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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.
UK Ministry of Defence bosses have announced their intention to retire seven ships and reduce the Royal Marines by 1000 personnel in a cost-saving effort necessitated by the acquisition of two world-class aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales.
It’s brilliant that the Royal Navy is stepping boldly into the 21st-century with two state-of-the-art aircraft carriers, yet many sailors will miss the still great but aging ships, which have a decade or two of service life left in them.
In fact, two of the soon-to-be retired vessels, the HMS Albion and the HMS Bulwark aren’t even halfway through their expected life-cycle but are excellent ships that could be sold to any Commonwealth nation.
As an island nation and as the world’s oldest sea power, Britain should always command a first-rate navy, and good policy would dictate the sale of RN ships halfway through their normal life-cycle to help defer the costs of maintaining that world-class navy.
The helicopter carrier HMS Ocean was also marked out for retirement in an earlier press release along with four smaller Royal Navy ships, but they too could serve out the rest of their expected life in any Commonwealth nation.
Commonwealth Partner Canada – Needs Those Ships!
The Royal Canadian Navy depends heavily on its 12 naval frigate fleet and is desperately lacking in rescue capability (helicopter carrier) and littoral combat (close-to-shore) vessels — which gaps could be filled by the soon-to-be-retired HMS Ocean, HMS Albion, and HMS Bulwark, while saving the Canadian navy billions of dollars — and more importantly, the several years required for Canada to build new ships.
Although Canada has a great navy with proud tradition there are major credibility gaps in Canada’s fleet and purchasing these Royal Navy ships could partially alleviate that gap, thereby propelling the RCN forward by at least five years and at very reasonable cost compared to building new ships.
Canada should constantly drop hints to the Royal Navy to allow them be first to bid on ships and helicopters set for early retirement.
Commonwealth Partner India – Needs Those Ships!
The Indian Navy has a vast area to patrol in one of the busiest shipping regions of the world and it can’t get enough ships. Ever!
Modern naval vessels are very expensive to build, but expensive new ships don’t always suit the needs of the Indian Navy — a navy that requires huge numbers of vessels to patrol all those millions of square miles. Not all of them need to be world-class combat ships.
With thousands of cargo ships and cruise ships travelling through the region every day, and with piracy at an all-time high in the Indian Ocean having enough ships available to maintain a presence is far more important than how shiny the paint is on inspection day.
The level of shipping activity in the Indian Ocean region can only be described as frenetic and piracy is a common problem in the adjacent Arabian Sea and off the east coast of Africa where many Indian registered ships carry trillions of dollars of raw materials and manufactured goods every year.
Commonwealth Partner Australia
Australia fields a modern navy and (thankfully) it enjoys the strong support of the Australian government.
The country purchases build-to-suit ships and submarines from various countries and it occasionally sells its used ships to New Zealand — a good arrangement for both countries.
However, some early retirement Royal Navy ships could be valuable to the Royal Australian Navy in the future. Their navy is heavy with helicopter frigates and minesweepers and has a respectable number of submarines — yet there may be occasion when Britain’s navy could decide to part with ships that meet the needs of the Australian fleet.
The only thing lacking in the RAN fleet are destroyers. They could make-do with 6 as we are presently in peacetime; At the moment, the Royal Australian Navy has 1 destroyer.
Other Commonwealth Partner Navies
Many Commonwealth nations are maritime countries with various naval capabilities, yet purchasing new ships is an expensive proposition for rapidly developing nations.
For them, it’s difficult to justify a billion dollar warship when they need crucial infrastructure (yesterday!) to serve the needs of their citizens. Yet, having an effective naval presence to deter piracy and to protect national sovereignty becomes increasingly important as their GDP rises.
One way for them to accomplish two goals at once is to purchase used RN vessels that match their needs. Indeed, for the cost of one new frigate a small nation may be able to purchase five used, but still effective, former Royal Navy frigates or smaller coastal defence craft to provide security in nearby shipping lanes.
Until now it has been normal for navies to max-out the life of their ships and to pay massive sums to refit their navy ships at mid-point in their life-cycle (some refits cost more than the original ship!) and that’s an expensive way to outfit a navy when there is a better alternative.
In the 21st-century there are so many rapidly developing Commonwealth nations, UK shipyards could have a continuous frigate assembly line, a continuous destroyer assembly line and a continuous coastal patrol craft assembly line to keep up with total demand from a world-class Royal Navy that retires its ships early and sells them to allied nations.
But that’s only if the Royal Navy makes the historic decision to sell its ships at the 12-year mark, while they still have at least 18-years of life left in them.
It would be wise to continue to operate them as usual — but simply make it known to Commonwealth partners that any Royal Navy vessel over 6-years of age is automatically available for purchase to Commonwealth members.
As the Commonwealth’s rapidly developing nations continue to increase their wealth, they’ll have evermore reason to protect what’s theirs and to surveil and protect foreign ships travelling through their waters.
Instead of keeping ships for decades and running them into the ground along with one or two costly refits over the years, in the 21st-century the better way is to sell them to Commonwealth nations at the 6-12 year mark while the vessels still have plenty of useful service life remaining. And in that way, create a healthy UK shipbuilding industry geared towards Royal Navy needs, but also to the needs of Britain’s allies.
That’s how you build a better Royal Navy and help your Commonwealth partners at the same time!