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UK military to get biggest spending boost in 30 years

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
20 odd years ago I had a couple of quite drunken conversations with a small group of clever types from what was then Royal Ordanance.
They were discussing a new weapon concept then in planning, when I asked how they figured out how much computing power they would have to work with in 15 to 20 years when the weapon was intended to be in use the response was "we guess"

1970s, the answer was "whatever we can get today", when 32 kilobytes of magnetic core storage was a lot.

1990s, the answer was "the best we can get today, and design it to be easy to change because if we specify an Intel 486/33 at the start of design, odds are it'll be obsolete and unavailable by the time we're trying to produce five years downstream. How much memory do we need? Estimate what we're using today, and stick a zero on the end, I'm sure someone will find a way to use it". You know you're going to be wrong about the future, so make it easy to change for whoever has to do the mid-life upgrade.

Trivia like finding the "right" solution to store, handle and export large quantities of trials data at something approaching affordable prices: anyone remember magneto-optical discs, for instance?

Trying to design and build hardware for a quarter-century ahead, when the commercial lifecycle of many components is a fraction of that time, can be... interesting.
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
Interestingly, the World Economic Forum did not identify peer to peer conventional warfare between developed countries as a threat to global security in the in its 2016 report.


A cynic would recall Norman Angell's The Great Illusion where he described how "war was economically and socially irrational" and that war between industrial countries was futile because conquest did not pay. A conquering power would find that in the territory it seized, "the incentive [of the local population] to produce would be sapped and the conquered area be rendered worthless."

Despite much of his theory being proved correct in practice, and Angell winning a Nobel Peace Prize... his 1909 pamphlet explaining how wars of conquest were now pointless, evidently didn't get widely read by leaders in Italy, Japan, Germany...

The appeal of a short, victorious war against an unpopular (and apparently weak) opponent seems to remain quite enduring in some quarters.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
1970s, the answer was "whatever we can get today", when 32 kilobytes of magnetic core storage was a lot.

1990s, the answer was "the best we can get today, and design it to be easy to change because if we specify an Intel 486/33 at the start of design, odds are it'll be obsolete and unavailable by the time we're trying to produce five years downstream. How much memory do we need? Estimate what we're using today, and stick a zero on the end, I'm sure someone will find a way to use it". You know you're going to be wrong about the future, so make it easy to change for whoever has to do the mid-life upgrade.

Trivia like finding the "right" solution to store, handle and export large quantities of trials data at something approaching affordable prices: anyone remember magneto-optical discs, for instance?

Trying to design and build hardware for a quarter-century ahead, when the commercial lifecycle of many components is a fraction of that time, can be... interesting.
But there’s where good enough gets confused with whatever the latest iPhone does.

A Tornado GR.1 basically ran on a ZX Spectrum.
 

BSAC

Swinger
I’m worried about the “drones, space and cyber” angle which seem to be a potential moneypit when core capabilities like anti-ship missiles, anti-radiation missiles are non-existent. Or when MBTs, tube and rocket artillery are obsolescent.
There needs to be a back-to-basics reset on core, heavy kit. Especially in the arm

well weapons are changing with the ability to cook the enemy from inside out using microwave as China demonstrated recently. Tanks are only any use once the air threat is neutralised as well. More difficult with drones.
 

UK military to get biggest spending boost in 30 years​


How much of it will need to be banked to pay for this ?

People’s lives were shattered by the ban. We need to look at giving people their commissions and warrants back, royal pardons of convictions, help with resettlement – and, yes, there is an overwhelming case for compensation and the restoration of pensions,” Jones added.


The article goes on to say

Gay men and lesbian women were banned from serving in the British military until 2000. About 200 to 250 were thrown out each year because of their sexuality, and frequently had their service medals removed.

I remember some getting hoofed around 1980

That equates to around 9 Infantry Battalions getting hoofed between 1980 - 2000.

It's not going to be cheap.
 
A cynic would recall Norman Angell's The Great Illusion where he described how "war was economically and socially irrational" and that war between industrial countries was futile because conquest did not pay. A conquering power would find that in the territory it seized, "the incentive [of the local population] to produce would be sapped and the conquered area be rendered worthless."

Despite much of his theory being proved correct in practice, and Angell winning a Nobel Peace Prize... his 1909 pamphlet explaining how wars of conquest were now pointless, evidently didn't get widely read by leaders in Italy, Japan, Germany...

The appeal of a short, victorious war against an unpopular (and apparently weak) opponent seems to remain quite enduring in some quarters.
I don’t really see an intellectually justifiable comparison. In 1909 a country extend their foreign policy beyond diplomacy had basically one choice; fight a war. And it was a pretty blunt tool.

That is not the case today. Options might include a deep cyber attack, focused destruction of a critical communications nodes or maybe the deliberate release of a virus? Equally, the threat may not come from a state at all.

I struggle to see where there is an existential peer to peer military threat to the UK. Certainly not one that is anywhere near immediate enough to invest in incrementally improved 20th century capabilities at the expense of countering the many real security risks out there.
 
And they winged like f*ck in 1882 when they had to give up their numbers and adopt the county name where they recruited from. "Who would want to belong to something called the Loamshire regiment" said Colonel Gruffnut (retd) late of the 99th of Foot. " why will be doing away with purchasing commissions next."

Mind you many battalions kept their numbers well into the 21st century. The Cheshire's always titled themselves - 1st battalion 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment.

And into the 21st Century too, I believe that the Royal Welsh style themselves as "The Royal Welsh (23rd, 24th and 41st)'.

Sent from my SM-G996B using Tapatalk
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
I struggle to see where there is an existential peer to peer military threat to the UK. Certainly not one that is anywhere near immediate enough to invest in incrementally improved 20th century capabilities at the expense of countering the many real security risks out there.

Which is a rather false dichotomy, as if "incrementally improved 20th century capabilities" are suddenly valueless in this New World Order; rather than requiring a critical review.

To take an example that was bandied about a few years ago, suppose a country known as Aissur decided to conduct some less-conventional disruption, by targeting submarine cables; with unpleasant and expensive effects on global communications, and sufficient deniability to keep below the threshold of major retaliation (yes, we know they did it, but prove it...) Would it not be handy to have some sort of underwater surveillance and deterrence systems, to at least attempt to observe and counter such misbehaviour? But unfortunately, those have been casually dismissed as "out of scope", because underwater operations happened in the 20th century and are therefore somehow irrelevant.

Vague commentary about "new threats" is easy: assessing their priority, crafting a response to the most dangerous ones, and finding a way to get there from where we are now (which may involve using legacy equipment that remains, or can reasonably be made, effective; or may require entirely new ways and means, which might require some sacred cows to be served up as steak, but will almost certainly have to be cost-neutral) is distinctly harder.
 
But there’s where good enough gets confused with whatever the latest iPhone does.

A Tornado GR.1 basically ran on a ZX Spectrum.

So that skreeee tik tik skreee skreee tik skree sound wasnt the EW system interfering with comms/ TV / Radio it was just the Nav loading the mission tapes
 
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I don’t really see an intellectually justifiable comparison. In 1909 a country extend their foreign policy beyond diplomacy had basically one choice; fight a war. And it was a pretty blunt tool.

That is not the case today. Options might include a deep cyber attack, focused destruction of a critical communications nodes or maybe the deliberate release of a virus? Equally, the threat may not come from a state at all.

I struggle to see where there is an existential peer to peer military threat to the UK. Certainly not one that is anywhere near immediate enough to invest in incrementally improved 20th century capabilities at the expense of countering the many real security risks out there.
You have no idea do you?
 
I struggle to see where there is an existential peer to peer military threat to the UK. Certainly not one that is anywhere near immediate enough to invest in incrementally improved 20th century capabilities at the expense of countering the many real security risks out there.
I can, and the problem is that they aren't disinvesting in their outdated 20th century capabilities - indeed, they're placing quite a lot of money into them.

And their shiny new capabilities aren't quite as a shiny as you'd think, and in some cases are little more than a glossy shell.
 
I can, and the problem is that they aren't disinvesting in their outdated 20th century capabilities - indeed, they're placing quite a lot of money into them.

And their shiny new capabilities aren't quite as a shiny as you'd think, and in some cases are little more than a glossy shell.
Does Russia really represent an existential threat to the UK? And, if so, is the most effective way to deter that threat to counter it with incrementally better platforms based on 20th century thinking and technology.

Personally, I think the answer is no. I think we are on the cusp of technology breakthroughs that will dislocate and bypass conventional systems. Not just conventional military systems, but our entire political, economic and security systems.

In short, we are heading towards owning a very small expensive capability that ends up being completely out of position when actually needed.
 

PhotEx

On ROPS
On ROPs
Does Russia really represent an existential threat to the UK? And, if so, is the most effective way to deter that threat to counter it with incrementally better platforms based on 20th century thinking and technology.

Personally, I think the answer is no. I think we are on the cusp of technology breakthroughs that will dislocate and bypass conventional systems. Not just conventional military systems, but our entire political, economic and security systems.

In short, we are heading towards owning a very small expensive capability that ends up being completely out of position when actually needed.


Just as soon as we obviate the awkward fact that 95% of UK trade comes by sea, and we are gas dependent from East of Suez
 
Does Russia really represent an existential threat to the UK? And, if so, is the most effective way to deter that threat to counter it with incrementally better platforms based on 20th century thinking and technology.

Personally, I think the answer is no. I think we are on the cusp of technology breakthroughs that will dislocate and bypass conventional systems. Not just conventional military systems, but our entire political, economic and security systems.

In short, we are heading towards owning a very small expensive capability that ends up being completely out of position when actually needed.

Without getting into philosophical arguments - what do you mean by "existential"? They have the capability, and intent, to cause serious harm to the UK's economy and way of life - for me that is fairly "existential". Some of that is done by C20th platforms, some done by newer technology (which is actually just an incremental update on C20th tech), and undoubtedly there might be some tech I'm not aware of.

I don't doubt there may be some major changes afoot - I'd be genuinely interesting to hear what you think. Whilst I have the utmost respect for people like Hammes and Barno, I'd also take some of what they say with a pinch of salt. The Revolution in Military Affairs didn't really revolutionise, Effects Based Operations failed to effect, etc etc.

But I would remind you, Russia has conducted attacks on the UK Mainland using Weapons of Mass Destruction within the last couple of years. The fact it only killed two individuals and made several more VSI is neither here nor there - if the men conducting these attacks had simply viewed a reservoir rather than a cathedral then we could be talking about 10s of 1000s dead. They have conducted WMD attacks - using very old fashioned techniques and capabilities more recently across Russia and elsewhere. The way to stop them is firmly based on "old tech" - people to start off with, and then plain old fashioned information management.
 
I’d also argue that Russia poses an existential threat to some of its immediate neighbours - the consequences of which would be felt in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

jrwlynch

LE
Book Reviewer
Does Russia really represent an existential threat to the UK?

The UK mainland? Well, they've got the ways and means, but not necessarily the will (beyond lethally irradiating a journalist, and contaminating swathes of Salisbury with a cholinesterase inhibitor to try to kill a defector, that we know about). Unless something happens that changes that, or they decide to pre-emptively indicate that whatever they're doing, we should not intervene on pain of... well... pain...

To wider UK interests? Quite possibly, or at least our elected leaders seem to think so.

And, if so, is the most effective way to deter that threat to counter it with incrementally better platforms based on 20th century thinking and technology.

Is there a single, unitary "threat"? Or are there a wide range of possible problems, ranging from power blackouts, network drops and supermarket shortages in the UK, up to motor-rifle brigades parked on their objective asking "so what're yee gonna dae aboot it, pal?", which require different defences and solutions without a convenient one-size-fits-all answer?

Personally, I think the answer is no. I think we are on the cusp of technology breakthroughs that will dislocate and bypass conventional systems. Not just conventional military systems, but our entire political, economic and security systems.

Which is easily said: now what specifics need to be addressed and how?

The problem comes that prediction is easy, but can be premature.

NEF revealed the phenomena of Ghost Town Britain. Under the pressure of wider economic forces, the closure of banks, pubs, corner shops, grocers and newsagents was creating deserts where communities no longer had easy access to local shops and services.
At the same time, an already unhealthy concentration of power in British retail was getting worse.

The Death of the High Street was being thusly described back in 2003ish (by the New Economics Foundation, a.k.a. 'not economics, frankly') who rightly foresaw the demise of much traditional retail... but ascribed the future as a dystopian dominance by the Big Four supermarkets, Internet retail being barely a footnote.

In short, we are heading towards owning a very small expensive capability that ends up being completely out of position when actually needed.

Strategic incoherence is one issue; inflexibility of some of our current means, especially those rush-bought under UORs for a specific task and then taken into core in lieu of proper planning is another.

That doesn't change the fact that there remain 20th century threats and problems we may be asked to get involved with: nor that some of those legacy platforms may serve as the bridge to the future on the other side of the singularity.
 
Just as soon as we obviate the awkward fact that 95% of UK trade comes by sea, and we are gas dependent from East of Suez
A statistic taken from the UK Chamber of Shipping. In fact it’s bollocks; it refers to trade by volume, not value. And its a figure massively skewed by trade with Europe which mostly goes on trucks by short sea ferry routes.

The majority (~80%) of British trade is services. Of product trade, outside of Europe (in both directions), roughly 50% by value goes by air, most of it in the holds of passenger aircraft from Heathrow.
 
A cynic would recall Norman Angell's The Great Illusion where he described how "war was economically and socially irrational" and that war between industrial countries was futile because conquest did not pay. A conquering power would find that in the territory it seized, "the incentive [of the local population] to produce would be sapped and the conquered area be rendered worthless."

Despite much of his theory being proved correct in practice, and Angell winning a Nobel Peace Prize... his 1909 pamphlet explaining how wars of conquest were now pointless, evidently didn't get widely read by leaders in Italy, Japan, Germany...

The appeal of a short, victorious war against an unpopular (and apparently weak) opponent seems to remain quite enduring in some quarters.

But wars are won and lost in military production as much as anything, which is the worry now with China being the worlds factory, and a huge population
 
Without getting into philosophical arguments - what do you mean by "existential"? They have the capability, and intent, to cause serious harm to the UK's economy and way of life - for me that is fairly "existential". Some of that is done by C20th platforms, some done by newer technology (which is actually just an incremental update on C20th tech), and undoubtedly there might be some tech I'm not aware of.

I don't doubt there may be some major changes afoot - I'd be genuinely interesting to hear what you think. Whilst I have the utmost respect for people like Hammes and Barno, I'd also take some of what they say with a pinch of salt. The Revolution in Military Affairs didn't really revolutionise, Effects Based Operations failed to effect, etc etc.

But I would remind you, Russia has conducted attacks on the UK Mainland using Weapons of Mass Destruction within the last couple of years. The fact it only killed two individuals and made several more VSI is neither here nor there - if the men conducting these attacks had simply viewed a reservoir rather than a cathedral then we could be talking about 10s of 1000s dead. They have conducted WMD attacks - using very old fashioned techniques and capabilities more recently across Russia and elsewhere. The way to stop them is firmly based on "old tech" - people to start off with, and then plain old fashioned information management.
In a way, this takes me right back to my first post on this thread, where I opined that rapid procurement will become a battle winning capability. Additive machining is a game changer in manufacturing, massively reducing product development time and making it possible to make almost anything anywhere.

My comment that triggered this round of debate was in response to @PhotEx, who claimed that the Navy and Air Force had somehow achieved something ground breaking by introducing new capabilities over the last twenty years. Is that really something to shout about? A more cynical view; it will have taken 25 years to implement SDR 98 by the time FOC is achieved. Is that capability development cycle remotely adequate in the Fourth Industrial Age.

So I think you have to look beyond the military sphere to see where change drivers are coming from. The Revolution in Military Affairs didn’t happen because the military didn’t develop the technology to make it happen. It was a concept of a time when military technology was cutting edge technology.

That isn’t the case any more; for a large part, military organisations are now technology takers, not technology makers. So the dislocating factors will be ones crossing in from other industries.

In short, if Russia really is an existential threat (ie it has the capability and intent) to the UK, we’re already too late if we’re looking for a Challenger replacement and that takes a decade or more to achieve FOC. And, even if we did procure it now, the chances of it being in the right place at the right time or even facing the enemy main effort are near zero.
 

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