1998, RN had 35 frigates and Destroyers not 19. Cold War was over but post wars of Yugoslav succession and Rwanda the issue was responsibility to protect.

9/11 and the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan were for most of the time seen as a temporary distraction before getting back to “normal” but 20 years is a pretty big distraction.

So we now have 2 Carriers in the water, one will finally be ready for operational cruise next year but with a AEW system still under development and a fixed wing force that will be more than half American as we don’t have enough planes.

By 2025 we will have both operational but realistically only enough sailors to keep one operational at any one time, we will have a functioning AEW and sufficient F35 to to have an operational cruise without American support.

So decision 1998 to actually having capability 2025 you can understand why we now have something we don’t need but having spent 25 years developing it, the sunk cost of admitting we did the wrong thing is too hard to admit

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
4 years ago

The 2020 SRSC says in one place: “Russian military and security doctrine has become more openly aggressive in recent years, and its forces have benefited from the significant programme of modernization that has been under way since their poor performance in the 2008 Georgian conflict.” With regard to the first point, NATO has been hyper-aggressive for a long time now, seeking to expand relentlessly to the East, so if Russian doctrine has become more aggressive, it is at least partly in reaction. With regard to the second point, the Russian forces still performed well enough to decisively defeat Georgian forces very quickly. This was a war that never would have happened were it not for NATO’s dimwitted efforts to make Georgia a member, which encouraged the unstable Georgian president to launch an aggression against South Ossetia. The only outcome was to get Russia to recognize the independence of the breakaway Georgian provinces, which it had previously refused to do, induce a stream of ethnic Georgian refugees from South Ossetia and for Georgia to lose control of the few parts of South Ossetia where it still held sway
Aris writes: “The 2015 SDSR arrested cuts to the Army’s capabilities to meet the new Russian challenge [reflected in the Russian incursion in Eastern Ukraine]”. This misreads the situation since the tragic civil war in Ukraine again resulted from hyperaggressive NATO over-reach. There was no reason Russia should have accepted the illegal removal from office of the duly elected Ukrainian president, with American assistance, with the clear danger that in the future Sevastopol would become a NATO naval base. Neither the Crimean annexation nor the Donbas rebellion ever would have happened if NATO had not imbecilically sought to repeat its errors in Georgia, with an even more tragic result.
The UK has been very much in the NATO war hawk camp with regard to Russia. British politicians should grow up. There are British specialists in Eastern European affairs like Richard Sawka who have pointed out the folly of current policies, and urged a change of course. It’s time they were listened to. As the 2020 SRSC makes clear, the UK has lots of threats on its horizon without making Russia much more of a threat than it should be.

Bill Gaffney
Bill Gaffney
4 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

Is Putin paying in £ or rubles?

D Alsop
D Alsop
4 years ago
Reply to  Bill Gaffney

I didn’t see you refute any of the claims made. You dont need to be in the pocket of Putin to see what was listed as being correct

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
4 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

Absolutely correct. The warming of ‘East/West’ relations after Peristoyka(?) was driven by the tacit agreement of a ‘peace dividend’ which gave Russia the assurance that ‘the West’ would not seek to encroach upon Russia’s borders – so much for that. The constant pressure on the Russian border (and its sphere of influence) has resulted in a Bear that is unsettled and wary, albeit not bellicose – at the moment.

Russ Littler
Russ Littler
4 years ago

I stopped reading when he lied about Russia invading the Ukraine. The Russians have NOT invade the Ukraine, and never did, despite what the corrupt MSM tell you. The eastern Ukrainian (Crimea) people voted twice in a free election to remain annexed to Russia (they are Russian speaking people), but Obama and the EU wanted the Ukraine for themselves, so they installed a puppet president, and one General Porochenko, who was tasked with bringing the dissidents into line. So funded by Obama/Biden and the EU, he started bombing and shelling his own people to get them to capitulate, so Russia then set up medical aid and supplies to assist the Crimean people (on their own side of the border). This journalist is everything that is wrong with the MSM today. Lies, deceit, and propaganda.

John Alyson
John Alyson
4 years ago

Not sure why there is so much emphasis on defending the Baltic states from the Russians. EU borders should be defended by the EU especially without a trade agreement. Let’s not forget that the EU itself is trying to exert its sovereignty over part of the UK (in Northern Ireland) – to a certain degree we have more in common with Russia as a fellow state bordering the EU.

China is more bothersome, but as the article suggests we have limited resource to project power. We really are better in this respect spending money on cyber security – something that protects us better against both Russia and China.

dansmith1763
dansmith1763
4 years ago
Reply to  John Alyson

Baltic states are part of NATO and we agreed to them joining.

We are committed to their defence and if we want to publicly say we don’t care if Putin takes them feel free to leave NATO.

We are no more committed to their defence than France, or Germany or Italy etc. So deployment of 4 fast jets for 4 months every 2-3 years and a deployment of 8-900 boots on the ground is enough to send a message, but nothing like enough to actually defend the Baltics and Poland.

John Alyson
John Alyson
4 years ago
Reply to  dansmith1763

Yes, they are part of NATO and it was a major mistake in letting them join.

But being a member of NATO does not require us to deploy anything to send a message. Indeed, even if they were invaded, NATO membership would not compel us to deploy such forces. And we should be less committed to their defense than France and Germany – they are part of the EU and we are not. We should do the minimum that our interests and/or NATO membership require.

M00n H0wl
M00n H0wl
3 years ago
Reply to  dansmith1763

The purpose of the boots on the ground is not to defeat any Russian threat – it is to complicate Russian strategic planning by ensuring that multiple nations suffer casualties, and want to avenge those casualties, in case of an attack.

It’s a bonus when those nations include nuclear powers as it raises the potential stakes considerably.

kevin.bennewith
kevin.bennewith
3 years ago
Reply to  John Alyson

Don’t forget about Australia and New Zealand. Two countries with a vast territory and resources, and a reasonably sized population of about 30 million. They have their own problems with China, and are linked to the US via the ANZUS Treaty, and are members of Five Eyes. If nothing else, they are useful territories from which to launch attacks, like the UK in the 2nd World War, and provide vital resources. In fact, in that war the Americans installed themselves in Australia to launch against Japan. Right now there is a contingent of US Marines in Darwin. The UK and the USA should revive the idea of the Anglosphere. Together with the UK, Canada and the US, we have a larger population than the EU (minus the UK) a larger GDP per head, a similar culture and we speak more or less the same language.

Matt K
Matt K
4 years ago

Has the author abandoned his case for national hobbitism?

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
4 years ago
Reply to  Matt K

New week, new super urgent crisis for Aris

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
4 years ago

Only in the last couple of paragraphs does this make much sense; what we need to be thinking about is what are the actual risks to a small island off the European shore and with extensive world trade, mainly in invisibles. Switzerland, as it were, with coasts. “Nothing much” has to be the answer, if we stop pretending to be a world power which we aren’t and should not be. The main risks are cyber attack, terrorism, and an ability to show physical support to our American friends, if only on a nominal scale.

We have an efficient, brave, and exceptionally respected military. It is very brutal to say we don’t really need them much. But we have to face that truth.

David Probert
David Probert
4 years ago

How many Fishery Protection vessels would just one of our £3.5 billion Carriers buy ?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

Enough.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
4 years ago

Basically what you are saying is that in a time of increased dangers, it is stupid to cut the armed services.
Relying on the EU nations to do much (apart from France), is just wishful thinking. They rely on the USA for defence, whilst hating them for providing it. Even Trump has not been able to persuade Germany to honour it’s commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence – whilst Germany has had a budget surplus.
I am not sure about the, so called, bad procurement story of the MOD.
It has probably much more to do with politicians changing their minds every five minutes and a lack of understanding of prototypes and manufacture.
By their nature prototypes are inherently difficult to estimate the cost, as they have not been made before. With manufacturing one needs a run of products to reduce the individual price.

M00n H0wl
M00n H0wl
3 years ago

But still, an MOD that outnumbers the military it is allegedly serving?

Martin Rossol
Martin Rossol
3 years ago

A personal comment. I am first generation American. My father was Polish born [with English roots? Russell?]. Was late, young (17) draftee in Hitler’s army. Injured at Dunkirk. Captured by the British. “Oh, life was so much better as a British prisoner than as a German soldier.” He immigrated to US in 1949 and never looked back.
The West has a problem, and it is too bad- and probably impossible -that those who should- Great Britain, the US, Australia, Canada, France(?), Spain, Italy, etc. -cannot work together toward a common solution to China and the military challenge it presents to us.
I understand but care little for our politicians. But though I am first generation, I feel kinship with those whom we share history and culture (western, English…). Let us common folk do our part to keep bonds strong. We need allies.
https://www.youtube.com/wat

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
4 years ago

‘Post-Brexit, the UK will be a second-rate military power with no place on the world stage’

So therefore, we were recently a first rate military power and what did we do ?
Bosnia – Iraq – Afghanistan….

Will someone please tell me what use our ‘influence’ was in all this ?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

Not much, but as the late Francis Urquhart (FU) used to say ” we have to put a bit of stick about”.

dansmith1763
dansmith1763
4 years ago

Below is a quote from a book about Britain’s failure in Afghanistan written in 2013, as it turns out the Indian Fleet has not expanded as quickly as predicted but the Chinese fleet had probably expanded more quickly than predicted at the time but the point still stands

This is Britain military establishment trying to justify its existence to a political class that is allergic to the word Europe and a public frustrated after 2 decades of failure in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In late 2011, I was at a conference where the discussion had turned to the future and to the global roles that the British armed forces might be able to develop, particularly after 2020, by which time the army would be reformed and the navy would have its carriers, if not necessarily its carrier aircraft. One of the participants, perhaps significantly an arms company executive, pulled everyone up short:

Look, by 2020 we will have maybe 20 major navy surface vessels and a few submarines. India’s navy will have about 100 capable major surface warships, three carrier groups and 400 aircraft. That’s just the navy. Their army is huge and their air force is impressive. That’s India. China will be even more powerful. Get real and ask yourselves where 20 major surface warships, of which we might be able to deploy 7, an aircraft carrier, some submarines and a deployable brigade of 5,000 men might fit in there

richardproudler
richardproudler
4 years ago
Reply to  dansmith1763

Do we need to worry about Indian naval power?

China has 2 , the US 12 nuclear powered in places all over the globe

See here ,https://www.realcleardefens

Chinese carriers are one cut and shut from the Ukraine and

the other , a knock off version, surpise suprise

The UK has 2 brand new ones

https://en.wikipedia.org/wi

dansmith1763
dansmith1763
4 years ago

The US has at present 10 CVN not 12 and realistically, 2 of them at anyone time are deep in a dockyard refit. So maybe 3 could be active in the Pacific at one time, the US also has 10 LHA which they don’t consider Aircraft Carriers but with 15-20 F35 are as powerful as what any other nation terms a carrier, one is on fire in SAN Diego and at least another 1 or 2 at anyone time will be dockyard bound.

Chinese, Indians and anyone else will also have ships needing to enter dockyards but point is if you are operating on their home turf the aircraft are still available.

Do we need to worry about the Indians well it depends what we are doing passing through their waters?

Also the point was these are 2 nuclear armed major land powers, their navies are relatively small in terms of their armed forces but both will have multiple operational carriers while also having 1,000,000 plus armies.

Chinese have 2 CV yes one is ex Ukraine and one a more modern version of a copy, but they also have a 3rd under production and speculation about a 4th.

We don’t quite “have” 2 brand new ones, the first is finishing the last of its trials and first operational cruise will be next year, the second is 2 years behind that. Yes the POW is in the water but a full complement of trained crew and aircraft is 2023-4.

Our maximum assumed deplorable land force is 5,000 man brigade. In an environment where China or India would see that as chicken feed.

nickandyrose
nickandyrose
3 years ago

Usual drivel written about the carriers by people who still fail to grasp that a maritime country needs a maritime strategy and tactics. What the carriers underline is the willingness of the government to buy headline assets, but are unprepared to fund the proper equipping of those assets, rendering them virtually useless. The problem is the government, not the carriers.

Secondly, given the way the EU has behaved over Brexit, I would suggest we ought to have left continental Europe to the Russians in 1945; any idea we should go to their aid in case of any repeat expansion from Russia ought to be resisted in the strongest terms possible. Our best defence is the same as it always has been: that strip of water between England and the continent.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
4 years ago

Defense costs money and even 2% of GDP (let’s assume that the costs of C19 are 0 in say 3-5 years) is not enough. The country needs to double its defense spending to have meaningful capabilities – and that will not happen.
My guess is that UK will muddle through.

Jasper Carrot
Jasper Carrot
4 years ago

An article that offered little imagination & summarised various articles from elsewhere.
The UK’s politicians have not the level & scale of interest in Defence matters, nor the Armed Forces – putting Cummings into the Review is worrying; I don’t have an issue with him ‘sorting out’ the continuing procurement mess & ongoing mismanagement.
The UK’s Foreign Policy, Defence & Security Review is meant to be more than the Blair-era SDR of ’97 & should be determined by the government’s (with cross party agreement) long-term view of the UK’s future needs within the world; until this undertaken we will never have a clear understanding or how the MoD can plan & prepare for the future.
The carriers are unaffordable – insufficient escorts & support vessels to provide a sufficiency of capability. Sadly, we have them, thanks to that schemer (Brown) & it may be more useful to give HMS PoW to the R. Marines, in lieu of the recently sold HMS Ocean, with a few F35s.
The Army is already below its critical mass & politicians need to understand that with technology as it is, & as it will continue to evolve, it is critical to have an Army that can deliver soft & hard power with skill – it needs to be re-formed into a more agile, hard hitting capability with a flatter chain of command.
The RAF should be re-focused on strategic air, satellites & ISTAR – all helicopters should be under command of the Army with some Chinooks/Puma/Merlin gifted to the R. Marines.
The primary focus should be: the Atlantic, High North, NATO & UK Authorities. The Secondary focus should be elsewhere … determined by the ForDefSy Review with funding & capabilities.
Some of the former DfID money should be used to enhance the MoD/Armed Forces medical support to assist the FCO in respect to soft power usage: hospital vessels & aero-medical evacuation with crewing; this would be within the rules of OECD & the other international bodies that define the use of Overseas Aid money.

John Mattingley
John Mattingley
3 years ago

I think the author might benefit from reading Peter Zeihan’s work, particularly “Disunited Nations: The scramble for power in an ungoverned world”.

Short of summarising Zeihan’s three works here, I will make some points which you can reference later. Zeihan makes a much better job of arguing for and marshalling conclusions I have come to myself over the last five years:

The article and comments assume that nothing has changed and that Americans will continue to police the world enabling free movement of goods and trade. This is not the case and hasn’t been for a few years. Europe has not been paying its bills and added insult to injury by attempting a parallel world reserve currency. It has been making all the wrong socialist noises and gratuitous spending as measured by American standards. Despite years of Clinton, Bush and Obama therapeutic treatment of it, China has proved itself to be a bad actor. And so the Americans have had enough; they are going home. It’s been happening for a while, but Trump has finally called time.

In the new world, each country will need to feed, fuel and look after itself. There is only one country that can do this due to its unique geography, climate and demographics; the United States. Even politicians can’t make a total mess (though perhaps the current crop of Democrats could make a fair old go of it, given the chance).

China is nowhere near the super-power we in the west like to think it is; its demographics are appalling, it cannot feed itself, or keep itself moving or warm and has no way of projecting kinetic military power beyond the immediate island chain of Japan. It only exists as it does today courtesy of the old world order. It is an irritant that we have let get out of hand. Japan has the world’s second largest navy), long-standing animosities and the will to contain it. China is not a united, homogeneous country; its internal fissures are already beginning to show. It’s economic and financial precariousness is only just showing itself.

Britain will never be a global power again. But it has some key advantages which historically worked and come into play again in the new order. Not least it has a moat, good deep water ports, good governance (sort of) and financial and technical know-how (it is especially good at being a navy, making money with money and is absurdly innovative when let off the leash) and could, with judicious trimming of unproductive multicultural demographic fat, balance finances, feed itself and keep the lights on. But the UK would still need to partner with a powerful sponsor for security and trade.

The EU is not that sponsor. Germany, due to its inherent weaknesses post the American world order, its dreadful demographics (most of its productive workforce retires in 2026) its inability to feed itself and keep itself moving and warm (thanks largely due to its disastrous “green revolution”) and its vulnerability to Russia across the easily traversed Northern European plains will be severely disminished. This will lead to inevitable resource tensions with an increasingly desperate Russia (with its own serious demographic problems) perhaps to the point of war.

France which has none of these problems and has wisely (or stubbornly) never really embraced global trade (it never had to, thanks to the EU) will be resurgent (if and only if, it can avoid becoming an Islamic country) and once again will become a power to be reckoned with. It may be peaceful, but we can’t guarantee that. Either way, it is likely to have a Germany at war as a neighbour.

Britain does not want to get caught in a third continental war; it would be suicide – and as its 50 year membership of the European project has shown, being in involved with Europe is drain on its net wealth whether in war or peace time. The EU will be gone within ten years and anyway and could only ever survive under the old Bretton Woods World Order that is now finishing. Britain’s only option and the natural one is to ally with the United States.

Vassal state we undoubtedly will be, at least militarily, but in the new disunited and ungoverned world it will be an enviable position compared to any alternative.

Feel free to take shots at any of these points. I am always open to alternative views and new information.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
3 years ago

I never got the impression ‘global Britain’ had anything to do with the military!

“The strategy proposed here is that our area of focus should be “the defence of the UK homeland and its immediate neighbourhood””

This seems sensible, with the addition that UK assets & territories such as the Falklands also need to be protected. The UK needs first and foremost to be able to defend its home territory, including Northern Ireland, territorial waters, and EEZ. As there is no major land threat at present, this argues for the Royal Navy & RAF as priorities.

David Moody
David Moody
4 years ago

Did I miss any comment on Trident? Time to review this and redirect investment.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  David Moody

Correct, it was not mentioned, but as long as France has a “Nuke”, we will have to have one.

dansmith1763
dansmith1763
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

True it’s always been a political “willy waving” commitment not a military one, and if French Force de Frappe exists we are not getting rid of Trident.

The connection is the expenditure of actually building the successor class of boats will be a major part of all defence budget all through 2020’s and in to 2030’s when we started construction on first in 2016 it was predicted to enter service in 2028, as of 2018 RN is talking about “early 2030’s” 3rd boat we won’t even start till 2024.

A 4 boat minimum fleet in 1970s when we were spending over 5% of GDP on defence and BAOR parked in Germany was 4 RAF bases and multiple armoured Divisions is a very different commitment when we are spending 2%

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  dansmith1763

You make a good case for an increase in Defence spending. However, I am sure you are aware, there has been such Herculean mismanagement at the MoD on so many projects, that even the thought of an increase
is anathema.
Is not Herr Cummings indulging in a brutal campaign of ‘slash and burn’ at the MoD as I write?

Perhaps cutting the ludicrously generous Overseas Aid budget, might provide some limited succour, but in reality it is but a soupçon.

What is always forgotten in the emotional hype that surrounds Defence spending is how many manufacturing jobs can be generated. Just look at wee little Scotland and the Carriers. “We want eight and we won’t wait” as they used to say.

dansmith1763
dansmith1763
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

We want 8 and we won’t wait is a very long time ago and we had an Empire covering 25% of humanity.

The metal bashing of the empty boats for the Carrier fleet have been built it’s the expensive planes we are missing and they cost in $ as we sold the intellectual property of the VSTOL design and now 75% of cost is in $.

We plan to buy 140 “eventually”, we have actually ordered 48, they will take till 2026 to deliver the last 7 of the 48.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  dansmith1763

An Aircraft Carrier without aircraft must be the most oxymoronic decision of all time. Yet today’s MSM tells us we maybe indeed sending one to the Far East to threaten Fu Manchu!

Shades of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, as you may recall.

dansmith1763
dansmith1763
4 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Ironically building the boat and assuming the nations treasury will find the money for aircraft is not just a British thing. Once you have the ship it’s embarrassing not to have planes but planes are expensive so let’s not mention it till we have built the boat ðƞ€Š”ñℱ€ï¾

Japan built 2 small carriers, and have finally admitted they are Carriers not “large Destroyers” and have ordered planes 5 years after the ships are in the water.

Aussies built 2 LPH with ski jump ramp for STOVL aircraft but no aircraft,

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  dansmith1763

We should ‘sell’ them to India and be done with it.

They have already fulfilled their primary task, and kept wee little Scotland afloat for another few years.

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
4 years ago

“we have long lost the ability to assemble such a force, let alone sustain it in the field.” Where did we lose it, was it left in a handbag, in a station?

Since 1948 Britain’s defence policy has been defence union with Europe. We were not told this directly because the idea is anathema to ordinary subjects who believe in the sovereignty of nation states. But it was always deliberate long term policy to cut defence spending, rendering us incapable of producing or procuring any home made defence equipment and being incapable of defending ourselves without vast loans from other parties and help from our allies. Nato was always intended as an interim measure. Voluntary involvement between nation states was always intended as a step on the way to Central Command and control from the European Defence Union. We are still bound to this arrangement thanks to May, Robbins and the stupid Withdrawal Agreement, which Barnier will not ditch.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
4 years ago
Reply to  Alison Houston

“Since 1948 Britain’s defence policy has been defence union with Europe.”
Completely untrue.
No political party is going to get elected by promising to take money out of NHS, schools, pensions to pay for tanks.
£850 million to NHS not £850M to the army.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Correct, we were still battling away in Malaya, Palestine and The Canal Zone in 1948.

True we did have BAOR but that did not stop us chastising various enemies of the Crown, up until 1967. Cyprus, Borneo and Aden being the principal theatres.

Then a brief pause for breath before returning to age old, traditional enemy, the Irish, plus some concurrent activity in the Sultanate of Oman.

The rest you know, Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan.

NATO and BAOR were important, but we still had time for extra curricular activity, as you might say.

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
4 years ago

So the boy writes another thriller based on a miss-mash of ‘contemporary’ views put out by a plethora of experts. Many good points below but most miss a key point. It’s taken that the aggressor with the biggest gun/fire power will inevitable win. Remember the Russians in Afghanistan? Remember the Americans arriving to show the Russians how to save the world? (They are still there.) America saved the world before in Vietnam and retreated disgracefully. Plus virtually destroying Laos and Cambodia (how many millions killed?) Of course we had to join in to save the world from weapon of mass destruction or was it chemical Armageddon? No, no regime change, silly me! We had to go because our PM sold his soul to the Americans. Talk of co-joining with American forces in a major conflict is just that, talk.
My point is as a former soldier it is highly unlikely that a major will happen. Imagine the doom mongers scenario: A million Chinese troops in the march! The seventh cavalry ain’t coming over the hill to save us. No we have some spotty faced geeks sitting in the bowels of GCHQ playing at let’s alter the food distribution for the Chinese take a ways. Er… Let’s alter the direction of the fabled Chinese warships or what about disabling the water supply. Meanwhile the Chinese have some spotty geeks… And the American military do what they are world class at SNAFU.
Me I’d go for small specialised units (we already have) that can stroke fast and recover fast. (Think current conflicts they are small but lethal. Nuke sub’s Super bombers will never defeat an implacable enemy.) That could be the optimum way for the British to operate. We are good. MSM drag us down and belittle our military simply because they are ignorant of what goes on.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
4 years ago
Reply to  Gerry Fruin

“Nukes” did manage to defeat “an implacable enemy ” last time, a mere two of them, as I’m sure you recall.

The USN’s Ohio class will be able to vaporise most of China and WW III will not be Armageddon, at least not for us.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
4 years ago

I honestly don’t think ‘international realism’ is the way forward for Britain. In fact it is not the way forward for the world either but that obviously does not stop wannabe global powers seeking a vaneer of global power whatever that means in a highly interconnected world of trading relationships.

Satellite surveillance and drones does all the necessary work in the MENA region. Hard power requirements are minimal regarding protecting gas and oil supply lines which are the primary responsibility of the beneficiaries of our extensive military exports. In other words, we have largely outsourced our military prowess to OPEC countries.

China will aggravate local and historical tensions because it can including the South Pacific but even the South Pacific is a remnant of the resentment of US protection of Japan following WW2 reconstruction.

Similarly, Russian aggravation in Ukraine or more particularly Crimea was simply Russia reclaiming Russian citizenship for most of the Russian inhabitants within that region.

This only really leaves cyber warfare which is I think is the only battlefield left since hacking our systems is the surest way to immobilise the country and demoralise our democracy whilst leaving specific revenue raising trading relationships in tact.

It has already been shown by Sars2, whose origin is still unknown, that the quickest way to render a country inert is biological warfare. For all we know, we might actually be suffering the consequences of a globally orchestrated biological attack. 15 or so major cities, 15 or so cannisters of sars2, tally ho, 24 wasn’t so fictitious after all.

Overall, www3 would be the end of us all no matter how much hard power the little island of Britain had.
The best we can do is project ourselves diplomatically, foster even greater economic interconnectedness and maintain the protection of our national security with reliable cyber defences.

This is what Global Britain actually represents, not hard power but soft power.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
4 years ago

I thought ”Remainers” said EU armed forces were a Lie?….EU intervened in bosnia thanks to German Chancellor Kohl in 1994 and help cause Civil War. NATO had to sort it out….EU cant even patrol the Channel for illegal immigrants..

stuuey
stuuey
4 years ago

No mention of NATO?
Even though we are right in the centre of the theatre.
The question is how to ensure we get some benefit from NATO even though no one seems to know what it’s objectives are!

Robyn Lagrange
Robyn Lagrange
4 years ago

This may seem childishly obvious but our armed forces are supposed to be for our defence, not a force to be deployed in any available fight. Far too often we have been involved in actions where we should not have been. I’m in favour of having a modern, well equipped army, navy and air force for the defense of our country and dependencies. That should be the limit of operations. As long ago as 1960, politicians were saying we couldn’t be the world’s policeman. We shouldn’t even be trying.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

The point being missed is that the whole remain campaign was built on a platform of nationalism for an EU superstate. The idea that citizens of other EU members had to have special treatment, that leaving the Eu would be “self harm”, the idea that the world outside the Eu was some sort of horrible place we wanted to avoid. It was all there!

So it’s not a volt face by remain. They always where nationalist, they just never really understood it!

Christopher Collier
Christopher Collier
3 years ago

Whatever the strategic future imagined by the Review, it will most likely be overtaken by events – they all are. A Biden victory in November will surely be followed within 2 years by a Communist Chinese invasion of Taiwan. What will the US, the UK, the EU and the UN do about that? I fear a rerun of Czechoslovakia 1938.
China is the real threat. As obnoxious as Mr Putin’s regime is the West should hold its nose and forgive him. After all we could work with Stalin.

shannon
shannon
3 years ago

Interesting, this quaint idea of ‘defence’ and ‘force’. All we have done with our army since the second world war is attempt to terrorise some smaller nation, destabilising many of them and creating huge refugee problems. Our main threat is the mentality that insists we need to spend money on guns and missiles while in 20 years or so much of the planet will start to become uninhabitable.