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Comments

Denise

"This is vitally important to the Anglo-American alliance. If Britain is to be an active partner in the primary alliance in defense of freedom, it must have the equipment to back up the effectiveness of her servicemen." Absolutely. The only problem is that those responsible for the cut backs don't want Britain to be an active partner in the defense of freedom, especially not in alliance with the U.S. The whole point was to merge ever more into the EU and create a distance detween us.

Henry Mayhew - Ukipper

This is extremely unimportant. The MoD employs an eye-watering 89,000 civilian staff. The future of warfare is going to move towards cheap UAVs that can be bought for £500. Check out the Twister Jet UAV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eR62-JCzBVo

The military-industrial complex is past its sell-by-date. Do not revive.

Jeff

On the RN...

After the 'swingeing cuts' and in a very few years the UK will still have two quite capable CBGs for power projection.

Not to mention 4 SSBNs.

On the RAF...

Typhoons and Tornados in large numbers and even seven Boeing Sentrys...pretty servicable ELINT aircraft. :)

On the Army...

Out of Iraq soon and then there's only Afghanistan for as long as that lasts.

Looking forward...

Who is a military threat to the UK? I can't see anyone being capable of assaulting the home islands; the defence of seaborne commerce has long been ceded to the USN and that seems to me to leave only the possibility of the UK choosing to go to war with someone.

Who? After the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan I suspect that any such action will be long avoided.

In any case, the UK seems to me to be adequately resourced militarily.

Where's the problem?

Mike's America

Jeff: Get a clue. History is replete with examples of how very wrong your thinking is.

You don't maintain a first rate deterent or defensive shield by waiting to upgrade when the threat is already apparent.

In the U.S. we're trying to get a pledge of 4% growth in the Defense budget and that will be impossible unless the GOP maintains control of the White House in 2008.

We need a massive upgrade of all systems across the board, but especially a large increase in manpower and associated equipment to face potential threats in Asia in the next decade.

God forbid we wake up one morning and find the Chinese dictating "peace" terms for Taiwan.

The only way to prevent war is to be prepared to fight it.

Peace through strength works every time it is tried.

Maduka

Mike's America,

If the US spends 600 billion dollars on defence (several times more than anyone else) and still needs to spend some more, then we are not getting good value for our money.

We have to take a fresh look at how well the money already allocated is spent, before we allocate more.

I am not against increased spending on defence, but I think defence contractors are taking us for a ride.

Jeff

Mike

Got many clues thanks. :)

We're talking here about the UK's defense needs correct?

So let's do that. The UK as in my first post has 4 SSBNs, will have 2 CBGs, has numerous fast jets and a small though competent Army.

For defense of the UK, they are very well prepared against any threat.

For defense of seaborne commerce they rely on the USN.

Even in terms of their GDP compared to the US, they do quite well.

UK has a GDP of about $1.5 Tn, the US about $13 Tn. Say a factor of 9. Roughly therefore, we support 12 CBGs and we could expect the Uk to support 1.3 CBGs. In fact the UK will have 2.

I don't consider that to be insufficient.

OK, let's look at the threat estimates.

There are no conventional forces available to anyone that could prevail against the UK in their home waters and islands. Actually I suppose those of the US could right up until the UK resorts to a nuclear respose. That scenario is a little out there on the bell curve though I hope you'd agree.

Excepting the US, there's no one capable including the Russians and the Chinese.

Commerce lines are defended by the USN as I said. The UK has no interest in defending Taiwan or Australia or Singapore. They're too far away and anyway there's the US.

Ok, let's see how that flies for the UK defense argument. As I'm here my next post will respond to your concerns about the US defense spend and preparedness.

Jeff

Mike

'We need a massive upgrade of all systems across the board, but especially a large increase in manpower and associated equipment to face potential threats in Asia in the next decade.

God forbid we wake up one morning and find the Chinese dictating "peace" terms for Taiwan.'

The US has existing 12 CBGs - mainly Nimitz class. The US has way more fast jets and of a superior quality than anyone on Earth.

What is it now, 6,000 nuclear warheads on missiles or available for delivery by B52s or B1 Lancer stealth bombers or any one of 17 Ohio SSBNs.

The US has even now a quite large Army and Corps that we seem content to use against an enemy at the enemy's level of military competence and then only used against their foot soldiers rather than their financiers. I think that's crazy but for another post perhaps.

Two questions related to the quote from your post. The US is continually upgrading combat systems. I'll reach to the Navy again for an example. Have a look at the Gerald R. Ford carrier class. First question, why do you think we aren't upgrading?

You say we need a massive increase in manpower. I think you mean a larger Army and Corps. Second question, why?

To take your Taiwan example, are you suggesting we fight the PLA on the ground in China or Taiwan?

Good grief, that makes no sense at all. We kill them from the air and from the sea. Much better ratios for us.

Mike, this is the US you're talking about. We have more heavy metal than the rest of the world combined.

There's only one real miltary threat to the US and that's whatever remains of the old Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces. That exists and we still have MAD therefore.

Everything else is trivial.

Simon

I agree that Britain should increase defense spending as a proportion of GDP, but having the ability to follow the U.S. into it's latest misguided foreign policy adventure is hardly a compelling reason.

Jeff

Simon

In many ways the UK can accept much less of a military force establishment than is projected if the UK decides that it does not intend to participate in foreign wars either with the US or independently.

You could argue from the UK's national interest viewpoint that it is perfectly feasible that defense of the home islands and waters is all that you need to be resourced for and that implies perhaps that you need even fewer forces than you now have.

In practical terms the current defense obligations that you have are quite small and will probably diminish over the next 5 years to almost nothing outside the UK.

I think you have little to fear at 52N and why worry about the rest of the world?

Whether or not the US becomes embroiled in one of your 'misguided foreign policy adventures' is unknown but in practical terms the US doesn't actually need an UK military presence to help defend Taiwan or the Straits of Malacca or the Gulf oil shipping lanes or Japan or Australia.

In each of those locations, by the way, the US has local allies that are quite miltarily competent.

As an example take a look at the capabilities of the Japanese Navy. They're quite impressive though for some reason we haven't allowed them to build Carriers. :)

If we were to assault the current 'usual suspect', again such an effort would hardly be compromised by the availability or otherwise of UK forces.

I'm a little puzzled that you appear to support an increase in the defense budget though. Who do you see as a threat?

If you do see a threat, why don't you just let the US take care of it? We may or may not - that of course depends on our own national interrest.

Simon Newman

UK forces are certainly under-resourced for the current interventionist strategy of assisting US offensive & occupation operations (Iraq, Afghanistan*) and occasional small-scale unilateral ops like Sierra Leone. Arguably though they're under-resourced even for a purely defensive strategy. There's no reason to expect the US defensive blanket over Europe to persist when it no longer serves US interests. Overseas there may be new threats from eg Latin American countries against British possessions like the Falklands. In the longer term, while Russia is unlikely to directly threaten the UK militarily (though economic warfare is likely) the EU is evolving into an empire, as Baroso said, and an attempt to withdraw from the EU in 2025 or so could well prompt a military response and possible civil war. Even if the EU remains peaceful and EU members are allowed a right of secession, there is still a good chance of large scale civil unrest and possible civil war within the UK over the next 20-50 years. An example of particular concern to me is what happens if/when a majority of the population of Northern Ireland votes to secede and join the Republic of Ireland - the UK is obliged to facilitate this under the Good Friday Agreement, but it seems highly likely that the Protestant-Unionist minority won't be keen on this and some will demand at least repartition of NI (I know I would). Whatever Westminster's approach to this is, the British govt will need troops to impose it.


*Of course Afghanistan was a response to attack by Al Qaeda, but not a direct defense of US territory.

Simon

Jeff, I think you rather answered your own question there. America pursues it's own national interest, and has always done so, and it would be foolish of the UK to assume that the 'special relationship' guarantees us any kind of American assistance or even moral support. Thinking about the Falklands Conflict specifically, U.S. help, though welcome, was by no means inevitable, and from Margaret Thatcher's account was only gained by very skillful diplomacy, as the U.S. had no wish to destabilise the Argentinian junta. Proving things can go the other way, there was Suez, where American dissaproval and economic threats forced a military withdrawal; a national humiliation which haunted the British psychy for 30 years.

Britain is a prosperous and well-populated nation with a proud military history, and an extremely well trained military personnel. We should have forces which are capable of defending our territory here and abroad, and contributing to joint military efforts where there is an overwhelming case for doing so; hopefully with the approval of our allies, if necessary without. To do that it's clear that we need to be better resourced and equipped than we are at present.

Jeff

Simon

Any country puruses its own national interest of course. Most countries nowadays perceive the national interest represented in some form of prosperity for themselves and their citizens.

Given the generally placid scenario of economic cooperation where do you see a need for an expanded UK military?

You mention two cases where the US support of British military action was hesitant to opposed. Clearly that could happen again and you then reasonably state that Britain should develop, retain and maintain the capability to - ultimately - go to war alone against a threat to the UK national interest.

There are two obvious questions...against whom might you conceivably fight and what capability would you require to be victorious? The answer to both those questions will necessarily shape the force structure you'll need.

This could be a very long post indeed if we were to examine all the possible scenarios but quickly, I have difficulty in identifying any nation extant that poses a threat to the UK. I'd be interested to see your response identify such.

You also say that the UK needs better resourced and equipped military than you have at present.

Perhaps but that's a broad and simple qualitative statement. For what purpose? Care to put some numbers into the proposal?

My interest here is that the UK's miltary does not seem to me to be in any particularly parlous state. For example, as I've mentioned before you'll have two Carriers and enough ships to support each in a few years. The fact that you'll have only two Carriers rather than the current three does rather mask the fact that the new carriers will be substantially more capable than the old Invincible class.

Similarly with the RAF. New fast jets.

The Army is small in size but then the UK hasn't maintained large ground forces since the retreat from Empire.

Why would you want more and better? What you have or will soon have looks good.


Simon

You paint a rather rosy picture of the British armed forces which is somehwhat at odds with stories we hear all to frequently about boots that melt, no body armour, rifles that jam in sandy conditions, etc etc. British soldiers in particular need the tools to do the job.

In my opinion (and it isn't an expert one) future threats to security will be those like terrorism which require conventional forces rather than enemy nations which can be deterred by the threat of nuclear action. We obviously can't nuke Osama.

Jeff

Simon

Not my agenda to be 'rosy'.

If your main concern is terrorism or any kind of asymmetric warfare then that I'd suggest is a very different kettle of fish from war fighting against the military forces of a recognizable state.

Let me take the second case first.

If the intent is to be able to defeat some other countries' military or even to simply deter the opposition from employing their military, then I'd revert to my previous arguments.

Being that the UK is sufficiently well resourced with both conventional and nuclear military force to certainly deter and even defeat almost any other nation.

'Defeat' is a rather odd phrasing in a nuclear war of course but the UK could certainly wreck any other nation on Earth. Somewhat Phyrric I recognize but good enough.

Even in a conventional only war, the UK could do much more damage to any adversary than vice versa excepting probably the Russians and certainly the Americans.

You touch on counter-terrorism. Here I'm not sure that military force is an answer. Neither to be clear am I advocating a touchy-feely understanding process. I'm just appreciating that application of military force against terrorists is fraught with uncertainty and has a substantially clouded outcome.

I rather hearken back to the engagement with the IRA. Even including British troop deployments and heavy policing that struggle was at best inconclusive.

One could argue that the current opposition are rather more fanatic than the IRA. How then should we deal with them?

We are somewhat fortunate that the enemy come in two at least very discernible factions being the Shia and Sunni strains of Islam.

Rather than have US and UK troops fight as Saudi proxies against the Iraqi or Iranian Shia as we've seen for the last several years I think we will soon come to a point where we can revert to a more traditional approach of the West having our proxies fight their proxies in Iraq.

Always better to have some other foot soldier fight than having your own people on the line of course.

If indeed this comes to pass I suspect that we in the West can sit back and watch the various Arabs and Iranians rip at each other.

The corollary of course is that scenario questions whether we do in fact need additional ground forces - whether US or UK.

It's only a possibility and I have no idea if the proposition is even considered by any of our governments but if it worked....:)

Simon

I don't disagree with any of the points you make Jeff, but I still don't see how they make a conclusive case that Britain is spending an adequate ammount on defense. I don't happen to believe the invasion of Iraq was a good idea myself, but we are there, and in Afghanistan, and we hear almost weekly reports that our troops are disgracefully badly equipped for the role they are expected to perform. Unless the MOD is spending all their budget on champagne and caviar, this would seem to suggest that Britain needs to raise its defense spending just to stay in the same place.

As for specific scenarios, off the top of my head, what if oil were found off the coast of the Falkland Islands, and a satisfactory settlement could not be reached with Argentina. Is the British Army and Navy strong enough to repel, or better still deter, another invasion of the Falklands?

Jeff

Simon

I don't think a 'conclusive' case is possible.

However if I first look at the heavy metal, I still have the view that the UK is adequately resourced. By this I mean that the Navy, RAF and Army are well equipped with, if you like, the headline weapon systems - nuclear and nuclear launch subs, carriers (soon), fast jets and tanks.

In sum for conventional war fighting against a conventional enemy, not at all bad.

As I'm sure you appreciate, the roles in Afghanistan and Iraq are essentially COIN and that, to put it mildly, is a different ball game.

There are equipment and manpower issues resulting from that but equally I'm not sure that because we are currently involved in both locales that we should allow that circumstance to shape future defense spending and systems.

I have no dispute with your comment that the equipment position in Afghanistan is a disgrace but it is a past and current disgrace.

One resulting I think from the fact that both the UK and US were caught flat footed by the Al Qaeda attack on 9/11 and by the resulting need to counter and by where we chose to 'nation build'.

For the future I'd hope both our Nations use our overwhelming military superiority sanely. As I've mentioned, using someone else's foot soldiers as our proxies is much to be preferred.

Your Falklands remark gave me a chuckle. In that of the three arms of the British military you rather omitted the one that actually has primary responsibility for defense of the Falklands. RAF has 4 Tornado F3s stationed at Mount Pleasant plus a Rapier air defense regiment.

Doesn't sound like much perhaps but I'd bet on those with satellite surveillance to defeat any Argetnine air assault given that the Fuerza Aero is equpped with some aging systems.

If you don't have control of the air around the Falklands it's a little difficult to mount an invasion.

Oh yes, there're hangars for a full squadron too. Hey, they may be 'The Few' but what they have is a lot better than the oppositon.

The oil down there stays ours as does the likely crude in the Antarctic.

We're good. :)

Btw, when I say 'ours' or 'we', I often flip between the sense of being a British citizen and being a US permanent resident. That I'm able to do so probably says something about common aims...sometimes.

Sorry about that.:)

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