Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by quickstop, Feb 1, 2006.

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  1. Has anyone read this book yet?

    Written by Lewis page, ex RN Lieutenant MCDO and Commando trained. We all complain but when it is in a book like this it is truly scary.
    It would be more funny if it were not so serious.

  2. Hey "Two Threads" Quickstop!
    Nope, not read it. Brief synopsis perchance?
  3. maybe we don't need to know lol
  4. Sorry about the duplication Staaken! I thought it ought to be in the literature thread as well as the thread of my beloved Corps!


    WHY are British Soldiers sent off to war to put their lives at risk, with some of the worst guns around?

    WHY are decisions being made by the MoD with an eye above all for the interests of British Aerospace?

    WHY are we still fighting yesterday's wars?

    WHY is our tax money being wasted on useless, insanely expensive toys?

    After 12 years in the Forces, Lewis Page strips back the facade to tell us what is really going on. Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs takes us behind the scenes and exposes the real ingredients whipped up in the name of "defence".

    "Page pursues the real story with a genuine passion for the men (and very few women) who do the fighting. He has a gift for explication married to an unusual combination of tenacity and wit." Harold Evans

    I am halfway through and from my limited experience it is accurate. A very damning indictment of Defence Procurement. Self licking lollipops all round!!

    I recommend it.
  5. Are these the book's conclusions or questions asked on page 1?
  6. Have a horrible waaaaaah feeling building here, but....

    I just wrote what was on the back of the book rather than giving my own jaded synopsis. It is very good and if you have ever been cynical about Defence Procurement, manning issues and general Forces structure then this book will re-inforce your doubts. It is pretty soul destroying stuff.
  7. Just read it. Good read.

    Odd bit of detail is wrong, but this doesnt detract from the main messages which are very scary.
  8. Ill informed rants make good journalistic copy, but offer poor analysis. It doesn't even offer anything new, even the title is cribbed off someone else.

    WHY are British Soldiers sent off to war to put their lives at risk, with some of the worst guns around?

    Such as? SA-80 A-2 worse than what exactly?

    WHY are decisions being made by the MoD with an eye above all for the interests of British Aerospace?

    To maintain a high technology defence industrial base perhaps? Not an unimportant consideration one might think.

    WHY are we still fighting yesterday's wars?

    What do you mean by yesterdays wars? I didn't realise we were still awaiting the 3rd Shock Army in the GDP?

    WHY is our tax money being wasted on useless, insanely expensive toys?

    Such as?
    Challenger II useless?
    Warrior useless?
    Tornado GR4 useless?
    Harrier GR7 useless?
    AS90 useless?
    Light Gun useless?
    Trident useless?
    Invincible class carriers useless?
    Storm Shadow useless?
    WAH-64 Apache-D useless?
    et al

    For a more germaine critique of MoD procurement see Bill Kincaid's

    "A Dinosaur in Whitehall"

    and "Dancing With the Dinosaurs "

    If you really want to see F***ed military procurement systems take a look at the US or French (or indeed the Japanese).

    The US system is riddled with inter-service rivalries so bitter that make our own seem mild and friendly disputes. The procurement process is constantly interfered with by politicians, industrial lobbyists, lawyers, an ill-informed media and is undertaken by a incredibly bureaucratic and massively wasteful procurement organisation. The Americans may have a lot of good kit but they also have a surprising amount that is very old and ,compared to UK kit, pretty rubbish. (M109 Paladin verses AS90 as an example). If you have any knowledge of the US system you would be surprised that they have any kit at all.

    A current US Procurement disaster? COMANCHE

    If you had more experience I might suggest that you would be a little less enthusiastic in your endorsement. It is very easy to criticise defence procurement, it is very difficult to do. No, I am not in the DPA and I have very strong opinions regarding the real problems with UK defence procurement however I do have experience and understanding of the complexity and difficulty of developing military systems, problems that are neither unique to the UK MoD or (compared to other governments) that bad.
  9. That’s a very defensive response. MoD perhaps?

    Whilst there are flawed arguments in the book, and the style is at times grating, it does ask questions that need to be asked.

    In the area of defence procurement, it is a fact that there have been massive problems with significant cost over run being the norm on defence projects across the piste.

    In a past life I had responsibility for large capital intensive programmes and have heard the ‘it’s very complex’ arguments millions of times. The whole point of programme development and management is to recognise complexity and to manage risk. Furthermore, the supplier issue is worth considering. You have one dominant supplier which has built it’s business through a small number of long term, high margin clients. Over the last ten years, industry has learned that in this type of situation, the culture becomes very lax, especially when there is lots of money sloshing around for over-runs etc.

    National interest aside, you have to ask questions about this stuff.
  10. No not defensive and not MoD (Customer 1/DPA anyway).

    I certainly don't claim that all is well with UK defence procurement. However, as I said the book offers nothing new but a rehash of old issues that Bill Kincaid dissected with more intelligence and insight back in the 1990s. And yes the questions have and are being asked.

    However I regularly berate DPA and all its works . There are significant problems that need addressing with procurement (IPT stove-piping for one). You are quite right to say that the point of programme and project management is to recognise and manage complexity and risk. However defence procurement is not the same as commercial or even other government department contracting. I would argue that that it is both significantly more complex and more risky.

    The cost overrun issue is more complex than it appears. These problems are generally involved where the technology is new, or complex, and where there is not a reliable mechanism of determining what the cost would be. There is also the problem of the conspiracy of optimism where the cost of a project is budgeted at X in order to ensure that it gets into the funding line. In reality the project costs X+ hence a cost "overrun". In reality it is likely that the project really cost X+ to deliver and that the overrun is simply the result of not being able to realistically cost the project in the first place.

    Of course if you keep costs down you are simply buying from the cheapest supplier and hence not buying the "best" (which is course is the most expensive), but that's another argument.

    The UK Defence Market is the most open and competitive in the Western World as is shown by the presence and involvement in the UK of Boeing, Northrop, EADS, Thales etc. In part this is to ensure that the UK "national champion" BAE doesn’t get an easy ride with defence contracts and has to compete (unlike say EADS or Thales etc in our European "partners" defence markets). However the reality of global defence industrial consolidation is that if we (the UK) does not have a big F*** off defence company (i.e BAE) , we wont have any significant high-tech defence industry at all.

    I have no objection whatsoever to informed and constructive critiques to defence procurement policy and methods. Indeed it is vital in order to ensure constant improvement. However I find it tedious in the extreme to hear the same ill informed comments repeatedly trotted out. They may be good at letting off steam and raising journalist interest but in reality offers nothing but yesterdays chip-wrapping.
  11. Claudius - you want to actually read the book before calling it an ill informed rant and then ranting away yourself. To answer you:

    WHY are British Soldiers sent off to war to put their lives at risk, with some of the worst guns around?
    Such as? SA-80 A-2 worse than what exactly?
    He doesn't say the A2 is bad - he says the A1 WAS bad - I agree - and that taking 15 years to achieve the A2 at double or triple cost was pathetic - again I agree. He also points out that the A2 is essentially a German weapon. With Enfield and RO Nottingham closed, where's your British industrial base now?

    WHY are decisions being made by the MoD with an eye above all for the interests of British Aerospace?
    To maintain a high technology defence industrial base perhaps? Not an unimportant consideration one might think.
    Again as the book points out, no such base has been maintained. We can't make our own jets, our own missiles, even our own rifles it seems - we have to partner with other nations to do so.

    WHY are we still fighting yesterday's wars?
    What do you mean by yesterdays wars? I didn't realise we were still awaiting the 3rd Shock Army in the GDP?
    If we aren't awaiting 3rd Shock/Frontal Aviation/Voyska PVO then WTF are we maintaining 1 UK Div with its own ADA capability, CRII, MLRS etc etc for? Why are we buying 232 Typhoons? It takes more than re-writing the GDP to actually change things.

    WHY is our tax money being wasted on useless, insanely expensive toys?
    Such as?
    Challenger II useless? Yeah, pretty much, unless you ARE still awaiting Third Shock
    Warrior useless? No, and it gets a good write-up in the book
    Tornado GR4 useless?Employed on deep-strike, yes, worse than useless - especially with JP233! Employed on CAS/anti-armour, by no means: again, made clear in the book. Not that it is exactly designed for high-altitude PGM work.
    Harrier GR7 useless?No, again the guy is a big fan - though not of the SHAR upgrade, which is the only thing BAE has actually done to the airframe
    AS90 useless?See CRII above
    Light Gun useless?No, and again the book gives it a thumbs-up
    Trident useless?Far from it. Not mantioned in the book: but hardly a product of your nonexistent British hi-tech base!
    Invincible class carriers useless?No - but they'd be a sight more useful if they were CTOL wouldn't they? A sight more useful if the GR7s didn't have to rushed aboard in a panic every time and all the anti-submarine helos chucked off? Hardly a triumph for the MoD's decision process there
    Storm Shadow useless?Absolutely useless, yes. Anyone in their right mind would have just bought more Tomahawks instead
    WAH-64 Apache-D useless?Book reckons attack helos in general are a bit dodgy. I disagree with him there, but he has some good points. Where he is spot on is that it was bloody madness building them here when the US line had already made hundreds - a classic DPA/political clusterf*ck.
    et al

    I have read one of Bill Kincaid's books too: it was much more technical about the actual workings of the DPA than this one and there is no way it would ever get mass readership. This book is meant for people who don't know anything about defence, not for the likes of you - senior officer I'm guessing - or probably anyone else on this site. There isn't anything new in it for us - although actually I learned a bit - but its all new to the general public. That's why privates get paid less than half what a copper does for working a bloody sight harder, because all the cash has been thrown away on silly toys for fighting 3rd shock with. That's why we can't recruit - because we don't pay decently. As for "well we may be cr*p but the Yanks are worse", that isn't much of a defence. Especially when the Yanks, for all their faults, still produce better and cheaper kit in nearly ever case. This book doesn't read like a rehash or yesterday's chipwrap - it reads like an attempt to go over the MoD's head to the general public. I hope it works.
  12. Whatever the GDP turns out to be. Perhaps you meant GDR.
  13. Hearing Loss,
    I've not read the book so I hope that this is not out of context but I must take issue with a couple of your comments above.

    Why is the Tornado GR4 useless in the deep strike role? Firstly, JP233 was retired around a decade ago and the GR4 has never used it. Secondly, the GR4 has been successfully employed on long range OCA and strategic attack (ie what I assume you mean by deep strike) in the Kosovo (where it flew numerous sorties from Germany against targets in Serbia) and Iraq campaigns. Yes it needed AAR, but so do other aircraft of similar class such as the F-15E. Although it could do with new engines to give it better altitude performance, and a new targeting pod (which it'll get soon), GR4 has an excellent weapons suite which in the case of Enhanced Paveway, offers more flexibility in some respects than that provided by US assets.

    Secondly, do you understand how Tomahawk works? like any SSM, it's inflexible. Once you press the button, it's only going to one place (hopefully the target). Although Tac Tomahawk will be able to be retargeted in flt, TLAM is still unable to orbit. For instance, exactly how do you propose conducting TST ops with TLAM?!!! TLAM will be in a submarine or ship most likely thousands of miles away and it's reaction time is normally measured in hours. ASMs such as Stormshadow (SS) are able to be fired from aircraft flying within the immediate battlespace, or just outside threat ranges. This is therefore more visible to the enemy (ie it's presence alone can deter as we regularly see in Afghanistan and Iraq), and it's weapons to target time is measured potentially in minutes. Some of the strikes in Iraq by aircraft using missiles took under 10 minutes from initial tasking. A TLAM would have taken considerably longer. Likewise, SS has specific capabilities lacked by TLAM.

    Don't get me wrong, TLAM is an immensely useful capability which itself has certain advantages over SS (range for instance). In reality, we need both as they are each suited to differing scenarios. But TLAM is extremely inflexible in many respects and SS is an excellent weapon which fills many of the shortcomings of cruise missiles.
  14. I have read the book. It is certainly not for someone who wants to know about the Armed Forces or procurement, rather those who want their prejudices confirmed. Rather like in fact Alan Clarkes book "The Donkeys" which despite being as full of holes as a New Labour intelligence dossier still is quoted as a book to read about WWI. Alternatively it may turn off the supply of cash for good. The problem with it is that in reality the public won't read it anyway, journalists will simply cherry pick bad news that makes good copy. Unfortuatly the author has reduced complex issues to a simple good guy/bad guy scenario. Issues relating to the defence scientific and industrial base, the supply chain and maintaining it, weapons cost inflation, maximising capablity in tightening budgets, rapid technological change and complex programme and project management issues are not sexy nor easy to digest but they lie at the core of the decison making process. But it is much easier and comforting to say "they are all idiots".

    Quite simply the problems encountered with defence procurement are a result that defence procurement is F***in difficult, complex and risky. There are no sound bite solutions, improvement is an ongoing process and involves getting down and dirty in complex problems where sometimes there are no straight solutions. if you think there is a simple solution then you really don't have a clue what you are talking about.

    No defence procurement organisation can be described as getting it right all the time. The reason we know so much about the UK problems is that they come out into the open. Unlike France Germany etc we wash our dirty laundry in public. It does not mean that that every one else’s whites are sparking.

    The last I saw was that large chunks of I Div are in Iraq, and not dug in on the IGB. The fact that they are in Germany is neither here nor there.

    You may have noticed that the AD capability is being radically reduced. (To much in my view). CRII and MLRS remain valuable and potent systems, with MLRS adding a lightweight capability with LIMAWS(R) and increased precision with GMLRS rockets.

    Buying 232 Typhoons? Well what do you suggest? Cancel and pay the cancellation fine (a few billion) then when Tornado drops off the perch have nothing? Anyway what if someone kicks off who has some modern aircraft. Perhaps a good idea to have some modern ones of our own and some GBAD.

    But then again so was the AR-15/M-16 which did not get well until the late 1980s and judging by the critism that its getting in Iraq now, not even then. I think you will find most small arms projects have had similar problems.

    So what precisely does the UK defence industry sell then? Last figures I saw the UK was the worlds third biggest arms exporter. They are obviously selling something. No high technology base? Why is QINETQ such an attractive buy on the stock exchange?

    BAE maintain, (and the industry agrees with them ) they are capable of building fast jets without foreign assistance if necessary and we will pay. Multinational programmes are generally driven by politics but also to increase production runs which has a massive impact upon unit price. The delays in Typhoon have largely a result of Germany and French politicking and inability of the Spanish and Italians to do their pieces adequately and in time. As been shown recently the BAE UAV capability is significantly more advanced that the European NEURON programme. Not to mention the Hawk which they sell as fast as they can make them.

    I think a few people might disagree with you there.

    Of course designed to work within Armoured battlegroups

    See Magic Mushrooms comments above.

    Other than build it.

    Er what planet are you on? a few Gunners might disagree with you there.

    Hmm BAE Systems /Royal Ordnance made the light gun that and the new APS system used with it... not to mention the Light Weight 155 system the Americans and Canadians are buying.

    Except of course for the submarine, warheads, towed array sonar etc...all designed in dear old blighty by British Boffins. Only the Trident D5 missiles are American.

    Alternatively the MoD being mighty clever and cunning when the political masters cancelled CVA-01 (The planned nuclear carrier for the RN) in the sixties publicly declaring the RN would no new carriers and then slipped three aircraft carriers under the ministerial radar. Three small carriers are better than none I suggest.

    Again I suggest that you are not clear what StormShadow (which incidentally came in under budget and early) does. Tomahawk and StormShadow are complimentary systems. Despite what weapons brochures say, one weapon system cannot do it all you need complimentary and overlapping capabilities in depth.

    Well I would be interested to see how he reached that opinion seeming they are selling in various forms in large quantities to the major western armies.
    The decision for the Westland production line was a complex one involving the need to keep the production capacity open, technology transfer, the need to UK-ise some capabilities, in short all the issues that the book glosses over.

    Oh and the cheap price the Isreali's paid for theirs? Firstly they were early AH-64A models (c 1989) buying 18. AH64A and AH64D are very different aircraft. Secondly they had a second squadron of 24 "gifted" by the Americans in 1993. Thirdly how much the Isrealis paid the US does not indicate how much they cost the US taxpayer At least our taxpayers are paying for kit we own :?

    You really don't understand how defence budgets work. There is no relationship between military pay rates and salaries (Set by the AFPRB) and money spent on defence equipment. They come out of two seperate budgets. (The Short Term Plan and the Long Term Equipment Programme to be technical)

    As for silly toys, which silly toys proceured that the troops in Iraq don't want? CRII - heaviliy used, Warrior heaviliy used, AS90 heaviliy used in the warfighting phase, Phoenix heavily used, etc etc etc. The reality is that the kit developed and purchased to fight a general war in Germany has proved remarkably flexible and capable. Perfect no but then who's kit is?.

    If you think all American kit is good and cheap then you are sadly mistaken.

    I am not clear what you advocate beyond simply a "buy American" procurement policy? or is it a being part of a low tech militia that you aspire to?

    As I have said before, I have nothing against informed critism for the procurement process, I am a fervant critic myself, however it needs to come from an informed position and offer serious analysis and recomendations.

    Anyway I am wary of the phrase "Fighting Yesterdays Wars" its sounds a lot like "Peace Dividend" "The End of History" and "New World Order" and we all know how accurate they turned out to be. :wink:


    GDP = refers to the General Defence Plan, in short the NATO plan for defeating the GSFG in the event of war in Europe.

    GSFG = Group Soviet Forces Germany

    Soviets = Nasty people who lived in the East.


    In the UK forces we don't use the term "ADA" (Air Defense Artillery) for Ground Based Air Defence, nor "helo" for helicopter.
  15. Claudius,

    I applaud your spirited defence of what may actually be indefensible. I haven't read this book, partly because I've got too much other stuff to read at the moment and partly because it appears (from the reviews at least) that Lewis Page has merely popularised the NAO's excellent (and totally objective) Major Project Reports.

    First of all, anyone who dismisses our current equipment as "crap" is either being deliberately provocative or deliberately obtuse. Most of our major warfighting equipment hasn't done too badly at all, particularly considering that it has been run out in almost every environment apart from the one it was actually designed for (ie Western Europe against the Red Army). That is a problem in itself. The reason our kit is so adaptable (in most cases) is because it was designed to meet a considerably more demanding original requirement. Bear in mind that because of the length of the acqusition cycle, major equipments being fielded today are still essentially Cold War equipments. Will future equipments acquired against less focussed and demanding requirements be so enduringly adaptable?

    Its easy to criticise the acquisition system, but what system would you replace it with? I have advocated Military Off The Shelf (MOTS) before instead of developing bespoke equipment (I want EC635 now and FLynx in 20whenever!). MOTS is usually quick and relatively cheap. However, it has its drawbacks too. Firstly, when you buy someone else's kit you're also buying their doctrine - often this is acceptable but sometimes this has unintended and undesirable consequences. Secondly, supporting another country's industrial base is absolutely fine if you're sure you're not one day going to need your own (however, close examination of the British military-industrial base shows that in the main, it is anything but British). What about UOR? Everyone praises the UOR system but essentially all UORs do is plug the gaps in the EP when they become apparent. Supportability for UOR equipment can be an absolute nightmare. Smart Acquisition is I think probaly the worst system, apart from all the rest.

    The management of major projects is a nightmare, and will probably continue to be so (I simply cannot see the Carrier Strike project getting in on-time or on-budget). However, this problem is not unique to defence. Look at major civil engineering projects around the World. How many have been delivered on-time and on-budget (particularly where there is a multi-national/political aspect)? I think it is project management methodolgies that need looking at because they seem still to suffer from the effects and consequences of excess optimism. Does Lewis Page offer a solution to the "failing" procurement system he describes? If not, he is not really contributing anything to the debate.

    PS Just to correct you on one point; the STP and EP both come out of the same Departmental Control Total. Theoretically inflation in the EP could affect pay (which is in the STP), but far more likely it is pay inflation that affects the EP.