UK military chiefs clash over future defence strategy

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jonwilly, Jan 19, 2010.

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  1. From The Guardian
    I Agree that Army must have the kit to do the job on the ground
    But Britian is an Island nation.

    UK military chiefs clash over future defence strategy

    First Sea Lord defends navy and insists Britain must keep 'hard power'

    Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, Chief of the Naval Staff and First Sea Lord.

    The battle over the future shape of ­Britain's armed forces will spill into the public domain tomorrow when the First Sea Lord launches a forceful defence of the Royal Navy in a bid to protect it from swingeing spending cuts.

    In a direct riposte to claims today by the head of the army that Britain has put too much emphasis on "hugely expensive equipment", Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope will say that the UK's influence and commercial interests depend on a fleet that can operate worldwide with full capabilities "including high-intensity warfare".

    He will argue that the armed forces need to fight and win wars with "hard power".

    "We must look beyond Afghanistan … we must be prepared for surprises and strategic shocks. The Falklands war was such an event. It came in from left-field."

    His intervention comes a day after General Sir David Richards delivered a speech in which he painted a very different picture of Britain's defence needs, arguing it was not only a question of shifting emphasis from the navy and RAF towards the army, but recognising future conflicts will differ from past ones.

    His comments reflect concern over the way the military deals with unconventional attacks, and came as the Taliban launched an audacious guerrilla offensive in Kabul, setting off explosions and exchanging gunfire with security forces near luxury hotels and the presidential palace. Twenty fighters took part in the assault and at least six people died.

    Richards said: "We will be involved in a different type of conflict in the 21st century. Conflict today, especially because so much of it is effectively fought through the medium of the communications revolution, is principally about and for people – hearts and minds on a mass scale.

    "Defence must respond to the new strategic, and indeed economic, environment by ensuring much more ruthlessly that our armed forces are appropriate and relevant to the context in which they will operate rather than the one they might have expected to fight in in previous eras," Richards told the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    In a thinly disguised attack on the number of fast jets in the RAF and weapons platforms being ordered for the navy, he said "too much emphasis is still placed on … hugely expensive equipment".

    "Hi-tech weapons platforms are not a good way to help stabilise tottering states – nor might their cost leave us any money to help in any other way – any more than they impress opponents equipped with weapons costing a fraction," he said.

    "We have traditionally viewed state-on-state conflict through the prism of putative tank battles on the German plains or deep strike air attacks against strategic sites."

    Presenting a list of equipment most needed by the army – and not as expensive as those in the RAF or navy inventory – Richards said: "Operating among, understanding and effectively influencing people to gain their support and trust requires mass – numbers – whether this is 'boots on the ground' …and high-speed littoral warships, or UAVs, [unmanned drones] transport aircraft, and helicopters."

    He added: "We can't afford to continue as we are, so must take a risk against capabilities that are more relevant to 'traditional' 20th century conflict."

    Stanhope will challenge this view. He will say that Britain's defence is "intimately tied to Britain's wider position of influence in the world … It is far more than an insurance against future crisis."

    He will say the navy "contributes significantly to the overall business of defence across the globe, and to fully understand the full scope of this business we need to assess in strategic terms how we use it and the other services for the overall benefit of the taxpayer," according to an advance text of his speech seen by the Guardian.

    Navy chiefs are concerned that some of their projects, including two new aircraft carriers, US fighters to put on them, and the replacement Trident submarine nuclear missile system will be victims of cuts in the post-election defence review promised by all parties.

    The different emphasis placed by the heads of the army and the navy is ­striking. Stanhope dwells on the need for "hard power" and what he called "persistent military activity" – including decades of patrolling the Gulf – as well as the need to "ensure that we are ready to respond at short notice to the unexpected but not unforeseen".

    But Richards said last night: "We must put much more emphasis on preventing conflict, on ensuring fragile states do not become the Afghanistan of tomorrow. Our opponents are agile and unconventional, experts at exploiting asymmetric advantage."

  2. And he's absolutely right.
  3. Ah yes, the only Chief of Staff who has flown Typhoon, is now allegedly working for BAe and has more than doubled his salary, (actually more accurate to say, nearly tripled his salary). Perhaps we should worry less about hugely expensive items of equipment and more about who the very Chiefs of Staff go on to work for.

    Tail wagging the dog?
  4. Do I hear the sound of giggling drifting across Whitehall from the Treasury ?

  5. Exactly. They've achived their aim of getting the services to fight amongst theirselves. We can afford to have a properly funded Navy, Army and Airforce. Its just that the Government thinks it's best to spend Billions on pointless Quango's. Abolishing the RDA's would pay for the Carriers and their Strike Wing!

    * 2004/2005 — £1.847 billion
    * 2005/2006 — £2.163 billion
    * 2006/2007 — £2.244 billion
    * 2007/2008 — £2.297 billion
  6. There's quite a nice summation in an Editorial piece in the same paper.

    Guardian - Defence Policy: New Wars For Old

  7. The Royal Navy appear to be time-transporting First Sea Lords from the late Seventeenth century. Admiral Stanhope sounds like he's making his pitch to Samuel Pepys. It's good to know that the Andrew stands ready to defend blighty from the imminent threat of naval invasion. Hopefully the RAF are as equally well prepared to fight off the menace of the Luftwaffe.

    Sadly, on the basis of recent debacles such as the Iranian kidnapping and the RFA vs Somali pirate incident, it looks like the Navy would be better off investing in the quality of its people rather than the quality of its kit.
  8. Who are you talking about? I don't think that it's either of the Heads of Service mentioned in this article so I fail to see the relevance.

    The debate needs to happen and it needs to happen in the public eye as an important policy discussion during the General Election campaign so that the British public can decide how much they want their Amred Forces to do for them.
  9. An opinion piece by Simon Jenkins waves the flag for General Richards. There's a fair bit of chaff in there with the wheat, but worth reading just for the line, "I accept that the RN is a noble creation steeped in history and romance, the Church of England at sea: conservative, obsessed with ritual, and a little gay."

    Naval nostalgia and edgy kit are no basis for a sane defence policy
  10. Interesting how much of the debate, in the media at least, is framed in terms of "we're broke, soldiers are cheaper that ships and planes; and they seem to be a tad busy in Afghanistan".

    Not entirely sure that makes for a credible view on defence policy, however.
  11. Quite. The chattering classes all seem to be in Sun Tsu mode. Which is a novel concept.

    Looking at the effort the US are putting into Haiti, an aircraft carrier looks to be an ideal asset. So, in the future, could a QE class carrier disembark its strike wing, take on extra heavy lift and provide a similar capability to a Hurricane devestated West Indies?

  12. There ya go…

    It's all well and good have a 'light' army geared to fighting insurgencies as long as the opposition only ride donkeys. But one day, the army is going to have to fight someone who have airpower and SAM's and all that fast air and shiney high end ships are going to be rather useful… well they would have been, but we flogged them all off.
  13. Yes - see UK Defence policy 1920 - 1937.
  14. You hit the nail on the head there, meanwhile our MP's have left it to the stage where our HOS's are clashing over where & what cutbacks are made (I know not for the first time either)

    Diverting from the OP slightly, It begs the thought, shortly they intend to start drilling in the Falklands & perish the thought, as the Argies might step up their anti, via another thread the fact this Government intends to cutback in every sector possible would concern most in these vulnerable areas of interest,

    The future looks very bleek either way you look at it :(
  15. Participated in many post-WW II joint operations abroad (e.g. Malaya, Suez, Cyprus, Falklands, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc), have you? If you have, you should also know that there is a world of difference between the ROE for UN-mandated constabulary (policing) operations and the rules for armed conflict or are you happy to turn every hostage-taking situation into a bloodbath or possible war?