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New Tanks for the British Army = Jobs, Jobs, Jobs! for Britons

by John Brian Shannon

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.