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One of the things that made Britain great is that the British military contributed hugely to the UK economy via its large appetite for hardware and personnel from the civilian side of the economy, although in recent decades this has tapered because most Western politicians don’t understand militaries nor their potential for contributing to the macro economy.
Globally speaking, military spending is sometimes thought of as ‘revenue-neutral’ at best. But nothing could be further from the truth — it’s much better than that! — but generations of politicians have somehow managed to miss it.
In previous decades, the British military contributed up to 20% of the country’s GDP by maintaining a fully-fledged and ready to fight military that was trained to an exceptionally high standard.
All that costs a lot of money — nobody denies that. But every pence was spent within the UK (and that’s the key) on goods and services to supply the military, or pay military personnel wages, all of which contributed massively to the UK economy.
Sadly, in today’s very low UK defence spending modality, such is not the case.
The British Military Could Add 20% to UK GDP
Properly equipping the British military by continually building latest-generation warships, military aircraft, tanks and armoured personnel carriers AND selling copies of them to Commonwealth of Nations and other countries means the UK military and its defence contractor partners could add up to TWENTY PERCENT to the country’s EXISTING GDP if done properly.
Especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, boosting Britain’s GDP could go a long way to restoring what was lost in 2020 and turn the UK into a military exporting superstar within a decade.
Think it can’t be done? You’re wrong. Sweden, the U.S., China and other countries sell multi-billions worth of high-tech weaponry annually which adds significantly to their GDP and provides thousands of good paying jobs in their countries. And none of them have the privilege of membership in a 53-member bloc with a combined population of 2.2 billion. Think of that spending power! Think of the economies of scale when designing, engineering and constructing new military hardware!
Therefore, letting British military spending wane in order to save money is a false economy.
Building hundreds of ships, planes, firearms, and wheeled and tracked vehicles for the UK military, and for export, will create thousands of jobs for Britons — and supplying just the ammunition for those military platforms is almost better from a capital outlay perspective!
Even if the UK military never uses any of that military hardware in combat (and let’s hope it never needs to) it will have provided thousands of jobs and boosted the UK economy by up to 20%.
That’s reason enough for the UK to immediately embark on a massive military modernization programme and to do it NOW! before any other Commonwealth country steals the idea. And who could blame them? It’s a complete no-brainer that would benefit the entire Commonwealth.
First Item on the Agenda – Britain and its Commonwealth Partners Need New Tanks
According to a BBC article published 25 August, 2020 the UK is considering retiring its near-obsolete Challenger 2 tanks, or buying more-modern Leopard tanks from Germany which are a great tank but not as capable as Russia’s world-class T-72 tank, nor as good as America’s M1A3 Main Battle Tank.
But instead of hiding in our foxholes until we ‘man-up’ (or ‘woman-up’) to spend the necessary in order to become a weapons exporting superstar, the UK needs to build its own main battle tank now — a tank that the UK can also sell to 52-other Commonwealth nations and to non-Commonwealth countries by the dozens per year, thereby creating a continuous assembly line that must be maintained for at least 10-years to keep up with all those tank orders.
And it will be important to liaise with our Commonwealth partners to ensure that the British-built ‘Commonwealth Main Battle Tank’ would meet all of their requirements and be able to perform well in all conditions — whether dense jungle, blasting hot Australian outback, on muskeg in northern Canada (which is bigger than the entire EU) or in deep snow at high altitude. Because you never know where you’ll be required to train or operate.
Some Say the World is Changing and We Don’t Need Tanks in the 21st-Century
But I’m about to blow up that theory with a well-known military history lesson.
The F-4 Phantom II all-weather fighter/bomber/interceptor provides the best example of wrong-headed defence industry thinking of all time. You know the Phantom… the most successful warplane of the Cold War and arguably, the most important military aircraft of all time. It was all that and more in its day.
But back in the late 1950’s, America’s defence contractors decided they wouldn’t consult with their own military or their Cold War allies and went ahead and built the world’s best all-weather fighter/bomber/reconnaissance jet, and they decided it didn’t need an onboard gun installed for close-in ‘dogfighting’ or for harassing enemy ground troops (by persistently strafing them).
America’s then-existing aerospace industry decided they were smarter than every military officer in the world and that they would launch a new generation of high-tech onboard air-to-air missiles to lead the world into the 21st-century and fighter jets would no longer need guns. Yi-Haw!
However, it soon became apparent during the Vietnam War that the Phantom’s lack of a gun prevented it from defending itself once it had fired its two air-to-air missiles. And as often happens in combat, once you drop your bombs on the target the enemy instantly scrambles its fighter jets to shoot you down. (When the Phantom was deployed for bombing missions, it typically carried only two air-to-air missiles for self defence — which is a very big problem when you have five enemy aircraft chasing you).
Think about that for a minute. What if you were that Phantom pilot in Vietnam with 5-MiG’s in hot pursuit? What if your son or daughter was the Phantom pilot with no installed gun and both missiles had already been fired? The Phantoms were stunningly fast, but not fast enough to outrun enemy radio communications to other enemy fighter jets operating nearby. No gun? You lose.
So at great cost, the Phantom was retrofitted with an astonishingly good gun (a massive Gatling gun that’s still in use on some Western fighter aircraft) and American fighter pilots were again able to defend themselves against air and ground attack on the way to their target, while engaging the air or ground target (sometimes both air and ground targets on the same sortie) and on the way back to their airbase or aircraft carrier. And American fighter pilot kill ratios and other important statistics soon returned to their former glory.
From that costly lesson we know that fighter jets must have the ability to defend themselves with an onboard gun, and they also need the ability to instantly switch to the close air support role to assist friendly ground troops that may be pinned down by an enemy ground force.
It was a well-intentioned decision to design a lighter and therefore faster multi-role fighter — but in actual combat conditions the decision to delete the onboard gun turned out to be a disaster — and in zero cases was the gun-less Phantom more mission-capable or mission-survivable than the Phantom equipped with an onboard gun.
As for the idea to engage ground combat forces without tanks, or occupy enemy territory, or to protect power stations without tanks in situ… I can only stress that if you’re bigger, stronger, and better protected on the battlefield, you’re much more likely to attain your military objectives and return home alive. And don’t British troops deserve the best possible chance to complete their mission and return home safely?
Therefore, let’s begin by working with our Commonwealth friends ASAP to obtain their main battle tank requirements (and even hire some of their expertise if possible!) and get to work on building the world’s best tank — as a money-making defence industry operation, as a job creator, as a way to protect deployed British Army troops, and to create a new paradigm where every Commonwealth nation shops the UK first to fulfil all of their military hardware needs.
A civil war has been raging inside Syria since 2010 — a conflict with roots back to the Western-backed ‘Arab Spring’ which left all those countries in MUCH WORSE CONDITION and if you believe the press reports, great atrocities were perpetrated by some or all sides in Arab Spring nations and continue to occur in the Syrian conflict.
No surprise there. There hasn’t been a civil war in history where heinous crimes haven’t been committed and they are often committed by more than one side. Syria is nothing special in that regard.
Not that we should ignore those events. Far from it!
But most Western politicians are of the mind that when such atrocities are committed they should be countered with an appropriate military strike directed against the suspected perpetrators of such attacks — to act as a deterrent to prevent future heinous attacks. Except that it doesn’t work.
It’s a very human response that is typical of non-military minds to think that a military counter-strike will accomplish anything, but combat-experienced military people know that war isn’t over until it’s over, and that never happens until there’s a clear winner.
Less than twelve months ago, the United States used cruise missile strikes to punish those Syrians who purportedly used chemical weapons in an attack against combatants, non-combatants, and any civilians who happened to be within range of the chemical bombs dropped by helicopter and here we are again contemplating a Western-backed missile attack against Syria for its suspected use of chemical weapons.
Which proves that occasional cruise missile attacks by the United States against the Syrian military and against non-state actors in Syria, doesn’t work. Because as soon as we turn our backs they’re at it again. Check that timeline link above and remember that timeline only covers the chemical attacks we know about.
Parallels With the Vietnam War?
Prior to the United States becoming involved in the Vietnam conflict, heinous acts were suspected to occur and was one of the reasons used to justify American intervention.
As usual, it wasn’t long before every side — including the Americans — were receiving bad press for purported wartime atrocities during the Vietnam War. It was a war that lasted exactly 10,000 days and during that time every side was lambasted by the world media for certain usages of force.
‘Agent Orange’ (a chemical defoliant used to strip the leaves from trees and plants to allow better ground surveillance) was used by the Americans and it’s plausible that enemy combatants could have been in the area during spraying and may have received lethal doses of the stuff — yet the chemicals used by the other side were even worse for plants, jungle life, and humans alike.
In the end, the Vietnam War, like any other war, wasn’t over until it was over — counter-strikes for chemical weapons use notwithstanding.
Which is a different way of saying that occasional military strikes prior to full involvement by the Americans in Vietnam did nothing to prevent suspected chemical weapons use and other wartime atrocities perpetrated by the North Vietnamese Army and its sidekick the Viet Cong militia group, but neither did full engagement.
What’s the UK’s Role in the post-Brexit World?
It certainly isn’t policing Syria. Nor is it patrolling or intervening anywhere in the Mediterranean Sea region which by definition is in the EU’s sphere of influence as it’s the dominant superpower in the region. And other than helping to protect longtime ally Israel, the Americans have no legitimate business in the Med either.
Launching into nebulous encounters with Syria, Russia and China over suspected small-scale chemical weapons attacks in Syria is begging for trouble. The kind of trouble that gets shiny new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers sunk for no good reason.
The UK’s role in the world is changing and it must evolve ahead of the curve, not behind it.
First and foremost must be the protection of the United Kingdom, which has thrived under both NATO and EU protection. And thanks to the UK’s longtime relationship with the United States, if things had got past the point that the UK and EU acting together couldn’t handle a particular threat, the Americans would’ve come to our rescue. Thank you again, America!
But in less than 352 days the UK can no longer count on EU protection (nor should it expect any special treatment from the EU) and with America turning away from the world, it’s well past the time to take a full spectrum view of UK defence and capabilities.
And before you can do that, you need to define the role the military is expected to play.
- Protection of the land, sea and airspace, over, in, and around, the United Kingdom.
- Protection of and mutual aid agreements with; Norway (because of its proximity to the UK) with NATO countries (still close to the UK) and with all Commonwealth of Nations members.
- Mutual aid agreements with *potential* Commonwealth nations.
- Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK *has* bilateral trade agreements.
- Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK is *exploring* bilateral trade agreements.
- Humanitarian assistance operations approved by the UN.
In short, just like a policeman, every country has its own ‘beat’ — the territory it needs to defend.
The UK’s beat in the post-Brexit era must be limited to operations and mutual aid to partner countries in the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific Ocean, otherwise the UK will need to purchase more aircraft carriers and other capital ships and severe UK budget cuts would be required to afford all that extra warfighting capacity.
I respectfully posit that protection of the UK, Norway and other NATO countries, and the Commonwealth of Nations is a sizable enough beat for the United Kingdom now, and will remain that way for many years to come.
Making 2018 the year to drill down to find what is, and what isn’t, of the utmost importance to the United Kingdom’s future.
Parts of the world that have only a passing socio-economic or military interest for the United Kingdom must remain off-limits, unless British taxpayers want to fund a military that is comparable to the U.S. military in size and scope.
Let the superpowers and the countries closest to the world’s various conflict zones assist those nations in crisis — Britain can’t be everywhere, cleaning-up everyone else’s messes.
Taking care of the UK, the Commonwealth, and upholding NATO commitments will be more than enough to keep the UK occupied for the balance of the 21st-century.
On June 23, 2016 the United Kingdom held an historic referendum so that voters could decide whether they wanted to leave the European Union governance architecture and over 52% of UK voters elected to “Leave” the EU.
Subsequent divorce negotiations between the two sides have been sporadic with short bursts of progress.
In recent days, UK Prime Minister Theresa May suggested to EU negotiators that a figure of £40 billion would be an appropriate amount for the UK to pay the European Union as a sort of “divorce fee” to allow the UK to leave while still gaining a favorable post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union.
However, the day after PM May suggested the £40 billion divorce payment, her government tabled an autumn budget with massive budget reductions for the already cash-strapped British military, one assumes to be able to afford the unprecedented divorce bill that the UK must now pay before March 29, 2018.
This blog post discusses the pros and cons of UK Ministry of Defence cuts and suggests a better way to afford the Brexit divorce bill.
The Responsibility of Government
The Number One responsibility of every government in the world is the protection of the country’s citizens and the sovereignty of the national borders. Everything else by definition, must be of lower importance. That’s how countries work.
Yes, even the UK’s cherished and highly ranked National Health Service (NHS) funding must fall to second place behind the safety and security of the country — as the NHS could (if worst came to worst) access significant billions in funding via corporate sponsorship — an option not open to the military.
How to Determine Military Funding
The size, composition and funding of the UK military MUST be determined by its overall mission — not arbitrary decisions by bureaucrats. Full stop.
(NOTE 1) Long-term stable defence funding is far better than generous amounts one year, followed by low funding the next (due to arbitrary budgetary decisions not based on actual military need) and then, who knows what funding they might get the year after? It’s the absolute worst way to fund a military. Pencil-pushing bureaucrats might as well be working for the enemy at that point.
(NOTE 2) This blog post isn’t “for” or “against” Theresa May or Philip Hammond, it’s a general statement on how to best fund any military, anywhere.
(NOTE 3) This blog post is based solely on the opinion of its author, although any military officer in the world would agree were they to view it from the UK perspective.
So, what is the mission – in order of priority?
- Absolutely 100% protection of the land, sea and airspace around the UK.
- NATO commitment.
- Commonwealth mutual aid.
- United States mutual aid.
- Potential Commonwealth member mutual aid.
- Only UN Security Council approved missions (and never any unapproved foreign missions)
- Creation of a HUGE civil engineering department, on par with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which build many of America’s roads, bridges, dikes, levees, ports and other infrastructure too important to be left to corporations where profit makes the final decisions. Oh, by the way, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saves the American taxpayer more money than it costs when compared to having U.S. infrastructure projects built by corporations. The UK has missed “windows of opportunities bigger than the sky” by not building critical national infrastructure using the UK military under a USACE-style system, and it has cost multi-billions more that it should.
- Humanitarian assistance delivered to any natural disaster zone or human-caused crisis anywhere in the world.
Military forces perform better when their mission is clearly defined, when they have stable funding (and once the amounts have been promised by the government, untouchable) and have very clearly defined powers.
Tampering with this age-old formula for success is the surest way to help any military fail in its appointed role, and will work to demoralize the troops and cost the taxpayers much more than by using universally accepted practice.
- To watch a segment from LBC’s The Nigel Farage Show on the topic, click here.
- To read a related Westmonster.com blog, click here.