Next UK Govt Should Avoid Buying Subpar UK Military Gear

Discussion in 'Weapons, Equipment & Rations' started by jumpinjarhead, Oct 22, 2009.

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  1. A farewell to arms
    Lewis Page
    21st October 2009 — Issue 164 Free entry
    The next government should save the armed forces—and leave weapons makers to sink or swim

    Britain’s next government will be forced to reduce spending. But given the wide agrement that these cuts should not affect the NHS or social security, the smallish departments, like the ministry of defence (responsible for about 5 per cent of spending) seem the likely targets. A 10 per cent cut at the MoD (some £4bn a year), is on the cards. At the same time, the main political parties agree that the 1998 strategic defence review (SDR), still the main guide to policy, also needs rewriting.

    This worries many in the defence sector. The SDR promised that Britain would keep the ability to intervene militarily around the world. A secondary document, the defence industrial strategy (DIS) of 2005, guaranteed the continued existence of Britain’s arms industry. But with a new defence review and cuts in funding, one of those will have to go. And the arms industry is right to fear that the British people would prefer to keep their excellent armed forces, and jettison their economically insignificant, parasitical defence industry.

    Consider the examples. Until recently, only a handful of British helicopters were capable of flying in Afghanistan. (The country is high and hot, so only powerful modern helicopters work there.) And even our modest troop numbers are already too numerous for the aircraft we can deploy.

    Why don’t we just buy new helicopters? The American Sikorsky Black Hawk, for instance, is widely used in Afghanistan, by the Americans and also by British generals unable to find a suitable British alternative. Sikorsky has offered to sell to them, in large numbers and at favourable prices. Instead, we are refurbishing various antiques, such as the Puma. This dates from the 1960s and was due to retire in 2010. Now it will be patched up and its life extended by a decade. This will cost £10m per aircraft. Brand-new Black Hawks cost only about £8m and would fly for decades longer. But there would be nothing in it for British industry. So it didn’t happen.

    Similarly, in September the first of the RAF’s “new” Nimrod MRA4 submarine-hunter planes took to the skies. The MoD is to receive nine of these antique refurbished De Havilland Comet airliners. They will be the most expensive aircraft ever bought by the RAF, costing as much as four new space shuttles. But Nimrod has kept BAE Systems’s Woodford factory open for a decade; as soon as it became clear that the MoD wasn’t going to buy any more, BAE announced that it would close.

    Cases like this—and they are the rule, not the exception—illustrate the fact that the SDR and the DIS are antagonistic, not complementary. A powerful military and a domestic defence-industrial base both cost money—from the same budget. The difference is that the latter is far less valuable.

    Some disagree—without our own arms industry, they say, we’d have to go cap in hand to foreign governments for parts and support. This argument routinely appears in the national press. Fortunately, it’s bunk.

    We have to go cap in hand anyway, as all “British” projects have substantial foreign input. The Pumas need European engines and US electronics. The equipment fitted to our vintage De Havilland Comets comes from Germany, Israel and elsewhere. Even the Eurofighter, which you might think free of US influence, contains so much American kit that it cannot be sold without clearance from Washington. Other arguments are even thinner. Britain’s manufactured defence exports are £1-2bn a year: minuscule, especially given that the government hands out £10-15bn in defence contracts every year. Even arms executives admit that workers are kept employed, not by value-added, high-tech exports, but by the likes of Nimrod and Puma.

    Are there other ways of saving money? None that don’t involve cuts to our forces. The idea of unifying all the services—army, navy and air—is occasionally proposed. This would generate savings, though probably not £4bn a year, and not without scrapping some capabilities. All three armed forces would be happy to ditch our nuclear deterrent, but only if they got the money saved. (People are always surprised by military men’s dislike of nukes.) But Britain’s nuclear force has already been reduced to its cheapest viable form. While we can probably come down from four missile subs to three, as we are doing, without losing the ability to have one always at sea, it won’t save much. Indeed, it may cost more, thanks to the need for round-the-clock maintenance and refits. If this rather meaningless concession can be turned into a bargaining chip sufficient to win the disarmament of Iran, say, it might be worth doing—but not otherwise.

    So forget about merging forces, or scrapping subs. The real battleground is between Britain’s armed forces and its arms industry. For too long the businessmen have had it all their own way. The solution to the next government’s defence cuts is simple: rather than reducing the armed forces to a glorified home guard, simply let the mediocre arms business sink or swim. Much of it will sink—but it is no great loss. The armed forces would be.

    http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2009/10/a-farewell-to-arms/
     
  2. Hasn't this been done already?
     
  3. "Why don’t we just buy new helicopters? The American Sikorsky Black Hawk, for instance, is widely used in Afghanistan, by the Americans and also by British generals unable to find a suitable British alternative. Sikorsky has offered to sell to them, in large numbers and at favourable prices. Instead, we are refurbishing various antiques, such as the Puma. This dates from the 1960s and was due to retire in 2010. Now it will be patched up and its life extended by a decade. This will cost £10m per aircraft. Brand-new Black Hawks cost only about £8m and would fly for decades longer. But there would be nothing in it for British industry. So it didn’t happen."

    That may be the cost price..... parts? servicing? training? just like anything we buy...the initial outlay will never come close to the lifetime running costs.

    ...Now if you were to ask why were are refurbishing 30 year old landrovers at £9000 a go whilst simultaneously selling of Wolf landrovers to civvys I could not answer that....
     
  4. For some reason, I don't think this article is going to be popular.
    Is there any chance it's about buying American COTS and is full of figures plucked out of his bitter, passed over arse?
     
  5. Don't shoot the messenger guys--I just saw it on the online magazine.
     
  6. JJH - no messenger shooting here; Arrsers prefer to save their ammo for Page, and it is always entertaining to discover the latest material he's extracted from his arrse and presented for some unsuspecting journal to print.

    That out of the way...


    <Sigh>

    This is another favourite Page line (I could perhaps delete the 'n', since he can't be so ill-informed as to believe this, can he??). The Nimrods were new-build when they entered service (40 years ago), and are as much a 'refurbished' DH Comet as a CR2 is a 'refurbished' Chieftan.

    The further irony is that Page refuses to see the RN lose its SSBNs, yet would quite happily see the RAF without the MPA which (as Magic Mushroom has intimated before, rightly without going into the exact details...) are pretty integral to SSBN ops...
     
  7. Don't worry, there are no colonials in my sights. You'll find Page doesn't have many fans on here. Mostly because he's an utter cock with a chip on his shoulder.

    And now I've read the article, I see I was right in my supposition. He's also very predictable.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/2791850/UK-leads-world-market-in-defence-exports.html
    Only about 500-1000% wrong, then.
     
  8. It is one of the many things that you discover after a few years:

    The kit that gets approved by trial and the shite they finally buy are two different things that some penny pinching civil servant budgeteer approves based on unit price, even though in the case of CS 95, the trial kit we had in Bogner in 94 was top notch as opposed to this cheap chinese shite now that falls apart after a few months of in barrack wear or a few weeks of field wear. WhereTF is the saving :?

    I am sure some palms get greased every time we get stuffed over :hump:
     
  9. Lewis Page combines the journalistic accuracy of Piers Morgan with the public credibility of Jacqui Smith and the military clout of the average ATC Cadet.

    I'm not quite sure what his beef is; if I'm not mistaken he's a Cambridge graduate who did some time as a Mine Clearance Diver (fair balls!), but didn't he leave the RN as an extremely bitter Lt? Anyone in the know as to why?

    Have heard through the grapevine that he got binned off a UAS (Crab equiv of OTC) but can't substantiate - might explain his anti-crab sentiments..??

    Anyhow, I'd rather he just crawled back under his slate and kept his (ill-informed, and normally 5 miles wide of the mark) opinions to himself; Christ, there might be some punters out there who actually believe his tripe!!!
     
  10. The RN made it quite clear that if Page wanted promotion he needed to move to big ships. He refused, was passed over and has been bleating about it ever since.
    He doesn't want to be in any pond with fish bigger than himself.
     
  11. Granted he does seem a bit of a bitter old sod and he is quite often wrong but he does on the odd exceptionally rare occasion make a fair point.
    Tanks for example, what purpose do they serve?

    to kill other tanks. Anything else? I can't think of anything.
    And aren't there less risky ways of killing tanks? sure there are! do it from 20 miles away with a gmrls/as90 or from 30000feet with a missle from an aircraft or a UAV even.

    What about the type 45? sure an AA destroyer is handy and all, but wouldn't aircraft patrols from an aircraft carrier or two do the job even better?

    Or am I just being daft again?
     
  12. jrwlynch

    jrwlynch LE Book Reviewer

    Quite a lot of tank action in Iraq and now in Afghanistan (we haven't got any CR2s there, but there are some Leopard 2s getting quite a work out). It can be really, really useful to have a mobile, heavily armoured, well-armed vehicle with excellent sensors on hand.

    Remember, the tank was designed as an infantry support vehicle to shoot them through enemy defences: that's still a vital role for armour (including Warrior and CVR(T), though they have to tread a little more carefully than the really heavy metal)

    What aircraft, from what carrier? is the first question at the moment.

    Even when we had aircraft carriers (two of them, with twenty SHars) in 1982 we needed air-defence destroyers to spot targets for the fighters and to engage the (many) enemy that leaked past them.
     
  13. might be memory playing up but the company that got contracted to make forces uniforms, partly becouse it was a good quality NI company who apon winning the contract they shut down manufacturing in NI and moved it to china...


    should tell the canadians and dutch then, wonder why they have had great success with the leopard 2 in afghan? what the hell have they been shooting at? *rolls eyes*
     
  14. Toxic :"should tell the canadians and dutch then, wonder why they have had great success with the leopard 2 in afghan? what the hell have they been shooting at? *rolls eyes*"

    Discuss!
    Please.
     
  15. I must be a bitter old sod,because I really believe that almost all the kit the forces get has been politically buggered about with to some extent.

    And the remaining kit that gets issued that is actually good, was ordered by mistake or is cast-offs from someone elses cancelled order.

    I remember people receiving a questionaire about the performance of the new soldier 95 clothing when in Kosovo,various stuff like its comfort and durability and ease of maint.etc.

    The ones who got the questionaire were the medics in the med center who didnt ever go outside of camp ( no slur intended,apart from a few callouts its was just quiet as hell for them ) so they sent replies back about the kit being good....But not very flattering on the female body!!

    Next door were the Sappers who did heavy construction work every day,walking around in stitched together rags and worn out recently issued 95 kit...they didnt recieve any questionaires.

    Luck of the draw,or part of some effort to ensure we keep buying crap kit with backhanders ?