Thursday, 27 January 2011

What Should the United Kingdom Contribute to the Defence of the West?

The French companies DCNS and STX and Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation are to build two Mistral helicopter carriers costing 400-450 million euros each. The agreement was signed yesterday and the construction contract is expected to be signed later this year.

Today the Telegraph publishes a letter from Air Vice Marshal Tony Mason, Major-General Patrick Cordingley, Marshal of the RAF Lord Craig, Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, Major-Gen Julian Thompson, and Admiral Sir John Woodward, which protests that:

"Without any explanation, the Security and Defence Review announced that the Nimrod MR4 maritime patrol aircraft would not be brought into service. The decision was fiercely debated within the MoD, but the need for immediate savings and priority for current operations prevailed.
Destruction of the nine airframes has now begun. Machine tools have been destroyed; several million pounds have been saved, but a massive gap in British security has opened.
Britain is committed to the support of the UN, Nato and the EU. The vulnerability of sea lanes, unpredictable overseas crises and traditional surface and submarine opposition will continue to demand versatile, responsive aircraft.
Nimrod would have provided long-range maritime and overland reconnaissance, anti-submarine surveillance, air-sea rescue co-ordination and reconnaissance support to the Navy’s Trident submarines.
Some of Nimrod’s roles in home waters can be covered by frigates, short-range Merlin anti-submarine helicopters or even the C130 Hercules. They fall short, however, of replacing the strategic multi-role contribution of Nimrod. Other countries are actually seeking to reinforce their maritime patrol capacity, with the new Boeing 737 P8A a strong contender.
In a week when reports suggest that the Government is seeking to impose even more severe cuts on the defence budget, it is not perverse to suggest that the gap left by broken Nimrods should be readdressed."

There is something completely out of kilter here.  France is signing profitable contracts with Russia for useful-sounding helicopter carriers, meanwhile we are aborting the building of aircraft with a role of 'long-range maritime and overland reconnaissance, anti-submarine surveillance,'... even though '... Britain is committed to the support of the UN, NATO  and the EU...' and '... The vulnerability of sea lanes, unpredictable overseas crises and traditional surface and submarine opposition will continue to demand versatile, responsive aircraft.' 

But why are our Forces committed to such a role which clearly belongs to these alliances in common, not just to us?  Why are we landed with a defence role that is too big for our resources and, worse,  militates against our direction of what resources we have to profitable undertakings and the maintenance of our industries?

Is there some terrible, still-destructive hang-over from the vainglorious  Labour  mindset that led us into war repeatedly and so immorally, as a new global role for a 'progressive'-led 'Britain' was conceived and pursued? 


Bill Quango MP said...

The Nimrods had to go.
See Lewis Page here.

They are so over budget and so unsuitable. Huge cost in keeping them.
But why they haven't been replaced with something else is a bit of a mystery. Their 'overland' role is much exaggerated. A sort of flying telephone exchange.
But a dedicated anti submarine, long range reconnaissance aircraft would seem to be a necessity.
Mr Page disagrees saying that our helicopter frigates will do.
I doubt that. A submarine threat that knows our sea defence zone has a 200m radius will just operate at 300m.

It looks like will be buying an American replacement. I expect that's already a deal made with the knowledge of the MOD. But for political reasons the coalition can't buy foreign and cut jobs at home. It will wait for a bit of a recovery and some tax receipts before it goes public.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

The only way it makes sense is for "our" forces and the "French" forces to be two parts of the same thing.

Ring any bells, at all, does that?

hatfield girl said...

'They are so over budget and so unsuitable. Huge cost in keeping them.'

Precisely Mr Q. Your words could be set in stone over every defence budgetted aircraft (as any Hatfield Girl knows). But there did seem to be a time when it was acepted that we had a smaller world role; under the last Labour regime the whole nonsense on stilts of projecting power across the globe seemed to start up again - Blair with his wars, brown with his saviouring and leading global economic governance.

No wonder our defence industries never get the commercial contracts their inventiveness and skills could command - they're too busy building tax-payer-financed boys' toys for Labour escapees from the attic.

hatfield girl said...


Doesn't the UK need a sensible defence policy, not a world role or expensive commitments to UNs and EUs and NATOs?

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Hats, yes it does.

In my opinion and in yours.

But not, apparently, in the opinion of our ruling class, who will place anything - anything - on the altar of "ever-closer union".