Britains defence policy left high and dry

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jonwilly, Jan 8, 2006.

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    By George Trefgarne, Sunday City Editor
    (Filed: 08/01/2006)
    Britain's defence policy left high and dry

    Over in Washington, almost unnoticed, our allies in the Pentagon have suddenly delivered a terrible blow to Britain.

    Our future defence policy is premised on the acquisition of two aircraft carriers, which will allow power to be projected rapidly around the world in order to defend our interests. But the entire project - the biggest defence order for years - is now in jeopardy.

    Leaving aside the not inconsiderable matter of there being no money in the defence budget to pay for these carriers, they obviously require aircraft. That is why Britain has committed £2bn to the development of the Joint Strike Fighter in America.

    But budget papers before Congress show that, in order to save costs, the Pentagon is on the verge of cancelling the variant Britain needs for its carriers. This - the F-35B - would be a Harrier with knobs on and have a special engine developed by Rolls-Royce.

    Tony Blair has written to President Bush, begging him to reconsider. But I doubt he will get much further than poor old Harold Macmillan asking John F Kennedy not to axe the Skybolt missile in the 1960s.

    The scrapping of the F-35B could mean the end of the carriers, unless they are used as enormous ferries, or another aircraft is found, such as the French Rafale. But if the carriers are cancelled, it will mean the end of Britain's aspirations as a serious global power, and the end too of the Blairite foreign policy of armed intervention.

    As for the military bigwigs here, who have accepted all manner of cuts (including the decommissioning of the existing Sea Harriers and merger of the regiments) in return for the promise of super carriers, their toadying to a government that has always refused to fund the armed forces properly now looks like a very dangerous gamble indeed.

    Words Fail me.
  2. OldSnowy

    OldSnowy LE Moderator Book Reviewer

    I'm waiting for te spin to start on this - and whatever is said, if the VSTOL JSF is cancelled, then the Carrier (don't for a moment believe that there was EVER going to be two actually built) is indeed a waste of money.

    What does this mean? We can cancel the carrier (luckily, delays mean not much has been spent on it yet....), and the RN have already taken the cuts to pay for it. The RAF can have the Typhoons that won't go to Saudi, so a saving there, and the Army? Well, if that nice Mr Straw is to be believed, they'll be coming home from Iraq, starting shortly. So they won't all be needed, then.

    Trebles all round at the Treasury - more money to waste elsewhere :)
  3. I assume that "THEY' who run the armed forces do have sum idea just what they men and machines are actually intended to do come the day they are needed.
    Agree The Carriers seemed just to an exspensive an exercise and yes the Navy has already agreed to get rid of the ships needed to protect them in the first place.
    but of course we'll keep the Bomb as that give Britian a seat at the high table where the great Gobbers of Uk politics and waffle and inflict their Verbal Dioreha(Spelling) on humanity.
  4. I doubt this will happen, as the US Marine Corps is purchasing more of the vertical take-off JSF than Britain.
  5. Can't see a problem as the solution is obvious. Build the carriers and if the F35B is not available stick a big ramp on the pointy end of the boat and re-commission the Sea Harriers. (Many a true word said in jest)
  6. Typical UK defence policy of the last twenty years...we make a plan based on reasoned, sometimes cogent arguments and then as soon as financial expediency rears its ugly head we throw the whole box of forgs up in the air. The fact that salami slicing like this ends up costing more in the long run is ignored by Treasury, because that will be on someone else's watch and besides which the politicians will attract most of the excrement!
  7. As an idiot who knows f/all but can see the Emperor has been screwed by his tailor, I have always doubted the 'rely on 2 big ships' theory. With just two, they are hardly likely to be in the right place at the right time, the enemy only has to get lucky twice (cf Belgrano - & yes I know they were spicks driving it but it was very very easy wasn't it?). With the limitation of ships there would be training problems. Any repair or refit would cut our potential by 50%. Two ships off the board at any one time cannot be impossible given the long lead times for repairs - that assumes it was properly designed and built anyway.
    So - maybe no planes to line up would be a blessing in disguise if it meant these two big war canoes are scrapped.
  8. OldSnowy

    OldSnowy LE Moderator Book Reviewer

    Close, ORC, but no cigar. With 2 Carriers, there is only the possibility of 1 being at sea at a time. Why? Firstly, Refits/repairs/RUPPs/whatever you want to call them, will take out one for nearly 50% of the time. Secondly, there will be enough a/c - if bought - to equip 1 of the 2. Thirdly, you can bet your bottom Euro that much of the vital equipement needed to operate will be bought as a one-off, meaning that it will be taken off one Ship when that pays off, in order to run the other. It's what happens currently.

    Oh and fourthly - there just aren't enough Sailors in the Andrew to man both at once!

    Perhaps they should 'man' the second with a shadow RNR Crew :)
  9. I think this may be a garbled version of a different story - cancelling the STOVL variant would no way be "almost unnoticed". What however is happening right now is that the Pentagon are trying to cancel the alternate engine for the JSF (F-136) of which Rolls-Royce make 40% and which the UK is planning to use for all our JSFs. From an operational point of view it doesn't make a lot of difference - the two engines produce almost exactly the same thrust and you can literally remove one and plug in the other with no further changes needed. It may also be political to try and get more money - Congress wanted an alternate engine to keep fighter jet engine competition alive in the US, so the military are threatening to cut that engine rather than anything else in a bid to get Congress to come up with more money.

    Full story here:
  10. It is likely that congress will announce this week the Cancellation of the JSF model F-35B, this is replacement aircraft for the Harrier built in conjunction with the Americans for use on our new Carriers. If this replacement aircraft is cancelled then it will mean the end of the proposed new aircraft carriers as they will still be far to small to take the normal fixed wing aircraft.
  11. Wasn't that long ago that Reid was churning out stuff like this, surely he wouldn't if he didn't have some form of assurances though?

    Future Aircraft Carrier project moves to next phase as assembly plans are agreed

    Published Wednesday 14th December 2005

    Defence Secretary John Reid has announced a series of major developments in MoD's multi-billion pound programme to build a new class of aircraft carrier for Britain's Armed Forces today, 14 December 2005.

    The key developments - which together will provide our Forces with the largest and most powerful warships ever constructed in the UK - include:

    * The current carrier Alliance team of MoD, BAE Systems, Thales and KBR, is to be joined by VT Group and Babcock.
    * Plans for the construction and assembly of the ships at Alliance members' yards have been agreed.
    * MoD is to spend some £300M to develop the design of the ships to the point at which manufacturing can begin.
    * Commitment to some long-lead items for the ships will be made, where necessary, to maintain the programme.
    * It is also planned to explore, with the same companies, encompassing in-service support for the new carriers and the existing carriers through to their out of service dates.

    Mr Reid said:

    "These are major steps forward for the future carrier project. Work will now commence on finalising the delta design, which will ultimately provide the UK Armed Forces with the largest and most powerful warships ever constructed in the UK, and an expeditionary capability unparalleled outside of the US.
    "As part of today's announcement, I am allocating some 60% of the ships' construction to named UK yards: BAE Systems at Govan and Barrow; VT in Portsmouth and Babcock in Rosyth. I can also confirm final assembly of both carriers will be at Rosyth.
    "At the same time there is a substantial opportunity for the involvement of other UK shipyards in the remaining parts of the build programme that will be open to competition. This could go well beyond traditional shipbuilders since the project will use modern modular production techniques.
    "We will now work with industry to finalise the programme budget; to set a construction timetable and establish in-service dates; to ratify how the ships will be supported through a service life of up to 50 years; and to ensure that our detailed requirements are met. Together with the parallel design work, this means that when we come to commit to the manufacture of the project we can do so with the highest degree of confidence and certainty in our plans.
    "Alongside this, I am announcing our intention of asking the alliance to put forward one integrated plan: not only to maintain the new carriers but to look after the existing carriers until they go out of service. By getting the same people to commit to maintain the existing carriers until the new ones are ready to go we will ensure there is a continuity of capability for the Royal Navy.
    "This project is a key to the Defence Industrial Strategy and marks the end to the 'boom and bust' industrial cycle. The introduction of a managed and steady work stream will allow industry to plan efficiently and to retain the highly skilled workforce that has contributed to the fine tradition of shipbuilding in this country. In addition, this project will sustain and create some 10,000 UK jobs around the country."
  12. Not correct. The carrier design already incorporates the capacity as an option for a catapult/recovery system. Even with the F-35B the ships will be built "Fitted For" catapults.
    The design is bigger that of the French Charles De Gaulle which currently flys conventional aircraft, and the French also intend to use the CVF design for their second carrier using the same composition of an embarked air group. (Rafele/ EC-3 Hawkeyes).
  13. From what I have gathered the cancellation of the VSTOL F-35 has been long expected by the Navy and hoped for by much of the FAA. Conventional carrer ops gives the Fleet many more offensive as well as defensive options in terms of avaition. Lets just hope they solve the size issues with the Merlin!!
  14. Why not just build our own plane? And using a french aircraft bloody hell Nelson would turn in his grave!
  15. didn't we design a "Super Harrier" a few moons ago?

    Maybe it wasn't Euro friendly enough :{