Navy and RAF hit by Defence cuts

The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force have been hit by a round of spending cuts.

The Portsmouth Evening News reports that one minesweeper and one survey vessel will be decommissioned. There are also strong rumours that the ice patrol ship HMS Endurance, which needs extensive repairs after almost sinking a year ago, may not be replaced. Whilst it will be sad if Endurance does go, the UK does have a permanent patrol ship in the Falklands, HMS Clyde, as well as a Frigate or Destroyer and RFA vessel on station all-year round.

The BBC News website reports that RAF Cottesmore, the base for the Joint Force Harrier, will be closed and all Harriers transferred to RAF Wittering. The Harrier force, however, will be taken out of service earlier than planned. This will almost certainly be before its replacement, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will be available, leaving a huge gap in ground attack and naval air power capabilities. Might this also lead to the Invincible Class Aircraft Carriers being phased out earlier than planned, as there will be no planes capable of operating from them?

The Tornado GR Force will also lose one Squadron, from either RAF Lossiemouth or RAF Marham. The Tornado’s are due to be phased out in favour of the Eurofighter in coming years. There may also be cuts in the Nimrod reconaissance aircraft fleet.

The cuts are being made in order to fund the purchase of 22 new Chinook Heavy lift helicopters, bringing the RAF’s total fleet up to 70. The Chinook is an incomparable aircraft and has proved invaluable in Afghanistan. Cynics have questioned why the contract has been given to Boeing, a US Company, but the answer is that no UK company is capable of building a similar size aircraft.

These cuts, whilst demonstrating that the Ministry of Defence has as lot of work to do to get its house in order and can expect no increase in funding, must be welcomed as refocussing on our priorities and taking account of financial realities. When you have limited funds you have to prioritise.

Andrew Brookes, a former RAF pilot and director of the Air League, told BBC News: “If you cut back the premier league capability of the UK forces in order to just win a counter insurgency campaign against the Taliban, which has no air force and has no tanks and has no warships, when you finally do pitch up against a state that has those capabilities you could seriously end up losing a conflict that really matters to the UK in future in order to win one in Afghanistan today.” The almost sneering reference to a ‘counter-insurgency campaign’ is most unhelpful and based more on partisan loyalties than wider UK defence interests. The Cold War finished 20 years ago, yet some seem determined to keep fighting it.

The RAF has historically eschewed combined operations, and has for many years seen its independence as a service based in fast Jets. In comparison, it has given a low priority to supporting the Army with transport or ground attack aircraft as these roles undermine its independence. That the Army has to have its own Apache helicopter gunships says a lot. The reason that the RAF has had to be strong-armed into buying more helicopters now is that it has neglected its helicopter support role for many years in the first place.

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5 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan, debate, Navy, News, politics, Royal Air Force

5 responses to “Navy and RAF hit by Defence cuts

  1. Mike Burleson

    Very well put. We must have team players if we are going to win over there. Whether we should be there or not no longer matters. We are there. Lets stand by the troops, giving them all they need so they can come home sooner!

  2. James Daly

    Thats a very good summary of what I was thinking Mike: win that war, get the troops home, then we can learn the lessons and reconfigure for whatever comes next.

  3. I think that is a bit a short term assessment of the situation James. Yes we have got to deal with Afghanistan but that is what the war chest is for. Historically there has been a war reserve but having fought two wars at the same time and the countries finances being woefully mismanged by Mr Brown we are now having to cut long-term planning in order achieve short-term objectives. Woefully bad planning and we will pay for many years to come. Brookes is right in his strategic assessment of the situation. It may seem hard to palate considering the losses that we are suffering but you must always plan for the next war. We need a flexible military that is able to deal with multiple threat well. We do not have that. Not because of some parochial in fighting in the serivces but because of bad management by the civil servants. Also no one has pointed out that the buying of 22 new Chinooks will not mean we have more helicopters. Actually we will either have the same or less as the Merlin go the CHF and Lynx and Merlin MkI are retire early. Yes we might have more capability but not that much.

    I would point out too that the RAF has not eschewed Combined Operations. In actual during the inter-war years it is the RAF that calls for a doctrine that covered all types of Combined Operations i.e. Joint Operations in the modern parlance. That this does not happens has more to do with Royal Nay’s desire to control a form of operation that they had hitherto controlled. They did not want to consider any other operation other than amphibious operations. As they were the controlling force in the production of the doctrine as the time it remained so. The reason that the RAF argued for such a radical change in doctrine was that they saw their role as essentially the same in each type of combined operation. Princippaly the attainment of air superiority before any other support could be provided effectively.

  4. James Daly

    The problem I think Ross is that the forces arent being given the funding to be able to look beyond the short term. If the Government were willing to invest in the forces to allow them to plan beyond Afghanistan all well and good, but the funding levels do not seem to be there. I agree it will no doubt leave us in serious trouble at some point or other, but its difficult to see that changing any time soon so we have to make the most of what we have for now.

    I think you’re right regarding combined operations, very often its been used to mean amphibious operations. There always seems to be a desire for one service or other to control something. I’m still surprised by some of the politics that goes on between the forces, although I suppose most of the problem is that the Government plays them off against each other to compete for funding. Its been the same ever since the single service ministries were merged into the MOD in the 60’s.

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