The Horns of a Dilemma Facing One of Our Strategic Partners

Eerily enough, what with the current debate on carriers, I was only the other day party to a high-level discussion, in a country with a remarkably similar situation to that in which we unfortunately, and of no fault of anybody, find ourselves.

It went something like this:

Head of Defence Force (HDF): Minister, we’ve got a bit of an issue with our aircraft carriers. Fact is we cannot really afford them but we’ve got huge presentational issues if we do not bring them in to service.

Minister: Look General, the PM is having enough problems at the moment, what with the jobs tsar going rogue, and the Shambolympics looking increasingly like an unmanageable security risk and massively over budget to boot. This is the last thing he needs – what would you suggest, bearing in mind that he needs a bout of good news pretty damn sharply?

HDF: Well minister, I’ve had some of my sharpest minds on this, including the best of the bright young innovative officers from the latest staff cohort. We think we’ve got a plan that may work.

Minister: Well come on HDF, out with it.

HDF: I suggest we send the first ship out to conduct sea trial in the Indian Ocean. We’ll man it with a mix of regulars, reservists and RFA-types in order to prove that exciting ‘One Navy’ concept I briefed you on a few weeks ago, and keep manning down to a minimum in order to prove our leaner, but more effective, manning approach. We’ll appoint a female Captain, and ensure the crew reflects the true range of diversity that exists across the Service. By doing this we’ll ensure that we tick the Stainwall diversity box, thereby guaranteeing a Top 10 place amongst the nation’s perversity employers; show the flag in an area where we need to develop trade links; and finally, and most importantly, it will give us an opportunity to test out our military reach in an area of current interest.

Minister: Sounds interesting HDF, but how will we project this reach and for what reason?

HDF: Minister, it’s quite simple really. We allow the carrier to conduct sea-trials without its normal escorts (thereby further reinforcing our innovative way of delivering capability) and advertise its presence with a centrally-led media ops campaign, which will be carefully targeted at the Horn of Africa. Concurrently we will despatch one of our top Foreign Office types to Somalia to strike a deal with the local pirate warlords, a deal in which we will allow them to board and take the carrier in return for a large sum of cash, and assurances that no injuries will occur when we re-take the vessel. As part of the deal we’ll supply the warlords with the wherewithal to scupper the ship just before it is boarded.

Minister: Brilliant so far. But who will we use to re-take the ship. Didn’t I sign off some savage cuts to the SF only last year?

HDF: You did Minister, but now we’ve turned recruiting, selection, and training over to one of our preferred civilian partners, we use these forces far more effectively, with a Platoon- always available within the month and a multiple always at high readiness. We’ll simply arrange for them to board at the dead of night, accompanied by a full media crew, just after the female captain has made a pre-arranged attempt to break out and overpower the pirates. Win-win all round. Crew rescued, demonstrated our military reach, highlighted the bravery of our female cohort, and although the ship couldn’t be saved we’ve prevented it falling into hostile hands.

Minister: HDF, you’ve played an absolute blinder. Great news story for the PM and we’ll manage to remove the carriers from our defence programme in a way that will negate those all-so-boring presentational issues. Rest assured, HDF, that once you retire next year they’ll be a top consultancy place for you on the replacement armoured vehicle programme – it’s people like you that will prevent any future horlicks of this nature.

HDF: Minister, I seek only to serve my nation, no more, no less. Anyway, what’s the overall package look like?
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