Thursday, October 21, 2010

UK Defense Review

Last August I posted a piece in which the headlines read: "The RAF will shrink to its smallest size since the First World War, under unprecedented cuts being proposed at the Ministry of Defense." [See:] Many of my UK friends mildly (and rightly) chastised me for spreading press stories about the review … and urged I wait to see what comes from it.

This week the UK published its final report. [See: ] (Warning: it’s 75 pages long).

A fairly good summary of it comes from a Defense News piece by Andrew Chuter:

"The Strategic Defense and Security Review, unveiled Oct. 19 by Prime Minister David Cameron, stripped the armed forces of various capabilities, reduced military and civilian personnel numbers, and ushered in a restructuring of the Army.

Cameron told lawmakers that the 36.9 billion pound ($53.1 billion) defense budget was being cut in real terms by 8 percent over the next four years, but that he envisaged a possible increase in spending beyond that. The review said that Britain will in the future deploy no more than 30,000 troops overseas, including maritime and air support - two-thirds of the force deployed to Iraq in 2003. It will reduce the civilian MoD work force by about 25,000 and military personnel by about 17,000, both by 2015."

"All three services will see capabilities reduced, but the British Army has come off the lightest, mainly because it is embroiled deeper in the war in Afghanistan."

"The military's is heading toward a fast-jet fleet consisting solely of Typhoons and Lockheed Martin F-35s. The Harrier GR9 is being withdrawn from service beginning in 2011; the number of RAF Tornado GR4 strike aircraft will also be reduced as Eurofighter Typhoons arrive. The government decision to withdraw the GR9 and only start operating the F-35 in 2020 means the Royal Navy will have to take a capability holiday on carrier strike for the next 10 years.

The review said the MoD intended to operate a single type of F-35, not different land and naval variants."

"One of the two carriers being built by a BAE-led consortium for the Royal Navy will be fitted with catapult and arrestor gear, and is slated to arrive in 2020. The second carrier being built will be mothballed in a low state of readiness."

Several reactions to these cuts have come from a number of people whom I respect. Below my name is a compendium of their talking points.

For your consideration.


Michael M. Dunn
Air Force Association


"The first thing that hit me was that the UK approach to developing future forces is similar to that of the US. Both countries are emphasizing force structure designed to deal with current conflicts (such as Afghanistan and Iraq) rather than the much more challenging and dangerous ones that will almost certainly occur in the future."

"Very high tech weaponry provides huge advantages to the United States and the UK and allows them to fight asymmetrically against enemies such as the Taliban rather than on a face-to-face basis where the advantage is minimal. And it actually turns out that the weaponry developed for demanding conventional conflicts has great utility in wars such as those in Afghanistan. One need only think of long range bombers and fighters, precision weapons that not only have great military utility but also reduce collateral damage dramatically, Global Position Systems, Imaging Satellites, and long duration unmanned vehicles to name just a few."

"The tone is similar to that of our Secretary of Defense [Robert Gates]. He talks about focusing on today’s wars and avoiding what he calls “next war-ite- is.” This is an extraordinarily dangerous approach for it assumes that the future will be like the present—which it has never been. And lying in the future are certainly enemies who are far more difficult threats than those of today.”

"I don't see, in the medium term (3-5 years), that the new UK posture will have any adverse affects on the US and British relationship. But it puts us on a joint course for the future which it makes it difficult to overcome serious threats with serious capabilities which will likely arise beyond the mid-term. I find this almost myopic focus on today to be quite troubling."

“The RAF has to be interoperable with the US … not just in systems, but doctrine, training, thought and strategies. It is in the US interest to have a strong “left wing” [to quote a former boss] to oppose oppression and safeguard freedom and democracy."

“The RAF has to be able to accomplish a wide range of missions … and continue to be a “Full-Service Air Force.” Right now many of the world’s Air Forces rely on the US for such things as … transport, intelligence, smart munitions, AAR, etc. We cannot be expected to embrace 2nd or 3rd world efforts from the UK and still call them a dependable ally.”

“There comes a time when the UK reaches a “Tipping Point” – when one of their elements of national power decays such that we no longer see them as having the same or similar world view as the US. It may be that it occurs in the military instrument of national power … and we just can’t define when that might be. If it happens, it will be bad for both the US and the UK. This force takes us much closer than before … as the overall level of forces is so small as to possibly make the UK a “bit player” on the world stage – especially against a regional power that might challenge Western interests.”



Mad Mike said...

The US & it's allies seem to be going down the same strategic road as the Germans
in WWII, that is with complex technology fielded in insufficient numbers. No matter
how sophisticated a weapon is, unless you have enough of them, it can be overwhelmed
with lower tech volume. The rising powers in Asia have ability to generate those numbers.
We as a nation have seriously eroded our manufacturing base and now would be hard pressed
to suddenly start kicking out replacements for aircraft lost, given the long lead time necessary
to ramp up production of complex aircraft and lack of critical materials. Recently China, who
produces 97% of rare earths, necessary to produce high tech products, including aircraft. is now
curtailing shipments to Europe and the US. In short our current short sighted strategy seems to
be putting a noose around our own necks.

john said...

this review leaves me an opportunity to make my voice known: ALL of our allied nations rely on USA to protect them. Our current regime wants to CUT our military as well. With atomic weaponry being made available to rouge nations, It is my opinion that a great deal more emphasis on OUR security is needed. Down grading their military and relying on us will only lead to more adventurism by rouge nations. WE DON'T NEED THAT