No end in sight to the Army's dependence on airpower

Discussion in 'Staff College and Staff Officers' started by alfred_the_great, Dec 13, 2016.

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  1. Schaden

    Schaden LE Book Reviewer

    Bit shit when you've ended up with very little air power to support your...what is it 10,000 bayonets in the field?
  2. jrwlynch

    jrwlynch LE Book Reviewer

    Okay, I'll bite just a little...

    The Navy planned and prepared to replace the Invincible-class carriers at their out-of-service dates in 2012 and 2015, and those dates were steady for years... and then they started to slip, but the figleaf was that the first QEC would be ordered to arrive in time to cover the last Invincible's retirement. And then that was slipped further for short-term savings (by the Treasury, not the Navy) at the same time that the UK's F-35B in-service date advanced... and then, in an unaudited and very questionable snap decision by Cameron, the Invincibles and Joint Force Harrier were retired early in 2010.

    The carrier gap wasn't "allowed to happen" by the Navy, it was force majeure; but throughout the process the RN was working to recover its knowledge of full-deck carrier ops (for instance, there were a number of RN personnel aboard the HARRY S. TRUMAN as long ago as 2008, supporting the Carrier Strike work, and the Maritime Warfare Centre had a team stood up to have doctrine in place for CVF as it was when it arrived)

    Similarly, there was a Replacement MPA programme awarded back in 1996 with the Nimrod MRA.4 selected over two candidates based on the P-3 Orion. This was, again, a Government choice (though there was probably a RAF preference for Nimrod) with some epic mismanagement at programme level (@One_of_the_strange has provided good info in the past, it's pretty much a "how not to..." of running a procurement) which ended, painfully, when the legacy Nimrods were grounded as unsafe and the MRA.4 was found to be unflyable (can't grandfather 'it worked on MR.2' when MR.2 has just been taken out of service as too dangerous to put crews into). When that happened, the RAF and RN set up Project Seedcorn, embedding aircrews with the US Navy's P-8 squadrons and keeping the analysis teams at the Air Warfare Centre active so that, when the fallback of "lease or buy P-8s" happened, there were crews and support structures in place.

    Compared to that, I'm looking at Army capability areas like Challenger 2 and artillery, where everything just seems to have ground to a screeching halt in 2003ish with CR2 and AS90 both kicked onto the sidelines and, effectively, ignored. No plan to replace or update, no watching brief to see what likely opponents were up to and whether improvements were needed. And as far as can be told, those are Army decisions: there wasn't a ministerial decision to cancel "Challenger 3" or to let the industrial base vanish.

    CR2 has had several vague attempts at a "capability sustainment programme" (for which read 'do-minimum obsolescence fix'), all of which have been deferred, delayed or cancelled, and there's no apparent plan to bring it to anything like 2010s levels of lethality and protection, nor to replace it with something that can be sustained. Defence Analysis, which is interesting and well-researched (though not always right) reported some really horrifying numbers about CR2 crew training and how few tanks we could actually man even if they were running and we were willing to use them.

    Similarly, we're sticking with what was an excellent SP gun in the 1990s that has, like CR2, been given a stiff ignoring in terms of range, lethality and even maintenance: so we can fire unguided HE or HC smoke to 24,700 metres, while the competition is firing to 40km or more with guided rounds, sensor-fuzed munitions, multispectral smoke, expendable jammers (for comms, sensors or GPS), remote sensors... and there's a slight rabbit-in-headlights reaction in Andover to discovering just how far behind we've fallen and how there's no domestic capability to catch up, industry here having given up after a decade or more of disinterest.

    The Navy and Air Force both got key programmes blown badly off course, but put mitigation in place to keep capability alive to cover the delay and maintain skills. The Army has let what it's claimed are key capabilities wither away, without the excuse of outside shocks, and has no plan to recover the situation.
    • Like Like x 6
  3. And here proving the entire point @Caecilius has been making is @jrwlynch

    You couldn't write it.
  4. Would that be the decision fiercely and publically opposed by the First Sea Lord?
  5. So he 'fiercely' and publicly opposed the decision but it still happened? I didnt think that could happen.

    I thought that the Army couldn't be trusted but the Navy and the RAF have so much credibility because of the excellence of their procurement, their ability to defeat all adversaries, and their fearless promotion of free thinkers which leaves them as major players on the world stage that their VSOs are trusted implicitly?
  6. jrwlynch

    jrwlynch LE Book Reviewer

    Well, that's because I didn't - the RN and RAF invested money, time and manpower to cover gaps imposed on them; while the Army let them open unprompted, gave them a decade of stiff ignoring, and has no plan to close them.

    I like the Army. They gave me a great deal of development, some money and a lot of education and entertainment back when I was a hopeless case in the 1980s, they're paying me now in my day job, I like most of my MTP-clad colleagues personally, and I want them strong and successful so that the Queyne's Enemies don't even dare try anything with us on land (and thus our soldiers succeed bloodlessly by deterrence). But that does mean looking at their current problems honestly, and understanding why "military judgement" is no longer accepted as sufficient by D Scrutiny...
    • Like Like x 1
  7. jrwlynch

    jrwlynch LE Book Reviewer

    It's interesting to source the evidence for that 2010 SDSR decision. As in, "there isn't any", as far as anyone is able to find out. But, it was politically expedient, and apparently the Prime Minister was "bored with the discussion".

    (If you know better then please enlighten us...)
    • Like Like x 1
  8. In 2009 the way to prepare for CVF and F-35B was to embark Harrier aboard CVS for longer periods, more often, and with more aircraft.
  9. Caecilius

    Caecilius LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    Yup. By arrse logic, still his fault for not persuading the treasury better.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. jrwlynch

    jrwlynch LE Book Reviewer

    A lot more to it than that (I know, I met some of the people, worked with others)
  11. Hmmm. I don't quite think that was what was being talked about...

    But your post does support part of Caecilius's point - the airbridge was banjaxed in no small part because of the RAF lacking the means to properly sustain it thanks to:

    1. The Iron Chancellor ignoring his own rules to compel the acceptance of a PFI for the VC10/Tri* replacement, thus delaying the replacement by a decade

    2. The AT fleet being properly, properly knackered.

    3. Charter being more difficult/costly than anticipated

    4. The RAF failing to articulate clearly (see the relevant bit of Chilcot about this, where you wonder where the document warning the Sec of State that there was a bit of a problem is to be found in the evidence packs...) just how knackered their AT force was at the time, and that there was a very serious risk that it would break under the strain. Which it did. Often. And entirely predictably.

    Arrse was not slow in coming forwards in blaming our sideways-moving friends, not unsurprisingly. Pointing out that relying on a slack handful of aging AT airframes, reduced in number by the need to retain some for AAR for the QRA force wasn't exactly their preferred option was given short shrift, and regarded as a rather weak excuse (if only to be expected from those who appeared to confuse moral and man-made fibre with worrying ease).

    Thing was, as soon as people started suggesting that perhaps certain senior army officers had started blaming politicians or circumstance for things going wrong, this was suddenly an entirely acceptable rationale for things not working.

    I just think that the example Caecilius is employing isn't the right comparison to be using if we're comparing the 'It'll be fine, just let us get on with our job [Prime] Minister' of certain Army VSOs with the 'Well, yes, we can do that, [Prime] Minister, but you might find it takes longer, is more difficult and more costly than you think' of the RAF's VSOs at the same sort of level.

    (By the by, Voyager not only has an eye-watering availability rate these days, the horror boxes are much less horrible, too).
    • Like Like x 2
  12. It was more a 'Oh, F****, the P-7's been cancelled. We'll end up with a warmed-over Nimrod. Damn' followed by a 'You're not actually serious about that bit about old fuselages and brand new wings are you?' sort of preference, if I recall.
  13. Caecilius

    Caecilius LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    We still have several regiments of CR2 despite it not being needed at the moment while the navy has no carrier and the RAF no MPA at the time when we really need both of them, yet this is somehow an example of how bad the army is?

    This is exactly the point I'm making: 'A bigger boy did it and ran away' is acceptable for all things related to RN and RAF. Often, that bigger boy seems to be the Army (perhaps motivated by concerns about future irrelevance, whatever that means). When it comes to the army, that argument no longer holds and everything is the fault of VSOs.

    The army has many faults, but the facile swiping at Army VSOs is getting tedious. This is especially true when coming from RN and RAF personnel who are blind to equal or greater failings in their own organisation.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. jrwlynch

    jrwlynch LE Book Reviewer

    The Army didn't have "stop work on CR2" imposed on them: there isn't a curiously-unsourced decision where the Prime Minister decided "we can do without tanks for a decade"; yet the capability of our panzers languishes in the 1990s with no path to improve them, their crews are questionably trained and experienced, and the future is "we haz best tanks evah, no problem, nothing to see here". (Artillery's even worse...)

    But prove me wrong - show me the funded plan of how we're going to bring CR2 up to 2010s levels of protection and firepower by 2025, so we're only one generation behind.

    The Navy had CVF running from 1998 and took serious pain to protect it despite imposed delays. The RAF had RMPA, and when it fell over invested serious money in covering the gap. The Army has let central capabilities like armour and artillery wither away on the basis of "we have some tanks and guns..." without actually checking what the competition and threat are up to and without any investment in sustaining, let alone replacing, the hardware: and is now blinking in the headlights of oncoming obsolescence.
  15. Why are Army VSOs getting all the blame for failed campaigns in Afghanistan & Iraq? Didn't realise that CDS was always an army bloke, or that PJHQ was entirely manned by the army.